Islam was born in the deserts of Arabia over 1300 years ago. As a new religion it poured out like a tidal wave, engulfing the Middle East and North Africa, washing over Southern Asia as far as Indonesia and even crashing on the shores of Western Europe. Instead of the church breaking down its gates, it looked for a time as if Islam would sweep Christianity from the face of the earth.
Although Islam’s expansion slowed, stalled, and even receded from Europe, it seemed to stand as a unyielding fortress against the church. As the church rediscovered its own mandate to spread the gospel, some missionaries labored for years in Muslim countries, seeing only a handful of converts, if that many, in their lifetimes. That became the normal experience. Christians did not really expect Muslims to come to Christ.
Then some Christians began asking the right questions. Instead of why don’t they understand?, the better question became if Muslims are not responding to the offer of salvation as we were presenting it, might there not be a better way to make that presentation? One such movement of questions began in Bangladesh, where one missionary couple began seeing Muslims convert to Christianity.
As other missionaries followed this lead, they saw more Muslims come to Christ in Bangladesh over the following ten years than all who had converted in the previous 100 years! What started as an innocent question to a missionary decades ago has become the basis for most modern ministry to Muslims.
As I traveled in Central Europe some years ago I met a Bulgarian pastor. During our conversation he took out some photos of a preaching point outside of his own pastorate. He explained that this was over an hour's drive from home, but he traveled there weekly because he was planting a Muslim convert church among ethnic Turks. In amazement I looked at him and blurted out, "I've never heard about this." He simply smiled and replied, "I know, and that's the way it should be." He didn’t want to draw outside attention to this ministry, because he didn't want to draw Muslim -- or Christian -- opposition. At the time I talked to him, he had over 70 converts already organized into a functioning church.
Over the past 50 years the church has taken another look at Islam and realized that it is not as solid and forbidding as once thought. Today there are more missionaries than ever working among Muslims. Patrick Johnstone wrote in Operation World, that recent years "have been a time of more Muslims coming to Christ that ever before in history. These are the beginnings of what we believe could be a flood -- if it is to be demonstrated Jesus is Lord even over Islam."
I personally believe today’s militant Islam is, in part, a reaction to the success of the gospel in penetrating the gates of this stronghold. We can react with fear or make it a political issue, but then we lose sight of the fact that this is an example of the truth of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The gates, walls, or whatever represents this world’s strongholds of resistance to the kingdom of God cannot stop the truth of the gospel carried by those who faithfully follow and obey Jesus Christ.
Please note: As we present this series of examples of the church triumphant, you might have noticed that we are not sharing specific names or places. This is a conscious effort to protect real people who might still be at work in these situations. If you would like to know more details, you may contact Mandate directly on our comment page.