The Underground Revival in the Middle East That Might Take Down Islam

Article Index

In the darkest corners of the Middle East, there's a revival beginning that's unprecedented in the history of world missions.
In the darkest corners of the Middle East, there's a revival beginning that's unprecedented in the history of world missions. (iStockPhoto )

Jordan

Another ancient Middle-Eastern locale where Christianity is beginning to take root is along the borders the eastern bank of the Jordan River. The Islamic land of Jordan is also experiencing the grace and wonder of Jesus. Reflecting on what is transpiring in this nation, Rosenberg noted the following:

"God has been reviving the Jordanian Church in the last four decades, and particularly in the past few years. Conservative estimates say the number of believers in the country is now between five and ten thousand. The head of one major Jordanian ministry, however, believes there may be as many as fifty thousand believers in the country."[9]

Jordan is also experiencing the salvation of Jesus Christ.
 
Other Islamic Nations

Almost every Islamic nation has been experiencing a significant upsurge of Christianity over the last 20 years. Though the numbers aren't equally high, all are experiencing the impact on some level. Here are some of the other reports. 

While in the nation of Morocco it has been claimed that "between 20,000 and 40,000 Muslims have become Christ-followers."[10] Rosenberg suggests that, "The number of Afghan believers is now between 20,000 and 30,000."[11] In Kazakhstan "there are more than fifteen thousand Kazakh Christians, and more than one hundred thousand Christians of all ethnicities."[12] Reflecting on Lebanon, Rosenberg suggests that, "there are about ten thousand truly born-again followers of Jesus Christ today."[13] Reports suggest there were no Muslim background Christians in Syria fifty years ago, but today "there are between four and five thousand born-again believers in the country."[14]

Rosenberg's figures suggest that there are over 13 million Christians in Islamic countries, and a majority of them are from a Muslim background.

Other Observers 

We find that Joel Rosenberg isn't the only one observing the changing conditions within the broader Islamic world. There are other evidences of a notable transformation taking place. For example, journalist George Thomas notes that:

"A Christian revival is touching the northernmost reaches of Africa. In a region once hostile to the gospel, now tens of thousands of Muslims are following Jesus. As the sun sets over the Mediterranean Sea, Muslims across Northern Africa are converting to faith in Jesus Christ in record numbers. ... What experts say is that there is a profound move of God in the predominantly Muslim nations of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia."[15]

Tino Qahoush, a researcher and filmmaker, has been traveling to various parts of this region to document the Christian revival that has been taking place. Reflecting on what he observed, he noted the following, 

"What God is doing in North Africa, all the way from actually Mauritanian to Libya is unprecedented in the history of missions. I have the privilege of recording testimonies and listening to firsthand stories of men and women, of all ages."[16]

Jayson Casper, a journalist with Christianity Today, also pointed out some astounding growth that's taking place in the Arabian Peninsula. He writes:

"Today the Pew Research Center numbers Christians in the Arabian Peninsula at 2.3 million—more Christians than nearly 100 countries can claim. The Gulf Christian Fellowship, an umbrella group, estimates 3.5 million. ... United Arab Emirates Christian population ... [is] 13 percent, according to Pew. Among other Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar each about 14 percent Christian, while Oman is about 6 percent. Even Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest cities (Mecca and Medina), is 4 percent Christian."[17]

One of the best examples of the expansion of Christianity within Muslim lands is through the work of Heidi and Roland Baker. Along with their church plants and trained workers from Iris Ministries, the Bakers have made an extraordinary impact on the brutal nation of Mozambique. The province that they currently operate in was entirely Muslim before their arrival, but a little over 10 years later those figures have changed drastically. Kelly Head from Christ for the Nations writes,

"The Bakers are now based full-time in Pemba, Mozambique, in an area where Heidi says was once called a 'graveyard to missionaries.' But recently the government announced publicly that it's no longer a Muslim providence; now it's a Christian providence."[18]

The abrupt changes to the once Muslim Africa are something even the Islamic clerics are beginning to acknowledge. In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, the president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, appeared on a live interview on Al-Jazeera satellite television. He declared the following:

"Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa's main religion, and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa. So in the section of Africa that we are talking about, the non Arab section, the number of Muslims does not exceed 150 million people. When we realize that the entire population of Africa is one billion people, we see that the number of Muslims has diminished greatly from what it was in the beginning of the last century. ... As to how that happened, well, there are now 1.5 million churches whose congregations account for 46 million people. In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed."[19]

It is obvious from these and other reports that Christianity is advancing. Yet, the question is: "Why?" Interestingly, it may have a lot to do with something many in the West would discount. 

Why Is Christianity Finally Growing in the Middle East?

Throughout the Mediterranean world there's a high regard for dreams. They comprehend them the same way that individuals during the early biblical period did. Islam in particular, places a great value on nocturnal visions. Ever since Muhammad retreated to a cave in A.D. 610 and began to experience what he considered to be revelatory visions, Muslims have greatly valued impressions they may receive while they're asleep. Timothy Morgan notes that dreams are a "part of the reality of their world. Mohammad listened to dreams, and he gave Muslims the impression that God could speak through them. So they do listen to them, and they do talk about them."[20]

Tom Doyle, an evangelist, pastor and the E3 Partners Ministry Director for the Middle East and Central Asia noted the following: 

"Outside of the Scriptures, Egyptian history records a significant amount of information about dreams and visions, many of which became determining factors in the overall direction of the nation. One archaeological find close to the Pyramids revealed that ancient Egyptian scribe named Kenhirkhopeshef kept a papyrus document called the Dream Book. The book is a catalog of 108 dreams and the activities and emotions that accompanied them."[21]

Interestingly, over the last two decades there have been numerous claims of Muslims having dreams about Jesus and ultimately coming to faith. Url Scaramanga, writing in conservative evangelical journal, acknowledges that "stories of Muslims coming to faith in Christ because of a vision or dream are not uncommon."[22]

It is easy to dismiss this, but I think Christians should remain open to all of the various ways that God operates. It may seem inexplicable to us, but it seems that dreams are a primary way that Middle-Eastern people are open to encountering God. Reflecting on the significance of these nocturnal visions, Nabeel Qureshi writes:

"I think the reason why dreams are an important component of people leaving Islam and accepting Christ is that most Muslims believe that God reveals himself and his will to them in dreams. In fact, it seems to be the only way that they believe God will reveal his will to them. So they have faith that God will direct them, so God uses their faith for his purposes."[23]

With all the questions and concerns about this approach, there's interest in determining to what extent dreams are driving evangelism among Muslims. Georges Houssney prepared a questionnaire and, over a period of three years, asked 100 Christian converts from Islam how they came to faith. When asked, "What was the major factor in drawing you to Christ?" 25 percent of Houssney's respondents acknowledged that dreams and visions were the primary catalyst that brought them to salvation. Furthermore, 60 percent of the respondents acknowledged that they had experienced a relevant dream or vision or both prior to their conversion.[24]

The reality of these transforming dreams are being widely acknowledged, even though they are a bit unsettling for those in the conservative evangelical community. Reflecting on his own experience, Tom Doyle says: 

"I'm not a skeptic by nature. I'm actually known as a being fairly trusting. But when I began hearing about Muslims having dreams and visions of Jesus, I must say I was quite the doubting Thomas. I think it's because I have watched a few Christian television programs. ... About a decade ago, those of us who work in Muslim outreach started to hear about something new in the world of Islam. God was opening the closed hearts of Muslims by giving them spectacular dreams and visions. At first, the stories were rare, but today these amazing accounts of God breaking through to Muslims have become a common occurrence. We find that about one out of every three Muslim-background believers has had a dream or vision prior to their salvation experience. Some more precise surveys are a bit more conservative and suggest a little over 25 percent of Muslims had a dream or a vision before becoming disciples of Jesus. Either way, the percentage is significant." [25]

Though they may be misunderstood and largely outside the norm in the West, dreams are certainly changing things throughout the Arab world.

Get Charisma's best content delivered right to your inbox! Never miss a big news story again. Click here to subscribe to the Charisma News newsletter.

Great End of Summer Deals from CHARISMA:

#1 End of Summer 50% Off Sale: Click Here for Books Click Here for Health Click Here for Bibles

#2 CHARISMA'S Best Book Bundles: Click Here to view all our bundles and save up to 72%!

#3 Limited Time Offer: Enroll in a FREE eCourse from CHARISMA. Click Here to view all available courses.

Summer Subscription Offer: Subscribe to Charisma for Only $24.95 and get Thomas Horn's newest book, The Wormwood Prophecy, free! View Offer

Charisma News - Informing believers with news from a Spirit-filled perspective