November 12, 2020
My conversion was supernatural. In my 30s, agnostic and anxious about future, I was provoked to read the Bible for the first time. One evening as I was reading a particular four-word sentence in Exodus, God spoke to me. Before that moment, I was an unbeliever. After it, I knew there was a God who knew me and cared about me.
My discipleship seemed haphazard, but it was certainly the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:8). He put me in a church where the Bible was preached. He surrounded me with people as eager to pursue Him as I was. He gave me a mentor. My neighbors taught me to pray. When I didn’t even know it was necessary, He brought me to repentance for my sinful past, cleansed me and filled me with His Spirit, and I became a worshipper. He did it all!
God clearly can draw people to Himself and mature them without requiring someone to follow a plan. Even so, we are responsible to make disciples. With all authority given to Him, Jesus commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:18-20a). In fact, discipling can begin before conversion.
Here are examples of how three churches in my city received new believers from Islam.
- A Muslim woman (M) met a Christian woman (N) while taking the same secular course offered in a church. N invited M to church and N’s friends loved M well, sacrificially meeting her practical needs. M chose to follow Jesus. But her new friends didn’t consider her need to learn Christian disciplines such as Bible reading. Three years later, she doesn’t read or know the Bible. She has just begun an online Discovery Bible Study with a small group outside her church.
- A Muslim woman joined a house church for Muslim seekers, led by a missionary couple, that is organized around Bible study and prayer. She decided to follow Jesus 6 months ago and reads the Bible and prays daily. Recently, she became engaged to a Muslim! Instruction, prayer and an “act of God” convinced her to end the engagement and get back on course.
- A Muslim couple decided to become Christians when a church helped them with practical needs. They attended services regularly for about 2 years. Church members tried to start a Bible study with them, but the couple were too busy trying to make a living, study English and build a family. Four years later, they still love Jesus and love to pray but know almost nothing about Jesus or any Bible stories. They’ve just moved to a distant community where they’re not connected.
A seasoned head of missions in the Middle East, upon returning to the field after a time in headquarters, wrote, “I forgot what it actually means to make disciples and plant churches on a daily, non-idealistic basis. I forgot the work isn’t complicated; it’s just hard”.
Thank God for churches that make an effort to love and disciple Muslims!
Pray for churches to prioritize discipleship for Muslim background believers, including
- Identifying people willing to disciple them, able to take training concerning issues specific to Islam, and committed to persevering through difficulties
- Developing plans to assess discipleship needs and meet them
- Identifying resources for discipleship, e.g. Discovery Bible Studies, Alpha, Al Massira (Walk with the Prophets and Meet the Messiah), etc.
- Identifying problems that hinder discipleship (e.g. low literacy, limited English, childcare needs, long work hours) and creative solutions to the problems
Bless those who are discipling others. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct them as they disciple, encourage them (Heb 6:10) and bestow His gifts (Gal 5:22-23) on them. Pray they’ll enjoy the fruits of their labors, and that the disciples they make, will in turn make more disciples.
Ask God if He has someone for you to disciple.