More Muslims have converted to the Way of Jesus Christ in the last four decades than in all the other years since the advent of Islam in the 7th Century. Something is certainly happening among Muslims and there is an openness in their society that was not there before. It’s also important to note that large numbers of nominal Christians, especially in Europe, are converting to Islam–a main reason being so they can marry Muslim women. Who has more converts? Not sure about that. I will say that Muslims converting to Christianity often pay a heavy price in terms of persecution, and that Westerners converting to Islam are afforded generous protection by their governments.
But here is the question: why are some Muslims attracted to the way of Jesus Christ? Here are some of the main reasons…
He explained that numerous pastors who lived in multi-ethnic neighborhoods or close to asylum centers were being approached by individuals or families from places like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes these people would just start attending church. Other times they were looking for baptism. Still other times they related that they had converted in some other country but wanted to join the local church. Would I be interested in coming to Denmark to provide some seminars for local leaders and deliver some more academic lectures at a local university?
This led to me spending a week in Denmark. We started with a seminar in Copenhagen, traveled by train to Århus where I did another seminary and even learned to correctly pronounce Århus. The next day I was at the second largest university in the country. At the invitation of Prof. Peter Lodberg I spoke on sociology of religious conversion from Islam to Christianity to around 100 students, many of whom are studying for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark.
The church is the national church. Some 75% of all Danes belong to it, though of course many of those people rarely attend it. It is episcopal, meaning it has bishops. But I learned that it is not synodal, meaning the bishops don’t meet in synod to govern the church (which is indeed the form of government of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain here in Madrid). Also, both the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark belong to the Porvoo Communion, meaning the two churches recognize the ordination and sacraments of each other.
It is easy to find bad news about Islam in Denmark. Just today my news feed told me about the Turkish government funding new mosques there. The clergy I spoke with there were quite open when talking about the rise in violence that has come with Islamic immigration. Yet they were also excited to do what they could to help people move from Islam to Christianity. One pastor spoke of 20 baptisms at the local parish. Another spoke of his desire years ago to be a missionary in Turkey but explained how it had not worked out, but then he realized that Denmark had a large Turkish population and that he could spread the gospel among Turks in his home country. A young man training for ministry at the university wrote me an e-mail after the lecture expressing his excitement to help the church move into challenging new places of ministry like this in order to connect not only to Muslims but also to the post-Christian secular population of Danes.
The seminars consisted of four talks each, with plenty of time for Q&A, lunch, and the singing of a hymn or two. The first three lectures were about background—what is conversion? What are some of the global movements from Islam to Christ? And third, what attracts people from Islam to Christ? The fourth talk was my favorite one—it focused on practical pastoral steps that ministers can take to help converts from Islam form a firm, new identity in Jesus Christ. Evenings often consisted of dinner meetings with key local figures.
I did get a little sight seeing in too. We were done by Thursday night, and my plane didn’t depart from Copenhagen until 3:20 in the afternoon. So I took the day to wander around Copenhagen and even managed to stumble on the Little Mermaid as well as other interesting historical sites.
Denmark is wrestling with many difficult questions. What is integration? What does it mean to be Danish? What are the ramifications of the break down of rule of law connected to people who immigrate? (I’m talking about people whose asylum claims are denied—many simply move on to another country or stay in Denmark with no negative repercussions.) Can a country where every successive generation is smaller then the previous one—thanks to low birth rates—really have a future? How can you protect the human rights of a person who has pledged himself to destroying the human rights of others?
In spite of being keenly aware of how precarious their situation is they are taking action on many fronts. One of those was to find an expert on converts from Islam and bring him to provide ideas and guidance for their clergy and leaders. This denotes to me a certain hope and confidence in God. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But it is better than the alternatives—denying the real dangers that come with a growing Muslim population or giving into anger and despair. All in all this is a church that is taking the initiative in a prudent and hopeful manner. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark is surely on the right track.
MC: Why do MBBs [Muslim-background believers] seem to be more comfortable in evangelical settings? Or is the correct question Are evangelicals more evangelistic than liturgical/traditional denominations?
DAM: One might think that since the ancient churches of the Muslim world are mostly Eastern or Oriental Orthodox, that people would be converting to those forms of Christianity. But that rarely happens. First, those ancient churches are still suffering from the trauma of centuries of living as dhimmis under the sharia. It was a belittling and dehumanizing way to live wherein Christians (and Jews) were routinely publicly humiliated by Muslim rulers. Christians could always convert to Islam, but were not allowed to evangelize Muslims or even learn about Islam. This has led in many places to quietism and seeing Islam as invincible. One pastor has likened how these Christians see Muslims to how a prostitute views her pimp as someone who really loves her, even though no one else sees it that way. Second, evangelicalism—as broad as that term is—places a great deal of importance on conversion. The strength of evangelicalism is that each and every Christian is seen as an evangelist. In other churches people tend to assume the priest or bishop is in charge of evangelism—if they even know what the word means. I will say that theologically there is nothing in Anglicanism, Catholicism or Orthodoxy that preclude vigorous evangelism by the laity. The barrier really is pastoral.
Here is the ‘about’ summary from the publisher page:
Around the world people are leaving Islam for Christianity in unprecedented numbers. This book seeks to look into the world of some of these converts, trying to discern the shape of their newfound faith. Why do they convert? What challenges do they face? And ultimately, what do they in their own complex and sometimes difficult circumstances claim to have understood about God that, while in Islam, they had not? In other words, what is the content of their contextual theology? In seeking to answer these questions, Miller looks into the world of an unintentional church plant in the Arab world consisting of believers from a Muslim background, visits with groups of Iranian converts in the diaspora, and examines the written testimonies of still other converts. In a world where Muslim-Christian relations are increasingly important and sometimes tendentious, this book examines the lived faith and contextual theology of people who have chosen to leave Islam and embrace Christianity.
Buy the book or read reviews at the publisher page HERE or get the Kindle version HERE.
Over the years I have published a number of articles in St Francis Magazine. The online journal focused on Christianity and Christian witness in the context of the Arab world specifically, and the Muslim world more broadly.
I always felt the journal played a unique role. But word has reached me through the grapevine that the website became too costly to maintain. The PDFs of the articles will hopefully be made available some time down the road. But I’m not in charge of that.
But for now, I am able to make my own articles available. So, here are numerous links…