How Could Muslims Become the Followers of Jesus?
Author: Roger Lam
Dear Brothers and Sisters at ACCCN:
Assalamualaikum! This is the typical Arabic greeting that Muslims say to one another when they call or meet, but why am I greeting the church this way? We are not Muslims, after all. However, Christians and Muslims may have more in common than we think! Did you know that “Assalamualaikum” simply means “peace be upon you?” That’s right! The greeting Muslims say to one another countless times a day is actually a direct quote from Jesus Christ, after he was resurrected. When he greeted his disciples for the first time after being raised to life, he used these very words! And did you know that the word “Muslim” simply means “to be submitted to God?” While I don’t identify as a Muslim, I certainly hope that my friends and family would describe me as someone who is wholeheartedly submitted to God.
We are extremely thankful for ACCCN’s partnership and support, and we want to share more specifically what we see God doing in Indonesia. We have now lived in Indonesia, among a people group that is over 99 percent Muslim, for the last 3½ years. When we first arrived and shared about our ministry to local Christians, many of them told us that it would be too hard and that our people group would never receive the Gospel. While our work in Indonesia is quite messy and sometimes hard, I’m here to tell you that God is absolutely moving among our people group and that we believe that movements of believers will soon rise up in West Java!
I’d like to share three ways that Muslims are encountering the love of God and choosing to become followers of Jesus Christ:
The Study of Scripture in Homes
I have a friend who teaches Bahasa Indonesia to foreigners, mostly to missionaries. Before he became a believer, one of his students wanted to learn Bahasa by reading the Bible in Indonesian together. As a Muslim, he didn’t think he was allowed to read the Bible (it actually turns out that the Quran also refers to our Bible as holy and encourages Muslims to read it). However, his leader at the mosque told him that since it was for work, he was allowed to read it with his student as long as he didn’t think about what he was reading. For several weeks, he tape-recorded passages of the Bible so that his student could work on vocabulary and pronunciation.
One day, the tape in the machine broke while he was reading John 3, the story of Nicodemus, so he had to record the story again. However, this time, the Holy Spirit captured his heart while reading, and he couldn’t help but think about John 3:3: “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’” And he wondered what it meant to be “born of the Spirit.” He asked his student, a missionary and Bible scholar, “What does it mean to be born of the Spirit?” His student replied with a question: “How many prophets do you have in Islam?” “25,” was the reply. “And how many does the Quran say are born of the Spirit?” My friend thought about it. There is only one: the Quran says that the Prophet Isa (Jesus) was born by Spirit! It took some time of learning and studying, but eventually my friend gave his life to Christ. Today he is actively sharing his faith. Over time, he led most of his family to faith, and they all are sharing the Good News.
Although there is a lot of resistance to studying the Bible and to “becoming Christian,” we are seeing many Discovery Bible Studies starting up in homes with those who are curious. Perhaps people are tired of the oppression they experience in Islam. Perhaps in their hearts they know that Islam is not the path to salvation. Or perhaps they’re simply trying to find answers to faithful living. And through the simple study of Scripture, led by peers who are not seminary-trained and oftentimes uneducated, people are coming to faith!
Jobs & Entrepreneurial Programs
One of the reasons we started a business in Indonesia instead of other “normal” missionary visa platforms is that it gives us an identity that makes sense to locals as to why we’re here. In creative-access countries like Indonesia, the typical visa platforms are no longer available, or they are a red flag that you are a missionary (being a student, being an English teacher, or starting a non-profit organization, for example). Even though I’m an ordained minister, we also chose not to take a ministry role or start a church. Recently, the leader of the largest church-planting organization in Indonesia (they have 3,000 churches worldwide) told me that we as Americans are able to access the unreached people of West Java in ways that the Christian church cannot. Just by having the position of pastor or being a Christian church prevents them from entering into Muslim contexts. We were told that we are needed as business people and as foreigners.
The main reason, though, is that having a business creates an environment for life-on-life discipleship. Day in and day out, we work alongside our employees. We are involved in their family lives. We get to know their problems and their issues. And as their bosses, we are given permission to speak into their lives and pray with them through the hardships of faith in Jesus and in everyday life. When we employ a local, we’re not just ministering to one person’s needs. In this culture, one person often supports an entire extended family. Amongst our team here, we now have three businesses and a foundation. We employ dozens of people, and many of them are in our faith network. We meet regularly to worship, to pray, and to train people to share their faith with others. Each week, we are hearing new stories of our employees leading new people to Christ and starting home church groups to study the Bible!
“But the Greatest of these Is Love…”
At this point in our careers, we have read hundreds of books, attended countless conferences and seminars, and have done a lot of strategy work on how we can reach people in Muslims contexts. At the end of the day, what we’ve learned is that the power of the love of Christ is the greatest thing we have to offer to Muslims. It’s not tweaking my Gospel presentation. It’s not learning more apologetics so that we can debate the wisest of Muslim scholars. It’s not even getting better at training local believers. It is, however, allowing our transformed lives to cause transformation in other people’s lives. We want to be walking, living, breathing testimonies of Jesus’ salvation by grace through faith and unconditional love that changes the world. This, of course, is the most difficult thing for us to do. Please pray with us that above all else, “They would know us by our love.”
Author: Roger Lam