Finishing the Task in the Muslim World
What will it take to reach them?
What’s it going to take to see this country reached?”
This was my question to a friend and colleague serving in one of the toughest places on earth. His answer was simple but not simplistic, and certainly not easy. He responded soberly, “It won’t happen until God has a people who love His glory more than their own lives."
As I ponder and pray over the spiritual condition of the Muslim world, I continue to ask this question, but on a broader scale. What’s it going to take to close the gap between our current reality and God’s desire to see a people of His choosing among every Muslim people group? I don’t pretend to have a comprehensive answer to this question, but I do believe there are four principles we must embrace to move us in that direction.
1. Embrace a God-centered approach to missions. God is both the object and the objective of Christian missions. It was in the fearful and awe-inspiring presence of a holy God that the prophet Isaiah found his motivation for missions. God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me.”
If you’ve ever been in a missions service, you’ve probably heard a missionary reference this story from Isaiah 6. However, we tend to stop with the prophet’s response. If you read the rest of the chapter, you discover that God called Isaiah to a difficult ministry. God told him to preach, but no one would respond positively to his message.
Those working with Muslims must embrace the reality that we can sustain our obedience and joy in the ministry only as we focus on the glory of the One who sent us, rather than on the response of those to whom we go.
2. Embrace the messiness of discipleship. We love measurables. I think that’s one reason we talk so much about them. It’s easy to count the number of people who raised their hands or the number of churches we have planted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for both of these, but our essential mandate is to make disciples. Jesus told us to focus on this part of the work, and He would build His church.
Work with Muslims is seldom quick, and it’s often messy. We spend months (or even years) sharing the gospel with a friend, only to see that person get close to following Jesus and then back away as he or she counts the costs.
Others accept Christ through useful tools like the internet or broadcast media, but then stagnate in their Christian development due to a lack of fellowship. Witness and discipleship are most effective when they are accompanied by “with-ness.” This reality is why boots-on-the-ground missionaries are so important. It’s also why we need to accept the long-term nature of missions to the Muslim world.
It will cost us dearly to finish the task in the Muslim world.
3. Embrace the size of the task. There are more than 3,000 Muslim unreached people groups, representing over 1.5 billion people, according to estimates from the Joshua Project. These people aren’t merely lost without Jesus. They are God-loved individuals with no reasonable access to the gospel.
So, without trying to sound self-serving, we must embrace the need to send more missionaries to the Muslim world. And some reading this article need to go.
4. Embrace the cost. This truth takes us back to the answer my friend gave me when I asked him what it was going to take to see Jesus glorified in his nation: “It won’t happen until God has a people who love His glory more than their own lives.” That’s how every one of us needs to respond to the Great Commission.
You may have a Muslim neighbor. Sharing the gospel with him or her won’t put your life at risk, but you will to have to die to the desire for people to like you if Muslims are going to discover the love of Jesus.
Other Muslims live in hostile places where the gospel and its ambassadors are not welcome. The truth is, if making disciples among the world’s Muslim peoples were easy, somebody else would have already done it.
It will cost us dearly to finish the task in the Muslim world. We will have to say “no” to buying the latest and greatest so we can give more. We will have to send our best and our brightest. We will have to embrace suffering. That means when we have done everything we can to mitigate the risks of living in a gospel-resistant context but realize preaching the gospel brings with it suffering, we dare not try to protect ourselves or others from that which the Holy Spirit chooses not to protect us.
Finally, we have to embrace inconvenience. It’s never convenient to reach the unreached. I’m praying that those who read this article will be inconvenienced by the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
May we lose sleep as we ponder the lostness of the Muslim world. And may we be willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes until Jesus is glorified among every Muslim people group for the sake of His eternal glory.
Soli deo gloria!
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of six articles on Christianity and Islam that is running on Fridays throughout the Muslim month Ramadan, which began May 6 and ends June 4. Friday is the Muslim day of prayer, so we encourage readers on this day especially to pray for the spread of the gospel among Muslims, both in the U.S. and around the world.
Ramadan 2019 Article Series