Note: “D” in this article refers to the predominant religion in the Middle East, while “Ds” refer to the adherents of that religion
In some countries where the “D” religion dominates, it is either very difficult or outright illegal to preach the gospel to Ds. It may be illegal as well for Ds to change their religion and formally become Christians. How can we bring Ds to Christ under such circumstances? Even more ambitiously, how can bring about a mass movement of Ds to Jesus Christ? Clearly the Church will not complete the Great Commission to the D world if we continue our present methods by which we see but painfully small numbers of Ds enter the Kingdom of God. For the fulfillment of the Church’s mandate from the Lord Jesus Christ, we must have a mass movement of large numbers of the followers of Mohammed to Christ.
In areas where it is forbidden to preach the gospel in a direct way to Ds, it may be permissible to do works of compassion for them—to feed or clothe them, to provide free medical treatment for them. It is hoped that these works of compassion done in Christ’s name will open their hearts to him. However, there is one work of compassion which Christ did in his time which the Church has not dared to attempt.
Matthew 14:14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Rarely if ever has Church healed infirm Ds to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to them. Now is the time to do these works that Jesus did. For example, in additional to holding a medical clinic we will hold a “healing clinic.” Infirm Ds will come to the clinic and trained disciples of Jesus Christ will lay hands on them in the name of “Isa” (Jesus in Arabic) and heal them as he commanded us. But in accordance with local law, the gospel will not be preached to them in the usual manner.
Those Ds who are healed in the name of Isa—and there will be many—will wonder how they were so wondrously set free from their infirmities. They may wonder who is this Isa whose name is so powerful that their infirmities have completely vanished. They may be told exactly who this Isa is according to Scripture. But they will not be asked to repent and believe on him, since that will be contrary to law.
But since Isa is mentioned and honored in their holy book the Koran, these Ds will not be adverse to seek to know more about him. The Lord will graciously reveal himself to them in his own way as they seek him. Perhaps the Lord will give them dreams (as has already been reported), or they will read the Bible on their own to learn more about him.
However, they will not be invited to attend a Christian Church. Neither will they be invited to renounce the “D religion” and to formally become Christians. That will invite persecution and prosecution and imprisonment. However, did Jesus ever command his disciples to “go to church?” No. Did Jesus ever command his disciples to become “Christians?” No. He simply commanded us to follow him and to be discipled. There are ways in which they can hear, believe the gospel and be discipled without being “Christianized” or without necessarily having direct contact with “Christians” or “the Christian Church.” But this is not the proper forum to discuss this.
As more and more Ds are healed of infirmities and set free from unclean spirits in the name of Isa, that name will gain increasing currency and favor within the D community. It is important during this time that Ds are not renouncing their outward religion and converting to Christianity, for that will result in backlash and setback to the advance of the gospel. Eventually Ds will have a measure of freedom to become followers or disciples of Isa, the one honored in their holy book. After all, they are still Ds outwardly; they have broken no law. But in their hearts they are now D disciples of Isa. As a precedent, within the Jewish community there are already “Jews for Jesus.” The most important thing is not their religious label or their outward bearing.
Unquestionably, some of their beliefs and practices must be renounced if they are truly to follow Isa. But the Holy Spirit through specially prepared vessels—not directly through those known to be Christians—will gradually teach them and convict them of these things as they study Scripture. Yes, there may be false teachings in such a D “denomination” for Isa. But are there not some questionable teachings in existing Christian denominations as well? The point is that the situation will certainly be better than it is at present, with the D religion overtly hostile against the Church of Jesus Christ and very few willing to convert to “Christianity.”
Romans 2:28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
For there to be a mass movement of Ds to Isa, the gospel must be contextualized. Western cultural considerations and other non-essentials must be stripped away and the gospel expressed in only its essential components: follow Isa alone as Lord and Savior. The compassion work of healing the sick must be done to demonstrate to them His authority to forgive their sins and take them to the Father.
For a more theological and scholarly understanding of contextualizing the gospel to fit the culture, please read the article by John and Anna Travis, “Contextualization among Ds, Hindus, and Buddhists: a Focus on Insider Movements.” It appeared in the September-October 2005 issue of the journal Mission Frontiers. See also “Pursuing Faith, not Religion,” excerpted from Chapters 5 and 6 of Appropriate Christianity(William Carey Library Publishers, 2005) by Charles Kraft.