In his recently published Muslim Conversions to Christ, Ant Greenham argues that, despite the difficulties of reaching the Islamic world with the gospel, individual Muslims do put their faith in Christ. Greenham, Assistant Professor of Missions and Islamic Studies at Southeastern, identified from the literature a range of conversion factors and consequently conducted a qualitative study of eleven male and eleven female Palestinians in January 2003 to identify their key conversion factors and test whether these apply to other Muslim converts. For those interested in Islamic conversion to Christ, and for those interested in Palestine, this book is must-read. To order the book, click here. Below is the Greenham’s concise summary of the book:
The first chapter considers the biblical nature of conversion. It may be seen as the process of transformation which occurs as an individual turns to Christ in humble surrender, encountering him by the power of God. This understanding of conversion is used as a tool of evaluation as various cases of Muslim conversion are examined.
The second chapter studies conversion themes from the literature, which indicate a variety of transforming encounters with Christ. Recurring themes are as follows: A prior crisis or felt need may precede conversion. Some individuals are disillusioned with Islam but others see Christ first in the pages of the Qur’an. They learn of Christ through various media, but the Bible is particularly important. Believers’ teaching and love are crucial. Some have supernatural or mystical encounters, including dreams and miracles. Above all, Muslim converts encounter Christ himself. Calling out to him, they find forgiveness, love and assurance in the person of Jesus.
Using such themes as a basis, the author proceeded to investigate the phenomenon of conversion to Christ among Palestinian Muslims. The third chapter demonstrates the need for a study of Palestinian Muslim conversions in the absence of specific conversion research completed to date. It also relates political, social and religious background issues to Palestinian conversions and sets out the author’s research procedures in preparing, arranging and conducting interviews with twenty-two respondents.
Summaries of respondents’ conversion stories as they emerged from open-ended questions and a follow-up comprehensive questionnaire are given in the fourth chapter. The conversion accounts are analyzed in terms of conversion’s nature, identified in the first chapter, and most appear sound. The individuals’ key conversion factors are set out at the end of the chapter.
The fifth chapter examines conversion patterns displayed by the group as a whole. The individuals were influenced by a number of different conversion factors, but the overall picture for the group has the person of Jesus at the center. The converts were drawn to him through various means. These are God’s miraculous involvement, the truth of his message, believers’ roles, Bible reading and an array of other factors. Nevertheless, Jesus is always central. In contrast, very few were converted because they rejected Islam. These patterns are supported by findings drawn from the literature, assessments of missionaries who worked with Palestinians, and results from a control group of ten male converts in Bangladesh. The Palestinians’ key conversion factors thus seem broadly valid.
Finally, the author’s findings might be applied to the task of missions to Muslims as follows: A divine/human synergy is involved. Converts encounter the person of Jesus by the power of God. He has to act for conversion to occur. However, believers have a crucial role to play in pointing Muslims to Jesus. Quite simply, they do so by presenting the biblical truth about him. Where literacy is a problem, the Bible’s testimony to Jesus may be presented via other means. This communicative process will probably be lengthy, but believers’ consistency and sincerity are essential. At the same time those who convert are only transformed as they sincerely turn to Jesus. In sum, the Jesus Muslims encounter has the last word on which factors bring their conversions about. He has the exclusive prerogative on when he might intervene miraculously but he certainly uses the other factors as well. Missionaries must do their part, but the Lord coordinates the details. Consequently, one should never move from dependence on him.
Ant Greenham, Muslim Conversions to Christ: An Investigation of Palestinian Converts Living in the Holy Land (William Carey International University, 2011). 322 pages. Ppbk.