I haven’t been blogging much lately. Part of the reason is because I’ve been busy with a research project that examines MBB conversions in my context. Recently I met the editor of IJFM (a fellow missiology junkie) at a conference and pitched an article idea to him. The idea is basically taken from a chapter of my in-progress dissertation on the topic. This thus begins a multi-post series on Circumpolar, “How are Muslims coming to Christ?”
Below is the introduction from my article “Emerging Missiological Themes in MBB
Conversion Factors.” The series will consist of 8 posts. Each is a missiological theme of how Muslims are coming to faith in Isa the Messiah. I want to thank Duane Alexander Miller, David Garrison, and David Greenlee for their helpful insights and counsel on this topic.
You’ll notice that the tone below is dry and wannabe academic. In this series, however, I’ll try to reflect more personally in the usual blog-voice. I sincerely hope that you will weigh in on each post with your thoughts. We need to learn from each other: I don’t pretend to be an expert on this topic!
Here is the introduction (you can view the references and footnotes on the article):
Qaasid’s[i] mother often reminded him that it was the Christians who “saved him from death” when he was treated as an infant at a Western-run medical clinic for a life-threatening illness. Growing up in a conservative Muslim society that lacks any indigenous church, Qaasid learned weekly at primary school that Christians were among those who had turned away from God. This deeply troubled Qaasid, “How could people who did such great things for me be so misguided?”
One day Qaasid happened across a Christian radio broadcast in his dialect, and he was hooked. He prayed and asked God for a Bible, but in his heart he believed he would have to travel to a Western country to learn more about Jesus. Surprisingly, not too long after his prayer, he was able to buy a Bible from a boy who, ironically, was selling them on the street near his home! The rarity of this experience twenty years ago in his country (he never saw that boy again), unheard of even today, led Qaasid to believe that God had destined him to become a follower of Christ.
Qaasid eventually met a foreign Kingdom worker living in his country who could answer his many questions. Qaasid’s story doesn’t end there, and he has grown in his faith since then. But as he did with Qaasid, God is indeed using many factors to draw Muslims around the world to faith in the Messiah.
The Growth of MBB Conversion Studies in Evangelical Missiology
David Greenlee was among the first to do major missiological research into Muslim Background Believer (MBB) conversions[ii] (Greenlee 1996).[iii] Since then, many have followed suit and many of their contributions can be found in two very helpful edited books on MBB conversions (Greenlee 2006b, 2013). Today, many others including myself are writing theses and dissertations on conversions in their Islamic contexts. In 2014, David Garrison will be releasing a book in which he asked 1,000 MBBs around the world “What did God use to draw you to faith in the Messiah?”[iv] Research into conversion factors is extremely helpful for missiology, because as the axiom goes, “How we conceive of conversion determines how we do evangelism” (Peace 1999, 286). The “consequences” of conversion, another important aspect of conversion, have also recently been researched by Kathryn Kraft (2012), Duane Miller (2013), Tim Green (2012), and Roy Oksnevad (2012).
However, even though no two conversions are the same, it appears to me that MBBs throughout Asia and Africa tend to follow a similar pattern[v] as they come to Christ. While it is anthropologically messy to compare contexts, it does in fact seem that different contexts are yielding similar results. Do we need more research into MBB conversion factors[vi] (cf. Miller 2012)? Or are we nearing a “saturation” point in conversion factor research, where we are not learning too much from new data?
This article is my attempt to offer a synthesis of the emerging missiological contours in MBB conversions. The various factors that influence Muslims to embrace Christ can be grouped into categories or themes. I believe we may be closer to forming a theory of MBB conversions from the extant literature on the subject. However, these eight themes (which are not ranked in order of prominence) are only preliminary suggestions and will need to be examined in various settings.
Refer to the footnotes in the article itself to see how I biblically define conversion (a term I don’t really like that much).
Stay tuned for Part 1, “Conversion is a Contextual Process.”