Why Do Muslims Come to Christ? Five Case Studies

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In 1996 David Greenlee did one of the first comprehensive studies on Moroccan Muslim men who had come to Christ. Here is a story from his thesis (p. 193).

It was three years ago when I became interested in Christianity. A fellow student was taking part in a BCC. I'm not sure what happened to him since then, but I became intrigued in a small book that he had about the Christian Bible. Eventually he gave me the address of the BCC program in Europe. Soon I received my own materials, but I had to be careful that my older brothers didn't find out about what I was doing.

After a year or so of writing, I eagerly accepted the offer to meet face-to-face with a Christian, a European who lives in my city. We began to study the Bible together. It wasn't so much what he said, but how he understood and loved me that convinced me of the truth.

After we had met together for a few months, he introduced me to some other Moroccan young men, Christian young men. What a surprise! I had wondered if I was the only Moroccan Christian. For, in fact, in those weeks I had come to living faith in Jesus Christ and began to consider myself as a follower of the Messiah, a Christian. Meeting with these Moroccan men confirmed my faith and gave me new friends. They encouraged me to keep on in my new faith, despite opposition from my family and friends.

Since then multiple other studies have been done as more and more Muslims are coming to the Living God.

This short paper surveys five sample studies: A case study of 170 conversion narratives; mostly from Sudan; a case study of Palestinians and Bangladeshis; a paper examining the written testimonies of 173 Muslims worldwide who came to faith in Jesus Christ, and a study of 750 former Muslims, a study in Kenya of 17 urban ex-Muslims,  These all  confirm what all other studies have shown: the Living Christ and living Christians are the main keys to conversion.

 

Jean-Marie Gaudeul’s Study (1999)

Gaudeul published his findings of 170 publicly available conversion stories in a book named  Called from Islam to Christ. He lists five main factors in conversion:

  • “Jesus is so attractive”
  • Jesus alone satisfies their “Thirst for Truth”
  • Christianity satisfies their longing for community as they felt like they were “without a family”
  • Christianity satifies an existential need for actual forgiveness:

He explains:“In Islam, ‘Divine forgiveness can only be given when divine justice has been satisfied and sins have been expiated.’ While in Christianity ‘God offers an unmerited forgiveness which heals and transforms the sinner, pouring into his weakness the strength of the Holy Spirit’ (154)

  • “a thirst for God” by which he means a thirst to encounter God in a personal way

Anthony (Ant) Greenham’s Study (2004)

Ant Greenham conducted research on Palestinian Muslim converts and then compared that data with conversions in Bangladesh. His research shows that among both men and women, the overwhelming factor that they cited in their coming to faith in Christ was the person of Jesus. He states, that “the person of Jesus is always central.”

Here are three statistical tables drawn from his work (p. 228). It is noteworthy that his study of conversions of Bangladeshis cited the six following factors:

  • The person of Jesus,
  • the truth of Jesus’ message,
  • God’s honor,
  • the lives of believers,
  • reading the Bible,
  • God’s miraculous action.           

From: Anthony Greenham, “Muslim Conversions to Christ:An Investigation of PalestinianConverts Living in the Holy Land” Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, SC, 2004.

Bruce L. Bronoske's Study (2005):

In 2005 Bronoske studied conversion narratives of 173 people throughout the world and compiled the data in his study entitled “A Comparative Study Of The Self-Revelation Of Jesus Found In The Canonical New Testament And The Jesus of The Qur'an, And The Effect A Muslim Seeker's Understanding Of Jesus Has Upon Their Decision To Convert To Christianity." [Northwest Graduate School Of The Ministry, D.Min]

His summary findings entitled "Theological Element of the New Testament Gospel which finally convinced the Muslim Seeker to Convert” were placed in the following table (p.173). In it he shows that 92% of converts from Islam cited the Biblical Jesus as the focal point of their conversion.

What is noteworthy is that the Jesus to whom these Muslims gave their devotion was as Bronoske stated, “was the New Testament understanding of Jesus Christ. That is, Jesus Christ as He was revealed within the text of the canonical New Testament” (p. 147). This Jesus had been introduced to them primarily through a "familiar voice" namely through a “friend, a family member, or a trusted acquaintance” (p. 145).

Of the 173 testimonies, Bronoske noted that 26 cited the Bible in their own language as their introduction to the Gospel. He observed, “The reading of the Scriptures brought light to many a future convert who desired to honestly compare for themselves, the Quran and the Bible. Whenever the Bible was placed alongside the Quran, the power of the true word of God drew the seeker with words that not only comforted the soul, but enlighten the mind - leading them to salvation” (p. 146). This finding parallels a study by David Maranz who found  “In most, the role of the Bible or some passages of Scripture
were central to conversion.”

Bronoske summarized his work by citing a quote from Francis Schaeffer, namely that if he had only one hour to share the gospel with a person, he would spend the first forty-five minutes finding out what the person believed about God and the last fifteen minutes presenting Christ from that basis.

From: Bruce Bronoske, “A Comparative Study Of The Self-Revelation Of Jesus Found In The Canonical New Testament And The Jesus of The Qur'an, And The Effect A Muslim Seeker's Understanding Of Jesus Has Upon Their Decision To Convert To Christianity,” D. Min,  Northwest Graduate School Of The Ministry, 2005.

J. Dudley Woodberry, Russell G. Shubin, and G. Marks study (2007):

In 2007 an article which summarized 750 interviews with former Muslims was featured in Christianity Today under the title: “Why Muslims Follow Jesus?: The results of a recent survey of converts from Islam.”  The study, done between 1991 and 2007, surveyed people from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups. The researchers ranked the order of influences stated by their correspondents on their conversions:

  • the lifestyle of Christians
  • the power of God in answered prayers and healing
  • dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced
  • spiritual truth in the Bible
  • love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus.

Source: Christianity Today, (October 2007, Vol. 51, No. 10)      [http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/october/42.80.html]

Reinhold Strahler's Study (2009):           

In Nairobi, Kenya, Reinhold Strahler conducted extensive interviews with 17 urban former Muslims who had come to faith. Like Bronoske he found strong evidences for the “familiar voice” as being decisive in the conversion stories. Similarly the life of Christians and the Bible figures strongly in the findings from Table #30 (p. 130) below.

Table 30: Significant factors in all conversion processes, sorted by frequency            
Sequence/Factor/Score/Category of Factor
1    personal witness by Christians  25  Christians
2    attractive lifestyle of Christians    24    Christians
2    love / friendship shown by Christians    24    Christians
3    reading Bible    23    media
4    dissatisfaction with practice of Islam    22    Islamic practice
5    evangelistic meetings    20    meetings
5    answered prayer    20    supernatural
6    reading literature    18    media
7    dream / vision    14    supernatural
7    miracles or observ ing the power of Christ    14    supernatural
8    TV / video    13    media
9    audio cassettes (together with music cassettes)    12    media
10    educational programmes    11    Christian programmes
11    theological debate or dialogue with Christians    10    meetings
12    listening to Christian radio broadcasts    7    media
12    social / medical programmes of Christians    7    Christian programmes
13    healing from illness    5    supernatural
14    Bible study with Christians    4    Christians

From: Reinhold Strahler, "Coming to Faith in Christ: Case Studies of Muslims in Kenya” (D. Missiology, University of South Africa, 2009)

Observations from the five studies:

As much as we know that the Living Christ is made known savingly to people whom the Father draws to Himself, (John 6:44) we know as well that He uses the instruments of His Living Word, and His living witnesses. These studies show that there are no short-cuts in evangelism, and that frequently multiple Gospel encounters are needed for the Muslim to come to faith in the Living Jesus. Clearly the data shows that Jesus is powerful to save, the Gospel is still the power of God to salvation, and the Living God through the power of the Holy Spirit works through his people.

In a nutshell these Muslim converts encountered the living Jesus, the living Word of God, and living Christians.

Further reading:

  1. For a comprehensive bibliography of a number of studies, along with common themes that are emerging from them see: Warrick Farah, "Emerging Missiological Themes in MBB Conversion Factors," IJFM 30 no 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 13-20.
  2. Duanne A. Miller, “Living among the Breakage: Contextual Theology-making and ex-Muslim Christians” (PhD thesis, Edinburgh, 2014).
  3. Craig A Dunning, “Palestinian Muslims Converting To Christianity: Effective Evangelistic Methods In the West Bank,” (PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, 2013).
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