They said, "We want Christians to see the potential that every Muslim has to be a Christ follower and a brother or sister in Christ." That began the process.
Your book is filled with insights about how Muslims view Jesus, Christianity, and the church. But how did your encounters with Muslims change you personally?
I've traveled to 100 countries over the years. The thing that changed me, as I look back on it, was finding that the living Christ has already been in these places.
I was hearing from Muslim-background believers that they had met Jesus. Sometimes we as Christians feel we take Jesus to people. What we forget sometimes is that we're attesting to a living Christ who continues to break into people's lives, into their dreams, into their visions, and into their prayers.
Jesus answers those prayers, and he meets with them, and it shakes them up. From West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Indonesia, I met people whose lives had been shaken and rattled by their encounter with Christ. They were not persuaded by logical doctrine or a better civilization, but by that encounter with the living Son of God who changed their life and world. They can't go back to life as usual.
That changed me. I had my own faith renewed. We serve a living God, a living Christ, and a living Lord.
If the gospel has already taken root in these mostly Muslim nations, how should we reshape our mission?
These things didn't happen by magic. Even Saul of Tarsus heard the testimony of Stephen before he was struck down by a vision. People have flickers and glimmers of Christ—through a radio broadcast, Scripture distribution, or overhearing some Christian.
They get haunted. They look into their Qur'an and they see references to Jesus. In the Hadith, they hear stories about Jesus. Many people I interviewed said, "I loved Jesus from the time I was a little child."
It didn't mean that they got the gospel. What it did mean is that they got a predilection toward Christ. Something prepared their hearts. When they did hear the gospel, they said, "Yes, that's for me."
I talked to an Iranian man—kind of a thug. He had been in the black market. He was a hustler. But he said, "I was drawn to the cross." He said, "I had a cross ring. I had a cross necklace." He had a t-shirt that said, "I did this for you" with a big cross.
He said, "I had no clue what it meant, but I was drawn to the cross." A friend came and started telling him about Jesus. His heart just melted and he invited Christ into his life. He left that illicit business and eventually became a refugee. Because of his faith, he was pushed out of the country.
Christ draws people to himself. The Holy Spirit will convict the world. That's not the same thing as proclaiming the gospel to them. That is our role. But it's nice to know that there's an advance card out there bringing people to conviction. We're not alone.
Forget this idea that it's all up to us.
The truth is we are brave and courageous because we're going into the heart of darkness. But isn't it nice to know that the light penetrated the darkness first. When Jesus sent out the 72, he said, "I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house say, 'Peace to this house.' If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you." (Luke 10:3-6, NIV) Everywhere you go, you're going to find persons who are waiting for you. That's true in the Muslim world as well as other parts of the world.