FIRST-PERSON: Risking everything

CINCINNATI (BP) -- After interviewing five men from Central Asia in refugee camps, I asked them what would attract them to actually listen to Bible stories on the radio. After suggesting five or six options, I asked, "Would you listen to conversion testimonies from Muslims, even Muslim religious leaders?"

Their eyes grew wide in this exchange years ago. One asked through an interpreter, "There is such a thing?"

In their country, conversion was considered an act of treason punishable by death.

One man -- a Muslim -- said his child was almost kicked out of school for being caught with a page from a Christian coloring book. Yet, a number of their religious leaders and thousands of everyday folks were quietly praying to receive Christ. In this country, many were coming to faith in Christ through the bold, if careful, witness of believers.

When I discussed Muslim conversion in that region with a missionary there, he said, "The veneer of Islam has created a hunger for the Gospel. They know their leaders don't have anything to offer and they turn to Christians that they know to request the Bible, evangelistic materials, anything to help them understand the Gospel."

In obedience to the Jesus in the Great Commission, believers were risking everything in seeking to make disciples. If they kept quiet, they could live normal lives. If they spoke up, some who heard their message might believe, but others might turn them in to the religion police.

When a man was caught distributing the Bible in one predominantly Muslim area, he was brought before a judge. The judge forced him to bring in his pastor. The pastor asked the judge, "What is so harmful in the Bible's message?" The judge answered, "People will believe the Bible if they read it and I will lose my job." The judge gave the two believers a stern warning and set them free.

Many times people who are not believers exert their authority because they feel it is their role as an official enforcer. Pushback seems to feed the anti-Christian tone and tension.

That doesn't mean that sometime later they won't embrace the Gospel. In one Muslim area, a police sergeant told a believer he had to guard a shipment of Bibles. He wondered about the fuss over a mere book until he began to read it. When he got to the part about Jesus, he prayed to find a believer who could help him. He gave his heart to Jesus but felt conflicted because he had to keep enforcing the local law.

Nik Ripken, author and IMB missionary, once described the horrors he experienced in Somalia as an example of a country in which Satan and his agents seemed to roam unchecked. Ripken's "Insanity of God" movie, which gets a second nationwide theater showing Tuesday, provides a glimpse into this godless anarchy.

Muslims live under enforcers; if we do not tirelessly intercede for our leaders and speak openly of our faith while we have the opportunity, we too will find the enforcers of the secular worldview limiting our Christian liberties. We must use our remaining freedom not just to check cultural decay, but to bring God's healing to our troubled world.

Step back and examine your walk with the Lord. Is it in obedience to Jesus? Do you share your faith? Why would someone want to ask you about Jesus? What is your faith reputation? Are you helping someone become a disciple, even a disciple-maker?

Increasingly, we find ourselves witnessing in a hostile environment in which various enforcers exert negative influence against the Gospel. In America, they typically are in seven "power centers:" government/military (elected officials/leaders), business (CEOs), education (superintendents/principals), news media (anchors/editors), sports (team owners/star players), arts & entertainment (writers/actors), and religious leaders.

These seven leader groups affect culture for good or bad. Those who do become born-again believers have the potential to become godly agents of spiritual transformation.

Why not be intentional to talk to them about your faith in Jesus?

Mark Snowden is director of missional leadership for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association and Snowden Ministries International. He developed an oral Bible for a predominantly Muslim people group while serving more than 18 years on IMB staff.
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