The U.S. victory in Iraq and a host of other factors has awakened a missionary fervor among American evangelicals to win the hearts of Muslims, even while they are divided about strategy. A cover story in Time magazine (June 30) reports on the growing evangelical attention to Islamic countries [a trend unfolding for some years; see September, 2002 RW], especially since the Iraq War.
David Van Bema writes that “Not for decades has evangelicalism enjoyed such an Iraqi beachhead,” with some missionaries believing the Allied bombardment induced Muslims to question their “god.” But there are sharp differences about how to introduce Christianity to these often-restricted lands, with some [such as those in Iraq] concentrating on relief work, others working around the rules against conversion from Islam (taking secular jobs and evangelizing from there), and still others engaging in stealth missions and starting underground churches.
The question of how far Christianity should be “contextualized” or made indigenous to Muslim societies is proving divisive in missionary circles. The Evangelical Missions Quarterly (April) reports that in recent years missionaries have embraced a contextualized approach stressing the formation of Muslim Background Believer Congregations (MBB) which subscribe to “Muslim-friendly” vocabulary, diets, clothing and culture, even addressing Jesus as Isa Al Masih.
The division and controversy lies with a more extreme approach known as C5, which calls on converts to remain Muslims worshipping in their mosques, performing Muslim prayers (while praying to Isa), fasting during Ramadan and even making the pilgrimage to Mecca. While the goal of C5 is to reach more Muslims for Christ by embracing the mosque, critics claim that this position is marked by deception and skirts close to encouraging syncretism between Christianity and Islam.
(Evangelical Missionary Quarterly, Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL 60187)