06 Apr 2014 · 11 Apr 2014
Part of the Lausanne Movement’s vision for global mission is ‘the gospel for every person’ and ‘an evangelical church for every people’. In this mission, it can be said without fear of contradiction that Islam poses the greatest challenge for a number of reasons. First, Islam is the second missionary religion after Christianity with a universal message, appeal, and a truly global reach. According to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, in 2010 Muslims constituted nearly a quarter of the world’s population (23.4%) and is expected to increase by about 35% by 2030. Muslims therefore remain the single largest unreached people group and should be a priority focus of the whole church.
Second, since 9/11, Islam has raised a number of serious theological, missiological, ideological, and existential questions for Christian presence and witness in fresh and challenging ways. These questions and challenges are at their sharpest in the Global South where about 65% of the world’s Christians and 97% of the world’s Muslims reside and interact in various spheres of life. From Malaysia to Pakistan, the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa, Christian presence and witness is coming under increasing pressures from Islam, raising searching theological and existential questions in the minds of the laity and clergy alike. The attacks in Mumbai, Nigeria, and more recently Kenya, and a host of other challenges are contributing to making the arduous task of Christian witness to Muslims across Africa and Asia even more difficult.
In his seminal work The Call of the Minaret Kenneth Cragg notes that Islam emerged in an environment of ‘an imperfect Christianity’ and disseminated a new belief that claimed to displace what it had never effectively known. Cragg calls the rise of Islam ‘the inward tragedy, from the Christian angle’. Research over the years has shown that over 30% of Muslims who come to faith in Christ testify to the direct impact of Christian lifestyle and personal testimony on their decision. Yet, recent research has revealed that 86% of Muslims don’t know a Christian, which is an internal travesty for Christians! There is no substitute to the physical presence or embodiment of the gospel in the form of loving hearts and informed minds.
Following the Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, the Lausanne Board of Directors, in recognition of the pivotal importance of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations around the world, appointed a Senior Associate for Islam. A small meeting was then convened in Oxfordshire, UK, in November 2012 of leading evangelical Islamicists and practitioners to brainstorm on current needs. One area of priority identified for immediate action was training, equipping, and resourcing the majority world church in its interface with Islam and witness to Muslims.
It is in this light that the Lausanne Movement has convened a global consultation on the general theme of Resourcing and Equipping the Majority World Church in Understanding Islam and Engaging with Muslims. The aim was to bring together leading evangelical scholars and practitioners in the field of Islamic studies and Muslim evangelism to share ideas on the best possible ways of resourcing and equipping the majority world church to be more effective witnesses to the gospel in Muslim contexts.
Some of the anticipated outcomes:
- To provide an overview of the teaching and general awareness of the challenge of Islam in majority world theological institutions.
- To determine as to what extent an awareness of and interest in Islam and ministry to Muslims remains a specialism or is being integrated across the curriculum in majority world theological institutions.
- To undertake a comprehensive compilation of the programs, courses, and modules offered on Islam and related topics in majority world theological institutions.
- To compile a list of persons from the majority world with graduate level education in Islam and related areas, their areas of specialization, and where they are currently located.
- To explore the challenges and obstacles facing the teaching of Islam and ministry to Muslims in majority world theological institutions.
- To identify key majority world theological institutions that need support in the area of teaching Islam and ministry to Muslims at a graduate level and where it is necessary to facilitate the development of regional study centers for that purpose.
- To set up a fund that will enable the evangelical body to pool resources for the purpose of resourcing the church in Islamic contexts on an ongoing basis while developing sustainable local financial capacities.
The consultation also looked into the more general theme of what constitutes an appropriate Christian engagement and witness to Islam and Muslims at the macro and global level as well as micro and more localized contexts. The aim was to explore biblically rooted and contextually sensitive forms of witness aligned with Lausanne’s commitment to global mission and faithfulness to biblical truth claims. A Lausanne Mission Statement and Working Document on Islam, which is being drafted, will be hopefully adopted to serve as a broad biblical basis for Christian engagement with Islam and Muslims and offer suggestions for areas of priority.
Two overarching objectives:
- Recommend how to further support and equip the majority world church for mission to Muslims through academic, biblical, and theological engagement with Islam.
- Energize a collaborative, prayerful, and prophetic community of evangelical theological leaders and institutions to carry out the mission.
Two important principles:
- Begin with identification and appreciation of existing Islamic study opportunities and resources, considering whether and how to support and build on them. Advocate the development of new strategic study opportunities in high priority contexts.
- Pay particular attention to the majority world with the view of enabling the church in the majority world to receive contextually relevant education of the highest academic standard in the various fields of Islam and Christian-Muslim engagement.
40 participants attended from 20 countries, with two-thirds from the majority world. Participants included leading evangelical scholars in Islam, especially those already involved in educating Christians about Islam at various levels. In addition, key Muslim ministry leaders, theological educators, and evangelical funding/resource agencies and organizations, trusts, etc, with special interest in theological education were also invited.
Support from ScholarLeaders International and Overseas Council were vital in the process. Our prayer is that more evangelical bodies will see the crucial importance of this venture and come onboard as continuing partners.
Read the news release about this consultation.