In my recent podcast for MissioNexus, the following question was posed:
Since the Arab spring, we have heard many reports of Muslims coming to Christ in droves. Are these numbers too small to make a dent in the overall growth of Islam?
Unfortunately, the answer to the question is: Yes. This question is in the same vein as “Why do you say the Great Commission isn’t finished when I’ve heard that…” We hear “great stories” or Muslims coming to Christ in “unprecedented numbers,” and even things like “More Muslims have come to Christ in the last 15 years than in the previous 15 centuries combined.” And let me note, quickly, that these facts are true. The Middle East is incredibly open right now (I’m not sure I’d say “unprecedented” but you’d have to go back centuries to find it more open than it is today). There are many thousands and perhaps tens of thousands coming to Christ. There are wonderful reports of dreams, visions, miracles, and power encounters. But we are then tempted to hasty generalizations and brain biases: we fail to realize (1) these stories are outliers and (2) they represent very small numbers. We must hold these wonderful stories in tension with the global picture: there are over 1.7 billion Muslims in the world, and the numbers happening today, while wonderful, are still a very small percentage of the 1.7 billion. Further, globally there are a nett of 30 to 32 million new Muslims each year (largely through births). Religious demographers project Islam will rise to 2.8 billion adherents by 2050 (then 28% of the world). So unless we see 32 million new Muslim-background believers in a given year, I’m afraid that needle really isn’t being moved. And 32 million is a bignumber. It’s a sizable portion of any single country, even though it’s only 1% of Islam. It will not be reached without substantial effort and substantial cost. Let us continue to pray and work and seek to do more than we are now doing.