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Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus – By John Travis

Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus – By John Travis

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Published by Gilbert Hanz
Can a Muslim truly accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, thereby rejecting some elements of normal Islamic theology, and yet (for the sake of the lost) remain in his or her family
and religious community?
Can a Muslim truly accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, thereby rejecting some elements of normal Islamic theology, and yet (for the sake of the lost) remain in his or her family
and religious community?

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Published by: Gilbert Hanz on Jan 31, 2014
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660Chapter 97
Must all Muslims Leave“Islam” to Follow Jesus?
 John Travis
or the past decade, my family and I have lived in aclose-knit Muslim neighborhood in Asia. My daughter,who loves our neighbors dearly, asked one day,“Daddy, can a Muslim go to heaven?” I responded with anActs 15:11-type “yes”: “If a Muslim has accepted Isa (Jesus)the Messiah as Savior and Lord, he or she is saved, just aswe are.” We affirmed that people are saved by faith inChrist, not by religious affiliation. Muslim followers of Christ (i.e. C5 believers) are our brothers and sisters in theLord, even though they do not change religions.Can a Muslim truly accept Jesus as Savior and Lord,thereby rejecting some elements of normal Islamic theology,and yet (for the sake of the lost) remain in his or her familyand religious community? Due to the extreme importance Is-lam places on community, its nearly universal disdain forthose who have become “traitors” by joining Christianity,and our desire to see precious Muslims come to Christ, find-ing the answer to this question is essential. I agree with Dr.Parshall; it is time for missiologists, theologians, and others,especially those who work face-to-face with Muslims, to se-riously seek God’s will over this C5 issue.
The Islampur case study 
The results indicate that nearly all of the leaders of this move-ment hold firmly to biblical teachings about the identity andwork of Christ. Not only is their basic theology solid, they areactive in their faith through prayer, scripture reading and lis-tening, and coming together for worship. The fact that overhalf understand the Trinity well enough to affirm God as Fa-ther, Son, and Holy Spirit is actually astounding considering itwould be considered apostasy by most Muslims! How manyAmerican pastors would be delighted to find the same vitalityamong their own congregations?Regarding the retention of some Islamic practice and be-lief, we should not be surprised that nearly half feel close toGod when hearing the Qur'an read. Since they don't under-stand Arabic, it may be the familiar melodious chanting thattouches their hearts. (Some C4 and C5 believers where Iwork sing a beautiful worship song which sounds a greatdeal like Muslim chanting.) It is also not surprising that half continue to worship in the mosque in addition to attendingweekly C5 gatherings. This practice is reminiscent of theearly Jewish followers of Christ meeting both in the temple
 John Travis (a pseudonym) has beeninvolved in planting congregationsamong Muslims in Asia for the past12 years. He is currently workingon a Ph.D. through an Americanuniversity.Used by permission from “Mustall Muslims leave ‘Islam’ to follow Jesus?,
Evangelical Missions Quarterly 
, 34:3 (October 1998), pub-lished by EMIS, P.O. Box 794,Wheaton, IL 60189.
and in homes (with the old community andthe new). One village C5 group I know praysat the mosque at noon on Friday, then meetsafterwards in a home for Bible study andprayer led by "Achmad" (a pseudonym), a C4pastor and former Muslim teacher.In this case these believers actually findmosque gatherings shallow and lifeless, and,for a time, stopped attending. Their absencegreatly threatened the mosque leader and hetried to stamp out their Friday afternoonmeetings. Achmad suggested they go back tothe mosque, meaningless as it was for them.The imam’s face was saved and the new be-lievers have continued to meet for over ayear. New Muslim inquirers (even two Is-lamic teachers) have attended.
Concerning the high regard for the Qur’anamong Islampur believers, an apologetic re-sponse concerning the Qur’an must be devel-oped whereby the truth in it can be affirmed(especially for purposes of a bridge for wit-ness), yet it is not put on equal (or superior!)status to the Injil. Fortunately, until such anapologetic is developed, the Islampur believersare regularly reading the Injil rather than theQur’an. Returning to the case of my friendAchmad, he holds evening “Holy Book readingsessions” in his home. He often opens by read-ing a Qur’anic passage in a respectful manner,then proceeds to the heart of the evening read-ing from the Torah, Zabur, and Injil (the Bible).
Unsaved Muslims are more likely to at-tend Bible reading sessions when they alsocontain some Arabic Qur’anic reading.Achmad is careful to read Qur’anic passageswhich do not conflict with the Bible.Three final points concerning the Islampurstudy: First, these C5 Christ-centered commu-nities consist entirely of new believers from ahighly resistant people group. They are verymuch in process, and their struggles are notunlike what many first century congregationsfaced. We must pray that the same Holy Spiritwhom Paul so relied upon to guide and purifythose first groups of believers is active as wellin these new Islampur groups.Second, to attain a more accurate perspec-tive, we need to assess the quality of the new believers’ lives in Christ and not just theirtheology. Is the fruit of the Spirit evident anddo they now show a deeper love for others?Scripture is clear that by qualities such asthese we will recognize true followers of Christ (Matt. 7:20, John 13:35).Last, were it not for the C5 approach usedin this church-planting ministry, would there be these many thousands of new believers toanalyze in the first place?
C5 missionaries (Christians becomingMuslims to reach Muslims)
This perhaps is Dr. Parshall’s greatest con-cern, and overall I agree. Christians becom-ing Muslims to reach Muslims (i.e. C5 Mis-sionaries) is a step beyond simply urgingnew believers to remain in the religious com-munity of their birth (i.e. C5 believers) for thesake of their unsaved family and friends. Inour current situation I have counseled myown Christian background co-workers, espe-cially the expatriates, to take on a C4 expres-sion of faith, and not enter Islam to reachMuslims. Yet I could imagine that in some in-stances God may call uniquely gifted, well-prepared individuals, whose ministries arefirmly backed by prayer, to C5 outreach andreligious identity. These C5 missionarieswould be Muslims in the literal Arabic senseof the word (i.e. “one submitted to God”) andtheir theology would, of course, differ fromstandard Muslim theology at a number of key points. They would have to be ready forpersecution, and it would be best if these be-lievers were of Muslim background.If over time they made their beliefs clear,and the surrounding Muslim communitychose to allow them to stay, should we notpraise God for the opportunity they have toshare the Good News in a place few woulddare to tread? It would appear that neither“Abdul,” the Muslim convert, nor “Harry,”the Western missionary, were called and pre-pared for this kind of work.Regarding how Muslims would “feel”about such an approach, I think the question isa bit irrelevant. The majority of Muslims that Ihave talked to object to any activity they per-ceive as an attempt to attract Muslims toChristianity. However, the C5 approach,which communicates the message of salvationin Christ without the intent to persuade Mus-lims to “change their religion,” might in fact be the one most appreciated by Muslims. By
separating the gospel from the myriad of le-gal, social, and cultural issues implied inchanging religious camps, a more straightfor-ward, less encumbered message can be sharedand (we hope) embraced. On the question of how Christians would feel if Muslims entereda church with the purpose of winning con-verts to Islam, I personally would not be fear-ful. Indeed, for a variety of reasons, non-Christians often grace the doors of churches,and many in the process come to Christ!
Reinterpreting Muhammadand the Qur’an
Can individuals be a part of the communityof Islam and not affirm standard Muslim the-ology? Yes, so long as they remain silentabout their unorthodox beliefs. Indeed, thereare millions of “cultural Muslims” who havedivergent beliefs or know virtually nothingabout Islam, yet who, because of birth andthe fact they have not formally left the fold,are seen as a part of the community of Islam.However the goal of C5 believers (unlike C6 believers) is not to remain silent about theirfaith, but rather to be a witness for Christ. Asthey share, eventually the issue of theprophethood of Muhammad and the iner-rancy of the Qur’an will arise. A follower of  Jesus cannot affirm all that is commonlytaught about the Qur’an and Muhammad.
Certain aspects of the role of Muhammadand the Qur’an must be reinterpreted. Thiswill perhaps be the most challenging task of C5; to not do so will in time cause these believ-ers to move toward C4 (contextualized, yet notMuslim) or C6 (underground/silent believers).Reinterpretation goes far beyond the scope of this brief article and would require the input of Muslim leaders who have put their faith inChrist. A tremendous starting point toward re-interpretation is found in Accad’s excellent book
Building Bridges (1997).
As an Arabscholar and pastor, he suggests ways thatMuhammad, the Qur’an, and Qur’anic verseswhich seem to deny the crucifixion can be rein-terpreted
(pp. 34-46; 138-141).
He cites, as well,examples of Muslims who have successfullyremained in the community of Islam after ac-cepting Christ, some referring to themselves as“Muslims who are truly surrendered to Godthrough the sacrifice of Messiah Isa”
(p. 35).
Guidelines for avoidingsyncretism in a C5 movement 
The idea of Muslim followers of Jesus or mes-sianic mosques has been suggested by anumber of key missiologists (see Winter,1981; Kraft, 1979; Conn, 1979; Woodberry,1989). We do need guidelines, however, sothat a C5 expression of faith does not slip intoa harmful syncretism. Those working withnew believers should emphasize at least thefollowing in the discipleship process:1.Jesus is Lord and Savior; there is no sal-vation outside of him.2.New believers are baptized, meet regu-larly with other believers (this may needto be done with great discretion), andtake communion.3.New believers study the Injil (and Torahplus Zabur if available).4.New believers renounce and are deliv-ered from occultism and harmful folk Is-lamic practices (i.e. shamanism, prayersto saints, use of charms, curses, incanta-tions, etc.).5.Muslim practices and traditions (e.g.fasting, alms, circumcision, attendingthe mosque, wearing the head covering,refraining from pork and alcohol, etc.)are done as expressions of love for Godand/or respect for neighbors, ratherthan as acts necessary to receive forgive-ness of sins.6.The Qur’an, Muhammad, and traditionalMuslim theology are examined, judged,and reinterpreted (where necessary) inlight of biblical truth. Biblically accept-able Muslim beliefs and practices aremaintained, others are modified, somemust be rejected.7.New believers show evidence of the new birth and growth in grace (e.g. the fruitof the Spirit, increased love, etc.) and adesire to reach the lost (e.g. verbal wit-ness and intercession).We must bear in mind that C5 believers, atsome point, may be expelled from the com-munity of Islam. C5 may only be transitional,as Dr. Parshall suggests. Yet, would it not bemuch better for Muslim followers of Jesus toshare the Good News over months or yearswith fellow Muslims who may eventually ex-pel them, than for these new believers to

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