International (MNN) — Muslims all around the world are becoming disillusioned with Islam and converting to Christianity. In fact, the top three countries with the fastest growing evangelical Christian populations are Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Afghanistan, and The Gambia.
Pierre Houssney, Executive Director of Horizons International, says these Muslim-background believers face unique challenges as they grow in their new faith in Jesus.
“We have actually observed that some people who have believed in Christ from Muslim backgrounds, they will be attending a church for years and years…and they will be hearing Christian teaching, and all this time they are interpreting this Christian teaching with their Islamic lens from their background without having noticed it — like a fish who doesn’t know what water is because they have never experienced the air.”
The confusion comes with certain terms and phrases in the Bible and Christian teaching that other believers often take for granted.
“Many of these elements actually are situations where you have common terminology between Islam and Christianity, but those terms in each religion mean something completely different. So if you say the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of sin, how you earn God’s favor, salvation, things like that, there is a completely different worldview that is underlying.”
This challenge inspired Georges Houssney — Pierre Houssney’s father and the founder of Horizons International — to create Cubs to Lions, a discipleship curriculum specifically for Christians who come from a Muslim background.
Pierre Houssney says, “In a way, sometimes the trappings of Christianity are being painted onto an Islamic worldview and it’s causing friction for them and it’s causing a lack of growth and a lack of fruit in their life.
“Those basic areas of worldview are where this curriculum really goes in and talks about those foundational issues, and then how do you live as a Christian? How do you belong to a church? What is your role in that? How do you carry out your Christian life in your family, in parenting, in marriage?… That’s really where the rubber hits the road for them.”
Another challenge, besides confusion on worldview, is the transitional struggle between communities. Pierre Houssney points out that for Muslims, converting to Christianity is harder than merely leaving the mosque and going across town to the church instead. It means a loss of the Islamic community, a loss of friends, and sometimes even a loss of family members.
For some, the loss is too great. When the Church community fails to fill that gap, these young Christian converts are tempted to return to their old Muslim faith and community. In Georges Houssney’s new book, this concept is called the “revolving door syndrome.”
“This is something that we’ve observed time and time again, where Muslim converts will come into a church and they’re looking for a community. They have left often some tight-knit communities where they’re just living life together with their Muslim brothers and sisters and they’re hoping to find a replacement for that in the Christian community.
“Often, the Church just falls short. They’ll come in on a Sunday morning, lots of warm greetings and things like that, and then they go through the service, and then maybe a little potluck afterward, and then ‘see you next Sunday’. So when they go Sunday to Sunday, they often don’t stick into the community because they don’t feel that they have been really taken in by a loving community that is a replacement for the community that they had before.”
Pierre Houssney says Cubs to Lions encourages Muslim-background believers with the importance of really investing in the Body of Christ. Often, those who complete the Cubs to Lions training find themselves taking a more active role in the Church afterward.
However, he also emphasizes to churches the spiritual importance of holistically embracing these new Christians.
“One of the key elements of our teaching for churches and for people that want to serve Muslims is how to help your church become a friendly environment for somebody that does want to leave Islam and accept Christ and come into the Body of Christ.”
Since its inception in 2007, the Cubs to Lions curriculum has been in high demand. Horizons International first started offering Cubs to Lions conferences in Colorado. Since then, it has expanded to Canada, Australia, Lebanon, North Africa, and will also be offered in Paris this summer.
“If you know of any person that has come to faith from a Muslim background that is in your church or anybody that you’ve heard of, I would highly recommend you refer them to us so we can reach out to them and offer them this training!” Pierre Houssney says. “We do provide scholarships for the training for those who can’t afford it and we have found that there is just a night-and-day difference.”
If you would like to find a Cubs to Lions training near you, you can find the list of events at EngagingIslam.org.
You can also find the Cubs to Lions videos in Arabic and English online here!
Please pray for Christians who come from a Muslim background to feel fully embraced by their new church community. Ask God to guide their new faith journey. Pray that through discipleship resources like Cubs to Lions, their understanding of and witness for the Gospel would be strengthened.
Header photo courtesy of Horizons International.