Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Secret Believers by Brother Andrew

I've been devouring books lately and have made my way through a number of those I bought at Missionfest earlier this month.  The most recent book I've finished is Secret Believers: What Happens when Muslims Believe in Christ by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen.

It's tricky talking about Christian believers in Muslim countries because the Muslim extremists are very good at tracking down who they think the stories are about and responding in cruelty--even when they have guessed wrong. Brother Andrew's solution to this problem is to tell true stories and actual events, but creating fictional characters in a country, city and towns that remain unnamed.  He's done an excellent job.  I could hardly put the book down.

What are some of the problems Christian believers have in the Muslim world?  There are three distinct groups of Christians to consider: indigenous people who have been Christians since the apostles first took the Gospel to their countries 2000 years ago, ex-patriots living in the Muslim countries and believers who converted from Islam.  For all groups, the situation is dangerous, first for the Muslim-born believers, then for the indigenous Christians and finally for the ex-pats.

Even if the laws of the land state equality for all religions and the country may have signed the Geneva Treaty about human rights, sharia law usually takes precedent.  Often the police ignore blatant abuse and murder of Christians or they're complicit and aid the process.  The situation is so bad that churches have been known to refuse entrance to Muslim seekers or newly-converted Christians.  It's too dangerous for both the church and the Muslim.

But then, what is the mission of the Church in these nations?  Is it merely to maintain the status quo?  Does the danger keep them from fulfilling the Great Commission?  And if so, what are the implications?

We follow several characters in the book:

Ahmed was part of the Islamic Brotherhood when he was asked to write a book to show the error of Christianity.  His reading of the Bible changed his thoughts and he becomes a Christian.

Abuna is a priest who turns Muslim seekers away but then is challenged to reconsider how best to serve his congregation and God.

Butros studied in England.  He is looked at with suspicion by the Christian pastors he returns home to serve and by the Muslims.

Layla is a Christian teen who is kidnapped and forced to become Muslim.

Kareem is a highly-placed government official who has discovered Jesus and committed to him on his own.  Any contact with known Christians places him in grave danger but he also has influence and power if he can use it carefully.

Hassan and Mustafa become believers because of Ahmed's determination to find those Muslims seeking Jesus.

In addition to demonstrating the real problems, issues and dangers Christians face, Secret Believers shows what speaks loudest to antagonistic Muslims.

At the end of the story, several chapters speak directly to the Christian believer.  What have we as a Church done to show Christ to Muslims?  When they look at the western nations that are supposedly Christian, do they see Christ?  What can we do, corporately and individually to change their perceptions and win more Muslims to Christ?  I've been challenged and know I must keep the book at hand so I can be reminded of what I have been convicted.

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