Informative Report on Muslim Conversions

Informative Report on Muslim Conversions April 15, 2013

Since I wrote Turning to Jesus I have maintained a regular interest in specific patterns of conversion, leading to my co-authored Finding Faith, Losing Faith where specific patterns were raised to the surface. Our study was on the pattern of why Catholics become evangelicals, evangelicals become Catholics, and why Jews become Christians. To set it all into a different context, I wrote a piece on why Christians abandon the faith — the pattern of apostasy as a kind of (de)conversion.

An observation: the soterian gospel is designed to create one kind of conversion experience and speaks most importantly to one kind of context. Missiologists and conversion theorists know that various people groups — the Messianic Jewish conversion experience is not a soterian gospel conversion experience — have various conversion experiences. This means it is important to drill down to the gospel and let the gospel speak into different contexts. When the gospel is reduced to the soterian gospel it can speak only to one kind of experience.

But I have often wondered about the pattern of Muslim conversion, and here’s a sketch of that pattern by Georges Houssney, and these elements interested me the most:

2. “As a Muslim, did you feel that your relationship with God was based on fear, love, or duty/doing what is required?” 

75% said it was based on fear.

40% included duty as a basis of their relationship with God.

5% said that as Muslims they felt that they had been worshiping God rather than duty.

Not one single respondent said that their relationship with God had been based on love when they were Muslim.

3. “What characteristic of God means most to you now?” 

75% of the respondents mentioned the love of God.

25% mentioned God’s forgiveness.

4. “What was the major factor in drawing you to Christ?

85% of respondents cited the love of Christians as one major factor.

60% cited it as the exclusive factor.

30 % cited disappointment with Islam.

25% noted that there were other reasons not listed leading to their conversion.

25% experienced dreams and visions, most of Jesus but some various dreams.

15% mentioned the Christian concept of God.

5% cited the Bible as the sole factor in their conversion.

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  • Scot, this is absolutely fascinating and certainly provides useful guidance on helpful and unhelpful ways to approach people.

    It’s unsurprising that love is the strongest attractive force for Muslims, but very intriguing that dreams and visions figure so largely. I’m aware of a number of examples of this but had no idea it was as high as 25%.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Rick

    Chris. I believe in another surveys the conversion due to dreams and visions have been higher.

  • Percival

    Just a few notes of caution about the reliability of the research results. These results may be highly skewed by the fact that Georges Houssney and any missions organization that he is deeply involved with will be very conservative. Thus, the sampling of converts he uses are likely to be largely rejectionist towards Islamic cultures. That is, they are not likely to have much positive to say about anything in their Islamic background. Also, the nature of these conferences is that the attendees are most likely converts who have been extracted from their cultures and are mostly living in the West. On the other hand, Believers from a Muslim Background (BMB’s) who have come through more indigenous Church Planting Movements (CPM’s) may not have had any contact with Western missionaries, and some will even see their new faith in Christ as an outgrowth of their previous faith in the Islamic religion (PFIR).

    I just made up that last acronym : )

  • Yuce Kabakci

    Dr. McKnight

    This is an interesting post and I’m glad you touched on this topic. I was born and raised as a Muslim as well. However, my personal experience in converting to Christianity and observing some other Muslims in my own country doesn’t really match these statistics. Loving God for God’s sake was a huge part of my Islamic faith and most of the good works that I was trying to accomplish were being done not out of fear of punishment, duty, or love of rewards in heaven but because Allah was worthy of such good works. So the love of God aspect was surely there. If Houssney interviewed me, I’d be the first one to say that my relationship with Allah was based on love (with a mixture of other motives and feelings as well).

    In terms of number 3, it’s God’s faithfulness and patience as the outflowing of his love that mean the most to me.

    Again I differ a bit on number 4 as well. I too had a dream before my conversion. But the major factor in my decision making process was the history behind the New Testament. Cross and resurrection are the two points of disagreement between Islam and Christianity. And I just could not disprove or get over those two both historically and spiritually. It was the resurrection that made me turn from Islam to Christianity.

    But again, I am probably in the minority. I’ve met a lot of Muslim background Christians whose testimonies justify this research.
    Again, I really appreciate the post Dr. McKnight.
    Peace be with you

  • Marshall

    Of course “fear of God” is an important element in the Christian tradition also. And Christian love would be more convincing in this context if Christians were being more loving to Muslims, especially in faraway places. In short, we would have to unpack this love vs. fear dichotomy some.

    In my church we have just finished a book study on Joseph Prince, now headed into Andrew Farley and Max Lucado; the message is that although we used to be crushed by the impossibility of the Holiness Law and lived under the fear of Wrath, in fact God loves us for the little children we are, and through Jesus all our past, present, and future sins are already forgiven from the beginning of time. It’s all taken care of, and we can expect to be cared for. I guess Pastor is trying to convert us to Christianity. Personally, I find the idea that There’s Nothing To Do discouraging, unBiblical, and unEvangelical. But then I never doubted that God loves me, so this medicine is not intended for my disease.

  • Marcus C

    My youth pastor in high school was a former Muslim who came to Christianity through a dream. His entire family disowned him. I’m sure his answer to #3 would be “love of God”, he preached about it more than any of the other youth group leaders.

  • Dan Ortiz

    Fascinating reading, thank you…

  • Warrick Farah

    I’m doing doctoral research on Muslim conversions. I recently published an article, “Emerging Missiological Themes in MBB Conversion Factors.”
    International Journal of Frontier Missiology. Available at

    The article attempts to synthesize the common missiological contours that Muslims who embrace Biblical faith experience. Muslims seem to have a patron-client view of the gospel, which is more attractive to them than a soterian view which you discuss above.

    See also: