Dear friend of The Joshua Fund –
“For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account….?” (I Thessalonians 3:9)
Shalom and greetings from Israel. I hope and pray your summer is going well and that the Lord is blessing you and your family as you abide in Him and His Word!
This month, rather than send you our regular newsletter, I wanted to do something a bit different. As we celebrate The Joshua Fund’s 10th anniversary (and the second anniversary of our family’s move to Israel), I wanted to write a more personal note for two reasons – to thank you for your incredibly faithful prayers and financial support, and to update you on some the truly wonderful and encouraging things we see God doing here in Israel, as well as in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Tremendous Openness Among Israelis To The Gospel
Americans and Canadians are constantly asking me, “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen and learned since moving to the epicenter?” There are two things, actually: We are seeing an unprecedented openness to the Gospel amongst Israeli Jews, and an unprecedented openness to the Gospel amongst Arab and Persian Muslims.
To be clear: it’s not that large numbers of Jews in Israel are coming to faith in Yeshua as Messiah yet (though more and more are), but Israelis are increasingly curious to talk about Yeshua, learn about Him, discuss Him and get to know His followers.
Unbelieving Israelis are always asking me why in the world Lynn and the boys and I moved here when so many of them want to move to the United States. When I say that we love Israel and want to be with our people, they say, “Yeah, yeah, so come and visit. But why actually move here when you were already living in the true Promised Land?” When I say that the Bible prophecy indicates that all Jews will eventually move back to Israel (see Ezekiel 39:28), they find that curious but not compelling. But when I explain that we are followers of Yeshua and that He told us it was time to come, rather than sparking an angry reaction, more often than not a fascinating spiritual conversation is about to begin.
What’s more, I can’t tell you how many times over the past several years here that I’ve gotten a call or email or WhatsApp message from Israeli believing friends saying they know someone who has read one of my books and would like to get together with me to talk not about my books but about my faith. They ask me why I believe Yeshua is the Messiah, how many other Jews in Israel believe this (and are shocked to hear more than 15,000), how our community operates, what my parents think of my faith, and so forth. Again, these typically aren’t hostile debates or confrontations. Rather, they are open, honest, genuine inquiries from sincere and friendly people and I can’t adequately explain what a joy that is.
That said, our family’s experiences aren’t unique. As we’ve reported in past Joshua Fund newsletters, large numbers of Israeli Jews are watching videos online that explain the Gospel in Hebrew, watching testimonies by fellow Israeli Jews on how they became followers of Yeshua, and watching apologetic videos answering commonly asked questions and objections to the Gospel.
Recently, I learned that the Pew Forum conducted an extensive survey of Israeli religious attitudes in 2015 and was stunned by this fact: 18% of all Israeli Jews say that a Jewish person can believe that Yeshua is the Messiah and still be Jewish – and this includes 19% of “Haredi” Israelis (very religious Orthodox Jews) who say you’re not rejecting your Jewish identity if you follow Yeshua. Amazing!
True, these numbers are lower than in the U.S. (where fully 34% of American Jews say you can believe Jesus is the Messiah and remain Jewish, according to a different Pew survey). Still, we are witnessing a sea change in public opinion given that “Messianic Judaism” was utterly “taboo” here for the past twenty centuries.
Tremendous Openness Among Muslims To The Gospel
In the Muslims world, we are seeing even more openness. In fact, millions of Muslims are not merely curious about the Gospel but are actively turning away from Islam to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I commend to your attention the following, “Believers In Christ From A Muslim Background: A Global Census,” a 19 page peer-reviewed article written by two respected Christian scholars, Dr. Duane Alexander Miller, a professor at St. Mary’s University in Texas, and Patrick Johnstone, the long-time editor of Operation World (a series of books that carefully documented the state of Christianity in every country on the planet and sold more than 2.5 million copies.)
Their study, published in 2015 in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (out of Baylor University), examined all the research that has been done on Muslim conversions to Christianity from 1960 to 2010. They carefully analyzed country-by-country data and tried to take special care to weed out double-counting, possible exaggerations, and a range of other issues and variables.
Their conclusion was stunning: From 1960 to 2010, the number of Muslims that have converted to faith in Jesus Christ has grown from fewer than 200,000 to some 10 million people.
Indeed, this number was actually a mid-range. Miller and Johnstone concluded the number of conversions over the past 50 years could be as low as around six million or as high as around 17 or 18 million. It’s impossible, of course, to get absolutely precise numbers of conversions out of Iran or Saudi Arabia, among other closed countries. Also, one must keep in mind that the data they looked at did not include 2011 to the present, though there is strong evidence of continued — perhaps even accelerated — conversions in recent years. That said, the scholars conclude the figure of ten million conversions is a solid, conservative estimate based on the data they obtained.
To date, this is the most definitive data I have personally seen verifying the Great Awakening that is underway in the Muslim world. True, in a world of 1.6 billion Muslims, ten million conversions does not seem like many. But in nearly fourteen centuries of Islam, there were almost no conversions to Christianity. Some, but not many.
Now, however, a civil war is underway inside Islam. Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia are questioning what they believe, why they believe it, and whether they have the truth or not. Many are looking at the “purist” Islamic regimes (i.e., Iran and ISIS) and concluding, “If that’s Islam, I can’t be a part of it.” They are searching satellite TV, radio and the Internet for answers. Some are reading the Bible and examining the claims of Christ.
Many Muslims are seeing dreams and visions of Jesus — and they are coming to faith in numbers we’ve never seen. To me, what’s important is not the number, per se — it’s the dynamic. The trend lines are moving in a positive direction for the first time since Islam was founded in the seventh century.
These are some of the reasons Lynn and I are so deeply grateful the Lord created The Joshua Fund ten years ago, and why we are so profoundly thankful for your prayers and financial support. Yes, darkness is falling in the region. We’re seeing wars and rumors of war. We’re seeing terrible persecution of the Church and even genocidal conditions. But we’re also seeing the Lord open doors and hearts and minds.
Thank you so much for helping us come alongside Christ-followers in the Epicenter to love them, learn from them, encourage them, pray for them, and invest in the Kingdom-work God is doing through them. Now is the moment to be helping the Church in the Epicenter be a bright light in the darkness – what a blessing to be in this work together with you!
In Christ’s love,
Joel C. Rosenberg
Co-founder and Chairman
The Joshua Fund