Q & A with Tom Doyle, Author of Breakthrough
Hate, killing, tension, and violence are all we read and hear coming out of the Middle East, and yet, God is doing amazing things. The seemingly impossible is happening right now in the heart of the conflict between Jews and Muslims.
Tom Doyle has a passion for both Muslims and Jews and travels to the Middle East frequently. He reports that in recent years amazing numbers of people in the Middle East-Muslims and Jews alike, have come to Christ. He has witnessed this profound reality throughout the Middle East, and at the heart of his book, Breakthrough, are the breathtaking firsthand accounts of what God is doing.
Q: Why do Christians in the West need to hear the message of Breakthrough?
A: Some of the books I have read recently about the Middle East were written by people who don't spend much time there but were merely reacting to the news that they hear on television or on the Internet. But there is so much more-a story that is not being told, in my opinion. Since I work in the Middle East-in Israel, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, including the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip-I am privileged to see this story unfold time after time. The story is this: Jesus is reaching out to the people of the Middle East in a powerful way, and the people are responding in record numbers. Millions have given their lives to Jesus Christ in the last ten years. That's right-millions. This story is more important than the latest suicide bombing and the latest threat of war.
Q: News footage coming out of the Middle East is often full of angry crowds chanting anti-American slogans and even burning the American flag. Is this an accurate depiction of the way the majority of Muslims in the Middle East feel about America?
A: On September 11, 2001, a dividing line was drawn in the Islamic world. Most of the Islamic world felt shame and dishonor for the actions that led to the deaths of nearly three thousand people. Of course, jihadists were celebrating the significant impact made upon "the great Satan." But the average Muslim was not. Since I began traveling extensively in the Middle East, I have learned that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and not into jihad. They just want to feed their children, send them to good schools, see them get married, and enjoy a houseful of grandchildren running around their homes when they break the fast each evening during Ramadan. From Egypt to Iran, the Muslims we talk to are sick of the Islamic fundamentalism that isolates them from the world and makes them all out to be bloodthirsty killers. We must reach out and love these people with the love of Jesus.
Q: How are young people in the Middle East responding to the demands of fundamental Islam?
A: It's true that the militant Muslim leadership is directing some young people into the path of jihad. But in extensive interviews throughout the Middle East, we continually hear that over half of Muslims worldwide are not practicing their faith whatsoever. Muslims are born into their religion and do not choose it like born-again Christians do. Therefore a significant number of people within Islam have little investment in it. You can clearly see that in the young people in the Middle East today. In Syria, the majority of young people dress in very modern clothes. In Iran, drugs are plentiful and parties are a nightly occurrence. Most young people in the Middle East don't want to grow up and live like traditional Muslims. And the majority of young people in the Middle East don't think like traditional Muslims. There is, in fact, a strong desire not to be isolated from the West. After 9/11, Muslims worldwide began to ask questions like, "Do I have to be a terrorist to be a good Muslim?" and "Will I have to live the rest of my life in the midst of war because Islamic leadership will have it no other way?" These questions, combined with genuine apathy toward Islam, are great signs for the gospel.
Q: How would you describe the new generation of believers in the Middle East?
A: In our work in the Middle East, we have met some of the most godly, loving, and committed believers we have encountered any place in the world. They are constantly watched and often persecuted. They have a special calling as they live with the understanding that today might be their last day. Yet they often state, "We pray for you believers in the West every day." Many of the leaders we work with were at one time terrorists. This new generation of believers who serve Christ is willing to give their lives to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to hear of Jesus' offer of grace and forgiveness. They are willing to risk everything to make sure that new believers have a Bible and can grow in their new life in Christ. They put themselves in harm's way daily as they start new churches in places that have had no Christian presence for centuries.
Q: How has the church in Israel faired over the past several years?
A: Jews still hold deep feelings of resentment toward the church. Many in the church, unfortunately, including some early church fathers, have made anti-Semitic remarks and even condemned the Jewish race. When you throw in the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, and the fact that many leaders who have endorsed the killing of Jews claimed to be Christians, it's easy to see why Jews are horrified when someone in their family becomes a believer. But that barrier is coming down for Jews living in Israel today. I have a friend who moved to Israel in 1959. At the time, he knew only four Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Today, that number is growing rapidly. In his book Epicenter, author Joel Rosenberg-himself a Jewish follower of Jesus-states that there are more than 1,000 native-born Israeli Christians and some 10,000 messianic Jews total in Israel. Estimates on the number of Jewish believers worldwide vary between 100,000 and 300,000.
Q: What is the most important thing Christians in the West can do to advance the cause of Christ in the Middle East?
A: The most important thing we can do for the Muslims of the world is to pray for them. I am convinced that one of the reasons-perhaps the greatest reason-we have seen so many Muslims come to faith in Christ in the last few years is because of the fervent prayers of believers around the world. For this reason, Breakthrough includes a detailed prayer guide so that readers can focus their prayers on some strategic areas-for Christian leaders and their families, for all believers who live in constant danger, for Muslims to embrace Christ, and for the women of the Middle East. I have also included a list of the 52 countries with the largest Muslim populations so that readers can focus on a different country each week of the year.
Breakthrough by Tom Doyle
Authentic - February 2009
ISBN 978-1-934068-63-2/207 pages/softcover/$17.99