The Mahabba Network

MahabbaAbout the Mahabba Network

The Mahabba Network started eight years ago as a partnership of many churches in Oxford seeking opportunities to introduce local Muslims to the gospel. Mahabba is not an agency: their model is a prayer-based relational network which equips local churches with mentoring and training materials (like Friendship First), helping church leaders to train ordinary members of churches to relate to Muslims in love and be able to explain the gospel clearly. They no longer hold that this is the domain of experts in Islam, and have shown over the years that the most successful means of reaching Muslims is through mobilising hundreds of ‘ordinary believers’. By expanding the network they will see Christians across the UK motivated to reach out in love to the thousands of Muslim people who are now living among us. The Mahabba prayer model consists of a partnership between groups of churches. It creates a learning environment in which thousands of Christians can participate in one of the greatest mission opportunities in present times.

The need

The number of people identifying themselves as Muslim in the UK has grown by almost 70 per cent in 10 years, from 1.6 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2011. Many Christians are focused on the effects of ‘Islamisation’ and on the ‘persecuted Church’, responding with fear and alienating themselves from face-to-face interaction with their Muslim neighbours. Mahabba encourages Christians to “Face the Facts, but not Fuel the Fear!” We face missing one of the greatest opportunities of our time – to unveil Jesus to Muslim people. We believe Mahabba could be equivalent in the realm of ministry to Muslims to what Alpha has been for the broader Church.

Too often churches in Britain are ill-equipped to assist people who wish to convert, whether they come from atheistic or other faith backgrounds. There is very little training available to help with mentoring those from other faiths coming to Christ. It is so important to hear the voice of these believers from other backgrounds and ensure that they are not ‘over-extracted’ from their faith background. Remaining in their community will enable their witness to touch others of their faith background.

United prayer is their foundation

Mahabba networks are built on prayer. Mahabba Oxford saw no converts for two years, but as a result of constant prayer about 40 people came to Christ over the next five years. Numbers have been difficult to record as Oxford is such a transitional place. However they have seen a regular flow of people coming to Christ, especially among the Iranian fellowship we helped plant in Oxford. Just one of the women who came to Christ – a Turkish Imam’s daughter – has personally led many to Christ in Oxford, some of whom have been Muslims.

As a ministry they are spurred on by regular stories from around the other networks which have been planted. In Manchester, in the space of just three days, a young man from Pakistan walked into the cathedral asking to convert. He was met by a retired priest who led him to Christ but then phoned to ask what he should do next; a Saudi woman walked into a church and asked to become a Christian – the local clergy sought advice on how to help her; a Somali man shared with his Christian friend that he wanted to become a Christian. The friend approached a local network and we were able to offer help and guidance.

Mahabba expands

Mahabba has already been identified by both Global Connections and CRIB (Christian Response to Islam in Britain) as the most fruitful model in the UK to replicate in other cities with a high Islamic presence. Their goal now is to scale up the positive Oxford experience across the country. So networks have now been launched in 20 cities across the UK, as well as spreading across to France, Belgium, and Scandinavia, and this summer we were asked to share the model in the US, and Canada, Australia and South Africa. Our goal over the next 12 to 18 months is however to concentrate on the UK, and have 50 operating Mahabba networks across the UK.

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