Back in 1996, Samuel Huntington wrote The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. He predicted the current conflict between Islam and the West.
In my book, Understanding Islam and Terrorism, I show how this clash of civilizations has had a profound impact on missions. In the past, countries that were closed to the gospel tended to be communist countries. Even so, there was still a significant amount of Christian growth in countries behind the Iron Curtain and Bamboo Curtain. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of these countries are more open to the gospel than ever before. Meanwhile, persecution of Christians remains in China.
But a new phenomenon has emerged. Muslim countries are now the most resistant to the message of Christianity. Mission work is limited or even non-existent in many of these Muslim countries. This, I believe, represents the greatest challenge for missions in the 21st century: reaching the Muslim world for Christ.
Samuel Huntington also predicted a growing conflict between western universalism and Muslim militancy. In other words, the conflict is between liberal western democracies and Muslim countries. This presents a major challenge for Christians trying to reach Muslims. When they see the West with its immorality and decadence, they reject it and Christianity. After all, they reason, these are Christian countries and this is what they produce. Therefore, we should be quick to point out as Christians we also disagree with much of what some of these countries produce.
Whether we are missionaries overseas or missionaries in our backyard, we need to begin to understand the nature of Islam and bring the message of the gospel to the Muslims we meet. I believe Samuel Huntington is correct in his analysis, and we should begin to understand the changing world around us so that we can be more effective for Christ.