Are There 25,000,000 Muslim-Background Believers Today?

How many MBBs are there in the world today?
Photo by Simone Secci on Unsplash

God is at work among Muslims around the world in unprecedented ways. I often hear stories about hundreds or thousands of Muslims following Jesus in baptism. 

There are three reasons that we need to keep talking about these stories.

  1. First, stories about God’s work among Muslims build hope in the church. One primary barrier that keeps God’s people from sharing Jesus with Muslims is the belief that it is hopeless. Many believe that Muslims can’t leave Islam and follow Jesus. This barrier is dispelled when we share stories about God’s extraordinary work among Muslims.
  2. Second, stories about God’s work among Muslims give hope to Muslim seekers. Many Muslim seekers believe that if they follow Jesus that they will be alone in their new faith. They realize that they will have a community. When they hear that millions of others from Muslim backgrounds follow Jesus, the barriers keeping them from following Jesus are reduced. 
  3. Third, stories about God’s work among Muslims give hope to Muslim-background believers. A day is coming when millions of Muslim-background believers will publicly stand in solidarity. The amazing work among Muslims will then become increasingly public. Talking about stories of Muslims turning to Christ in large numbers emboldens the minds of Muslim-background believers toward such a future reality. 

With these things in mind, I recently began reading Motus Dei: The Movement of God to Disciple the Nations (William Carey Publishing, 2021). I have been provoked by a handful of articles, but perhaps more than any others, I have been provoked by Gene Daniel’s “How Exactly Do We Know What We Know about Kingdom Movements?” (pages 58-67). 

In that article, Daniels asserted that there are 25 million MBBs alive today (click here for info on that quote). After reading that statistic, I wondered whether that number could be accurate. I really do hope it is true! If it is, then the global movement of Muslims coming to Christ has already grown more prominent than I have assumed. As I have considered this number, I have alternatively thought that this number may be high or that it may be accurate. One caveat about this number is that it is likely to include numbers from numerous Insider Movements, the integrity of such numbers I am highly dubious about (see my thoughts on contextualization in Muslim ministry here). 

Here are five reflections on the veracity of the statistic that there are 25 million MBBs today.

  1. If there are more than 25 million MBBs today, then over 1% of Muslims in the world have become followers of Jesus. We may see significant portions of the global Muslim community repent and follow Jesus in the coming decades. Whatever the actual number, more Muslims are coming to Christ today than at any other time in the history of the world. If 1% of global Muslims are secret followers of Jesus, it will not be many years before the number becomes 2% or 5%. 
  2. It is difficult to verify such a number because the MBB population is inherently hidden. Because of security issues, MBBs must be cautious in how public they are with their faith. It is challenging to census individuals who want to remain hidden! In addition, it is often difficult to determine whether an individual should be considered an MBB. For example, I have a friend who confessed Jesus, took baptism, and began proclaiming Jesus to his community. However, his community then gave significant pushback. Under threat of substantial consequences, he publicly reverted to Islam. Privately, he tells me he is a follower of Jesus while outwardly conforming to Islam. In my experience, many such people have blurred the lines between their faith in Christ and Islam. The question is whether we should count such individuals as MBBs. Insider movement practitioners would likely count such individuals, while those who believe MBBS must leave Islam might not count them. 
  • Because more of the research is accessible, evidence that there were 10 million MBBs in 2010 is more easily discussed and evaluated. In 2015, Duane Miller and Patrick Johnstone published a census of the global MBB population in 2010 (D.A. Miller and Patrick Johnstone, “Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (2015)). In that article, they estimated 10 million global MBBs in 2010. They also broke down their estimates by country and used the MBB population of the United States as an example. They estimated 477,000 MBBs in the US in 2010 as a “key destination of [MBBs] fleeing persecution” (8). Their breakdown is as follows, “There are five million Arabs in the United States, two-thirds of them Christian in background and possibly 180,000 [MBBs]. These come especially from Egypt and Palestine and increasingly from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria. There are one to two million Iranians in the United States, of whom we estimate about 130,000 to be [MBBs]… Other Muslim peoples (50+) yield a further 67,000 [MBBs]. We can make only a rough estimate of 60,000 Catholic [MBBs]. We estimate 40,000 Orthodox Christians. This yields a total of possibly 477,000 MBBs, plus or minus 100,000, in the United States” (8). Miller and Johnstone estimate that 6.5 million of the 10 million MBBs in 2010 were from Indonesia (16). A further 2.44 million come from just eight countries in their survey. Therefore, according to their survey, the remaining countries had an MBB population of about a million in 2010. To fact-check, I contacted Muslim-focused workers in a handful of these countries and asked them to reflect on the numbers that were given in this study for their countries. Most said that they agree that the estimates are within reason. However, I have yet to check with anyone focused on Indonesia. 
  • The numbers 10 million MBBs in 2010 and 25 million MBBs in 2023 assume a 7.3% growth rate, which is believable. It is entirely plausible that the current global movement of Muslims coming to Christ is growing at 7.3%. Indeed, there are places where it is growing much faster and other areas where little to no growth is happening. However, it is very plausible that 73 Muslims repent and follow Jesus every year for every thousand Muslims alive.  
  • If the 7.3% growth rate continues, the percentage of MBBs in the global Muslim population will grow substantially. The global Muslim population is growing at 1.84%. If these rates were to hold, the number of Muslims who follow Jesus would grow as a percentage of the global Muslim population as follows (see the graph below):
    • By 2032, 2% of Muslims globally would follow Jesus.
    • By 2040, 3% of Muslims globally would follow Jesus.
    • By 2046, 4% of Muslims globally would follow Jesus.
    • By 2050, 5% of Muslims globally would follow Jesus.
    • By 2063, 10% of Muslims globally would follow Jesus.
  • It isn’t very likely that the above trends will hold. There may be a tipping point or a significant global rise of persecution against MBBs. However, because God is seated on His throne. He has promised a great multitude will come into His kingdom from every Muslim tongue and tribe and people and nation. Therefore, we can expect significant future growth among Muslims. At the same time, the number of Muslims who leave Islam to become atheists or agnostics will likely outpace the number of Muslims who leave Islam to follow Jesus. The result may be that in the coming decades, the strength of global Islam will be significantly weakened. Likewise, its ability to persecute and control its population will decrease.
Projected Growth Rate of Global MBBs as a Percent of Total Muslims.
Projected Growth Rate of Global MBBs as a Percent of Total Muslims. This graph is built on the extrapolated data as described above.

Since this blog post has already run long, I will pause here. However, I plan to write a future blog post about the implications of this recent rise in global MBBs. I also want to write about the uneven rise of global MBBs. For example, according to Miller’s 2010 study, only 176,500 of the global Muslim population lived in South Asia, despite South Asia being home to about a third of the worldwide population. In other words, South Asia was estimated to be home to about 1.8% of global MBBs despite having a third of the global Muslim population (see here for an article on the South Asian Muslim Population). 

Lastly, as the author, I have to say that this blog post feels a bit like a deck of cards to me. It is built on extrapolations of data that are built on somewhat flimsy data. So, please do better research before trying to quote this article. The reason for the flimsiness of the data is that it is virtually impossible to count the global MBB population today. However, it is a reasoned look at what God is doing around the world.

If you want to discuss this blog post, don’t hesitate to contact me at Or subscribe to No Cousins Left below.

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