The emergence of Muslim Background Believer communities in Bangladesh

Author: Ida Glaser is currently part-time Missiologist in Residence at the Crowther Centre for Mission Education in Oxford.


The emergence of groups in Bangladesh from a Muslim background (Muslim Background Believers – MBBs) who are isayi, followers of Jesus, and who remain outside the structures of the already existing Christian church might be thought to be one example of ‘emerging church’. In the mission context this usually means not leaving existing church structures, but whether to bring believers into them in the first place. There are thousands of these believers, mostly gathering in small jama‘at groups in homes, usually meeting on Fridays which is a holiday. Often several groups will be overseen by one, charismatic, leader, who may be part of – even pastor in – a denominational church or mission agency/network. There are occasional larger gatherings. Funding for these groups may come from abroad. Training networks are growing, again with outside help. The whole process is a focus of intense interest for missiologists. Some also claim that there are huge numbers of believers in Jesus within the mosques – the so-called ‘insider movement’. This is doubtful. In one sense Muslims are believers in Jesus and are happy to say so, particularly if there is money involved! In practice most isayi tend to stop worshipping at the mosques, however, within six months as they come to a point where they can no longer pray the blessings on Muhammad, although they may well continue to attend the mosque for social purposes

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