Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Discovery Bible Study vs. Preaching

  1. When we hear the word “preach” (e.g. 2 Tim. 4:2) do we immediately think of the Western cultural form of an expository monologue behind a “pulpit?”
  2. It seems the early church was commended for the participatory nature of their meetings (1 Cor. 14:26). DBS encourages participation in a way that the Western church model generally does not.
  3. Surely DBS does not preclude the need for teachers and preaching and proclamation. It just doesn’t need to take the form of a 30 minute sermon.
  4. I would imagine Paul would think that Bible learning is more important that Bible preaching.
  5. DBS and preaching don’t need to be thought of as mutually exclusive.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Christianity Is the World's Most Falsifiable Religion and Yet Survived

Repost from Justin Taylor:

Michael Patton, author of Now That I’m a Christian: What It Means to Follow Jesus, writes:

The believer in the Islamic faith has to trust in a private encounter Muhammad had, and this encounter is unable to be tested historically.

We have no way to truly investigate the claims of Joseph Smith (and when we do, they are found wanting).

Buddhism and Hinduism are not historic faiths, meaning they don’t have central claims of events in time and space which believers are called upon to investigate. You either adopt their philosophy or you don’t. There is no objective way to test them.

Run through every religion that you know of and you will find this to be the case: Either it does not give historic details to the central event, the event does not carry any worldview-changing significance, or there are no historic events which form the foundation of the faith.

This is what it looks like:

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Basic Theology of the Relationship between Gospel and Culture

Initially adapted but modified significantly from The Gospel in Human Contexts, pages 31-32:

  1. The gospel, as revealed truth, is distinct and separate from all human cultures.
  2. Culture is simultaneously a reflection of divine creativity and human rebellion.
  3. Gospel and culture are interrelated realities: it is impossible to express the gospel apart from culture.
  4. The gospel transforms people, and transformed people transform societies.

I reserve the right to modify this in the future. Winking smile

Monday, March 24, 2014

“Victorious Jesus” Presentation, by Christopher Johnson

The below is a gospel presentation that attempts to paint a big picture of the work of Jesus, primarily for a Muslim audience.  It was developed by a friend of mine, Christopher Johnson.  Feel free to discuss its strengths and weaknesses in the comments below.


Victorious Jesus, by Christopher Johnson

Why I Came up With This

My friend and I went to coffee with a couple Muslim-background college students in order to share the gospel. We successfully steered the conversation to spiritual things and were able to share a little of our testimony and then went on to share the good news of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness for our sins and the gift of eternal life. When we got to the end, we looked at our friends hoping for some kind of response and one of the guys said with deep interest, “So are cars really cheaper in America?” This was our first indication that they didn’t care at all about what we’d said to them.

I shared the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with a lot of people, but in my experience, people were uninterested in what I had to say. They didn’t understand why what I was saying was relevant to their lives, and they had their own theoretical theological systems that had other answers for the problems of our sins and the afterlife.

My friend and I shared about how nobody in our city seemed interested in the gospel with a man who was visiting us to do some consulting on church planting. He said, “Well, maybe you’re sharing the wrong gospel.” This was a man who is firmly committed to the Word of God and to Jesus, so I knew he wasn’t saying that we should make up something unbiblical just to give people what they want to hear, but in his statement I understood that we were not describing Jesus in a way that people would feel compelled to come into relationship with Him.

Jesus said the kingdom is like a merchant looking for pearls (Matt 13:45). When the man found a pearl of value, he sold everything he had and bought it. If we don’t show people the value of Jesus in a way they can understand, they will never be willing to give up all that people have to give up in order to follow Him. After reflecting on this truth, I realized that I would need to go on a journey to understand how to communicate Jesus to people so that they could know his ultimate and supreme value.

A Doorway into Greater Revelation

As I reflected on what the gospel is and how people come to know Jesus, I realized that nobody gets the fullness of the Gospel the first time.

For example, we know that it is important at some point to understand the image of Christ as the bridegroom and the church as his bride. But rarely do we share the importance of this image with people who do not yet know Jesus. It is something that is later revealed as we grow deeper in our relationship with God.

I see Gospel-sharing as a room with Jesus standing in the center. There are many doors to enter the room, and there is an old-fashioned knocker in the shape of a cross on every door. But every door has different designs and different colors and is more or less interesting to people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Thus, the cross is the center of all conversion. You cannot get to Jesus without understanding what he did for you on the cross, repenting of your sins, and believing and trusting in Him. But Jesus accomplished many things at the cross. He died to bring us into deeper relationship with God, to forgive us for our sins, to set us free from addictions, to bring us emotional and physical healing, to set us free from the devil, to deliver us from an eternity in hell, to restore our relationships with our neighbors, to restore the glory of God on earth, to identify with and show his victory over injustice, and to demonstrate love to a world that had never experienced such deep, sacrificial love.

Every presenter of the Gospel chooses a few of these benefits of the cross and emphasizes them as the Gospel is presented. Ultimately, we want people to understand all these things. But when people first hear about Jesus, they always hear only a portion of all that he did.

So I began to explore the heartfelt needs of people who are in more non-Western cultures. I started asking questions like, “What drives them? What is important to them? What are they seeking?” Because I believe Jesus is the answer to every problem, I began to use answers to those questions to shape the way I would help them understand Jesus.

Today, Not Tomorrow

There is a saying in the culture where I lived that Muslims pays for their sins after death, and a person of that local people group pays for her sins during this life. This statement sets forth a fundamental conflict that most of Islam has with animistic types of cultures: Islam offers a solution for your afterlife but has little power to affect the life you are living today.

Most people in animistic cultures are just surviving. They are trying to pull enough money together to pay for their food and necessities, and they are consumed with the basic problems of life such as the health of their children and the ability to keep their families safe from evil spirits. These are not future problems. They are today problems. And typical people aren’t thinking about eternal consequences. They’re thinking about current issues in their lives.

When a Westerner comes in and tries to communicate the Gospel, we typically emphasize the future. “Do you know what would happen to you if you died today?” Then we spend the next 30 minutes trying to convince them why this question is important and why they have a problem.

The problem of what happens to us after we die is a legitimate problem and it must be presented as a part of what Jesus has to offer us. But if it’s the only thing we present to people, we miss out on all the other kingdom benefits that Jesus wants to present to people, and we also present a gospel that doesn’t meet the real-life needs of people that we encounter.

As I began to think about this problem about the future nature of most methods of gospel-sharing, I realized that I wanted to develop a model that would emphasize the presence of the Kingdom while continuing to demonstrate how important it is that Jesus offers us a free invitation into eternity with the Father.

Christ the Victor—A Model for Sharing the Gospel

Many people have heard of Christ the Victor as a model for gospel sharing. It’s the idea that Jesus is victorious over sin, the devil, and death, and that he paved the way for us to be freed from sin, the devil, and death through his death and resurrection. I had heard that this form of the Gospel was effective with people from animistic backgrounds.

But why use a model in the first place? I decided to create a model for sharing the Gospel based on Christ the Victor for several reasons. Initially, I created it for myself. I wanted an easy way to share with people that I could use over and over again so that I wouldn’t leave out something important. I made it visual because I had seen the power of tools such as the bridge diagram and the pictures that are found in four spiritual law tracts.

I also wanted a model to help train my disciples. As a foreign worker whose longevity in the field is subject to many unforeseen variables, I want to be certain that locals are effectively able to share the Gospel. If I can’t train others to evangelize, then my work is only as effective as how much time I have. If I can train others to share the Gospel with their friends and family simply and in a way that is relevant to them, then I can move away from simple addition and move into the realms of multiplication and movements.

A Note About Power

If we’re going to proclaim that Jesus has power over sin, the devil, and death, then we must walk in that power ourselves. Theoretically, every believer has this kind of power. But the reality is that some people do not understand its importance in Gospel-sharing and so rarely ask God to do things that are outside of what they could accomplish without His help. The purpose of this manual isn’t to talk about power and authority in the Spirit, but I would encourage you to pick up this method of sharing the Gospel with a deep hunger to see God demonstrate His power through you.

God gave me this model for sharing the Gospel when I was thirsty and hungry for breakthrough, and I have shared it often in the context of praying for others. Paul said, “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor 2:4-5 NASB). May the same be true of our ministry as we strive to clearly communicate the word of God accompanied by confirming signs and wonders.

One of the main reasons I came up with this method is that I wanted a way to explain to people what Jesus could do for them so that they weren’t just interested in the power that God would minister through me. Oftentimes, before I am about to pray for somebody I will say, “I would love to pray for you for healing. But before I do, would you mind if I showed you something? I want to share something with you that is much more important than anything that I could ever pray for you. I would like to show you why I think the world is so messed up and how these problems came about in the first place.”

Most people say yes, as they are at least willing to sit through what I have to say so that they can receive the prayer. Everybody wants prayer, but not everybody initially wants to hear the gospel. But many people, after hearing the gospel, want all of what Jesus has to offer and not just the healing.


God Is the King of the Universe

God is the King of the entire universe (Psalm 47:7). When He originally created the earth, He created people to represent Him here and to rule over the earth. He blessed Adam and Eve and he commanded them to subdue the earth and rule over it (Genesis 1:28). The destiny of every human being originally was to live a life of authority and to be in a perfect love relationship with God.

Originally, people were supposed to walk in authority over the devil. The devil was here on the earth when they were created, but God’s intention was for Adam and Eve to subdue him as they were to subdue the whole earth. Write the word “Devil” in the top box.

There also was no sin here in the earth. People were created never to sin. They weren’t supposed to struggle with sin or constantly do bad things. They were supposed to have power over sin. Write the word “Sin” in the middle box.

Finally, God’s original intention was for there to be no sickness or death. Adam and Eve didn’t know what sickness was, and they weren’t supposed to die. Write the word “Death” in the bottom box.

All the problems we see in the world that are caused by the devil, by sin, and by disease and death were never supposed to exist.

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The Covenant

But the devil tempted Adam and Eve, and they sinned, and all of a sudden everything changed (Genesis 3). Flip the page.

Whereas before they lived in power over the devil, now the devil had power over them. Write the word “Devil” in the bottom box. It says in the Bible that the whole world lies in the power of the devil (1 John 5:19). The devil now rules here in this earth. (Eph 2:2) We see the results of this everywhere. For example, many people experience the results of curses. Other people hear voices in the night. Still others have unexplained fear or panic attacks and encounters with demons. Apart from these more supernatural occurrences, most people give in regularly to the temptations that the devil brings. This is because the devil has ownership over that person. Every person has given into him and thus made a covenant with him so that he has the right to cause all kinds of problems in that person’s life.

It is possible to tell specific stories here of people that you know who have been bothered by the devil or curses

But it’s more than that. Adam and Eve, when they gave into sin, also gave the right for sin to come and reign in the world (Romans 5:12)). Write the word “Sin” in the middle box. Sin isn’t just a decision of whether to do good or bad. It’s something that owns you, like a master and a slave (Romans 6:16). Even if people want to change, everyone has a hard time doing what is right. And so we see the results of sin everywhere in our world, whether it’s alcohol or drug addiction, adultery, greed, or selfishness. What makes things worse is that the Bible talks about sins not just being external but internal. Even people who appear to be good people on the outside are often consumed by lust or anger or hatred and jealousy towards others. Many people desire a way out of these patterns of behavior and thinking, but sin has been allowed to have power over people in this world. They are hopelessly enslaved.

It’s helpful to use sins that are relevant in whatever culture where you are located. Also, notice here that I talk about sin’s current impact on our life without trying to argue that you were a sinner from birth. At some point they need to know that their sinfulness started before they ever had the power to make a decision, but it is challenging to convince people of what is really more of a theoretical concept. It’s easier to convince people that sin reigns in their lives today.

The result of the devil and sin’s entry into the world is that sickness and death also came too. Write the word “Death” in the top box. In the Bible, it says that the result of our sin is death (Romans 6:23, Romans 5:12). This manifests itself in all kinds of diseases and physical death. But it also has an eternal component. Death reigns eternally over all who have fallen victim to the sin and devil, and they are made to live eternally separated from God and subject to death in a place called hell.

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People do all kinds of things to try to solve this problem. To overcome the devil, they go to witch doctors or tarot card readers in order to get free of curses or to help people who are bothered by demons. But this generally doesn’t help and often makes the problem worse. People do all kinds of rituals in order to protect themselves from evil spirits, but most of the time people end up living in fear and not seeing any victory. People also do all kinds of things to change themselves and try to be better people, but even if they can come to a place where it appears that they are a good person, they can’t deal with the sins that they have on the inside.

Emphasize specific rituals or things that people do in your culture in order to try and be free from the devil

The power of the devil, sin, and death in people’s lives is like a heavy weight that people carry around and they are unable to do anything to become free. This heavy burden keeps people from having a good relationship with God and with other people.

Jesus

God loves us like a parent loves his children, except he loves us much, much more than a parent could ever love a child here on earth. Good parents, when they see their children struggling, will do everything that is in their power to help them overcome the situation. God sees this problem that we brought upon ourselves, and he didn’t leave us without a solution. He loved us enough to send Jesus (John 3:16). Flip the page.

When Jesus came to earth, he had complete victory over the devil, sin, and death. Write “Devil” in the left box. Any time somebody came to Jesus who was possessed by a demon, he would cast the demon out with a simple command. One time Jesus approached a boy who was living in a graveyard who had gone completely insane due to the presence of a demon. Nobody was able to help this boy, but Jesus cast out the demon and after that, he was found completely in his right mind (Mark 5:1-17). When the devil came to tempt Jesus, unlike any person before or after him, he resisted the devil and did not give into his temptations (Mattew 4:1-11).

Jesus also had complete authority over sin. Write the word “Sin” in the middle box. He never sinned and lived a completely holy and clean life (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus walked in complete authority over death and disease. Write the word “Death” in the right box. He healed people with all kinds of diseases (Matthew 4:23). He even raised three people from the dead (Luke 7:11-15, 8:49-55, 24:5,6).

You can choose a healing story from Jesus’ life here in order to emphasize his power to heal.

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Jesus demonstrated to us that he has authority over the devil, sin, and death. Flip the page.

Death and Resurrection

When Jesus died on the cross, he took upon himself all the consequences of our sin and our covenant with the devil.

The devil had the right to curse us because of the covenant we made with him. But when Jesus died, he took that curse upon himself so that the devil’s power was destroyed (Gal 3:13, Col 2:15, Hebrews 2:14-15). Write the word “Devil” in the bottom box.

Jesus also took our sin upon himself when he died upon the cross, thereby breaking sin’s power in the world (1 Peter 2:24). Write the word “Sin” in the middle box.

Most importantly, he took our death upon himself. He died for us (Romans 5:8). Write the word “Death” in the top box.

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When he rose from the dead, he showed that even the power of the devil, sin, and death could not hold him down. Flip the page. He rose in victory and now is in heaven where he reigns over our enemies: the devil, sin and death. Write the word “Devil” in the top box, “Sin” in the middle box, and “Death” in the bottom box.

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Two Steps

Jesus changed things in the world so that we could live differently and have a right relationship with God. Any person who does two things can live a different life.

1. Repent – Every person has to make a decision to turn away from the devil and from sin, to break the power of the curse and the covenant that was made with the devil. You must ask forgiveness for your sins and for all the ways that you have given yourself to sin (Mark 1:15).

2. Believe – Believe in Jesus and what he did for you on the cross. Accept the gift of his death for you and what he accomplished for you there. Trust in Jesus and obey His commands for Your life (Romans 10:9).

If you repent and believe in Jesus, you are restored to that place of authority over the devil, sin and death, and you are restored back into relationship with God. Flip the page.

Restoration

The first thing we receive is authority over the devil. Write the word “Authority” in the top box. Jesus promised that if we pray in His name, that we will see victory over the devil (Mark 16:17). I have experienced many battles with the devil, but time and time again, through Jesus, I have seen victory over the devil. I have prayed for many people who have suffered from problems with the devil, and by praying in Jesus’ name, I have seen people set free from many kinds of problems.

It’s important here to share testimonies of times when you or someone you know has overcome the devil.

Jesus also provides us with forgiveness for our sins. Write the word “Forgiveness” in the middle box. The worst feeling is to feel shame before God, to feel that we can’t look up at Him when we pray to Him. Because Jesus died for all our sins, when we confess our sins to Him, we experience a type of cleansing that takes away the shame that we were feeling before (1 John 1:7-10). We can worship God without feeling guilty because we know we stand completely cleansed before Him.

Jesus also gives us freedom from our sins. Write the word “Freedom” in the middle box. Because he broke sin’s power, we have the ability now to make decisions that are honoring to Him (Romans 6:6-7). It doesn’t mean that we will never sin again, but it means that we are no longer victims to whatever sin wants to do in our lives. I have many times prayed to be set free from a sin and seen Jesus bring deliverance.

It’s important to have stories of times when Jesus has given you freedom from a feeling of guilt or from a specific sin.

Because Jesus broke the power of death, he can release life into us, which includes healing in our emotions and in our physical bodies (Mark 16:17, James 5:14-15). Write the word “Healing” in the bottom box. I have experienced many times where Jesus has healed me specifically of something and has even healed others through me.

Tell stories of being healed emotionally or physically or seeing somebody else healed.

The most important thing Jesus does is to give us eternal life (Romans 6:23). Write the words “Eternal Life” in the bottom box. Because he has the power over life and death, when we believe in what He did for us, we receive eternal life in heaven with God. When we die, we know we will be in heaven with God.

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Pray with Me

There is a simple prayer that anyone can pray. If they pray this prayer with a sincere heart, God honors that and He gives them all these things: authority, forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life. God comes and breaks the root of the problem, so we can begin to live differently. It doesn’t mean a perfect life with no battles, but we begin a process of living like we were intended to live. The prayer goes like this:

“God, forgive me for my sins. I know that I have turned away from You and haven’t followed you and have allowed the devil to rule in my life. I place my faith in Jesus, I receive what he did for me on the cross, that he broke the power of the devil, sin, and death for me. I receive your love and forgiveness and blessing in my life. I receive the authority that you give me now over the devil, sin, and death. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Everyone I pray this prayer with who prays with a genuine heart feels a sense of relief—a lightness—because they go from a place of being burdened by the weight of all these things into a place of victorious living.

Would you like to pray this prayer with me and receive forgiveness for your sins and authority over the devil and eternal life?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

“Conversionary Protestants” and Democracy

January/FebruaryChristianity Today has a nice story on Bob Woodberry’s (Dudley’s son) research that has received a lot of attention in the last 5 years, called, “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries: They didn’t set out to change history. But one modern scholar’s research shows they did just that.” Here is the thesis:

Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

From CT: “In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary.”

Here is Bob Woodberry’s landmark essay, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

“CITO” vs. “Socio-religious Insider”

Is the term “Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider” a better phrase than “Socio-religious Insider”? You be the judge: Bridging the "Socio-Religious" Divide: A Conversation between Two Missiologists Gene Daniels and L. D. Waterman.

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I’m still wondering if we can define “religion” so neatly… but maybe the ““Religious” Practice” circle captures this complexity?

Related: Essentialist vs. Cultural Interpretation of Religion

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Was Paul wrong to contextualize in Acts 17?

No. See D.A. Carson (HT: Khalid Bin Malek):

SOME HAVE TAKEN 1 CORINTHIANS 2:1-5 to suggest that the way Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17:16-31) was a mistake, and that by the time he arrived at Corinth, Paul himself had recognized his error. In the passage before us he tells us how he “resolved to know nothing” while he was with them “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” So away with the quasi-philosophical preaching of the Areopagus address in Acts 17. Just stick to the simple Gospel.

There are good reasons for rejecting this false reading:

(1) This is not the natural reading of Acts. As you work your way through that book, you do not stumble upon some flag or other that warns you that at this point Paul goofs. This false interpretation is achieved by putting together an unnatural reading of Acts with a false reading of 1 Corinthians 2.

(2) The theology of the Areopagus address is in fact very much in line with the theology of Paul expressed in Romans.

(3) The Greek text at the end of Acts 17 does not say that “a few men” believed, as if this were a dismissive or condemning assessment, but that “certain people” believed. This expression is in line with other summaries in Acts.

(4) In Athens Paul had already been preaching not only in the synagogue to biblically literate folk, but to people in the marketplace who were biblically illiterate (Acts 17:17). What he had been preaching was “the good news” (Acts 17:18), the Gospel.

(5) Transparently Paul was cut off in Acts 17 before he was finished. He had set up the framework in which alone the Gospel is coherent: one transcendent God, sovereign, providential, personal; creation; fall into idolatry; the flow of redemptive history; final judgment. He was moving into Jesus’ resurrection, and more, when he was interrupted.

(6) Paul was not a rookie. He had been through twenty years of tough ministry (read 2 Cor. 11), much of it before pagan biblical illiterates. To suppose that on this occasion he panicked and trimmed the Gospel is ridiculous.

(7) Acts 17 shows that Paul thinks “worldviewishly.” Even after 1 Corinthians 2, Paul still thinks worldviewishly: 2 Corinthians 10:5 finds him still striving to bring “every thought” into submission to Christ—and the context shows this refers not simply to isolated thoughts but to entire worldviews.

(8) 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 does not cast Paul’s resolution to preach nothing but the cross against the background of Athens (as if he were confessing he had failed there), but against the background of Corinth, which loved eloquence and rhetoric above substance. The apostle does not succumb to mere oratory: he resolves to stick with “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“A Wind in the House of Islam” Released

Put this on your list of must-reads: A Wind in the House of Islam, by David Garrison. (http://windinthehouse.org/) Here is some text from the press release:

For the past three years, Dr. David Garrison, PhD University of Chicago, has been traveling throughout the Muslim world exploring the recent turning of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ. What he discovered is the largest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.

A 25‐year veteran of ministry to Muslims, David Garrison ventured into every corner of the Muslim world gathering more than a thousand interviews from Muslim‐background followers of Jesus Christ to hear in their own words the answer to his fundamental question: What did God use to bring you to faith in Jesus Christ? Tell me your story. The result is an unprecedented insight into God's work in the Muslim world.

A Wind in the House of Islam provides us with a historic look at how God is drawing more Muslims to Christ today than at any time in the 14‐century interchange between Christianity and Islam.

    • 328 pages complete with index, bibliography, endnotes, and glossary.
    • Hundreds of personal stories of Muslim conversions to Jesus Christ drawn from 45 Muslim movements to Christ in 33 Muslim people groups in 14 countries.
    • Small group discussion questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate conversation and self‐discovery.
    • 46 photos and illustrations with 11 maps depicting the "Nine Rooms" in the House of Islam.
    • Data tables of Muslim people groups spread across nine distinct geo‐cultural "Rooms" in the House of Islam.
    • The culmination of a journey of a quarter‐million miles from West Africa to Indonesia and everywhere in between.
    • Collaboration with academics, on‐field practitioners, and Muslim‐background informants.
    • Though informed by the latest scholarly research, the book is intensely readable and inspiring for anyone wanting to understand God's heart for Muslims.
    • This book will serve as a classic in its field. Anyone interested in God's work in the Muslim world needs to read this book.
    • Learn more at the book's website: www.WindintheHouse.org. [Lots of stuff to look at here, including videos and a blog.]

Kindle edition to be released later this spring, unfortunately.

Here is a review from Marti Wade:

In more than 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian relations, tens of millions of Christians have been assimilated into the Muslim religion. During this same time period, we can document only 82 Muslim movements to Christ.

What’s most remarkable about this, says researcher and strategist David Garrison, is that 69 of history’s 82 movements have occurred in the past two decades alone. “We are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.”

To better understand and respond to this phenomenon, Garrison and his collaborators traveled to each corner of the Muslim world (which Garrison calls the nine rooms in the house of Islam) and conducted interviews with more than 1,000 former Muslims who have come to faith in Jesus within 45 of these movements. Garrison’s definition of a movement is a fairly modest one: at least 1,000 baptisms or 100 church starts among a Muslim people over a two-decade period.

The book includes a strong emphasis on context. It includes an extensive introduction and explanation of research methods and a historic survey of Christian outreach and Muslim response to the gospel both globally and in each of nine world regions. Details of each region’s history, peoples, religion, and political dynamics provide a backdrop for the stories of the Muslim-background believers who emerged from such contexts.

The book concludes with a tentative but insightful list of ten “bridges of God” (ways God is working among Muslims today) and five barriers to seeing movements like these flourish, along with five practical steps we can take right now that will align us with God’s redemptive activity among Muslims.

I finished this book somewhat disappointed, primarily because though the history was helpful, I was left wanting more: more quotes and contemporary stories, analysis of what God is using to reach Muslims today, and suggestions for the response of the global church. If the movements Garrison describes continue to grow and multiply, however, this will certainly not be the last we hear of them.

This was a huge project, and Garrison is just getting started.  I’m told there are two more phases to reporting on the 1,000 interviews.  The first might be a “In Their Own Words” which includes more of the actual interviews.  And a second project would be a deeper missiological reflection. In any case, this is one of the largest missiological projects on mission in the Muslim world ever undertaken, and I’m sure it’ll be talked about for years to come.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

“Not Doing God a Favor”

Before departing for the ends of the earth, you should settle in your mind and heart that you are not doing God a favor by going to reach the unreached; rather, He is doing you a favor by leading you away from your comfort zone and causing you to be more dependent upon Him.

-Patrick Lai, Tentmaking: The Life and Work of Business as Missions, pg. 139

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Theology, Gospel Missions, and Insider Movements, by Nabeel Jabbour

[UPDATE: Jabbour is not the only writer of the document. See Joel’s comment below.]

Here is a resource that is worth perusing for a while (HT: MH).  230 pages long.

A CALL TO FAITHFUL WITNESS
-PART TWO –
THEOLOGY, GOSPEL MISSIONS, AND INSIDER MOVEMENTS

A PARTIAL REPORT (PART TWO OF TWO PARTS)
OF THE AD INTERIM STUDY COMMITTEE ON INSIDER MOVEMENTS
TO THE FORTY-FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA
MARCH 20, 2013

By Nabeel Jabbour (See also www.nabeeljabbour.com)

Nabeel JabbourAmong his other works are The Crescent Through the Eyes of the Cross: Insights from an Arab Christian and The Rumbling Volcano: Islamic Fundamentalism in Egypt.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Evaluating Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare

Is “spiritual mapping” biblical? Short answer: no.  Here is a slightly longer answer, from The Changing Face of World Missions (Sidebar 7.2, Kindle 3633):


EVALUATING STRATEGIC LEVEL SPIRITUAL WARFARE

(Adapted from Moreau 2002b, 265–69; Engelsviken 2001, 59–61)

Perhaps no area in the discussion of spiritual warfare has been more controversial than the practice of engaging territorial spirits put forth in Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW). The following lists provide negative and positive aspects of the approach.

POSITIVE ASPECTS

  1. SLSW advocates take Satan and the powers more seriously than has occurred in previous Western mission approaches. The emphasis on prayer is a good corrective to planning and strategizing along the lines of Western management-oriented missiology.
  2. SLSW advocates emphasize that divisiveness weakens prayer. They stress the unity of the church and cooperation over competition in missions.
  3. SLSW advocates focus on the ultimate goal of saving the lost.
  4. Cultures do have evil spiritual dimensions in which various elements work together to trap people and keep them blinded to spiritual realities.
  5. SLSW attempts to discern areas in which churches need to repent, expressing this in corporate ways. This is a positive help in unleashing the power of God.
  6. Advocates see themselves as experimenters, understanding that the approach of SLSW is new. They seem open to dialogue and correction.

NEGATIVE ASPECTS

  1. A number of SLSW distinctives are not found in the Bible.
  2. An emphasis on discerning the names of demons in order to control them approaches a form of Christian animism or magic.
  3. Prayer was not intended to be a sophisticated spiritual weapon but a means of fellowship, growth, and strength.
  4. Seeking information about the spirit realm as a means of overcoming evil powers does not appear to be necessary (or significant) in the Bible.
  5. The strategy of SLSW may ultimately demean Scripture when it is presented as a key to effective evangelization that is not found in Scripture.
  6. An emphasis on territorial spirits detaches demons from people and thus deemphasizes participation of humans in their rebellion against God.
  7. The ideas of serving notice, evicting, and binding spirits do not have biblical warrant and place too much emphasis on technique and effectiveness, especially when the people themselves continue to invite control by the way they live.

REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. SLSW advocates encourage prayer walks and also praising and worshiping God openly in areas where there has been spiritual opposition to the gospel. Can you think of instances in Scripture when this was done?
  2. Look up Joshua 6; 2 Chronicles 6: 1– 29; and Nehemiah 2: 7– 20. These are Old Testament passages. Do you think their examples apply today? Why? Why not?
  3. Who is really in charge of affairs in this world? How do you reconcile the statements found in Psalm 96: 1– 13 and 1 John 5: 19?

Related:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Loving Muslims & Sharing Jesus DVD, by Love and Medearis

dvd-lovingmuslimsFrom Peace Catalyst:

Loving Muslims and Sharing Jesus is a teaching series led by Carl Medearis and Rick Love.

Over the course of eight speaking sessions, topics ranging from the basic beliefs of Muslims to learning how to effectively share Jesus with Muslims are thoroughly addressed.

Carl Medearis and Rick Love have extensive experience in the Muslim world, and work toward bridging the gap between Muslims and Christians by focusing on Jesus.

1. Don't Forget About Jesus
2. Muslims: The New Samaritans
3. Sharing Your Faith with Muslims
4. Grace and Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims
5. Muslims are Taking Over the World
6. All Muslims are Terrorists and They Hate Us...and Other Lies You've Been Told
7. Answering Islam
8. Loving Muslims and Dealing with Terrorists

Includes a study guide for personal or small group study.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Contextualized Prayer Beads

Some Muslims love to use prayer beadsForm and meaning aside for now, I met a colleague at a conference recently who had developed his own contextualized use for them. 

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The 21 colors go in order, and below is how he uses them in witness. For more information, you can contact him at storiesfromtheTauratInjil [at the link] gmail.com:

The Names of God (Prayer Beads)

1. الله الخالق God the Creator

Genesis 1: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Isaiah 40: 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

Story: the story of creation (Genesis 1-2).

Point: Before all things existed, God was. It was He who created the heavens and the earth and mankind.

Bead: Green for creation.

2. الله القدّوس God the Holy One

1 Samuel 6: 20 Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?

Leviticus 19: 2 …I, the Lord your God, am holy.

Habakkuk 1: 13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrong.

Story: The story of Adam and Eve and the Fall (Genesis 3);

Point: God is the Holy One who cannot tolerate sin in His presence and had to expel Adam and Eve from paradise;

Bead: White for God’s holiness.

3. الله القضي العادل God the Just Judge

Psalm 7: 11 God is a righteous judge, a God who displays His wrath every day.

Story: The stories of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), and Noah and the flood (Genesis 6-9).

Point: God is a just judge and must punish man’s sin. He is grieved by it and patient with man but His patience is limited.

Bead: Black because of mankind’s sin.

4. الله القدير على كل شيء God Almighty (El Shaddai)

Genesis 17: 1 When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.

Story: The story of Abraham (Genesis 12-22)

Point: This is the name by which God revealed Himself to Abraham.

Bead: Cream (no significance).

5. المولى The LORD (Yahweh)

Exodus 20: 2 I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Exodus 34: 6-7 And God passed in front of Moses proclaiming, “I am the Lord . The Lord is the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Story: The story of Moses, the Passover and the Law (Exodus 1-14, 19-20; Leviticus 17: 10-14);

Point: This is the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses and the children of Israel;

Bead: Red for the blood of the Passover Lamb.

6. العليم God the All-Knowing

Psalm 139: 1 O Lord, You have searched me and you know me…

Story: The story of David (1 Samuel 16; 1 Samuel 13:14; Psalm 139);

Point: God the All-knowing is the One who sees and knows the heart;

Bead: Cream (no significance).

7. الله الأزلي God Eternal (the Ancient of Days)

Isaiah 40: 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

Isaiah 46: 10 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God and there is no other... I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please.

Story: The promise of the Messiah;

Point: God Eternal is the One who makes known the end from the beginning. He promised to send a Savior, the Messiah.

Bead: Gold for the Messiah.

8. الله العلي God Most High

Luke 1: 76 And you, my child, will be a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, to give His people a knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.

Story: The story of John the Baptist.

Point: John called people to repentance in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.

Bead: Cream (no significance).

9. الله الأمين The Faithful God

Deuteronomy 7: 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the Faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

Numbers 23: 19 God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?

Story: The birth of Jesus, including His genealogies.

Point: God the Faithful is the One who keeps His covenant and fulfills His promises. Jesus’ birth fulfilled His promises about the Messiah to come. He was a descendant of Abraham and David.

Bead: Gold for the Messiah.

10. قدوس الله The Holy One of God

Mark 1: 24 What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!

1 John 3: 8 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

Story: The story of Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3: 21-23), temptation (Luke 4: 1-13) and Him casting out a demon (Mark 1: 21-28).

Point: Jesus overcame Satan’s testing of Him, unlike Adam in paradise. He has authority over Satan and demons.

Bead: Gold for the Messiah.

11. المسيح، شافينا، المحيي The Messiah, Our Healer, the Life-Giver

Luke 4: 18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Story: Jesus’ healings (Luke 5: 12-14; Luke 7: 11-17; Mark 9: 14 – 27; Mark 10: 46-52)

Point: Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One. He has authority over sickness, disease and death.

Bead: Gold for the Messiah.

12. نور العالم The Light of the World

John 8: 12 “I am the Light of the World. He who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Story: Jesus’ teachings.

Bead: Gold for the Messiah.

13. الغفور The One who forgives

Psalm 86: 5 You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on you.

Luke 5: 24 But just to show you that the One who became flesh has the authority on earth to forgive sins… Stand up, pick up your mat and go to your house!

Story: The healing of the paralytic (Luke 5: 17-26).

Point: Jesus is the One who has authority on earth to forgive sin.

Bead: Gold for the Messiah.

14. كلمة الله Jesus the Word of God

John 1: 1, 14 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

John 3: 13 No one has gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven – the One who became flesh.

Story: Nicodemas (John 3).

Point: Jesus is the Word of God who came from God. Being religious like Nicodemas is not good enough to enter Heaven.

Bead: Gold for the Messiah.

15. حمل الفداء The Lamb of Redemption

John 1: 29 The next day John (the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Luke 22: 19, 20 This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me… This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.

Story: The Last Supper (Luke 22: 7-8, 13-20; Matthew 26: 17-30);

Point: Jesus is the Lamb of Redemption;

Bead: Red for the blood of Jesus.

16. القدوس البار، عبد الله المتألم The Holy and Righteous One, the Suffering Servant

Luke 9: 22 “The One who became flesh must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Acts 3: 14 You refused the Righteous and Holy One and asked that a murderer be released to you.

Story: Jesus’ death on the cross.

Point: Jesus is the Holy and Righteous One who was put to death as an innocent man. In going to the cross, He was the One who submitted Himself completely to God’s will.

Bead: Red for Jesus’ blood.

17. القيامة والحياة Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

John 11: 25 “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

Revelation 1: 18 “… I am the Living One. Behold I was dead but I am now alive forever and ever. And I hold in My hands the keys of death and Hades.”

Story: The story of Jesus rising from the dead

Point: Jesus rose from the dead, conquering Satan and the power of death.

Bead: Gold because of the Messiah.

18. روح الله The Spirit of God

Acts 1: 5 “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father has promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Story: The coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14: 16-17, 26; Acts 1: 1-9; Acts 2: 1-47)

Point: The Holy Spirit will be with us forever in place of Jesus. He will empower us and guide us into all truth.

Bead: Orange for the Holy Spirit.

19. مولانا عيسى المسيح Our Lord Jesus Christ

Acts 16: 31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…

Romans 6: 23 For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Story and point: The story of the church (Acts). Because of His death on the cross, Jesus was given the name which is above all names: Jesus Christ our Lord (Phil 2: 5-11). He is the head of the church which is His body (Eph 1: 22-23);

Bead: Gold for the Messiah

20. الله ديان الأرض God the Judge of the earth

Psalm 94:2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve.

Story: The story of the Last Day (2 Peter 3: 7, 10; Rev 20: 11-15)

Point: At the Last Day we will all stand before God. The destiny of those who have rejected God is hell and the lake of fire.

Bead: Black because mankind’s sin.

21. الله الألف والياء ، البداية والنهاية God the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End

Revelation 21: 6 “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To Him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

Story: The story of the Heaven (Acts 1: 9-10; John 6: 40; 14: 1-3; Revelation 21: 1-8, 27; 22: 12-14);

Point: The destiny of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life is Heaven with God.

Bead: White because the white robes we will wear in heaven.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How are Muslims coming to Christ?

imageThis series, “How are Muslims coming to Christ?” has attempted to synthesize common contours that researchers throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are discovering.  I believe these missiological categories enable us to better understand the phenomenon of conversion (a term I don’t like) for Muslims who have embraced Biblical faith.  This series has been adapted from my article:

Farah, Warrick. 2013. "Emerging Missiological Themes in MBB Conversion Factors." International Journal of Frontier Missiology no. 30 (1):189-196.

After the Introduction, here are the 8 themes:

  1. Conversion is a Contextual Process
  2. The Prominence of the Affective Dimension
  3. The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity
  4. A Patron – Client View of the Gospel
  5. Conversion in Layers of Identity
  6. The Congruence of Cultural Values
  7. The Differing Female Experience
  8. The Beauty of the Written and Resurrected Word

Some concluding remarks on the series, from the article:

The last decade of ministry to Muslims has been very exciting. David Garrison reports that more than 86 percent of all the Muslim movements to Christ in the history of Islam have occurred in the last 12 years (2013). However, the fraction of MBBs around the world in the House of Islam is still very small. It could be that the firstfruits who are embracing Biblical faith are more of the “fringe” people of Muslim societies, and thus the researchable conversion factors may not represent the mass-movements of Muslims into the kingdom that we are all hoping and praying for. Therefore, each of these themes will need continued contextual research for their validity in future Jesus movements among Muslims…

Summary

The recent growth of conversion factor studies reflects the exciting fact that Muslims are embracing Biblical faith more so now than any time in history. The broad themes of these factors facilitating conversion have important implications for Kingdom witness that are relevant for diverse settings. The future of conversion research can investigate these themes more closely, as we continue to learn from precious MBBs like Hanaan, Qaasid, and Yehia.

I hope you have found this series helpful! If so, please share this post with your friends and colleagues.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Beauty of the Written and Resurrected Word (Part 8 in the “How are Muslims coming to Christ?” Series)

Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension, Part 3: The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity, Part 4: A Patron – Client View of the Gospel, Part 5: Conversion in Layers of Identity, Part 6: The Congruence of Cultural Values, Part 7: The Differing Female Experience.

Circumpolar is about making sure the glorious Messiah is continually visible before Muslims.  What should our mantra be? Point Muslims to Jesus and the Bible. Point Muslims to Jesus and the Bible. Point Muslims to Jesus and the Bible. This is our final theme of factors that influence Muslims to embrace Biblical faith (from this article):

8. The Beauty of the Written and Resurrected Word

imageThe hearing or study of the gospel in the Bible and a desire for an intimate relationship with God in Christ is central in MBB conversions. MBBs are fascinated by the beauty of Jesus’ personality and the cross. Once I watched the Jesus Film with a Muslim seeker. Afterward, when I asked for his thoughts, he replied, “Well, Jesus is everything.”

Anthony Greenham’s study of Palestinian MBBs found that although conversion is influenced through various means, “the person of Jesus is always central” (2004, 227). Commenting on the centrality of Christ in conversion, Abraham Durán also speaks of attraction to the “beauty of Jesus” as a key evangelistic factor (2006, 274). In John Marie Gaudeul’s study of MBB testimonies, the most prominent factor was attraction to Jesus (1999).

David Maranz studied dozens of conversion experiences of Muslims born in 33 countries and concluded that all but two included references to the importance of the Bible. He concludes, “In most, the role of the Bible or some passages of Scripture were central to conversion. How could it be otherwise?” (2006, 61). Fruitful Practices research similarly notes that “Fruitful teams use a variety of creative means to communicate Scripture… It is their primary means of sharing the gospel” (Adams, Allen, and Fish 2009, 79). James Bultema’s research in Turkey was similar: “The written Word of God surpasses other causes of conversion to Christ” (2010, 28).

Implications?

The Beauty of the Written and Resurrected Word – Above all else, effective mission among Muslims means pointing them to Jesus and the Bible.

I don’t mean to be overly simplistic, but I do feel the main thrust of mission is sometimes lost among much pontificating (I’m as guilty as anyone). However, we can rejoice that missiological research says we can all rally around this – point Muslims to Jesus and the Bible.

Next: The Conclusion.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Differing Female Experience (Part 7 in the “How are Muslims coming to Christ?” Series)

Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension, Part 3: The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity, Part 4: A Patron – Client View of the Gospel, Part 5: Conversion in Layers of Identity, and Part 6: The Congruence of Cultural Values.

I believe that perhaps the largest unreached people group in the world is Muslim women. It could be possible that 80% of MBBs around the world are male (just a guess).  Most of our outreach/strategy/teaching is geared towards men. This is partly because Muslim women are, by the nature of “Islam,” more inaccessible.  But we need more research on how women are coming to faith.  And we need to be more intentional.  From my view, there are three things to consider in female MBB conversions (from this article):

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7. The Differing Female Experience

Unfortunately, most studies on conversion haven’t considered the importance of gender (Gooren 2007, 348). It does appear, however, that there are in fact significant differences. North African women MBBs in Evelyne Reisacher’s research felt that gender related issues in the Muslim world created more barriers to conversion for women than men, but they also felt their faith was more resilient than male MBBs because of the price women paid to follow Jesus (2006, 110-113). Women are more concerned about how their conversion will affect their social relationships, particularly with males in their immediate families. A positive factor influencing conversion was the honor Jesus gave to women. “Women were attracted to Jesus because they were touched by the way he dealt with women in the Gospels” (2006, 113).

Similarly, Miriam Adeney notes that Muslim women come to faith for many of the same reasons as men, but it is the “awareness of Jesus’ affirmation of women” that strongly influences women (2005, 287).[i] Adeney also notes the significance of familial social relationships in conversion. In a study of South Asian Muslim women who were coming to faith, Mary McVicker found that while theology is important, “participation and experience are essential” (2006, 136). Strähler found that female MBBs in Kenya were shaped more by affective elements than were the males (2010, 67).

Thus, female conversions are strongly influenced by an awareness of Jesus’ treatment of women in the gospels, include greater degrees of practical and experiential factors, and are complicated by the role of males in their immediate families. Hanaan’s father, a devout Muslim and loving man, eventually became convinced the Jesus was revealing himself to Hanaan. He gave her the intellectual freedom she felt she needed to investigate further, although he never followed Christ himself. As with other female MBBs, Hanaan’s experience would be dramatically different had her father persecuted her curiosity of Jesus, rather than foster it.

Implications?

The Differing Female Experience – In ministry to Muslim women, we should:

  1. tell the specific stories of Jesus’ treatment of women in the Gospels,
  2. pray with them and for their needs, and
  3. pay attention to their relationships with males in their families.

One book my wife really likes is A Worldview Approach to Ministry Among Muslim Women.

Next: Part 8, The Beauty of the Written and Resurrected Word.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Congruence of Cultural Values (Part 6 in the “How are Muslims coming to Christ?” Series)

Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension, Part 3: The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity, Part 4: A Patron – Client View of the Gospel, and Part 5: Conversion in Layers of Identity.

Rather than getting bogged down in a debate about contextualization and syncretism, I think Greenlee’s term “The Congruence of Cultural Values”  better fits this sociological theme of factors that influence Muslims to embrace biblical faith (from this article):

6. The Congruence of Cultural Values

imageContinuing with the sociological discussion of conversion, some missiologists argue that a paradigm shift is happening in church planting and evangelism strategies (Gray and Gray 2010a). Previous strategies argued for an aggregate (or “attractional”) model of church planting, where new believers/seekers who do not previously know each other are gathered together in fellowship. In contrast, the social network[i] (or “transformational”) model seeks to implant the gospel into a group of people who have previously formed social relationships, and thus not try to introduce unknown believers to one another. “The ‘church’ meets when the normal social network gathers” (Gray and Gray 2010b, 278).

This idea of spreading the gospel through social networks is very similar the “homogeneous unit principle” (HUP) posited by Donald McGavran, who famously stated that “People like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers” (1990 [1970], 163). Arguing against this as a strategy for mission, René Padilla declared that the HUP is not only counter to the example of Jesus and the apostles who intentionally worked with an aggregate model, but also fails to take the ministry of reconciliation seriously and has “no biblical foundation” (1982, 29).

However, since research shows that “facilitating the movement of the gospel through natural social networks [contra the aggregate model] seems to be correlated with planting more churches” (Gray et al. 2010, 94), it seems best to think of social network theory as a provisional, temporary strategy until there are more robust forms of church that reach the biblical goal of the so-called “Ephesian moment” (Walls 2002), where people of different caste, race, gender, etc., who have little in common except Jesus are reconciled together in fellowship through him. In any case, a key theme in factors that influence conversion is the congruence of cultural values between the MBB and the values of the witnessing community.[ii]

Implications?

The Congruence of Cultural Values – Contextualization is not a dirty word. It is inevitable, and we need to work hard at it. But even more so, MBBs need to contextualize as they share the gospel through their social networks. We have much to learn from MBB local theologizing. 

Next: Part 7, The Differing Female Experience.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Conversion in Layers of Identity (Part 5 in the “How are Muslims coming to Christ?” Series)

Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension, Part 3: The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity, and Part 4: A Patron – Client View of the Gospel.

This next theme in MBB conversion factors is probably the most significant missiological breakthrough in the last few years. The question, “Can a someone be a Muslim and a follower of Christ?” is overly-simplistic. We shouldn’t be surprised that this wrong question has led to a polarized (and politicized) debate. There is  better way at look at the issues (from this article):

5. Conversion in Layers of Identity

image

Rebecca Lewis argues that we should “free people groups from the counter-productive burden of socioreligious conversion and the constraints of affiliation with the term “Christianity” and with various religious institutions and traditions of Christendom” (2007, 76). Georges Houssney disagrees, “You cannot claim to be a follower of Christ and deny being a Christian. This would be dishonest, confusing and not true. To follow Christ is to be a Christian” (2011). This debate concerning socioreligious identity often seems to be more based around semantics and one’s view of “Islam” than actual Biblical exegesis and theology.

Muslims who consider embracing Biblical faith and MBBs themselves often feel torn between the ill-defined, binary categories of “Muslim” and “Christian.” In light of this struggle, the sociological theories of identity put forth by Kathryn Kraft[i], Jens Barnett, and Tim Green in Longing for Community (Greenlee 2013) have the potential to significantly reduce the polarization of views in the current debates. (These theories are summarized in Greenlee’s article in this issue). Identity is far more complex and dynamic than is unfortunately portrayed by many evangelicals on all sides of the issues. Layers of identity abound for people in every culture, and belonging to multiple traditions is a reality in today’s globalized world.

As the research seems to show, identity is multidimensional, the titles “Christian” and “Muslim” mean various things to different audiences, and new MBBs, especially in unreached contexts, inevitably need time and space for their identities to transition. Dissatisfaction with and rejection of “creedal” Islam precedes most MBB conversions, but many of these same MBBs remain in “cultural” Islam.[ii]

Implications?

Conversion in Layers of Identity – There are two twin errors I see being made in mission praxis when it comes to the identity issue. The first error is to ask Muslims who are considering embracing Biblical faith to identify as “Christians.” The other error is to insist that MBBs continue to call themselves “Muslims.” Both errors over-assume the role of the Kingdom worker in local theologizing. And both errors also point MBBs to socio-religious identity, when we should instead be making sure MBBs are grounded in the Christ of the Bible.

Do you think this helps us move beyond the so-called “insider” debate?

[A side note: I think identity is more complicated than these layers portray. See here, for example – more research is needed...]

Next: Part 6, The Congruence of Cultural Values.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Patron – Client View of the Gospel (Part 4 in the “How are Muslims coming to Christ?” Series)

Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension, and Part 3: The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity.

If the gospel is news about a new relationship, then how we socially understand relationships will inform our view of the gospel.  Do Asian, Arab, and African MBBs view the gospel in a different form than Western Christians? I think we’re beginning to see this emerge in missiological research (from this article):

 

4. A Patron – Client View of the Gospel

Like Yehia, Hanaan grew up very disillusioned with the hypocritical lifestyles of some fundamentalist Muslims she knew. One night a man in a brilliant white robe holding a staff appeared in her dream and told her that she was correct to doubt Islam. The next morning she described this event to her loving and devout Muslim father, who told her the person from her dream was Isa al Masih. Eagerly she went to the Qur’an and read everything she could about Jesus, who continued to show up in dreams for many years at key moments in her life.

According to her testimony, Hanaan joined herself to Jesus long before she met another Christ follower who studied the Bible with her for the first time. Like Hanaan, MBBs appear to bond themselves to Christ in a patron-client relationship as they initially begin to understand His lordship and even the atonement.

A biblical, missiological view of conversion must take into account the social context of the first century Mediterranean world (Asia and Africa are much closer to this worldview today than is the West). Relationships were conceptualized around the concept of “patronage,” where “they saw their gods as patrons and benefactors and their own conduct as clients” (Crook 2004, 254). “In this hierarchical society, where the status of the person you follow and to whom you give allegiance is very important, the position of Isa becomes the focus of reconsideration” (Edwards 2013, 84). MBBs relate to Christ in ways that are difficult for Westerners to understand, but make sense in their worldview. Yet this understanding of salvation is commonly found in the writings of the Apostle Paul. Christ is our ultimate Patron (the Divine Lord), we must be found “in him” and part of the new people of God.

Implications?

1. A Patron – Client View of the Gospel – There is only one gospel, but it is always expressed in only one of its various forms (Keller 2008 – [this is a foundational article in missiology]). The legal, moral guilt presentation of the gospel, while definitely biblical, has been over-emphasized by Westerners in Muslim lands. Can we begin to use the Patron-Client form…: Through faith, we are joined with the glorious Messiah in his life, death, and resurrection. He gets our loyalty (praise, glory, and honor) and we get his life in us, removing our shame and defilement. Could this be the form of the gospel that is most relevant to Muslims?

There is a lot more to discuss about patronage. For now, use this concept as a hermeneutical key to understand Paul’s talk about being “in Christ.”  See also this helpful, brief video about the patron-client relationship in anthropology (missiology is the intersection of theology and the social sciences):

 

Next: Part 5, Conversion in Layers of Identity.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

“Bridging the Divide” Website

Bridging the Divide Networkhttp://btdnetwork.org/:

Who are we? We are a diverse network of followers of Jesus, committed to bringing the gospel to the Muslim world and engaging in useful interaction with others of similar desire and commitment, to increase biblical and effective proclamation of and obedience to the gospel.

Most of us have many years of experience in living and working among Muslims, and could be described as “scholar-practitioners.” Though many of us have positions of leadership and influence in a mission agency, church or other organization, we do not represent our various organizations in BtD. We interact as children of our heavenly Father, wrestling together to see His glory made known maximally among the Muslims of the world.

The BtD Network is led by a Facilitation Team, currently consisting of twelve leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds, ministries and convictions.

See the core documents and BtD articles.

The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity (Part 3 in the “How are Muslims coming to Christ?” Series)

Previous posts in this series: How are Muslims coming to Christ? Introduction, Part 1: Conversion is a Contextual Process, and Part 2: The Prominence of the Affective Dimension.

Now we look at a missiological theme closely related to the affective dimension of worldview (from this article):

3. The Silent Witness of Love and Integrity

imageAlthough this is clearly related to the affective dimension theme, I believe the compassion and love from Kingdom workers to Muslims is significant enough to warrant inclusion. The godly lifestyle of Christians and the experience of genuine love significantly and positively change Muslims’ attitudes towards Christ and Biblical faith. This is perhaps true in every context, but even more so for Muslims. The lingering effects of the Crusades coupled with the war on terror create the lasting impression that “Christians” are imperialists who wish to destroy Muslims. Kingdom workers simply living lives of integrity and compassion among Muslims have done much to dispel this harmful misconception.

In Dudley Woodberry’s massive global survey of MBB conversions, the lifestyle of Christians was the most important factor facilitating conversion (Woodberry 2006). Like the stories of Qaasid and Yehia, I have not personally found a MBB who did not have a positive interaction with “Christianity” and Christian believers somewhere in the past.

Implications?

Live and love like Jesus. Enough said.

Next: Part 4, A Patron – Client View of the Gospel.