Sunday, December 7, 2008

Allah: Boss or Father?

“How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger to that of love, joy, and gratitude? Here is how. You need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home. The key difference between a Pharisee [read believer in Islam] and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 86.

HT: Of First Importance

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Gathering of Teams of Laborers

Here are my notes from Chapter 12, "The Gathering of Teams of Laborers" in From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices, and Emerging Issues Among Muslims by Andrew and Rachel Chard who have this to say about teams involved in church planting among Muslims:

"Teams of church planters are better equipped than 'lone rangers' to reach remote people in difficult places, no matter how committed people on their own might be. The overwhelming witness of the Consultation's research is that in the bringing together of people with different gifts for the appointed task, there are numerous benefits that both bear fruit and lighten the load on individuals. In this chapter we will look at significant factors in the formation and the life of fellowship or church-planting teams amongst Muslims, keeping the goal of church-planting movements in mind."

(FP = Fruitful Practice)

FP 1: Identifying the right leadership for the team

"Across the regions represented at the Consultation, it was agreed that team leaders need to be wisely chosen, not left to fall into positions by default."

The Qualities Practitioners Said They Wanted in a Leader:
• An evangelistic heart • Experience • Vision • Passion • Faith • Ability to delegate • Prayerfulness • Servanthood • Ability to recognize gifts in others • Love of people • Praiseworthy character • Availability

FP 2: Aiming for a large enough team

"This implies that team size matters, and it does."

  • Teams with fewer than four adults showed a greater probability of not planting even one fellowship or church.
  • Teams with eight or more adults had a greater probability of planting at least one fellowship.
  • Teams with twelve adults showed a greater probability of planting multiple fellowships.
"It would seem, therefore, that if our desire is to see church-planting movements, we need to be aiming for larger numbers of laborers in each team, supporting the strategy of sowing widely. Research suggests that five or six team members should be the lower limit of a team size."

FP 3: Having members with a variety of gifts for the task

"From the Arab World, a worker reports that a combination of spiritual and practical gifts was critical to team unity and functioning in their ministry setting. This is echoed by many presently serving in Muslim fields. Team leaders and members of church-planting teams should be prepared to embrace a wide variety of ministry within one team, freeing team members up to work where their gifts and passions lie, but keeping all that the team does connected to the vision. There needs to be recognition that working within one's skill set will energize workers, while working outside one's skill set often leads to early attrition."

FP 4: Recognizing that women are essential members of the team and serve effectively

"Not only do women have significant roles in the team structure, but in the Muslim world, they have access to women and children even while men are restricted in this area. Also, women team members are usually able to talk at a deeper level with Muslim women much sooner than male team members are able to with Muslim men."

FP 5: Valuing language learning proficiency and culture adaptation

"The reality is that the attrition rate in workers who do not learn the language well is faster than for those who do. One vulnerable group are mothers with young children, who frequently struggle to get out and learn language well. Having said that, those who are not good with languages should not lose heart, for within fellowship planting teams there needs to be an acceptance that different people have different aptitudes. The mutual accountability must still be there, but tempered by this understanding and driven by a strong desire for each team member to succeed by reaching their potential."

FP 6: Valuing prayer and a growing walk with God

This was expressed in various ways:
  • Practicing an intimate walk with God
  • Involvement in sustained prayer, fasting, and spiritual warfare
  • Mobilizing extensive international, focused prayer
"Godliness is more important than striving to reach ministry goals."

FP 7: Having a vision and focused intention

"A Memorandum of Understanding or similar document lessens the myriad of potential distractions. A worker from East Africa said, "As an ongoing team, we have a Memorandum of Understanding, which states our vision and our goals. We have written down our core values and our commitment to one another as team members. All these things help us to hang together when there are struggles within the team or when there are discouragements in ministry that might otherwise entice us to give up.""

FP 8: Being flexible in strategy and willing to adapt and modify

FP 9: Surveying and assessing the needs of the people, profiling their identity and the status of the Gospel

FP 10: Building a team mentality

"Getting to know one another well and learning to care deeply for one other needs to be worked on consistently… Time needs to be invested in orientation and in learning how team members think and feel, how they express themselves (or do not), and how they react to different personalities. This will be largely the job of the team leaders who will often find their team members to be ready and willing but also sensitive to being hurt while perhaps being insensitive to hurting others, the common combination of people in culture shock."

FP 11: Demonstrating love for the people

"The team needs to be put together for love; leadership must be servant-like; all of the team's ministry must arise out of love. Our love must show the uniqueness of God's love through Christ. Showing the love of God through acts of kindness, community development projects, or in the day-to-day shared living with Muslim people does not go unnoticed."

FP 12: Partnering with others for fruitfulness:

  • Partnering with Muslim leaders, such as a "man or woman of peace"
"One strategy that some see as very effective for church-planting teams involves finding a 'man or a woman of peace' (based on the principle in Matthew 10:11) or someone in the locality who might be called a 're-starter', that is, one who is well respected and has the ear of the people or one who has the ability to get things going in their communities."

"One participant wrote, "We had a Muslim man who was intensely interested in Jesus. He loved Jesus and had the respect of many people in the community. He started telling people about the Injil (Gospel). We did not seek him; God gave him to us.""

  • Partnering with same-culture or near-culture evangelists who share the vision

  • Partnering with other agencies
"A field worker writes that someone from each agency in his or her locality would get together and swap information and materials, bring news of projects, and give testimonies of what was happening in his or her ministry. It was a very positive relationship with encouragement for everybody involved."

  • Partnering with local churches
"There is agreement that 'local' national pastors like to be involved alongside expatriate efforts, able to advise and assist where possible, but this issue is also fraught with problems and questions. Where there are big cultural differences between the believers of existing churches and the Muslims to whom a witness is occurring, a point of healthy contact can be hard to find. Unless those very churches themselves become charged with passion for Muslims, there often seems little chance of being able to integrate MBBs into the existing congregations/cell groups."


"We believe that after the significance of having the Word of God to teach us and being indwelt by the Spirit of God as our counselor and guide, the next greatest provision for us as 'workers in God's vineyard' is the concept of teamwork. Have we not seen in this chapter how working as a team brings strength and ability for the task? Can we not see how much good sense it makes to work in teams whenever possible? No, it will not be problem-free, and team members will not always feel that their team is the best they could have. However, what better way is there to combine strength and skills, passion and wisdom, to blend differentness with grace, in order to bring fruitfulness—in order to bring in the harvest?"

Buy the book.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What is Islam?

What is the purpose of Islam for Muslims? Why did Allah establish the religion of Islam through Mohammed as a mercy for mankind? The heart of Islam can be described in the following three categories:

1. Outward Conformity: In Islam, “God created humankind innocent, but they have made choices to their own detriment. Nevertheless, human beings are not essentially evil, but basically good. They are finite, mortal creatures, who are honored by God to be his representatives and servants on earth. Even though human beings are not essentially sinful and have no fallen nature, they are intrinsically weak, frail, imperfect, and constantly forgetful of God. Consequently, God sends them prophets to call them to submit to his sovereign will” (Geisler). If humankind is intrinsically weak and prone to make mistakes, then Adam and Eve did not “fall” but simply forgot the law. God in his mercy then gives the Qur’an which is guidance for life, so that Muslims know how to live on the “straight path” and remember the law of God. Muslims must conform to the law; this is perhaps the greatest concern for Muslims everywhere. In Islam Adam and Eve were not created for fellowship with God. If there was no fall, then there is no need for redemption from sin.

2. Social Control: When Christians study the Bible, the usual end result is called “theology.” But when Muslims study the Qur’an and the Hadith, the end result is “law.” Muslims glory in the fact that they have a rule for almost every situation in life. And when these laws (usually called Sharia) are properly enforced, Islamic societies experience peace, prosperity, and blessing. One paradigm to describe Islam is Phariseeism. Islam aims to bless society through the enforcement of rules and laws.

3. Worldwide Political Influence: As a religion of peace from God, Islam is meant to spread and ultimately rule over the whole earth. Mohammed was a political ruler, a statesman. It is perfectly legitimate for Islam to be advanced politically. Mohammed’s military conquests set the example. Islam is as much a political expression as it is a religion (although personal conversion should never be forced on anyone- the Qur’an teaches that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Baqara 2:256)). That is why religion and politics are so closely related in Islam.

Unfortunately, the church has embraced this model at times throughout the centuries. But when Jesus was offered rule over an earthly kingdom, he refused and went to the Cross instead. He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting” (Jn. 18:36).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Will we worship in heaven?

As I was hanging out with some friends the other day, one guy was getting a hard time from his friends for still being single. I couldn't understand exactly what was being said, but he said something like, "On the day of Resurrection (the Last Day in Islam) I will experience marriage" with a sly grin on his face. He explained more to me about the "virgins" that are available to men in Paradise (Heaven). He also talked about the wine that doesn't make you drunk and the food that doesn't make you fat, all so that man can "take his rest" after he dies. He also mentioned that, in Paradise, "there is no more worship."

I wondered if I heard him right at first, so I asked, "When we stand before Allah in Paradise, the Almighty, the Holy One, and there is no sin anywhere, how can we not worship? Isn't our duty in life to worship and enjoy Allah now and forever?" He quickly agreed with me and then changed the subject.

I should have been gentler, but sometimes part of me is pleased that I could so easily shame someone for an incredibly low view of God. I guess it is pride that makes me feel that way.

However, it should deeply sadden us that there are so many trapped in a prison of works-based righteousness all for an eternal "rest" of nothing but self-centeredness and self-indulgence. God is greater.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why I work with Muslims

Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make

David Mays' book notes on The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hanz Finzel:

Leadership is a lot more intense than I ever imagined. Further, it can be dangerous. "We hold the power to do irreparable damage to our followers by the mistakes we make." (14) "The greatest lessons I've learned about good leadership have been through my own mistakes." (16)

Chapter 1. The Top-Down Attitude
Autocratic domineering. This is the mother of all hang-ups. It is foundational to all the rest of the mistakes. "If you have it, you will spread it to everything your leadership hands touch." (25)

Chapter 2. Putting Paperwork before Peoplework
"People are opportunities, not interruptions." (43) "All Task-oriented type A personalities must learn to slow down and allow people into our lives." "There is still no substitute for quiet, prolonged exposure of one soul to another." (44)

"…We have subtly made task orientation more desirable in our leader selection process." [But] "leadership is essentially a people business. Experts confirm that the most effective leaders spend most of their time being with people and solving people
problems." (49)

Chapter 3. The Absence of Affirmation
"We wildly underestimate the power of the tiniest personal touch of kindness." (61)

"Humans…need to have their emotional batteries charged often." (62)

Chapter 4. No Room for Mavericks
"Mavericks [pioneers] can save us from the slide toward institutionalism." (73)

"One of the best ways to take the wind out of the sails of visionaries is to send their ideas to a committee." (81)

Not all troublemakers and malcontents are worth the pain to have around. (85)

Chapter 5. Dictatorship in Decision Making
"The major players in any organization are like its stockholders: They should have a say in its direction." (89)

"It is impossible to learn anything important about anyone until we get him or her to disagree with us; it is only in contradiction that character is disclosed." (93, quoting Sydney J. Harris)

Chapter 6. Dirty Delegation - Refusing to Relax and Let Go
"Nothing frustrates those who work for you more than sloppy delegation with too many strings attached." (111)

"We must be careful not to micromanage people to death. Delegation means giving people the freedom to decide how jobs will be done." (116)

Chapter 7. Communication Chaos - Singing from the Same Page in the Hymnal
"Rumor mills are part and parcel of every work group." "…people can begin to create their own reality if the true reality is not communicated." "Never assume that anyone knows anything. This is a core leadership principle. We can never communicate enough in our organizations." (130)

Chapter 8. Missing the Clues of Corporate Culture
"Corporate culture is 'the way we do things around here.'" (151) "An organizations' corporate culture is the way insiders behave based on the values and group traditions they hold." (152) It is a set of unwritten rules. Each organization has a unique personality. "Corporate culture is a powerful force. It can at times be so strong that people develop a religious attitude toward their company, so devoted they are to its culture." (154)

Chapter 9. Success without Successors
"Mentoring is a nonnegotiable function of successful leadership." (177)

"Success without a successor is failure." (179 quoting Warren Webster)

Chapter 10. Failure to Focus on the Future
"Vision is an effective leader's chief preoccupation." (201)

"Leadership is seeing the consequences of our actions further in the future than those around us can." (205 quoting Bill Gothard)

"The most notable trait of great leaders, certainly of great change leaders, however, is their quest for learning." (206 quoting John Kotter in Leading Change)

"Leaders are paid to be dreamers. In fact, the higher you go in leadership, the more your work is about the future. I have very little influence on what is going to happen in my organization in the next six months, but I am making daily decisions that could have a profound impact on us five years down the road." (208)

Read all the notes. Buy the book.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fundamental Difference Between Islam and Biblical Faith

I find the below summaries on the difference between the two faiths to be helpful.

Spear of Phinehas posts:
Chawkat Moucarry, who holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies and serves as Inter-Faith Relations director for World Vision, summarizes the fundamental different between Islam and Christianity:
"Above all, the means by which fallen human beings may be reconciled to God are fundamentally at odds in the two traditions. In biblically-faithful Christianity, the grace of God crowns everything, as guilty human beings are reconciled to their Maker by the sacrifice that God himself has provided in Jesus’ death on the cross. Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live repentant and obedient lives that they would not otherwise choose. In Islam, while appeal is made to the mercy of God, the hope of paradise rests fundamentally on personal obedience to God, repentance, scrupulous avoidance of major sins, and confidence that one’s good deeds will in some way atone for one’s bad deeds." A Christian Perspective on Islam, 40
David Shenk in Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church summarizes:
“The message of biblical faith is that God in the Messiah enters personally into our sinfulness to redeem us from sin and death. God, in the Messiah, actively and personally and lovingly pursues us so that we might be reconciled to him, to one another, and to creation. The message of quranic faith is that God, the merciful and compassionate one, sends his will down to us. In submission to his will we find well-being. Jesus offers redemption; the Qur’an offers guidance” (170).
Biblical faith is trusting completely in the redemptive work of God in Christ, whereas Islam is trying to constantly remember God by following his guidance.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Welcome to Circumpolar - a series of short readings related to muslim ministry intended to equip and resource followers of Jesus to advance the gospel among Muslims.

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The future content of this blog...

Church Planting - Unreached - Contextualization
Evangelism - Jesus Fellowship Movements - Spirituality
Leadership - Teams - Partnerships
Loving - Balanced - Biblical