Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Three Reasons the Church in Iran is Growing


Iran Open Hearts in a Closed Land

Mark Bradley

Authentic, 2007, 114 pp., ISBN 978-1-85078-770-9

To order this book click here.  

From David Mays book notes:

Mark Bradley gives a very concise and readable overview of the historical and current reasons Iran is so closed to the Gospel and why the hearts of the people are so open to Jesus.  The author also recommends a very attractive 30-day prayer guide for Iran.   See it at

While the Iranian government is actively strangling the established churches, the underground churches are growing.  Its continued growth is likely for three reasons.  One, it is very secretive and hidden from authorities.  Two, the churches are very active and vibrant.  Most have never been in a church building, so Christianity grows up around the Scripture, spreads by relationships, and takes on natural cultural forms.  Three, new members recognize the urgency of telling others and take on a sense of ownership very quickly.

Read all David’s notes on the book.  Buy the book.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Why do Muslims Send Prayers on the Prophet Mohammed?

You can read about it here (I tried to make it more readable):

Of the greatest blessings that Allah (ta’ala) has given to mankind is sending the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) as our guide and the Qur’an as our Book.

With the exception of Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), every Prophet and Messenger sent by Allah (azza wa jal) was sent to a specific nation for a specific time period. Allah (ta’ala) chose Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) as the Messenger for all the worlds and raised his status and mention among all of mankind.

Allah (ta’ala) describes this bounty that He gave to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) in the Qur’an,

وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ

and We have raised for you your mention. (94:4)

We bear witness five times a day that he is the Messenger of Allah, we send peace upon him during our prayers, we open our gatherings with his mention after the mention of Allah (azza wa jal) and we ask Allah to bless him before we make a duaa [prayer request]. All of these acts show that we bear witness that he (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) delivered the message. Bearing witness that he delivered the message necessitates his love, his obedience and sending salah when he is mentioned, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Allah (azza wa jal) says,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O you that believe! Send your blessings on him, and salute him with all respect. (33:56)

The ayaat in the Qur’an that commands the believers to do good deeds or refrain from evil actions begins with “Ya ayyuhal latheena aamano”, “O you who have believed” however this ayah does not begin in this way. Rather, Allah (ta’ala) mentions that He and His Angels send blessings and greetings on the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) first before calling the Believers to follow. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) calls the believers, because of your emaan [faith], send salah and salaam on the Messenger. The Scholars of tafseer [interpretation] state that this is to show the honorable and elevated status of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) as well as to show the honor in the act of sending salah on him. If Allah and His Angels do this action, it should motivate the Believers to do so as well…

Why do we Send Salawat [Prayers] on the Prophet?

If a close relative of ours passed away, such as a parent or a sibling, we would vehemently ask Allah to forgive them, to grant them security, and to enter them into Jannah [paradise]. The Believers are those who love the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) more than their family, wealth and their own selves so just as we would ask Allah to forgive and bless our relative, we should send prayers upon our Messenger (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) who, by the bounty and mercy of Allah, has taught us our faith. Allah azza wa jal says,

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ وَآخَرِينَ مِنْهُمْ لَمَّا يَلْحَقُوا بِهِمْ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاءُ وَاللَّهُ ذُو الْفَضْلِ الْعَظِيمِ

It is He Who has sent amongst the unlettered a Messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to purify them, and to teach them the Book and Wisdom (Sunnah),- although they had been, before, in manifest error;-As well as (to confer all these benefits upon) others of them, who have not already joined them: And He is exalted in Might, Wise. Such is the Bounty of Allah, which He bestows on whom He wills: and Allah is the Lord of the highest bounty. [62:2-4]

We send salawat on the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) to acknowledge the great blessing that Allah has given us by sending the Messenger to us. Just as prayer is a manifestation of our love, gratitude and obedience to Allah (azza wa jal), sending salawat on the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) shows our love for him, our respect for him, and our obedience to him.

We must also remember that Rasul [the Messenger of] Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was only a man who does not possess any power to harm or benefit us. Many from amongst our Ummah have taken their love of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) to an extreme that is not only forbidden in our religion, but does the exact opposite of their intended goal. Worship is exclusive for Allah (azza wa jal) and obeying and loving the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) falls under the worship of Allah…

Read the whole thing, especially the “Benefits and Virtues of Salawat.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Suffering and Persecution, Mission Frontiers Jan-Feb 2010 Issue

Ralph Winter

Recapturing the Role of Suffering Nik Ripken (4 pages) [This is an important article on persecution and church planting.]

The testimony of believers living in the midst of persecution challenges the church in the West, and its emissaries, to recapture a biblical missiology—a missiology that is mature enough to embrace suffering, persecution, and even martyrdom. Believers in settings of persecution, through numerous interviews, suggest that the church in the West has lost its missiological edge and that it has grown soft in the face of overt persecution.

Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ John Piper (2 pages)

More and more I am persuaded from Scripture and from the history of missions that God’s design for the evangelization of the world and the consummation of his purposes includes the suffering of his ministers and missionaries. To put it more plainly and specifically, God designs that the suffering of his ambassadors is one essential means in the triumphant spread of the Good News among all the peoples of the world.

The Other Side of the Cross: Suffering and the Glory of God Bob Sjogren (2 pages)

A contemporary worship song includes these lines for the believer to voice to Christ: "Like a rose, trampled on the ground, you took the fall and thought of me, above all."

Excuse me? Did Christ think of me “above all” while he was on the cross? The Scriptures don’t point us in that direction. Did he think of us on the cross? Yes. Above all? No. Let’s get this straight!

Just as there are two sides to a coin, so are there two sides to the cross. For generations, many in the Church have only known one side of the cross. It’s a side that can point to ease, safety and comfort. But it’s now time for the Church to grow up and look at the other side of the cross—the one that points us to suffering.

The first side we are all familiar with: Christ died for us. But there is a second side to the cross: Christ died to magnify and vindicate the glory of his Father. This is the side with which we are unfamiliar. This is the side where we are weak and need to grow deep roots.

Read the entire issue.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Encountering the World of Islam Online Courses

Online Classes (

Take EWI Online!

Encountering the World of Islam is now available online for those who do not have a course available in their area.

EWI Online is a 12-week course featuring expert speakers and an online mentor with experience living among Muslims. Students will complete each lesson's work and assignments at their convenience and discuss the week's material using discussion forums. Though the class is not self-paced, there are no live online sessions required.

Course Assignments
To complete this course online, students will have weekly assignments, including: textbook readings, downloading and listening to audio or video lectures, and online discussions with other class members. In addition, students must meet a Muslim and visit an Islamic center in their local area and take four quizzes and one exam online. A certificate will be issued for successful course completion.

Software Requirements
To take EWI Online, you will need Internet access, a valid email address and the ability to download and listen to mp3 files; viewing lectures as streaming video is optional.

Course Fees
Tuition for EWI Online is $229.00 and includes a course textbook shipped to you (international shipping requires an additional fee).

See Online Classroom Registration Instructions for information on how to register for an online class.

Upcoming course dates:

Winter 2010 will begin January 4, 2010.  Register now.

Questions? Contact us at

Monday, December 14, 2009

5 Reasons the Gospel is “Inimical” to the Islamic Worldview

Here are the reasons from Muslims themselves at

“Question: “I want to know why didn’t Muhammad die for your sins?” -John  [I wonder if “John” thought he stumped them with this question?]

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.

First of all, it is to be made clear that the entire concept of someone dying for our sins is in utter contradiction with the Islamic view of the nature of man and God. In Islam, every individual is responsible for his/her own salvation. Everyone, male or female, can directly approach God without any intermediary of a prophet, saint or priest.

Answering the question you raised, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto,Ontario, Canada, states:

It seems to me that you are coming from a Christian background. In order for you to be able to understand the Islamic position, it is important to be clear about certain points.

First, Islam, unlike Christianity, does not teach a concept of “original sin”. Adam’s sin was his and his alone; and, according to the Qur’an (for the Qur’anic narration of the story of Adam and Eve, see: the Qur’an: 2: 30-39; 7: 19-25; 17: 61; 18: 50; 20: 116-122, etc.), God forgave both Adam and Eve when they turned to God in repentance; accordingly they were once again restored to divine mercy. Hence, there is no concept of Adam passing on to his progeny an original sin, and therefore no need for stipulating a redeemer for such sins.

Second, as there is no original sin, every one is born into a state of fitrah, a state of natural innocence; sin is acquired later by our own conscious and willful actions. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Every child is born into a state of fitrah (natural state of innocence.)”

Third, Islam teaches that God is All-Compassionate and All-Merciful; He is not bound by the rule of a blood sacrifice in order to forgive His servants. To assume that God can forgive only by accepting a blood sacrifice and therefore to state that Jesus or Muhammad died for our sins is not acceptable in Islam. Allah says: (O My servants who have wronged against their souls! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy! For Allah forgives all sins; for He is indeed Forgiving, Compassionate. Turn to your Lord repentant, and submit to Him before the torment overtakes you when you shall not be helped.) (Az-Zumar 39: 53-54)

Fourth, Islam teaches that every individual is responsible for his/her own salvation. Not Abraham, or Moses, or Jesus, or Muhammad can save us; they are only capable of saving themselves through God’s grace. In the words of the Qur’an: (Whoever commits a sin commits it only against himself. Allah is Knowing, Wise.) (An-Nisa' 4: 111); (Allah does not charge a soul with more than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 286); (Each soul earns only on its own account, nor does any laden (soul) bear another’s load.) (Al-An`am 6: 164) (Whosoever goeth right, it is only for (the good of) his own soul that he goeth right, and whosoever erreth, erreth only to its hurt. No laden soul can bear another's load.) (Al-Israa' 17: 15)

Fifth, everyone, male or female, can directly approach God without any intermediary of a prophet, saint or priest. God is closer to us than our own jugular veins. Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an: (We verily created man and We know what his soul whispereth to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.) (Qaf 50: 16) (When My servants ask you about Me, tell them I am nigh, ready to answer the prayer of the suppliant when he prays to Me; therefore let them respond to Me and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way.) (Al-Baqarah: 186)

So, the entire concept of someone dying for our sins is inimical to the Islamic world-view or understanding of the natures of man and God. Islam beckons us all to respond to God’s message and receive His grace and salvation through faith, good works and leading a responsible moral and ethical life.

Excerpted, with some modifications, from:

Related Questions

- Is Man Born Sinful?

- Is the Prophet (PBUH) an Intermediary Between Man and Allah?

Allah Almighty knows best.”

How would you respond to this?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Discovering Church Planting

Here is a book I am currently reading onlineDiscovering Church Planting, An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and Hows of Global Church Planting, by J.D. Payne.  

Alan Hirsch said this about the book: “J.D. Payne has here gifted the church with a missiologically sound, theologically literate, and practically thorough guidebook on the vital task of multiplication church planting.  Of the plethora of books on the subject, this is a standout work.”

(If you subscribe to Circumpolar via email or a reader, and you can’t see the Google book reader below, view this post on the blog.)

The 25 chapters of the book are organized into four sections, (1) Discovering Biblical and Theological Foundations, (2) Discovering Missiological Principles, (3) Discovering Historical Paradigms, and (4) Discovering Contemporary Issues.

In a recent interview, the author J.D. Payne said this about the purpose of the book: “I begin by ironically writing that ultimately the book is not about church planting, but Kingdom expansion through disciple-making. While there are many ways to plant churches, biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Therefore, a heavy focus of this book is about Kingdom growth through the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and yes, churches. As the gospel transforms lives and churches are planted, those new Kingdom citizens must set out to expand the Kingdom by living according to a Kingdom Ethic, thus transforming their societies with the gospel.”  This sounds like a really helpful book!

Here are chapter summaries of his first 3 chapters.

Chapter 1. Understanding Biblical Church Planting

  1. There is no command in the Bible to plant churches.
  2. It is in the process of making disciples that churches are planted. [We are told to make disciples, not plant churches. It is out of a disciple making movement that churches are planted.]
  3. Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.
  4. Church planting is at the intersection of ecclesiology and missiology.
  5. A theological framework for church planting should at least include missio dei, incarnation, and the Kingdom of God.
  6. A Great Commission theology supports the missionary practice of church planting.
  7. The four necessities of church planting are (1) sowers, (2) seed, (3) soil, and (4) Spirit.

Chapter 2. Ecclesiology and Church Planting Part 1

  1. How church planters answer the question, What is the church? influences their strategies, methods, and philosophies related to global disciple making.
  2. Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches.
  3. The Bible is the starting point of the development of a biblical ecclesiology.
  4. Church planters should work to plant indigenous/ contextualized churches.
  5. Indigenous churches are self-identifying, self-teaching, self-expressing, self-governing, self-propagating, self-supporting, and self-theologizing.
  6. A paternalistic ecclesiology forces the church culture of the church planters onto the newly planted churches because it is believed that the church planters’ culture is best.
  7. A pragmatic ecclesiology assumes that a particular expression of the church is healthy and beneficial to all because it “works.”

Chapter 3. Ecclesiology and Church Planting Part 2

  1. The New Testament refers to a universal and a local expression of the body of Christ.
  2. In the New Testament those who are part of the [universal] Church are also part of a [local] church.
  3. It is very important for church planters to understand Jesus’ teachings on the C/church as well as the biblical metaphors describing the C/church.
  4. The church consists of kingdom citizens in accordance with the kingdom ethic as described in the Scriptures.
  5. The kingdom ethic involves the relationships between kingdom citizens with God, other kingdom citizens, and those outside the kingdom.
  6. The church comes into existence as the Holy Spirit brings baptized believers together who understand and identify themselves as the local expression of the Church.

Buy the book.

The Essence of the Church, Julien

Quoted in Discovering Church Planting, pg 44:

“In his article, “The Essence of the Church,” Tom Julien discussed the fact that many church planters often define the local church in terms of their cultural preference, which can lead to problems on the field.  Julien admonished church-planting teams first to come to an agreement on what the local church is so they will know what they are planting.

Our problem is that we identify the local church by her cultural and historic expression, more than by her biblical essence. To arrive at a clear definition of the local church we must make a distinction between the two. Sluggish thinking here will lead to differing assumptions in the church-planting team that will affect the basic principles of any church-planting ministry. The more focused we are on essence, the less attachment we will have to any particular cultural expression of the church. On the other hand, if the form or cultural expression of the church becomes our reference point, adapting to different cultural situations will create tension.

The New Testament reveals the church both in her essence and expression. With regard to the essence of the church, this revelation is given in images and presented as fact; with respect to the cultural expression of the church, this revelation is given as example and is descriptive rather than prescriptive…

Let us come back to our original question: "What is a local church?" We have said that a local church is a visible manifestation of the biblical essence. Most of us, however, need something more concrete to work with. It is crucial that every church-planting team agree on a working definition, in concrete terms, that grows out of essence, and not expression. This definition must include those elements that are indispensable to the identity of a church, and omit those that are not. This definition identifies the seed for church planting.

Here is an attempt at such a definition. Members of every church-planting team need to be unified with respect to what they are planting, even if it takes months of struggle to agree.

A local church is an organized body of baptized believers, led by a spiritually qualified shepherd, affirming their relationship to the Lord and to each other by regular observance of the Lord's Supper, committed to the authority of the Word of God, gathering regularly for worship and the study of the Word, and turned outward to the world in witness.”

Taken from Tom Julien, “The Essence of the Church,” EMQ April 2008.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Do we share a common love for God?

Part of the latest meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society met to discuss “A Common Word Between Us and You” and the controversy surrounding it with various Evangelical and Muslim leaders.  (Read here for more background information.)

Desiring God has made the panel discussion available on audio.  I thought the discussion was very interesting.  Interfaith dialogue is new between mainstream Muslims and Evangelicals- it seems a bit bumpy so far.  Here are some of the audio portions of the panel:

  • Muslim Perspectives on the Writing of "A Common Word"
  • Christian Defenses of the Yale Response to "A Common Word"
  • Christian Objections of the Yale Response to a “A Common Word”
  • Q&A (this was the best portion, very interesting)

    Piper objects to the dialogue because he feels the common ground that forms the basis for the dialogue (love for God and love for neighbor) doesn’t exist.  Here is part of what he said:

    “What is the central summons of A Common Word? The phrase “a common word between us and you” is taken from the Qur’an (Aal ‘Imran 3:64; A Common Word, p. 13). Quoting God, it says, “O People of the Scripture [Jews and Christians]! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God . . . .” This quotation is important because it makes clear that the central summons of A Common Word is not that we agree as monotheists on the formal principles that love to God (whoever he is) and love to neighbor (whoever they are) are a formal common ground. That may be true. But what the quotation from the Qur’an makes clear is that the central summons of A Common Word is that Christians and Muslims actually love the same God…

    It’s clear from the phrase “our common love for God” that those who wrote this either misspoke (which is unlikely, since too many other traits of the document point in this direction) or that they agree with A Common Word that the common ground for Christian-Muslim dialogue is not a formal similarity in our religions but, in fact, a shared love for the one true God and for our neighbor.

    The flaw in the common ground proposed by A Common Word and embraced by the Yale Response is that Jesus makes clear that this common ground does not exist. And my contention would be that this absence of such common ground must be made explicit—not to destroy dialogue or to undermine peace, but (from the Christian side) for the sake of forthright, honest, biblically faithful, Christ-exalting, trust-preserving dialogue, and for the sake of truth-based, durable peace.

    • Jesus said, “I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him” (John 5:42-43). When Jesus says, “receive him,” he means receive him for who he really is: the divine, eternal Son of God who lays down his life for the sheep and takes it up again in three days. If a person does not receive him in this way, that person, Jesus says, does not love God.
    • Jesus said, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:22-23). When Jesus says, “Honor the Son who sent him, he means honor the Son for who he really is as the divine, eternal Son of God who laid down his life for the sheep and took it up again in three days. The person who does not honor him in this way, Jesus says, does not honor God.
    • Jesus said, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:18-19). This means “know” Jesus for who he really is. So the person who does not know Jesus as the divine, eternal, crucified, risen, Son of God does not know God.

    Historically Muslims do not know Jesus, honor Jesus, or receive Jesus for who he really is—the divine, eternal, Son of God, who laid down his life on the cross for sinners and rose again the third day. Therefore, Jesus says, such Muslims do not know God and do not honor God and do not love God. As offensive as this is, Jesus said it to the most Bible-saturated, ritually disciplined, God-aware, religious people of his day.

    Therefore, the central summons of A Common Word, shared by the Yale Response, is deeply flawed. In fact, the proposed common ground does not exist. I believe there is a better way forward among Christian and Muslim scholars and clergy. From the Christian side, it will be honest, biblically faithful, cross-centered, Christ-exalting, trust-preserving dialogue.

    I believe with all my heart that, as forgiven sinners, who owe our lives to blood-bought grace alone, we Christians can look with love and good will, and even tender-hearted compassion, into the eyes of a Muslim and say: I do not believe you know God or honor God or love God. I hope through our conversation that you will see the truth and beauty of Christ-crucified and risen for the sins of everyone who trusts him. And if we were threatened right now, I hope that I would lay down my life for you.

    If love toward God is to be spoken of as essential to Christian faith, it must be spoken of the way the apostle John does: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10).”

    Piper’s response certainly raises a lot of issues.  I think readers of Circumpolar would all agree that Jesus is the only way to God and that all people are eternally lost without Christ.  But the question is: Do Muslims and Christians believe in the same God?  And do Muslims love or honor God, even if they try without Christ?

    What do you think?

  • Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Muslim Followers of Jesus? Lausanne Global Conversation

    From the Lausanne Global Conversation:
    “We invite you to join the conversation on Muslim-background believers.

    Can one be a Muslim and a follower of Jesus? Yale University scholar Joseph Cumming lays the foundation for the conversation in his article Muslim Followers of Jesus?
    Selected writers respond:
    Also see more on the topic from around the web.
    Join in the conversation by Adding Your Response.”


    Monday, November 30, 2009

    A Vision for Team, by A.H.

    Here is one man's dream for healthy teams and effective ministry, called A Vision for Team.  His "5 Areas of Togetherness" that build or indicate health include a team that:
    1. Lives together
    2. Grows together
    3. Works together
    4. Prays together
    5. Plays together
    "Build a healthy team, and you will have an effective ministry."

    Read the whole thing (4 pages).

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Eid al Adha

    Eid al Adha or "Festival of the Sacrifice" is coming up on Friday.  The cause for the celebration is the remembrance of Ibrahim's near sacrifice of his son in obedience to Allah.  I heard some local MBBs in our country consider this Eid to be their "Easter" and the Eid at the end of Ramadaan to be their "Christmas." Ramadaan celebrates the giving of the Word or Qur'an- the local MBBs celebrate the giving of the Word of God who is Jesus (An Nissa 4:171; Al Imran 3:45). 

    This Eid is a special time for followers of Jesus to witness.  Here are two simple points I generally make during Eid al Adha:

    1. The Qur'an tells the story of the sacrifice by ending with "we redeemed him with a great sacrifice" (As Saffat 37:107).  (Arabic: وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ)  During this time I often tell the shaddah from the Injeel: "There is no God except God and no mediator between him and between the people except the man Christ Jesus who sacrificed himself to redeem all people" (1 Tim. 2:5-6).  I ask them "How can the ram be considered "great"?  Who is great except God alone?  The Messiah is our rescuer who sacrificed himself in our place for our redemption.
    2. As you may know, the Qur'an calls Mohammed the "seal of the prophets" (Al Izhab 33:40). (Arabic: خَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ)  Muslims take this to mean that Mohammed is the last, superseding, and ultimate prophet of God (who in effect makes all previous prophets irrelevant).  Taking this phrase, I call Jesus the "seal of the sacrifices" (Arabic: خاتم التضحيات).

    Generally, using this phraseology from the Qur'an has been helpful for me.  I am interested to hear if it is helpful for you or even what you think about it.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    The Gospel in Three Words

    The gospel in three words: "

    “Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.”

    —J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: 1993), 214"

    HT: KM

    What would be your 3 word definition?

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Hajj Paves Way to Paradise

    The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Hajj Paves Way to Paradise: "Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "The performance of `Umrah is expiation for the sins committed between it and the previous ones. And the reward for Hajj Mabrur (pilgrimage accepted by Allah) is nothing but Paradise." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, Book 27, hadith no. 1)"

    I want to look up the Arabic word for "expiation" in this verse- does anyone know of a good online Hadith viewer that shows Arabic-English?

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Authentic Publishing Offers Free Missions eBook Download (Brigada)

    Authentic Publishing offers free missions eBook download: "To serve global Christian community and accommodate the growing demand for digital books, Authentic Books is now offering titles in e-book formats through

    Their Marketing Dir., Mike, wrote recently, “Our passion is to equip the missional community with great content. With our e-books, people anywhere in the world have the ability to select a book and be reading in seconds.” Dworak sees digital formats being particularly useful in areas of the world where print titles are unwieldy or too expensive to order and ship. And in countries that restrict access to Christian materials, digital downloads can provide isolated believers with essential resources. To celebrate the launch into e-publishing, Authentic is offering visitors to its website a free ebook and a monthly e-newsletter. Books come with a satisfaction guarantee and will be replaced free if customers are not happy with them."

    Here are 4 of the 9 books they are offering for free:

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Identity and Community

    I have been thinking a lot about "identity" recently.  So as I was reading Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (2008), this quote jumped out at me (pg. 39):
    The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God.  It is not a divine afterthought.  It is not an accident of history.  On the contrary, the church is God's new community.  For his purpose conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals as so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory. (Stott, The Living Church, 2007, pgs.19-20).
    Here are some other quotes from the Chapter 2 "Why Community?":
    An identity that I construct for myself is far removed from an identity I receive by grace (40).

    The Bible shows that we are communal creatures, made to be lovers of God and of others (40).

    I cannot be who I am without regard to other people (41).

    If the church is the body of Christ, then we should not live as disembodied Christians (41).

    The church gives us a new community and a new identity (41).

    The church, then, is not something additional or optional.  It is at the very heart of God's purposes.  Jesus came to create a people who would model what it means to live under his rule.  It would be a glorious outpost of the kingdom of God, an embassy of heaven.  This is where the world can see what it means to be truely human (50).

    Our identity as human beings is found in community.  Our identity as Christians is found in Christ's new community.  And our mission takes place through communities of light (50).
    More on Total Church here, including 3 videos on "Community Training" and a pdf study guide of the book.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Defining Cultural and Religious Identity

    I recently returned from the Common Ground conference.  I am planning on posting more about the conference later, but Common Ground Consultants are a group who advocate that Muslims who come to Christ should retain their identity as Muslims, the so called "insider movement."  They emphasize incarnational movements to Christ within the fabric of Islam. 

    Here is the big question: Should a Muslim who follows Jesus remain a Muslim?  How you answer that question depends greatly on your meaning of the word "Muslim."  And part of the the way you understand Muslim depends on your definition of identity.  Here is how the July-Aug 2008 edition of Mission Frontiers defines Muslims as a sociorelious category (pg. 19):
    From a sociological perspective, Muslims are people who have a social identity as members of a traditionally Muslim community. They may be religiously observant or secularly nominal, but they are in the same socioreligious group, that of Muslims. For many Muslims, being a Muslim is an inseparable part of their self-identity, their background, their family, their community, and their cultural heritage, regardless of what they actually believe about God. It is this everyday sociological sense of the term “Muslim” that is used in what follows.
    So this definition appears to say that "religious identity" and "cultural identity" are inseparable.  Certainly there is a lot of overlap, but is it possible to distinguish between the two?  How can one be united with Christ spiritually and have a religious identity (i.e. not a cultural identity) as a Muslim? (It is highly probably that I am missing the point somewhere.)

    I really need YOUR HELP on this.  In the comments section of this post, please define
    1. cultural identity, and
    2. religious identity.

    And if these two are inseparable, then please explain why.  Or are there other categories we should also define first?

    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    Discussing the Holy Books

    One of the many reasons I am glad to have read the entire Qur'an is to tell Muslims I have done so.  This honors them and gives me greater credibility in sharing what I believe about the Messiah.  But it is also a way to diffuse an attack.  A friend recently sent me this simple metaphor he shares with Muslims:
    "If there are two science teachers at the local college, one of which has only read one science book in his entire life, and the other of which has read every science book, which of the two would your rather study under? Which of the two would you say is more informed?"
    Most Muslims have never even seen the Tawrat, Zabur, or Injeel.  It is one of my great pleasures in life to introduce Muslims to the Bible.

    HT: JS

    The Least Number of Workers

    Lausanne World Pulse - A Glance at Religions around the World:
    "The least-evangelized groups of people with the highest populations in the world still get the least number of missionaries. Just over twenty-five percent of Protestant foreign missionaries are focused on the two-thirds of the world which is predominately non-Christian—and most of them are ministering among already-reached groups! Over twenty-seven percent of the world’s population is part of people groups who have no or very little access to the gospel. Furthermore, in terms of finances, less than one percent of U.S. church giving goes to support mission work among these least-served groups."
    HT: Missions Catalyst

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Thanks Missions Catalyst!

    The Missions Catalyst blog is a great resource I recommend for those who want to keep up to date with missions around the word.  It is updated weekly and has about 5,000 subscribers.  On their 10/28/09 issue, Circumpolar was featered.  Here was the post:

    WEBSITES: Mission-related Blogs
    A few months ago we wrote about using Twitter for mobilization and asked readers who they follow. Readers over at Brigada Today have been discussing Facebook. In this changing world of social media, blogging seems almost old-school, doesn't it?

    But did you know that many missionaries and mission activists keep blogs? Some of these blogs are really interesting and helpful. We'll just highlight a few:

    Missions Launch provides information, resources, and other practical support for those undertaking global mission efforts, long-term or short-term.

    A Big Mission brings us an Asian perspective about Christian mission in Asia and Asian missionaries.

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

    Check 'em out. This site can introduce you to 475 more.

    ->-> Go to the Missions Catalyst site and leave a comment to let us know about your favorite mission-related blogs!
    And here is another blog that will interest you: Telling Secrets by Marti Smith.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Polygamy and Discipleship

    Here are some words from Mark Driscoll that apply to our Muslim friends.

    Various cults, aberrant sects, and perverts make the case that the Bible does mention polygamy and so it is biblically acceptable. However, they fail to acknowledge that the Bible speaks of human sin from beginning to end to show the evil horrors of sin. Therefore, just because something is in the Bible does not mean that God approves of it, as is the case with the rapes, murders, and adulteries reported throughout Scripture.

    There are many biblical and practical reasons why polygamy is sinful and harmful.
    1. The first man to take more than one wife was the godless man Lamech (Genesis 4:19–24).
    2. Some of the Old Testament patriarchs did practice polygamy, and it never honored God. For example, Abram married Hagar in addition to Sarai. The results of this polygamy are truly tragic, as is the case with other instances of adultery and polygamy in Scripture. Abram slept with Hagar and she bore him a son. God promised that Hagar’s son would become the father of a great nation because he was a son of Abram, though not the son of the promise (which would eventually be Isaac). God promised that Ishmael would be a “wild donkey of a man” and that he would be a warrior in hostility with his brothers who would descend from Abram. Ishmael was born to a Hebrew father and Egyptian mother and became the father of the Arab nations that to this day are in hostility with Jews and Christians alike, as promised.
    3. The disaster of polygamy is illustrated by Lamech and Adah and Zillah in Genesis 4:19–24, Esau and Mahalath and other wives in Genesis 28:6–9, and Jacob and Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29:15–30. None of these occurrences was godly or good.
    4. The Bible repeatedly shows that polygamy is wrought with favoritism, fighting, jealousy, and mistreatment (e.g., Genesis 35:22; 38:18–28; 2 Samuel 3:2–5; 13:1–29; 15–18; 1 Kings 11:1–4).
    5. The New Testament church elders who serve as the pattern for Christian families are to be one-woman men and not polygamists (1 Timothy 3:2, 12).
    6. God’s intention is that each man would have one wife (Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4–6).
    7. Marriage is ultimately a picture of Jesus’ loving relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22–33; Revelation 19:6–9). Jesus is faithful to one bride, the church, as the pattern for all marriages."
    All this begs another question: what should a Muslim man who turns to Christ do if he has married more than one women?

    Here is one solution I have heard: a polygamist who comes to Christ should not divorce any of his wives, but cease sexual relationships with with his later wives while continuing to provide for them.

    But even this seems unfair to the women.  And what should a woman follower of Jesus do if she is a second or even third wife?  Looking forward to hearing from you on this difficult issue- weigh in on the comments section.  I know some of the subscribers of this blog are discipling guys with multiple wives.

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    Propitiation as the Ground for Christus Victor

    The "Christ the Victor" approach is a helpful way to present the Gospel to Muslims because, among other things, it goes straight to many Muslims' felt needs- a fear of Satan, demons, and jinn.  Many Muslims in the world live in constant anxiety of the unseen world, so sharing Jesus as the one who has defeated Satan can be helpful starting point for talking about the cross.  Interestingly, the Christus Victor theme appears first in the Biblical storyline of the Messiah (Gen. 3:15).

    But it is important to relatize how Jesus' victory over Satan relates to Jesus' substitutionary death for our sins.  "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).  How does Jesus' death constitute a victory over Satan? Keep reading.

    Propitiation as the Ground for Christus Victor: "
    John Murray:

    Redemption from sin cannot be adequately conceived or formulated except as it comprehends the victory which Christ secured once for all over him who is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air . . .

    [I]t is impossible to speak in terms of redemption from the power of sin except as there comes within the range of this redemptive accomplishment the destruction of the power of darkness.
    (Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, p. 50)
    Colossians 2:14-15 is a key verse in this regard.

    Paul lists two results of Christ’s work on the cross: (1) Christ disarmed the rulers and authorities, and (2) he publicly shamed them.

    How? By triumphing over them in himself.

    So how does Christ bearing God’s wrath for sinners, taking their sin as a substitute, constitute a victory over Satan?

    George Smeaton (1814–1889), Professor of Exegetical Theology at New College, Edinburgh, provides the answer.

    Sin was (1) the ground of Satan’s dominion, (2) the sphere of his power, and (3) the secret of his strength; and no sooner was the guilt lying on us extinguished, than his throne was undermined, as Jesus Himself said (John 12:31). When the guilt of sin was abolished, Satan’s dominion over God’s people was ended; for the ground of his authority was the law which had been violated, and the guilt which had been incurred. . . .

    [A]ll the mistakes have arisen from not perceiving with sufficient clearness how the triumph could be celebrated on His cross. (The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1870), 307–308; my emphasis and numbering)
    In other words, Satan’s power is based on sin and guilt; Christ’s death meant the ultimate death of sin, guilt, and death itself; and thus Satan was ultimately defanged by Christ’s atoning work.

    As Smeaton says, “it was on God’s part at once a victory and a display of all God’s attributes, to the irretrievable ruin, dismay, and confusion of satanic powers.”

    So it’s not Christus Victor (Christ defeating his enemies) instead of propitiation (Christ bearing God’s wrath)–rather, it’s Christus Victor because of propitiation. Both are gloriously important, but only in that order."

    What are the other benefits of the "Christus Victor" approach in sharing the Gospel with Muslims?

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Followers of Jesus in Islamic Mosques, Tennent IJFM Fall 2006

    Last night I posted an article on C5 contextualization that I liked, only to realize tonight after reading Followers of Jesus (Isa) in Islamic Mosques: A Closer Examination of C-5 "High-Spectrum" Contextualization that what I liked about it was the C4 parts!

    The article was written by Timothy Tennent and is now a chapter in a book he later published. I encourage you to read the whole article (15 pages). Here are Tennent’s conclusions from the Biblical/Exegetical section (pg. 109):

    In conclusion, this survey demonstrates that the key texts and the commentaries/expositions about these texts in C-5 literature fall into two general categories: 1. Texts and commentary which actually support C-4 and are not germane to the C-5 discussion. 2. A wide-spread use of proof-texting whereby a pre-determined conclusion has already been reached and then texts are found which provide some kind of vague support for the idea.
    From the Theological section (pg. 111-112):

    In conclusion, an examination of the current evidence of the theological content of C-5 believers in Jesus as well as the general theological framework of the advocates of C-5 reveals the following. First, C-5 writings tend towards theological reductionism by tacitly embracing a narrow, minimalistic view of salvation. If these new believers are not encouraged to unite their fledgling faith with the faith of the church, then it is unlikely that these new believers will be able to properly reproduce the faith, which is the whole reason the C-5 strategy exists; namely, to reduce every possible barrier so that the gospel can more easily reproduce among Muslims. Second, the theological framework and analysis present in C-5 writings has been overly influenced by Western individualism and the privatization of faith which tends to keep the doctrines of soteriology and ecclesiology at arms length. Joshua Massey concedes this point when he observes that “C-5 nomenclature was quickly adopted by those whose theology of mission is more Christ-centered than church-centered.” While Massey is quite correct in criticizing an ecclesiology which merely extends a Western, structural form of Christianity into the Muslim world, we must not forget that we cannot have a Christ-centered theology of mission which does not place the church at the center of Christ’s redemptive plan. Rejecting this old “proselyte-model” does not and should not necessitate a rejection of a proper ecclesiology. Indeed, as Lesslie Newbigin has pointed out, “true conversion involves both a new creation from above…. [and] also a relationship with the existing community of believers.” To encourage Muslim believers to retain their self-identity as Muslims and to not find practical ways to identify themselves with the larger community of those who worship Jesus Christ reveals a view of the church that is clearly sub-Christian.

    Finally, the separation of the ‘personal’ from the ‘propositional’ in the Muslim world can only lead to a dangerous separation of the person of Christ from the church’s proclamation about Christ. This separation fails to attend to the proper connection between our personal testimony (however thrilling and exciting) and the Apostolic proclamation of the gospel. This is not just a hypothetical concern, as this dichotomy has already begun to emerge in such articles as, “Proclaiming a ‘Theologyless’ Christ” by Herbert Hoefer, a leading proponent of ‘high spectrum’ contextualization. Hoefer writes, “Can we look upon the church as a house with many doors? It doesn’t matter which door you use to enter. As you explore the house, you will come to the fullness of truth. The key to each door in the house is the acceptance of Jesus as Lord of one’s life. How one explains that is a matter of freedom and creativity, in consultation with the others in the house.” The unintended result of this view is that personal experience can be used to ignore the specifics of the Apostolic proclamation. Or to put it in the popular terminology of post-modernism, the Apostolic ‘meta-narrative’ takes a back seat to the personal narratives of those who come to Christ. However, our personal faith in Christ must be brought into resonance with the Apostolic proclamation about Christ. Undoubtedly, millions of people come to Christ every year with a deficient theology. But it is central to the task of discipleship to help new believers conform their faith to the faith of the church. Pragmatism and cultural accommodations can never be allowed to trump the theological integrity of the gospel message. This is not to raise questions about the justification of any of these new believers, but rather it is a commitment to make sure that from the very beginning we are committed to raising up believers whose personal faith resonates with the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
    From the Ethical Issues section (pg 113):

    In short, one’s religious identity with Jesus Christ creates a necessary rupture with one’s Islamic identity or our identity in Jesus Christ would mean nothing. It is unethical to pretend this discontinuity does not exist or to act as if it is merely a matter of cultural forms. Rather, as I have often been told by missionaries who work in the Islamic world, it is more like a ‘fifth column’ inside Islam which, when discovered by Muslims creates such a strong negative reaction that it inadvertently damages the credibility of Christians and feeds further distrust towards those who follow Christ. A more open witness in a straightforward, but contextually sensitive way seems to hold the greatest promise for effective and ethical Christian penetration into the Muslim world.
    From the Conclusion (pg. 113):

    I think that the best approach is to see C-5 as a temporary, transitional bridge by which some Muslims are crossing over into explicit Christian faith, hopefully to one of a C-3 or C-4 character. On the one hand, a wide number of C-3 and C-4 church movements have long and distinguished track records showing that they are sustaining faith in the lives of MBBs without major cultural disruption and yet maintaining historic Christian orthodoxy.
    Phil Parshall said this in response to the article (pg. 125):

    Thorough, thoughtful and respectful. Dr. Tennent has done a masterful job of incisively disecting the major issues that differentiate the C’s. Of all the writings on the subject, this is the work that goes deeper and broader in setting forth the problems many are experiencing with C5 or as it is also known, the “Insider Movement.”

    I so appreciated the theological focus. It is interesting how both C4 and C5 utilize the same Scriptures to bolster their positions. The exception is I Cor. 7:20, which I have never understood as a C5 apologetic. These verses are clearly on another track.

    Tennent more than adequately discounts the comparison of First Century Jewish converts to Christianity being aligned with 21st Century C5 “Insiders.” The differences loom too large to ignore.

    I would also agree that “Muslim Believer” would be a more appropriate term for C5 believers than “Muslim Background Believer.” However, some C5ers advocate only the identity of “Muslim” with no qualifier.

    One of my frustrations has been that the Insider Movement uses the same arguments to bolster their position as C4 folk do, and then make it sound like it originated with them. We C4 missionaries, for 30 years, have been an Insider Movement—have always advocated MBBs remaining in their culture, job, family, and sociological circle. Our strong position is to avoid what we consider to be theological and/or ethical compromise. I do recognize that we come out on different sides of the fence as to what comprises compromise!

    YES to C5 as a starting point, but always with a laser beam focus on going down the scale to C4 within an appropriate timeframe. And always with a focus on keeping MBBs maximally within their own sociological structures.

    Let me be clear. I have high esteem for my colleagues who are engaged in the “Insider” approach to Muslim ministry. I do not consider them to be ultra-pragmatists or purposefully deceitful. They long for the Kingdom to be extended. Our methodologies may, at times, be in conflict, but not our hearts’ desire that Muslims come to explicit faith in Christ.

    May our Lord be glorified as we seek to proclaim the “only name whereby men may be saved.”

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa, Travis IJFM Spring 2000

    Here is the conclusion of the 7 page article Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa: A Closer Look at C5 Believers and Congregations in the Spring 2000 issue of IJFM by John Travis:
    Some Muslims who receive Christ as Savior deliberately choose a C5 [Christ-centered Communities of "Messianic Muslims" Who Have Accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior] expression of faith, not for their own sake (e.g., Soleh was prepared to join a church), but for the sake of the lost who would be far less likely to receive truth from outsiders (i.e., "Christians"). Others, like Taufik and Achmad, love Jesus, but simply see staying in the Muslim community as something natural.
    There are surely points at which C5 believers must reject the theology of non-Messianic Muslims. Clearly, one can't affirm two completely opposite statements as true (e.g., "Jesus died on a cross," and "Jesus didn't die on a cross"). Therefore, C5 believers will be found to have "aberrant" beliefs. However, when confronted by family and friends with their deviance from Islamic orthodoxy, we have seen the Holy Spirit empower C5 believers to reply with amazing answers (Col. 4:6; Mt. 10:19, 20). They often present reinterpretations of particular Qur'anic verses, bringing much glory to Jesus.

    Furthermore, it should be noted that the "aberrance" of C5 Messianic theology almost pales in comparison to the "aberrance" of numerous folk beliefs and shamanistic Muslim practices that saturate popular Islam in our context. Therefore, the way in which C5 believers are received by the larger Muslim community will depend on a variety of factors such as tolerated Islamic heterodoxy, country, ethnicity, local politics, size of the local mosque, and so on. C5 may be appropriate in certain milieus, but not in others. Again, we need to affirm the diversity found throughout the C1-C6 spectrum.

    It is possible that C5 may only be a temporary option. Few case C5 studies have been documented, and none go back far enough to watch C5 dynamics across several generations of time. C5 may prove to only be a transitional stage, ending when believers choose, or are forced by the Muslim community, to leave Islam, thereby moving to another point on the C1-C6 spectrum. The first century Jews gathered regularly in the temple with non-Messianic Jews, and in homes with fellow Messianic Jews (Acts 2:46-47). However, in time Jewish authorities began expelling any Jew who believed Jesus was the Messiah. It is noteworthy that this separation of the two communities was not initiated by Jewish believers. Still, many Jews and Jewish leaders came to faith in the intermittent years. The same sequence of events could eventually happen to today's Messianic Muslims. Meanwhile, MBBs like Soleh who stay in their community may be used of God to usher millions of Muslims into His Kingdom.

    While we must be careful to guard against syncretism, we must also be mindful that ascent to perfect theological propositions is not the apex of the coming Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed. All our work must be judged according to Scripture. So let us pray for these infant, emerging C5 congregations. In particular, please join us in praying for Taufik, Achmad, Abdul, Soleh and all the people whom their witness touches.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Report: Nearly 1 in 4 people is Muslim

    Report: Nearly 1 in 4 people is Muslim: "(CNN) -- Nearly one in four people worldwide is Muslim -- and they are not necessarily where you might think, according to an extensive new study that aims to map the global Muslim population.

    Nearly two out of three of the world's Muslims are in Asia, stretching from Turkey to Indonesia.

    India, a majority-Hindu country, has more Muslims than any country except for Indonesia and Pakistan, and more than twice as many as Egypt.

    China has more Muslims than Syria.

    Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon.

    And Russia has more Muslims than Jordan and Libya put together.

    Nearly two out of three of the world's Muslims are in Asia, stretching from Turkey to Indonesia.

    The Middle East and north Africa, which together are home to about one in five of the world's Muslims, trail a very distant second.

    There are about 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, according to the report, "Mapping the Global Muslim Population," by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. That represents about 23 percent of the total global population of 6.8 billion.

    There are about 2.25 billion Christians, based on projections from the 2005 World Religions Database.

    Brian Grim, the senior researcher on the Pew Forum project, was slightly surprised at the number of Muslims in the world, he told CNN.

    "Overall, the number is higher than I expected," he said, noting that earlier estimates of the global Muslim population have ranged from 1 billion to 1.8 billion.

    The report can -- and should -- have implications for United States policy, said Reza Aslan, the best-selling Iranian-American author of "No God but God."

    "Increasingly, the people of the Middle East are making up a smaller and smaller percentage of the worldwide Muslim community," he told CNN by phone.

    "When it comes to issues of outreach to the Muslim world, these numbers will indicate that outreach cannot be focused so narrowly on the Middle East," he said.

    "If the goal is to create better understanding between the United States and the Muslim world, our focus should be on south and southeast Asia, not the Middle East," he said.

    He spoke to CNN before the report was published and without having seen its contents, but was familiar with the general trends the report identified.

    The team at the Pew Forum spent nearly three years analyzing "the best available data" from 232 countries and territories, Grim said.

    Their aim was to get the most comprehensive snapshot ever assembled of the world's Muslim population at a given moment in time.

    So they took the data they gathered from national censuses and surveys, and projected it forward based on what they knew about population growth in each country.

    They describe the resulting report as "the largest project of its kind to date."

    It's full of details that even the researchers found surprising.

    "There are these countries that we don't think of as Muslim at all, and yet they have very sizable numbers of Muslims," said Alan Cooperman, the associate director of research for the Pew Forum, naming India, Russia and China.

    One in five of the world's Muslims lives in a country where Muslims are a minority.

    And while most people think of the Muslim population of Europe is being composed of immigrants, that's only true in western Europe, Cooperman said.

    "In the rest of Europe -- Russia, Albania, Kosovo, those places -- Muslims are an indigenous population," he said. "More than half of the Muslims in Europe are indigenous."

    The researchers also were surprised to find the Muslim population of sub-Saharan Africa to be as low as they concluded, Cooperman said.

    It has only about 240 million Muslims -- about 15 percent of all the world's Muslims.

    Islam is thought to be growing fast in the region, with countries such as Nigeria, which has large populations of both Christians and Muslims, seeing violence between the two groups.

    The Pew researchers concluded that Nigeria is just over half Muslim, making it the sixth most populous Muslim country in the world.

    Roughly nine out of 10 Muslims worldwide are Sunni, and about one in 10 is Shiite, they estimated.

    They warned they were less confident of those numbers than of the general population figures because sectarian data is harder to come by.

    "Only one or two censuses in the world ... have ever asked the sectarian question," said Grim.

    "Among Muslims it's a very sensitive question. If asked, large numbers will say I am just a Muslim -- not that they don't know, but it is a sensitive question in many places," he said.

    One in three of the world's Shiite Muslims lives in Iran, which is one of only four countries with a Shiite majority, he said. The others are Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain.

    Huge as the project of mapping the world's Muslim population is, it is only the first step in a Pew Forum undertaking.

    Next year, the think tank intends to release a report projecting Muslim population growth into the future, and then the researchers intend to do the whole thing over again with Christians, followed by other faith groups.

    "We don't care only about Muslims," Grim said.

    They're also digging into what people believe and practice, since the current analysis doesn't analyze that.

    "This is no way reflects the religiosity of people, only their self-identification," Grim said. "We're trying to get the overall picture of religion in the world."

    Report: Top 10 Muslim countries, by population

    1. Indonesia: 202,867,000 (country is 88.2 percent Muslim)
    2. Pakistan: 174,082,000 (country is 96.3 percent Muslim)
    3. India: 160,945,000 (country is 13.4 percent Muslim)
    4. Bangaldesh: 145,312,000 (country is 89.6 percent Muslim)
    5. Egypt: 78,513,000 (country is 94.6 percent Muslim)
    6. Nigeria: 78,056,000 (country is 50.4 percent Muslim)
    7. Iran: 73,777,000 (country is 99.4 percent Muslim)
    8. Turkey: 73,619,000 (country is about 98 percent Muslim)
    9. Algeria: 34,199,000 (country is 98 percent Muslim)
    10. Morocco: 31,993,000 (country is about 99 percent Muslim)"

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Islam In Focus

    Here is a popular book about Islam written by a Muslim.  Just browsing the Table of Contents below is educational.  Notice how little "theology" there is compared with "law."  In my understanding, Islam assumes people are good by nature, yet forgetful.  Therefore the goal of Islamic spirituality is to give humankind constant reminders of how to live a life acceptable to God.

    You don't need to download the book from the link below- it is here.  (But if you do download it from the link below Dustin recommends software like Zipeg for the rar file.  I use WinRAR.)  Unfortunately the formatting of the PDF makes for a very difficult read.

    Islam In Focus: "

    Hammudah ‘Abd al ‘Ati Language: English Format: PDF Pages: 118 Size: 1.5 MB

    Newest available publication of this now famous book, thoroughly updated and edited, approved for sale by the Abdulati family. Published by amana publications. This book is the most popular written document on Islam. With its living and resourceful style, the book addresses both the young educated and the adult intellectual in a scholarly yet fresh and simple mode of thinking and presentation.

    Allah (God)…………..4
    THE MEANING OF ISLAM ……………………8

    The Concept of Faith (Iman) ……………………20
    THE CONCEPT OF LIFE ………………….24
    THE CONCEPT OF SIN…………………….26
    THE CONCEPT OF PEACE…………………….30

    THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER…………………..44
    THE KINDS OF PRAYER ……………………46
    THE TIMES OF PRAYER ……………………46
    The Fatihah (The Opening or Al-Hamd)……… 64
    THE FIRST PART……………………64
    THE SECOND PART ………………65
    THE FASTING (SAWM) ………………66
    WHO MUST FAST? ……………….70
    THE ALMS (ZAKAH)………..72
    THE RATE OF ZAKAH………..73
    THE PILGRIMAGE (HAJJ)………………..75

    THE SPIRITUAL LIFE ……………………79
    THE PERSONAL LIFE ……………………81
    Purity and Cleanliness ……………81
    Clothing and Adornment ……………..82
    Sports and Amusements…………. 83
    THE FAMILY LIFE ……………………..84
    The Meaning of Marriage ……………….85
    THE SOCIAL LIFE ……………….92
    THE ECONOMIC LIFE…………………95

    THE HOLY WAR ( JIHAD ) ……………107
    JESUS, SON OF MARY ………………..117

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    “What do missionaries do?” by Michael Griffiths « Until All Have Heard

    From : “What do missionaries do?” by Michael Griffiths « Until All Have Heard

    "THIS SEEMS A GLARINGLY obvious question, but I have found from experience that even Christians who ought to know better give a variety of vague answers that fall short of a biblical answer. To do good, to preach the gospel, to save souls, to heal the sick, to baptize bodies are all good and true answers, but fall short of what stands out a mile in the New testament account in Acts. What did those first apostolic missionaries like Paul, Barnabas, Silas and Timothy actually do? Certainly they did preach and teach, heal and serve – but why? For what purpose? Not just to save individual souls. Acts is absolutely clear. They planted churches.

    Now this is something that needs emphasizing. We live in a day of techniques, methodologies and specializations. Enthusiastic individuals found new movements and organizations specializing in evangelizing young people, students or hospital patients; or provide useful services by translating the Bible, flying airplanes, relieving famines, broadcasting, helping refugees, printing and distributing literature, or making a host of other excellent and worthy contributions to the Christian cause. We should note that most of these movements have arisen first in countries where there is already an existing network of local churches of various denominations. But we must never lose sight of the fact that such organizations are only auxiliary, ancillary, secondary and supplementary to the chief task of missions, which is to plant new churches.

    Unless we see this clearly, we shall be misled about the nature of missionary work. It is obviously excellent that the gospel should be preached by every possible means to all sorts of people, and that tracts should be widely distributed and every opportunity taken for witness. But we should not think that by doing so we have necessarily accomplished anything permanent and lasting. We know that for every thousand tracts distributed, only a few will be read and only a very few of those read in such a way as to bring people to faith in Christ. Again only a relatively small portion of non-Christians ever get into Christian meetings at all, and only some of those get converted.

    While all these specialized groups do a worthy work, then, they need to do it in such a way as to assist a solid church-planting work so that the growing church can nurture and build up those who may be reached by such methods. In recent years there has been a fresh realization that the local churches are the best soul-winning agencies there are.

    This biblical emphasis on a church-planting will also warn us of the grave limitations of short-term outreach in which young people spend a few weeks or months “blitzing” an area with the gospel. This kind of service is excellent for training, for enabling young people to see the immensity of the need; but on its own it is an inadequate means of planting churches. Church-planting requires the patient work and steady slog of preaching, teaching disciples and building them together into viable self-propagating congregations. This requires the ability to speak and teach clearly in the local language, to understand and respond to problems created by the local culture, and that knowledge of people, places and situations that make a Christian worker not only devoted, but relevant to the situation of people where they are. Above all, the church-planter needs to work in one place for an extended period of time.

    So quite unequivocally I want to stress that missionary work must always center on the local church –and that means that in pioneer areas, the primary, long-term task of missionaries must be to plant churches… Church-planters are the infantry of God’s army: there may be more colorful groups of cavalry, commandos, artillery, signals, engineers and ordinance, but they all exist to serve the main body so that they can win battles.

    Michael Griffiths “What on Earth Are You Doing?” (1983)"

    Related: Church Planting or Development? Word and Deed in Biblical Balance

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    talk of "the Christian West"

    My friend and quasi-professor "KM" (I will link to him when he starts his blog!) sent me this quote from D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited, p. 195-6, emphasis added:
    From a Christian point of view, it is unhelpful to speak of "the Christian West" or of "our Christian nation" or the like. In America, this is not only because of the legal force of the First Amendment (however that is interpreted) but also because nowadays the numeric shift in numbers of Christians, from West to East and from North to South, is so dramatic that such expressions sound increasingly parochial and out of date. Still more important, talk of "the Christian West" actually stifles the advance of the gospel in parts of the world where countervailing religions and ideologies want people to believe in the stereotype of the Christian West so that Christian claims can be dismissed as merely western. Above all, Christians who wish to be faithful to the Bible will remind themselves of their heavenly citizenship. Not to understand this is to identify too closely with the kingdoms and orders of this world, with disastrous results both materially and spiritually. As Peter Swift has put it, "If a Muslim becomes a Christian, the civilizational cost is self-evident; he becomes estranged from his roots, and those he leaves behind are dismayed at the civilizational defection their loved one has undergone. The cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus is to leave behind the civilizations of this world and find one's identity within the Kingdom of God. What a tragedy if that cost is cheapened by being perceived as a move westward rather than heavenward!" Of course, the complementary truth is that we do live here and now in some particular country [and culture], and as Paul can declare himself to be a Roman, so I may declare myself to be Ugandan, or Canadian, or Australian, or French, or Japanese. Certainly there ought to be no confusion for Christians as to where their primary identity lies, even while they remember that the Christian Scriptures themselves enjoin us to submit to the authority of the state except where doing so involves believers in disobedience to the God in whom all authority is finally grounded.
    One of the reasons why we should be very careful using the word, "Christian."  We want to be identified with King Jesus, not the "Christian West."

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    What is a church? Evans Definition

    From Wendell Evans, Church Planting in the Arab-Muslim World (Upper Darby, Pa.: Arab World Ministries, 1986), p. 2:
    A local church is a grouping of members of the universal church, with sufficient structure to demonstrate its corporate identity, within its given social and cultural context, and to carry out its corporate functions of worship, edification, and outreach.

    We have defined what we believe to be the essential elements of an autonomous functioning local church as:
    • Baptized believers.
    • Christian families.
    • Scripturally qualified and locally recognized leaders.
    • Meeting place(s) independent of the expatriate church planter.
    • Assumption of responsibility for finances and ministry by the local group.
    Source: EWI pg. 382

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Dealing with Judas

    Here is a short article called Dealing with Judas: Opportunity for Fear or Invitation to Faith? that has recently been sent to me by several people.  I don't know who wrote it and could not find it on the web.  Here are the main points:
    1. We can expect to find Judas within our inner circle.
    2. We can expect Judas to grow up within the movement-do not import him. 
    3. With God’s help, we can choose to deal with Judas ourselves-do not export him.
    4. We can learn to recognize Judas early.
    5. We can be aware that Judas often has money issues.
    6. Finally, we can reveal Christ in our midst by the way that we deal with Judas.
    Read the whole thing (6 pages).

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    The Praying Life

    The Praying Life: "
    Bob Thune reviews Paul Miller’s The Praying Life and includes a number of excellent quotes from the book
    • Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart.
    • If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life.
    • Less mature Christians have little need to pray… there is no complexity to their worlds because the answers are simple.
    • Cynicism is the air we breathe, and it is suffocating our hearts. Our only hope is to follow Jesus as he leads us out of cynicism.
    • The persistent widow and the friend at midnight get access, not because they are strong but because they are desperate. Learned desperation is at the heart of a praying life.
    • I do not understand prayer. Prayer is deeply personal and deeply mysterious. Adults try to figure out causation. Little children don’t. They just ask.
    • Everything you do is connected to who you are as a person and, in turn, creates the person you are becoming. Everything you do affects those you love. All of life is covenant.
    • We think spiritual things – if done right – should just ‘flow.’ But if you have a disability, nothing flows, especially in the beginning.
    • There is a tendency among Christians to get excited about ‘listening to God’ as if they are discovering a hidden way of communicating with God that will revolutionize their prayer lives… This subtly elevates an experience with God instead of God himself. Without realizing it, we can look at the windshield instead of through it.

      How would you love someone without prayer? People are far too complicated; the world is far too evil; and my own heart is too off center to be able to love adequately without praying.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Jim Belcher’s “Third Way” for the Church

    I read this book last week and highly recommend it. I couldn't put it down. Below is a review of the book from Kingdom People.

    Many of the issues related to church planting in the postmodern West are interestingly echoed in the Muslim world: the contextualization of biblical faith, how the gospel impacts worldview, and the nature of the church. 

    As Belcher looks for a "Third Way" between Traditional and Emerging, I feel in many ways that I am also looking for a third way between Rejectionist and Insider.

    Jim Belcher’s “Third Way” for the Church: "

    Just when you thought the Emerging versus Traditional conversation had arrived at the point where everyone was safely nestled in their own camps and set in their ways, a Presbyterian pastor comes on the scene and challenges our tacit approval of evangelical fragmentation.

    In Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (IVP, 2009), Jim Belcher proposes a ”third way” between Emerging and Traditional. Deep Church is for evangelicals who resonate with much of the Emerging Church’s critique of contemporary evangelicalism, and yet have misgivings about some of the proposed solutions of Emerging advocates. Using the term “deep church” from a 1952 letter written by C.S. Lewis, Jim proposes a way forward that focuses on the strengths of Traditional and Emerging churches.

    The book is as much narrative as theological analysis. Jim tells the story of his early involvement in the Emerging conversation. As he evaluates the Emerging critique, he visits actual churches. Far from being an armchair critic, Jim sets out to witness what the Emerging Church is like “on the ground.”

    Relying on Ed Stetzer’s division of the Emerging Church into Relevants, Reconstructionists and Revisionists, Jim then considers the validity of Emerging concerns regarding contemporary evangelicalism. In a parenthetical statement near the beginning of the book, he sets the tone of discussion by saying, ”I believe that even when I disagree with others, I can still learn from them.” (36)

    The central thrust of Deep Church is a call for unity around the central tenets of the faith. Jim seeks to ground our unity in the central confessions of ancient Christianity:
    “We are not ashamed of our tradition; we embrace it and practice it. But at the same time we desire and promote the broader unity of the church.” (65)
    Jim’s view has postmodern sensibility, and yet he steps back from fully embracing postmodern philosophy. He critiques Emerging leaders for “jumping on the postmodern bandwagon too quickly.” He sees problems with the idea that the community’s relational hermeneutic should be the final criterion for judging right from wrong. He writes:
    “Apart from revelation, there is nothing to hold a particular tradition, community or history accountable. There is no prophetic voice.” (83)
    Jim also evaluates the Emerging emphasis on bringing people into relationship with the church before they actually believe. In the Emerging mindset, belonging precedes believing – even on mission trips! Jim carefully considers the Traditional church’s criticism of this idea. In the end, he advocates a nuanced view that portrays the church’s proclamation of the gospel as a well. The well attracts people closer to conversion. But at some point, Jim believes there must be an inside-outside boundary.

    The chapter on the “deep gospel” is important. He agrees with Emerging leaders that the traditional understanding of the gospel has been reduced to individual salvation. But Jim ably exposes the reductionism in the Emerging view as well:
    “Brian McLaren’s view of the kingdom, which is supposed to be so liberating, tends toward legalism. Without God’s atoning grace, the message of the kingdom sounds like law. and this is, I believe, why so many of my college friends dropped out of Christianity. They could not pull it off.” (119)
    Regarding worship, Jim points us back to the ancient church:
    “Only the living tradition of the fourth and fifth centuries, passed on through the ages… can help us contextualize the gospel in our worship without it becoming syncretistic or ossified over time.” (134)
    Regarding preaching, Jim refuses to pit biblical narrative against systematic theology. He writes:
    “The pastors at Redeemer preach sermons rooted in the Bible – both the drama of salvation from each of the Testaments and the wonderful doctrines of Christianity.” (139)
    Deep Church is one of the best books to “emerge” about the Emerging Church. I found myself nodding my head in agreement with most of Jim’s critique and proposed solutions. And yet, I have a few misgivings of my own.

    First, as a Baptist, I disagree with the idea of setting such a “low bar for membership.” Jim’s church does not require members to subscribe to anything that is outside the bounds of Nicene Christianity:
    “Let me provide an example. To become a member of Redeemer Church you must be a Nicene Christian, committed to ‘living as becomes a follower of Christ’ and be willing to submit to the community. What about views on baptism? The Lord’s Supper? Politics? The end times? The anti-Christ? Although important and although we hold views on each of them, holding different views on these topics will not keep you from the Well of Redeemer and belonging to our church.” (158)
    I agree that some of the above examples should not be a hindrance to membership. But setting the bar this low appears very invidualistic.

    If some in the congregation believe in believer’s baptism by immersion and others believe in baptizing infants, what will take place?

    If some believe that women can and should be elders or pastors and others disagree, what will happen?

    If some believe in speaking in tongues during worship and others do not, how will that be handled?

    My question is this: Is it possible to have a high bar for local church membership (meaning, ask for a certain level of doctrinal unity on some secondary issues) and yet still demonstrate significant appreciation for other churches and denominations that disagree? I think so. I share a certain level of unity with Jim around the central tenets of the gospel and I agree with his “centered-set hermeneutic.”

    Regarding fellowship, I can cooperate with Jim as a Nicene Christian. Regarding local church membership, I belong to a Baptist church, which involves an additional level of unity on other issues. Can I still be a Nicene Christian and a convictional Baptist? Can I still be an advocate of “deep church” and have high bars for local church membership? I think so.

    On another note, I wonder what the reasons are for Jim’s emphasis on the fourth and fifth centuries. Jim advocates a return to our roots, to the pre-pragmatic era of Christianity. I am glad to see the emphasis on our heritage.

    But even as Jim admits “there is not a golden time to return to” (136), it appears that the fourth and fifth centuries serve as a quasi-Golden Age for the book. If we are going back so far, why stop at the fourth century? Why not return to the first?

    I like the Robert Webber-influenced “Ancient-Future” emphasis in this book, but I wish that Jim would have made a case for why it is appropriate that we return to the 400’s. Why not return to the 16th century? Or the 900’s? It appears to me that our post-Christian society is becoming more and more like the world before Constantine. I need more reasons for accepting that the Christendom era Jim describes is the most relevant to our day and age.

    Overall, Deep Church is a must-read for any pastor or church planter. Jim offers a proposal filled with gentle hope. If you have felt like you are caught in the crossfire between the Emerging and Traditional camps, you will enjoy insights of Jim Belcher and his hope-filled proposal for a united, stronger evangelicalism."