Thursday, March 29, 2012

Qur'anic Variants

From Unchanging Word:
There is a mistaken idea perpetuated in some circles that the Topkapi and Samarqand manuscripts in Turkey and Uzbekistan are "original" copies. However, experts agree that these are not Uthmān's copies, as they are written in the Kufic Arabic script which only appeared in the late eighth century. Furthermore, even the Uthmānic copies themselves were not originals, for they were compiled many years after Muhammad's (pbuh) death to standardize the variety among Qur'ānic texts.
Here are two charts that show some of the minor differences in some of the oldest copies of the Qur'an that we have.  The important thing is this - the minor differences (in red) do not necessarily change the overall meaning of a given passage, but they do prove that traditional Islamic teaching that the Qur'an descended from Heaven and is perfectly preserved in every way until the present is simply not true. (click to enlarge)

Not included in these charts are the variants found in the Sana'a Manuscripts, the contents of which are still being processed by scholars. Yemeni authorities, however, seem to be blocking scholars access to them because of their potentially devastating blow to traditional Islamic teaching on the incorruptibility of the Qur'anic text, so we may have to wait a while for more details.  In any event, the Sana'a Manuscripts, written in the Hijazi script and dating from the 8th C. AD / 2nd C. AH, appear to be the oldest copies of the Qur'an ever found.  They too contain numerous variants, including layered revisions of the text which are clearly visible. (shown here) 

For more on the topic of Qur'anic variants, click here

p.s. For our Muslim friends who read this blog
Dear brothers and sisters, please do not think that this post is an attempt to shame or humiliate Muslims, Islam, or the Qur'an.  Rather, it is simply meant to display the actual facts about this issue. You must decide for yourself what these facts mean about Islam and the Qur'an.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Who was St. Patrick?

Saint_patrick3He wasn’t Irish.  A Brit born in the 4th century, a third generation Christian, Patrick was the victim of an attack on his homeland and enslaved by the Irish when he was 16.  He escaped 6 years later.  After becoming a priest, he felt called by God to return to Ireland in order to win them for Christ.  How could a Brit be so honored by the Irish?  His ministry was really successful, because, according to Dana Robert (Kindle Locations 2006-2009):

Patrick's own writings give hints as to why his message appealed to the Irish. The first was the deep level of identification he felt with them. As do all good missionaries, he spent years among the Irish learning about their culture: he interpreted his enslavement as part of God's larger plan for his life task. He understood the Irish and knew their language. He spoke in idioms they understood, as is shown by the reference to his role as "hunter." He translated the deeper meanings of Christianity into Irish modes, helped no doubt by the Celtic roots he shared with them.

Patrick’s story is absolutely fascinating.  And so is the missiological analysis on him by Dana Robert.  I encourage you to read her chapter devoted to St. Patrick in Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (2009).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cranmer on Bible Translation Controversy

Below are some insightful excerpts on this issue from the well respected conservative blog Cranmer:
One of the problems (if not the principal one) is that the sound-bite ‘Wycliffe have removed the Son of God from the Bible’ is a much easier message to impart than a nuanced discussion about the nature of the Trinity, the vagaries of language and the imprecision of meaning. There are complex and legitimate questions to be asked about the way in which terms such as the ‘Son of God’ are translated in some contexts. These cannot easily be discussed on febrile blogs or in 140-character tweets. And those who have pledged to withhold their tithes as a result are acting like children.
All of Wycliffe’s translations are checked according to a set of standards agreed internationally by all Bible agencies. They would never publish a translation which systematically removed Jesus’ relationship to the Father and they certainly would not make translation choices in order to mitigate the offence of the Gospel of Christ. When many risk their lives in some hostile societies, the allegation of diluting or dumbing down Scripture is absurd.

The notion that translation can be effected by internet petition (by people many of whom will have very little understanding of the host culture situation) seems like the very worst kind of Western Christian arrogance. We may know what ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ mean in English, but it does not follow that they must have the same semantic range in another language. Who but the Greek and the scholar of Greek can know what is meant by huios? Who but the indigenous and the participant observer can begin to grapple with the difference and distinction between biological and social familial terms?
There is a long-standing convention in the missionary world that organisations do not give out the names or locations of those working in sensitive areas. All missionary organisations have agreed to this and it has been respected, until now. Some websites critical of Wycliffe and some of the emails in circulation make it possible to identify some of the people, missionaries and local believers who are in very sensitive situations. This is utterly irresponsible: indeed, it is an assault upon the work of God.
Read the whole thing here.

The article doesn't deny that perhaps some thorough examination of translation practice needs to happen as a result of all this.  There may be, in fact, serious revisions needed.  But the point is, this is not such a clear-cut "win" or "lose", "right" or "wrong" issue as the petitioners would have us believe.  And it and has caused no small amount of tension in the body through finger pointing, name calling, and other knee-jerk reactions by all sorts of individuals, churches, and ministries who either don't understand the real issues, or disagree with the view of others.  Thankfully, Wycliffe and Frontiers have not resorted to this kind of behavior, and their leadership is to be commended for that. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Miraculous Movements: An Interview with Jerry Trousdale – Part 2

Yesterday I began an interview with Jerry Trousdale about his new book Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus.  Read Part 1 here.

4. The church planters in your book are all Africans. What role do Western missionaries have in Africa?

Our experiences in Muslim background church planting in Africa since 2005 is spread across 45 people groups that are 99-100% Muslim (with 3,586 simple churches) and 31 more peoples that are 60-98% Muslim, in addition to less Islamized peoples in 18 countries of West Africa, the Horn of Africa, East Africa, and Central Africa.

Since 2009 all of the leaders of Cityteam International’s African team are Africans. Some of our 350 partner ministries in Africa have Westerners on their disciple making teams but collectively the vast majority of them are Africans.

In our experience a novice inside leader is usually much more effective than a highly trained outsider. One of the historic challenges in the global missionary enterprises is that outside-the-culture leaders (whether African or Western), regardless of their training and sophistication are usually frustrated in their efforts to achieve only insiders-to-the-culture can do naturally, powerfully, and virally.

In spite of that we believe that Westerners can have a very relevant role in Disciple Making Movements everywhere. However in distant cultural contexts that role is most often in seen in training, coaching, and mentoring leaders, plus strategic support functions as opposed to direct field engagement.

There are certainly some notable and successful exceptions to that statement in Muslim contexts however. And without being too specific for obvious reasons, we have sometimes observed, and can envision even more creative roles of Western colleagues in facilitating compassion ministries and honest, strategic business as mission opportunities around the world.

5. Many stories and examples in your book come from very near-culture believers taking the gospel to unreached areas. What advice would you give to someone laboring in, say, Libya or Yemen, where there are no examples of near-culture believers nor churches where local seekers can hear the gospel?

You are correct in observing that Miraculous Movements as a popular-treatment book tells mostly stories of near-neighbor engagements because that will be likely be most relevant and appropriate for the majority of readers. But there are certainly more than 1,500 churches among Muslims in regions that are definitely not near-cultural contexts. These are in places that we don’t really discuss publically and did not hint at identifying in the book.

The principles of disciple making movements have now been found successful on multiple continents beyond Africa, and among not only Muslims, but Hindus, animists, Christo-pagans, and others. For sure virtually any ministry model is most easily engaged by a near-culture neighbor. But we do see some good examples of disciple making movements being launched in very challenging places by people who are not near-cultural disciple-makers.

To answer your question, I think that the testimony of growing numbers of replicating churches among least reached or formerly unengaged Muslim peoples gives us a reason to imagine that engaging lostness across severe cultural barriers in places like North Africa will at least be enhanced by a highly intentionally use of Jesus’ own ministry model and specific instruction, including: much prayer, engaging with genuine compassion and service, finding a person of peace that God has already prepared to bridge the gospel in restricted areas, obedience based discipleship, discipling people toward conversion, plus creation to Christ discovery Bible study with a DNA of an embryonic church from the first meeting.

6. While the vast majority of those in Africa who came to faith in Christ expressed deep dissatisfaction with Islam, your book hints at a couple movements who didn’t want to identify themselves as “Christians.” Where would you put the various movements described in your book on the C-Scale? Is there a variety? Is there evidence of any C5 or “Insider” ministries or movements in Africa? Why or why not?

The great majority of Muslim background churches in the Disciple Making Movement streams that I have visited are not at all allergic to the term “Christian.” And those that might avoid that word would not do it because they are confused about whether or not they are still Muslims, because they have experienced a life transformation as Followers of Isa al Masih.

For some years, even before I reengaged working with unreached Muslim people, I found myself preferring to self-describe myself in terms of a “Christ Follower” in North American contexts precisely because the term “Christian” seemed to me have lost the meaning of “a fully obedient follower of Jesus.” So sure, a minority of the Muslim background Followers of Isa al Masih in Africa sometimes prefer more descriptive language like that to avoid the tragic cultural and dishonorable baggage that the word “Christian” may evoke in some Islamic contexts—much more problematic there than in North America in fact.

However, it is my experience that none of the Muslim Background Christ Followers I know anywhere In Africa would avoid the term “Christian” because they still self-identify as a Muslim, or still relate to Mohammed as a prophet, etc.

When these Followers of Isa have a challenge with the name “Christian” it is because the dominant Muslim culture has redefined the connotations of “Christian” in ways that are not only un-biblical, but perhaps even immoral and disrespectful to God.

When people become Christ Followers through a process of obedience-based discipleship to salvation, they often experience God the Father’s love, God the Son’s grace and forgiveness, and God the Holy Spirit’s empowering and transformation. There are not argued into a doctrine, they experience God fully. And if they stay in a mosque for a season it is usually because they feel called by God to be there because it is the place He has assigned them to look for more people of peace who will bridge the Gospel into new families.

We are of course fully aware of the multiple issues under discussion under the rubric of C5 “insider” movements along with the related familial language Bible translation questions. However in our own context we strongly discourage “any” outsider to attempt to coach a local Muslim background church in how to contextualize the gospel in that church’s unique context. In fact we believe that this might be a form of inserting our own theories between a church of new Christ Followers and the Holy Spirit’s leading of that group.

Candidly we feel that in our context, trying to apply or impose the C Scale brings as much confusion as clarity so we don’t seek to shape or categorize the churches. In Disciple Making Movements each gathering of Christ Followers is encouraged to follow God’s will as revealed in His Word and allow the Holy Spirit to take them as far and as fast as He wants to on their journey to be fully mature followers of Jesus.

What this “outsiders’ hands off” approach has produced among more than 6,000 Muslim background churches in Africa in the last seven years has been what you would expect: a range of range of contextualization practices across the spectrum with the great bulk of the churches probably in the middle—and the Holy Spirit providing some local churches in highly volatile regions with some remarkably wise, courageous, and creative strategies for engaging their communities.

The common end of disciple making processes is making a disciple who makes disciples, and planting churches that plant churches. In a classic disciple making movement that process of planting a new church is facilitated by an outsider coaching a leader God is raising up in a family. But that outsider should never attempt to contextualize the gospel for that group because disciple making movements are predicated on a radical assumption that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are adequate to lead, mature, and protect a growing local church anywhere!

Thanks Jerry for your time.  God bless you and your ministry!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Miraculous Movements: An Interview with Jerry Trousdale – Part 1

Jerry Trousdale is author of Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus and Director of International Ministries for CityTeam.  A website about the book can be found here:

I am grateful for Jerry’s responses to the questions I’ve asked him which might be of interest for readers of Circumpolar.  Either Jerry or one of his colleges will be able to interact with your questions or concerns about the book, so feel free to comment below.  I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow where I ask him about the role of expats and his take on C5.

1. Why did you write the book? Who is your audience? What is the main thing you want your readers to take away from the book?

Bad news overwhelms our lives. In one European country the broadcast news services are now mandated to end each newscast with at least 30 seconds of something cheery to balance the daily barrage of crime, economic doldrums, political conflict, global terrorism and drugs.

“Disciple Making Movements” does not sound much like something that could be a vehicle for creating really good news, and an extraordinary reminder that the 1st century biblical term “gospel” in the 21st century is meaning great news for hundreds of thousands of people who had never rejected Jesus, they had just never before had a “Jesus option” where they live.

For most people it is almost unbelievable to imagine that in multiple countries, and among scores of different Muslim people groups, Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) is being discovered, embraced and obediently followed by Muslim individuals, whole families, and entire communities. And this spiritual tidal wave is spreading from one Muslim community to the next with dramatic accounts of amazing transformations of whole communities and thousands of new Muslim background Christ Followers who are rising up to carry the disciple making initiatives into new regions.

So for Christians especially, today there is a flood of extraordinary disciple making movements and amazing stories coming from more than 6,000 of the most unexpected communities… inside the Muslim world. And this not just interesting and informative—it is inspirational and potentially transformational for all of us. Miraculous Movements was written to tell this story.

And there is a second story here about the totally counter-intuitive way in which this is happening. It is not being led by professional Christians, or by Western organizations on the ground. It is not dependent on large doses of outside funding. It is not about building church buildings and church programs. It is empowering both ordinary people and also drawing the unexpected help of hundreds of former imams, sheiks, and even people who have come out of Islamic terrorist cells. It is discipling people from the first day of encountering the Bible to obey everything that they personally discover about God will for their lives. It is a revival of an intentional focus on making disciples the way Jesus made disciples and churches follow as a natural byproduct.

And when Muslim communities are being transformed from what they were to places of much joy, peace, and celebration of God’s love then that is very, very good news. Good news for Muslim people groups, and good news for Christians who can find much to learn about spiritual renewal from the true stories of former Muslims who are now Followers of Christ.

This book was specifically written as a popular-treatment, mass-market book aimed at ordinary Christians.

Over the last ten years or so the global Christian missionary enterprise has become aware of movements called disciple making movements or church planting movements which have successfully penetrated and multiplied among people groups and regions where the Gospel had not previously been planted. In an easy-to-read format Miraculous Movements takes readers inside scores of these movements in Africa where they will discover the stories of real people in the movements—stories which illustrate and clarify the biblical values and practices that Jesus used in the first century and which are working again in the twenty-first century to engage lostness effectively and multiply disciples rapidly.

We are already seeing adoption of the biblical values and principles of disciple making movements in hundreds of ministries in the global Christian enterprise. But this book is for ordinary people who would like to learn how to engage lostness the same way Jesus modeled and taught his disciples. The principles can be applied anywhere, among all kinds of people. It just happens that the vehicle of this book is the story of how this is impacting Muslim populations.

2. What distinguishes your book from Garrison’s Church Planting Movements and the P.O.U.C.H methodology?

David Garrison’s 2002 book Church Planting Movements dramatically introduced Christians to the first signs that the Spirit of God was beginning to create some dramatic momentum of church planting in places that the Gospel had never gone before. It was a wonderful gift to the body of Christ! It articulated some key biblical principles that undergirded each movement and provided illustrative stories of people from inside several of those movements. POUCH churches are described in the book as focusing on five core principles focused on participative Bible study, resulting in obedience to God’s Word, led by unpaid workers in small cell churches, typically meeting in homes.

With the coaching of David Watson, whose work in India (along with his Indian colleague, Victor John) was among the case studies that Dr. Garrison wrote about, Cityteam International has focused major attention for the last eight years or so on catalyzing disciple making movements/church planting movements especially in Africa by deploying our own pioneer teams in unreached people groups, and also mobilizing, training coaching, and mentoring more than 350 different ministries that are successfully implementing the biblical paradigm shift. This has happened in more than 150 different people groups across more than 20 countries of West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, and the Horn of Africa and includes more than 18,000 new churches and more than half a million new Christians.

That body of experience has harvested a great deal of additional understanding of the essential, biblical elements that are always necessary to see critical mass in movements. We have also come to understand that obedience-based discipleship growing out of discovery Bible studies is the single most important element that undergirds all quality replication and transformation. It is a non-replaceable core value in successful movement. And along the way we continue to get more clarity regarding how to create models of never-ending, on-the-job, non-extractive, and just–in-time leadership development.

These sorts of discoveries really needed to be shared with the larger body of Christ because we believe, as do many other colleagues in other ministries, that they will transform people and churches anywhere in the world.

3. Hiebert and others have emphasized that we have to go beyond simply changing beliefs and behavior; instead we should focus on transforming worldviews. If I’m reading you correctly, the disciple-making philosophy in your book has a heavy emphasis on behavior (obedience). How has the relationship of knowledge, obedience, and worldview transformation played out in the movements among Muslims in Africa?

Recently a senior missiologist told me that after visiting some Muslim background churches on the field he felt that the most critical message that Cityteam International had for the Church of Jesus Christ is simple: a highly intentionally focus on obedience-based discipleship--discovering and obeying God’s will in every passage of His Word. He felt that this is the key biblical value that is missing in knowledge-based discipleship. When this happens it creates movements.

Obedience-based discipleship is the only type of discipleship commanded in the Bible, very different from the knowledge-based model so common today. In John 14 and 15, Jesus articulated in fifteen different ways how loving and obeying God invites God’s transformation of the human personality. These are absolute biblical values and one of the unique themes developed throughout the pages of Miraculous Movements. And obedience-based discipleship not only is biblical, it dramatically changes individuals, families, and whole communities.

And this is not a theoretical model. It is Jesus’ promise of what happens when His people love and obey Him, and He fulfills his promises with dramatic exclamation points. And that transformation is attractive, winsome, and one of the most critical element of rapid multiplication—it is the absolute reality inside these movements. This is the reason that we have seen the impossible—Muslim towns asking for the “storytellers” that brought change to nearby communities—so attractive that dozens of imams themselves have asked for Chronological Bible storying to change their own communities.

Worldview issues are of course critical. The worldview perspective about Allah starts changing from the first time people see miracles of God, when they see transformation in a new Christ Follower, and when the “discover truth and obey it” processes starts in Genesis.

By the way, we don’t believe that you can start in Matthew and get an adequate worldview shift required about the nature of God. Worldview shapes the answers to critical questions like: Who am I? Where am I? What has gone wrong here? and What can be done about it?

And people get their worldview from stories, from narratives that shape how we see ourselves in the world. Change the guiding stories and a person’s worldview is changed. We believe that the ultimate answers to these questions are found in the process of discovering Creation to Christ stories of the Bible, internalizing them within a group, and together obeying whatever they learn about God’s will.

Part 2 tomorrow…

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What do Halloween costumes for pets and world missions have in common?

Americans spent the same amount of money in 2011 on Halloween costumes for their pets that they gave to unreached peoples missions - $310 million.  This $310 million (going toward UPG’s) represents only 0.001% of the $30.5 trillion income of Christians.  Another way to look at it is for every $100,000 that Christians make, they give $1 to the unreached. So it begs the question - is it God's fault that the unreached are still unreached with the Gospel, or it is the fault of Christians?  Who knows, if you don't want to deal with the facts, and adjust your life accordingly, you just might end up writing a book like "Love Wins" to justify your non-involvement in this staggering reality.

Detailed statistical breakdown from The Traveling Team below:

World Wide

World Population: 6.83 Billion (
  • 6,928,198,253 - as of July 2011 according to the CIA World Factbook, accessed December 14, 2011 at
  • Median age - total: 28.4 years
  • Life expectancy - total population: 67.07 years

Hey TTT, what is “7 Billion”?  Click below to read the whole thing, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Miraculous Movements Trailer

Jerry Trousdale, author of Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus (March 6, 2012), has graciously agreed to an interview for Circumpolar.  I’m asking him some tough questions, and I hope to post his responses soon.  Until then, watch this trailer:

See some more videos of Jerry talking about the book at CityTeam’s YouTube channel.