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!