Monday, December 15, 2014

BMB Training Site

Why have we created a website devoted to BMB discipleship?  It is because discipling BMBs is an urgent task.  We view discipleship as the task of helping believers grow in the likeness of Christ (Eph 4:15), maturing from new believers into active servants of God who can lead others (2 Tim 2:2).  We can see the urgency of the task from five different angles:

The Biblical Angle.  The biblical mandate is clear: make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20).  If we merely make converts but then provide them with no means of discipleship, we do not obey Christ’s commission fully.

The Pastoral Angle.  New believers are like tender shoots that need care and watering in order for their roots to be anchored firmly in the ground.  This is the pastoral responsibility of mature believers who open their hearts and homes to BMBs.  Without this, disillusioned BMBs may turn away from the Christian community and even from the Christian faith.

The Sociological Angle. When Muslims turn to Christ, they experience a loss of social identity and often face difficult challenges in relating to their former Muslim communities.  Discipleship is the key process by which BMBs can learn how to live in their new Christ-centered identity and represent Christ to their former Muslim communities.

The Educational Angle.  Educational theory has demonstrated three areas in which people mature: the head (cognitive), the hands (behavioral), and the heart (affective).  We need to facilitate Christian growth in these three areas.  So, for example, a new believer should learn not only what Scripture teaches (head), but also put it into practice (hands) and come to love God more through the process (heart).

The Missiological Angle.  The future of missions among Muslim groups depends on the current generation of BMBs being trained in God’s word and sent out to train others.  If discipleship is ignored in one generation of BMBs, the next generation will lack a solid foundation for growth, an attractive Christ-like community and the motivation for spreading gospel witness to neighboring communities.

Discipling BMBs is an urgent task, and we hope this website will provide the tools for the task.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Questioning the Faith in the Cradle of Islam

In conservative Arab Islam, inquiring about problematic issues from religious authorities is not looked upon favorably. However, the Arab Spring and greater access to social media is changing this reality, even in Saudi Arabia. See this interesting piece in Foreign Policy:

Questioning the Faith in the Cradle of Islam

In Saudi Arabia, a new generation is pushing back against the government’s embrace of fundamentalism. But is the kingdom ready for nonbelievers?

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Biblical and Contextual Grid for Understanding Dreams and Visions in the Context of MBB Conversions

From my own research on Arab MBB conversions, about 1/3 of the 50 participants had a dream or vision that they remarked was a factor that facilitated their journeys to faith in Jesus. Tom Doyle says the same thing below, 1/3.  There are actually many other factors that occur more frequently for different MBBs in their coming to faith experience (more on this later), but dreams are happening.

I have blogged on this topic before: Thinking Missiologically About Dreams.

Also, in a previous article I said this (footnote 8):

The influence of dreams in MBB conversions to Christ has been well-documented, with many popular level books being published such as Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? (Doyle 2012). Tom Doyle postulates that “about one out of every three Muslim-background believers has had a dream or vision prior to their salvation experience” (2012, 127), although he does not cite the study he refers to. Dreams may be more spiritually significant for (non-Western) Muslims because their worldview is more attune to the supernatural world than the Western worldview (Musk 1988; cf. K. 2005). Greenlee notes that dreams tend to occur at the introductory stage of the conversion process, not at a later stage of confirmation or validation of the decision to convert (Greenlee 1996, 129). Anthony Greenham found that dreams among Palestinian converts did occur, but were not perceived to be significant factors by the MBBs who had them (2004, 174). It might be possible that MBBs’ dreams may be more significant to Western Christians than they are to MBBs themselves. Nevertheless, dreams are an important psychological and supernatural factor to consider in research. Doyle concludes, “Dreams alone aren’t enough. No one goes to sleep a Muslim and wakes up a Christian. Jesus’ personal appearances are an incredible work, but He still uses godly people to share the gospel that brings salvation” (2012, 241).

Now I want to point you to a helpful resource on the topic (HT: David Greenlee), Dreams and Visions: Muslims' Miraculous Journey to Jesus by Rick Kronk.  He says dreams have the potential for “non-literary personal revelation.” Here is an excerpt where he summarizes “a biblical grid for understanding dreams and visions in the context of conversion” (pgs. 134-35):

  1. “Dream and vision events are the product of the unconscious exercise of physiological faculties that may be used of God to communicate to an individual, even to bring that person to the brink of conversion.
  2. Dream and vision events used of God (of the Old and New Testaments) for spiritual ends do not require previous faith in God nor agreement with biblical truth. Such is the case for the dreams and visions experienced by Abimelech (see Gen. 20:1-18), Nebuchadnezzar (see Dan. 2:1-45, 4:4-37), Pilate’s wife (see Matt. 27:19), and Saul (see Acts 9:1-19).
  3. Dream and vision events use of God for spiritual ends are comprised of directives and symbolic content that are in agreement with the Scriptures.
  4. Dream and vision events intended to bring an individual to faith in Christ do not include complete gospel content. Instead, they motivate the dreamer to consider his spiritual need by heightening his perception of ultimate issues –life, death, judgment, etc. –with regard to Christ, the gospel, and biblical information in general. A review of dream and visions accounts suggest that the greater the previous exposure to Christian religious information, the greater the specificity of the dram or vision event.
  5. Dream and vision events intended to bring an individual to faith in Christ are not direct causes of salvation. Therefore, in order for salvation of an individual to result from a dream or vision experience, a third-party messenger ‘outside’ the dream or vision event must provide the gospel content that the dream or vision experience has suggested.
  6. Dream and vision events used of God for spiritual purposes are non-ordinary means by which God communicates to an individual. That is, dreams and vision events intended to convey spiritual content occur irregularly and without noticeable pattern. The Bible offers no indication that they may be induced, coerced, or otherwise produce by either the dreamer or an enterprising missionary.”

One important observation, so we don’t slip into paganism as we examine dreams, either in Muslims’ lives or even our own lives:

Christians must realize that not all dreams are revelatory, either in actuality or potentially so (92).

Why are dreams seemingly so important for Muslims? Why do Muslims get excited when they have dreams of Mohammed, Jesus, or something other that is spiritually significant? Here is one last quote from the book that is worth chewing on (Kindle 1033ff):

Not only are dreams and visions considered to be vehicles of divine communication, but Mohammad himself noted that though his death would signal the end of Koranic revelation, God would continue to reveal Himself through dreams and visions to the Muslim community. In this way then, dreams and visions have become a successor of sorts to the revealed Koranic message. As such, dream interpretation, for the Muslim, serves as a form of unmediated access to God.10

Following the eventual death of the prophet and the ending of Koranic revelation, dreams and visions grew in importance as means of hearing directly from God. As a result, the science of dream interpretation developed and prompted the compilation of interpretation manuals to assist in decoding the meanings of recurring symbols in the dream and vision events. What is remarkable is to what extent these dream manuals played a role in the religious life of the Muslim in the succeeding centuries following the death of Mohammad—an indication of just how prominent the phenomenon of dreams and visions had become.

Lamoreaux remarks, “…to judge from the number of dream manuals alone, one would have to conclude that the interpretation of dreams was as important to these Muslims as the interpretation of the Koran. Some sixty dream manuals were composed during the first four and a half centuries of the Muslim era. During that same period, very nearly exactly the same number of Koranic commentaries were composed.”11 Clearly, dreams and visions played a central role in Muslim religious life. A historical review of the development of the rise of interpretation manuals and dream experts leads us to conclude that for a Muslim, “…to reject dream interpretation, is to reject the Prophet and his commands. …it is [therefore] incumbent on good Muslims to attend to their dreams and their prophetic significance.”12

[Quotes from Lamoreaux, The Early Muslim Tradition of Dream Interpretation (2002)]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Saying the Shahada

My latest article just came out in Evangelical Missions Quarterly, "Saying the Shahada: Matters of Conscience, Creed, and Communication." Normally EMQ articles are only available to paid subscribers, but they keeping this one open as a teaser for new subscribers. The link below will take you to the article.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Is Allah God?

Many Christians reject the idea that the term "Allah" could ever possibly refer to the God we love and serve. Although there is linguistic commonality between Allah and the Hebrew word "EL," it is hard for us to imagine anything good associated with the word.
And the fact is, American Christians have good reasons for a strong emotional reaction. The news has burned this word into our consciousness on the lips of angry crowds shouting  "Allah Akbar!"
But this week I was reminded that we are not the only ones whose feelings are evoked by this ancient Semitic word.
During a seminar about reaching Muslims in Russia, a dispute arose about using the word Allah. Some church leaders said they could not believe that any Christian would want to use the term Allah as they spoke to their heavenly father. 
Then a brother stood up. He is from a small tribe in the Caucasus mountains who have been Christian for over 800 years. He said, "All my life I have read a Bible that tells me about Allah who created the world. All my life I have prayed to Allah, our father in heaven. When I hear this name I have a warm and safe feeling because this is the One who sent his Son to save us."
Perspective is everything. Of course, it would be bizarre for someone in an American church to refer to the father of Jesus as Allah. But can we also see that it would be a sad twist of Christian truth to deny the same word to brothers who have all their lives known Allah as the name for the true and living God? To what word would we have them turn?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Difference Between T4T and DMM

This is an informative 5 minute video from Roy Moran. (HT: Abdu Al-Musloob)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Patron–Client View of the Gospel in “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes”

I have previously blogged on A Patron – Client View of the Gospel as a key way to understand MBB journeys to faith in Christ, and, by implication, how we can share the gospel with Muslims.

Based on some feedback I’ve received from the article, it seems extremely difficult for most Westerners to grasp the concept.  In that respect, I highly recommend Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible, which does a fantastic job of explaining culture and interpretation in an enjoyable and edifying way. 

Here are some selected quotes on the concept of patronage as it is found in the New Testament:

Joining words together, though, can be far more significant than merely vocabulary. Some words have special meanings when they are paired with other words. In the New Testament, for example, the word charis means "grace." Pistis means "faith." What we didn't know until recently-what went without being said in Paul's day- was that those two words together described the relationship between a patron and his or her client.

In the Roman world of the New Testament, business was conducted through an elaborate system of patrons and clients.' When we watch the movie The Godfather, we are seeing the modern remains of the ancient Roman patronage system. Like Marlon Brando who played the godfather in the movie, the ancient patron was a wealthy and powerful individual (male or female) who looked after his or her "friends" (clients). The complex world of Roman governmental bureaucracy, the far-reaching tentacles of the banking system (usually temples) and the pervasive and powerful grasp of the trade guilds made it impossible for ordinary craftspeople or farmers to conduct business on their own. They were entirely dependent upon their patrons. Like most unwritten cultural rules, everyone knew what was expected of a patron and a client, even though expectations weren't engraved on a wall. Everyone knew a patron's role was to solve problems for his or her clients, whether it was trouble with the local trade guilds, refinancing a loan or smoothing over tensions with city leaders. When Paul was staying in Thessalonica, it was reasonable to expect Jason to handle the "Paul problem," which he did by asking Paul to leave town (Acts 17).

In that world, an ordinary craftsman or farmer didn't have the social skills or connections or wealth to negotiate with the various powerbrokers of a city. He would seek out an individual, a patron, to help. Marlon Brando captures the sentiment well. The local merchant wants help. The godfather says, "So you want me to do you this favor?" Both sides understand the agreement: the godfather solves the problem, and the merchant now must be loyal to the godfather and be ready to help if he is ever summoned. In the Roman system, likewise, the client couldn't earn the "favor"; the patron showed "kindness" to help. Seneca, a philosopher from Paul's time, said the patron and the client had a relationship, a form of friendship.6 The client was now a "friend" of the patron, but not a peer. The client was expected to reciprocate with loyalty, public praise, readiness to help the patron (as much as he could) and, most importantly, gratitude.' This kind gift had strings attached. (All gifts in antiquity had strings attached.) Seneca called it "a sacred bond."' The recipient of the gift was obligated to reciprocate. Paul introduced Lydia to Christianity (Acts 16). She reciprocated by hosting Paul and his team at her estate.

The language of patronage permeated everyday life. We know well the Christian terms grace and faith, but these were common before Paul used them. They were part of the language of patronage. When the patron gave unmerited gifts of assistance, these were commonly called charis, meaning "grace/gift.."10 The client responded with faithfulness to the patron, called pistis, or "faith."" We see that when Paul explained our new relationship with God, he used something everyone understood: the ancient system of patronage.12 Taken together, this vocabulary-so central to the Christian faith-means something different than the sum of its parts.13 (Kindle Locations 847-866).

Now Paul wasn't opposed to the patronage system; he probably couldn't imagine a world without it (Kindle Location 1802).

Because it was impossible to escape the patronage system, Paul worked within it, even in his explanation of the Christian message of salvation. Patronage had its own vocabulary. Words we usually consider particularly Christian terms-grace and faith-were common parlance before Paul commandeered them. The undeserved gifts of assistance the patron offered were commonly called charis ("grace" and "gift").' The loyalty the client offered the patron in response was called pistis ("faith" and "faithfulness").9 Roman philosophers noted that when one received a god's favor (charis), one should respond with love, joy and hope.10 When Paul sought to explain the Christian's new relationship with God, then, one of the ways he did so was in terms of the ancient system of patronage - something everyone understood. In other words, it went without being said that relationship is the premier and determinative aspect of charis, grace (Kindle Locations 1808-1813).

I believe that relationships today in Africa, the Middle East, and throughout Asia are largely defined by patronage, whereas in the liberal, democratic cultures of North America and Europe, relationships are defined by equality and freedom (except in politics).  If this is even remotely close to reality, how can Westerners use the concept of patronage to share the gospel with Muslims?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Circumpolar Welcomes Gene Daniels to the Blog

Update: Forgot to mention his posts also show up on his blog

I’m really excited that Gene Daniels has decided to join the blog team at Circumpolar.

Gene is a PhD student and a missiologist who leads a team of missiological researchers in the Muslim world.  I have been learning from him for a while now.  Gene is a practitioner with a heart to bless Muslims in Jesus’ name.  He also has a keen eye for missiological fallacies and is able to get to the point of an issue without polarizing the debate or looking for a quick “fix” for the problem.

I’ve really enjoyed his articles and previous posts. Here is a sample of some of his publishing:

Book: Searching for the Indigenous Church: A Missionary Pilgrimage

His interview in Christianity Today Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque (I promise he didn’t choose the title!)

“CITO” vs. “Socio-religious Insider” Article in IJFM.

IJFM articles: A "Bazaar" Mission Strategy, Describing Fruitful Practices: Relating to Society

EMQ Articles: Fruitful Practices: Studying How God Is Working in the Muslim World (10/2011), Personal Piety vs. Institutional Aid: A Case for a Return to Alms-giving (10/2008), The Character of Short-term Mission (04/2008), Event-speech as a Form of Missionary Education (01/2008), Mission-Church Relations in Post-Soviet Central Asia: A Field Study(10/2007), Receive or Use (07/2006), Searching for the Indigenous Church: A Missionary Pilgrimage(04/2006), Leadership on the Move: From One Culture to the Next (04/2006), Missionaries, Churches and Home Assignment (04/2005), Decoupling Missionary Advance from Western Culture (10/2009), The Converted Missionary: Becoming a Westerner Who Is Not Western-centric (01/2011), Saying the Shahada: Matters of Conscience, Creed, and Communication (07/2014).


What his video on YouTube: Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches


Welcome, Gene!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How do I talk with Muslims?

Whenever I travel and speak to a group of Christians, one of the first questions that comes up is something like this; "How do I talk with Muslims, since they are so against the gospel?"

Aside from the fact that most Muslims have never heard the gospel, so they can hardly be against it, I always answer with two easy to remember points:

1) be an openly religious person. Secular society here in the West has beat us down with the idea that religion is supposed to be a private thing kept to  yourself. That is a lie. I am a deeply religious person, and my faith impacts many of the things I say and do. If you are the same, then be up front about that with your Muslim friends. As it fits the conversation, talk about how you raise your kids and spend your money differently from many in America because of your faith. Don't fall into the trap of thinking religious=hypocrite, your Muslim friends probably don't think that way.

2) pray at the drop of a hat. If we are people who believe God is actually listening, then we probably pray about all kinds of things; sickness, financial problems, our worries, etc. The Muslims you meet have many of the same problems. When they express them to you, simply offer to pray in a very low keyed way. Something like this usually works great, "You know Akhmed, Jesus told his followers to pray in his name. So whenever one of my kids is sick I pray and ask God to heal them. Can I do the same for your little boy?"

You will be quite surprised to find that the vast majority of Muslims will be happy for you to pray for them, right on the spot. What could be better than inviting the living God to intervene in their situation, through the name of Jesus?

You may not be an expert in Islamic culture or be able to explain the nuances of theology. But if you will consistently do the two simple things above, you will surely and gently nudge your Muslim friends toward the gospel. And you can trust the Holy Spirit to handle the rest.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pluralism, Relativism, and Exceptionalism

Here is a nice piece of political theology that is relevant for anyone working in a place where Christians, Muslims, Gay Rights Activists, etc., coexist:

Pluralism does not entail relativism. Living well in a pluralist world does not mean a never-ending openness to any possible claim. Every one of us holds deeply entrenched beliefs that others find unpersuasive, inconsistent, or downright loopy. More pointed, every one of us holds beliefs that others find morally reprehensible. Pluralism does not impose the fiction of assuming that all ideas are equally valid or morally benign. It does mean respecting people, aiming for fair discussion, and allowing for the right to differ about serious matters...

The argument for pluralism and the aspirations of tolerance, humility, and patience are fully consistent with a faithful Christian witness. And in this age, they are also far likelier to resonate than arguments for religious exceptionalism. The claim of religious exceptionalism is that only believers should benefit from special protections, and often at the cost of those who don't share their faith commitments. The claim of pluralism is that all members of society should benefit from its protections.

HT: Tish Warren


Friday, August 22, 2014

What do you think about Muhammad?

You cannot get very far into ministry with Muslims before you run face-first into the question of Muhammad. He is one of the most revered figures of human history, he is honored, at times even idolized, by one-fifth of the world's population. Sooner or later you are likely to hear one of your friends ask, "What do you think of our prophet Muhammad, pbuh?"*

So, what should a committed Christian think about Muhammad? Well, I will not even try to answer that question, although I do think we should be as generous as possible since John 3:16 probably applies to him too.

I think the better and more pressing question to ask might be, "What should a committed Christian say about Muhammad to their Muslim friends?"

I realize wadding into this argument is akin to diving into tepid, muddy water, but I think  it worthwhile to at least splash around its edges a bit.

This reminds me, just a little bit, about an incident in the life of another extremely influential figure of world history. If I remember correctly he was being questioned by the national religious authorities about his stand on taxation, and he replied something like, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God."

There are two points in this we should not miss:

1. Jesus did not directly answer their question, and there are times that neither should we.
But most importantly,

2. Jesus talked about God, not Caesar.

Have you ever noticed that if you meet a physician in some social setting they often end up talking the practice of medicine. Same thing with politicians, they tend to talk politics. In other words we talk about what we are about. Jesus spent his time talking about God because that is who he came to reveal.

So, if Jesus is what I am about, then I should be talking about him - not Oprah - in my social engagements. While I do agree that Christians should be well-rounded, knowledgeable people, I still assert that our conversations expose what is in our hearts. But now I digress, back to Muhammad.

Certainly there are times when we need to have something to say about a major world figure such as Muhammad. But for the most part our Muslim friends will feel quite honored if we know anything about their prophet other than the caricatures presented in the nightly news. Some of us may even know quite a bit about his life, but I don't think we need to say very much.

Or I love the way the I heard another missionary put it. When describing a conversation with some Muslim scholars he said, "I am not an expert on Mohammad. If you want to learn about him go talk to the Imam. But I am an expert on the person of Jesus, I can tell  you about him."
And that sounds about right to me.

*PBUH means "peace be upon him," spoken by many devout Muslims in reverence whenever mentioning Muhammad's name.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On the Nature of Christianity and Islam

Wilken, Robert L. 2009. "Christianity Face to Face with Islam." First Things:

“Christianity seems like a rain shower that soaks the earth and then moves on, whereas Islam appears more like a great lake that constantly overflows its banks to inundate new territory.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

“Discipleship” as Key Sound Bite for Communicating Biblical Mission

As someone who is involved in missions leadership, I understand the challenges facing evangelical sending agencies today in communicating vision, purpose, branding, and management. We all want to be unique, relevant, and Biblical.

I also understand that there are certain trends that rise and fall in the missions scene.  Church planting was all the rage a few years ago. And now it’s movements. Other trends include the rise of the term ‘transformation’ and the emphasis off the church and onto the kingdom.  This is related with holistic or integrated mission and on caring for the poor. Other long-lasting trends include the unreached or least-reached, and the use of metrics to evaluate our effectiveness. Of course every trend and emphasis has a way of highlighting only part of the nature of Biblical mission.

But is there a way for sending agencies to tie all of this together in a way that is not reductionistic?

Maybe. How about “discipleship?”

I’m interested all the talk these days on disciple-making movements. It might just be trend as well, but somehow I think that, as a necessary sound bite used in communication, it comes closer to recapturing the essence of what we’re doing across ALL contexts, more than church planting or integrated development or peace-making or proclamation or compassionate evangelism.

I want to commend Melanie McNeil’s Mission Paradigms: Is Discipleship Important? to you. It’s not an eloquent article (she’s a better writer than I am!), and I don’t agree with everything the says, but she makes a case of discipleship to be a key metaphor to reclaim Biblical mission in our world today (of course, discipleship has to be properly defined!).  From the conclusion:

We have explored the way the task of mission is described today by modern mission agencies, and I have argued that the reductionism of modern missions has resulted in a narrow definition of God’s commission. I have shown that the definitions of the task being used today fail to embrace the whole of God’s vision for the world he created. Whole life discipleship, the radical journey into relationship, and maturity of relationship with God is the core of God making his name known in the nations. God invites us to participate with His mission, and this will require a radical shift in the mission paradigms of today.

I have sought to demonstrate that such a shift opens up paths of radical transformation that impact both lives and communities, but it will come at a cost. The question is whether we in missions, and the Church, are prepared to count the cost and move into new things together with God, and with each other.

The review of methods and vision and mission statements here is not a judgment on any individual agency or strategy. It is a call for all of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ to embrace whole life discipleship and the radical rule of God in our lives and organisations.

Related Post: The Purpose (Vision) and Task (Mission) of Missions

Monday, July 28, 2014

“Adaptive Evangelism” in Resistant, Islamic Contexts

I’m currently working on a theory of “Adaptive Evangelism” in resistant, Islamic contexts that is based on Arab MBB conversion factors. 

I’m ‘adapting’ the concept from the book Adaptive Leadership

By “adaptive” I mean that there is not a one-size-fits-all type of evangelistic approach that can be used to reach Muslims for Christ.  Evangelicals are often prone to “method chasing,” which is searching for a technical solution to the problem of Muslim evangelism.  (The Camel Method might come to mind.) 

A simple technical solution, such as “evangelism should be done in such and such a way…,” (which is very common in current missiology) is inappropriate. There is no one single method or solution to the challenge of evangelizing Muslims.

Muslim evangelism is not a technical problem (i.e. a known problem with a known solution, like a doctor performing heart surgery) but is instead an adaptive challenge (both the problem and solution are unknown) that requires people working together to attempt to discover new, personal, and biblical-missiological paradigms of effective kingdom witness in resistant, Islamic contexts.

More to come… (probably summer of 2015…)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Research and Worship, by Gene Daniels

From the personal blog of Gene Daniels, Research and Worship:

…Some years ago I was studying interviews with church planters in various parts of the Muslim world, looking for those key insights into how God was using them. One day during that project, sitting at my desk in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, I read about a fundamentalist Muslim soldier who came to Christ when a foreign missionary had the courage to share a New Testament with him.  My eyes welled-up with tears. I set my work aside, got on my knees and wept. Here research was painting a picture, showing me a miracle of God that many of my fellow Americans would find hard to believe. Worship was the only proper response.

Along this same line, worship should rise-up in our hearts anytime we encounter the amazing beauty of the gospel crossing new cultural frontiers. We should marvel everything new nations and peoples are woven into the tapestry of God’s kingdom. I guess that is one of the reasons I love to do mission research, it often evokes such wonder and awe that I can’t help but worship.

While there are many ‘practical’ arguments for doing mission research, its ability to push the soul to worship is reason enough for me.

See his book: Searching for the Indigenous Church: A Missionary Pilgrimage

Related: CT Cover Story: Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque, “CITO” vs. “Socio-religious Insider”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Both Pro Israeli AND Pro Palestinian

Whenever things heat up with Israel, people want to know how to think about the conflict in a way that is fair and balanced. Here is a repost of something I put together in 2011. It’s a group of some of the best resources I’ve found on the subject.  Please link to other resources in the comments.

Talking about Israel and the Arabs is a minefield among evangelicals.
There is probably no quicker way to be labeled anti this or pro that.

Mike Kuhn, pg. 109

For anyone working with Muslims the issue of Israel is bound to come up eventually.  So what is the way forward?

For starters, here is a short article: How Evangelicals Are Learning to Be Pro-Palestine, Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice and Always Pro-Jesus (HT: JC).

One great secular resource is the very unique book called The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.  It’s a narrative non-fiction that displays the humanity on both sides of this complex issue.  I have heard that both Palestinians and Jews claim the book is fair.  But more than fair, it’s also an enjoyable, fascinating read!

See also chapter 7 in Fresh Vision for the Muslim World by Mike Kuhn.

For a solid and balanced biblical-theological perspective, see John Piper’s Israel, Palestine and the Middle East.  Piper also has some shorter resources:

It’s nice to know we don’t have to take sides on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The important thing is to use this issue to point our Muslim friends to Jesus, the hope of all and our only lasting peace.

Related Post: Christ at the Checkpoint

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Two Triangles: the Gospel for Animists

Christopher Johnson modified his original presentation called Victorious Jesus and put it on a website called, “Two Triangles: the Gospel for Animists.”  Here is his introduction:

I shared the gospel countless times with Muslims, and for some reason they didn't seem interested. After creating the two triangles, I realized I had stumbled onto something that could change the way we share the gospel with Muslims and with anyone who believes in the devil.

Watch him explain his approach here:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Significance of the Naja Case Study

IJFM recently released Sixteen Features of Belief and Practice in Two Movements among Muslims in Eastern Africa: What Does the Data Say? by Ben Naja.  I think the publication of the empirical study is highly significant. 

Obviously, just because something is happening doesn’t automatically mean God is blessing it. However, this Naja case study shows, regardless of our positions or opinions, that the Holy Spirit (apart from a postmodern expatriate missionary!) is birthing emerging expressions of “church” in frontier settings where MBBs retain, to some degree or another, a “Muslim” identity.  (Whether or not they will always have a “Muslim” identity is another issue.)

Followers of Jesus in these movements:

  1. trust in Jesus alone for salvation, forgiveness, blessing and protection
  2. believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for
    their sins
  3. have been baptized
  4. pursue a dual identity (social and cultural insider, spiritual outsider)
  5. do not acknowledge Muhammad as a true prophet nor trust in his power to intercede
  6. no longer consider the Qur’an as their sole and highest authority
  7. pursue diverse practices with regard to mosque attendance
  8. feel that they are a part of the worldwide family of God
  9. attend ekklesia meetings at least once a week
  10. read or listen to the Bible frequently
  11. share their faith
  12. have family members who also follow Jesus
  13. have been persecuted
  14. experience the supernatural power of God
  15. are frequently from a Sufi or other non-Wahabi background
  16. grow into more biblical expressions of faith and practice over time.

Here is an extended quote from the article:

My research provides empirical evidence that Jesus movements are a God-given way in which many Muslims are coming to saving faith in Christ. In addition, two features of these movements—pursuit of a dual identity and regular ekklesia gatherings within the Muslim community— are not simply theoretical possibilities, but actual reality.

In the literature on insider movements, supporters and opponents are divided as to whether such movements are a modern theoretical construct concocted by Western missiologists or whether they are actually happening as a God-given phenomenon in the Muslim world today. My research on these two Jesus movements in Eastern Africa seems to suggest the latter. These movements appear to have been divinely initiated and are not the result of a new strategy developed by a few mission strategists from the West. In fact, no Western gospel worker even knew about them at first. Only at a later stage, as more things were happening, were these movements brought to the attention of field practitioners. These practitioners then sought to find biblical guidelines and answers to the missiological questions these believers were asking.

Whatever their origin, the data make it clear that Jesus movements among Muslim communities are happening; they are an undeniable reality today.

My findings show that many followers of Jesus in these two movements pursue a dual identity. Culturally and socially, these believers are Muslim, while spiritually they are disciples of Jesus. They are still part of the wider Muslim community, even though their thinking diverges theologically and spiritually from that of mainstream orthodox Muslims. Their Muslim communities do not seem to mind that much what these disciples actually believe and practice, as long as they do not bring shame or offense to the community.

Within the wider umbrella of at least some expressions of Islam, there seems to be room for many deviant views, practices, and opinions. This is true not only for members of Jesus movements, but also for the very numerous members of Sufi orders or other Muslim sects.

The findings presented here show discreet gatherings of disciples of Jesus within a wider Muslim community to be a reality (and one that can now be carefully documented). The existence of “visible/invisible” informal groups of disciples (ekklesia) who regularly gather in the midst of Muslim communities might be one of the most important findings of my research.

These informal ekklesia are “invisible,” in that they do not actively seek public recognition by displaying Christian symbols or engaging in practices generally connected with Christianity (such as large buildings, loud music, or full-time clergy). But they are nonetheless very real or “visible” fellowships because actual people are meeting at actual times in actual places on a regular, at least weekly, basis.

Structurally, these ekklesias usually follow the lines of natural family and other pre-existing social networks. Rather than extracting members from their networks into an aggregate church, the kingdom of God and its values are implanted into them.

Given the rather authoritarian character of Islam, open or normal ekklesia gatherings do not seem to be an option. Nevertheless, my research shows that—however unlikely on a theoretical level—a new redemptive community within the old is an actual reality.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ramadan’s Effects of Muslims’ Openness to the Gospel, By L.D. Waterman

From St. Francis Magazine, Ramadan’s effects of Muslims’ openness to the gospel, By L.D. Waterman. The Conclusion:

This survey, while not conclusive, has given some broad insight into the spiritual dynamics of Ramadan in various parts of the world. Based on the impressions of survey participants, we can conclude that Ramadan is definitely a special time of year for ministry to Muslims. Many Muslims seem more open to talk about spiritual things during Ramadan, but also more fearful to discuss things different from what they have been taught. A strong majority of respondents experience and observe negative spiritual dynamics during Ramadan, notably heaviness, darkness and increase in violence. Respondents report positive supernatural spiritual experiences occurring during Ramadan, but not necessarily with greater frequency than at other times of year.

More than half of respondents experience night as a more fruitful time for ministry than daytime during Ramadan. Though the majority of respondents observe no difference related to the Night of Power, roughly one quarter note dynamics contrary to the gospel. The survey also brought to light different understandings among Muslims of the meaning and implications of that night. And almost two-thirds of respondents observe more inclination toward Islamic devotion during Ramadan, yet in most cases this seems to be a temporary phenomenon.

Based on these observations, this survey offers fresh insights into ways that prayer and other forms of ministry can play a fruitful role in what God is doing and may want to do during this unique month of each Islamic year. Ramadan gives God’s people an annual reminder to pray and uniquely challenging opportunities for ministry. Let’s make the most of it!

Read the whole thing.

See also The Essence of Ramadan (and Islam).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Washington Post: Muslims Flee Christian Militias in Central African Republic

I think it’s important to know that this kind of stuff is happening today: Tens of thousands of Muslims flee Christian militias in Central African Republic:

BANGUI, Central African Republic – Tens of thousands of Muslims are fleeing to neighboring countries by plane and truck as Christian militias stage brutal attacks, shattering the social fabric of this war-ravaged nation.

In towns and villages as well as here in the capital, Christian vigilantes wielding machetes have killed scores of Muslims, who are a minority here, and burned and looted their houses and mosques in recent days, according to witnesses, aid agencies and peacekeepers. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled their homes…

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Conventional vs. Complexity Leadership

Lots of food for thought here: I’m thinking about epistemology, ontology, and Biblical visions of the future in regards to leadership- in these areas, the author and I are not on the same page. 

But at the least, this theory corrects one-man-show type of leadership, and argues for a more relational understanding that requires more humility and is more focused on the process than the outcome. This could be an exercise in pendulum swinging, but I find it to be a stimulating counterpoint the typical Maxwell/Hybels leadership mantas. 

From Barrett C. Brown, Complexity Leadership: An Overview and Key Limitations:

Conventional Leadership Complexity Leadership
Leaders specify desired futures. Leaders provide linkages to emergent structures by enhancing connections among organizational members.
Leaders direct change. Leaders try to make sense of patterns in small changes.
Leaders eliminate disorder and the gap between intentions and reality. Leaders are destabilizers who encourage disequilibrium and disrupt existing patterns of behavior.
Leaders influence others to enact desired futures.

Leaders encourage processes that enable emergent order.

Through the lens of conventional leadership, the world is assumed to be knowable and desired organizational futures are considered achievable through focused planning and the use of control mechanisms. Complexity scientists counter that uncertainty is a better starting point. Specifically, they contend that the world is not knowable, systems are not predictable, and living systems cannot be forced along a linear trajectory toward a predetermined future. There are four myths of conventional leadership that are therefore dispelled by the application of complexity sciences: leaders specify desired futures, leaders direct change, leaders eliminate disorder and the gap between intentions and reality; and leader influence others to enact desired futures. The behaviors of emergent leadership, based upon complexity science, which replace these “myths”, are summarized below.

Myth 1: Leaders specify desired futures. Conventional leadership worldviews frame leaders as visionaries, who see the future, chart the destination, and guide their organizations toward that destination. The repeated prescription is to: clarify the organization’s desired future, scan the external environment, design the requisite actions, and remove any obstacles. Complexity theorists suggest that organizational unpredictability often comes from within the organization, through the interactions of its members, which are not controlled by its leader. It is usually organizational members that develop the ideas that lead to productive futures for the organization, arguably a more important source of ideas than the vision of the leader at the top of an organization. Therefore, complex leaders should focus on enabling productive futures rather than controlling them (Marion & Uhl-Bien, 2001). Thus, the “new reality” to replace Myth #1 is that “leaders provide linkages to emergent structures by enhancing connections among organizational members” (Plowman & Duchon, 2008, p. 139). This is based upon the complexity theory principle of emergent self-organization, in which the interaction of individual agents, exchange of information amongst them, and continuous adaptation of feedback from each other creates a new system level order.

Myth #2: Leaders direct change. Leadership theorists often contend that the essence of leadership is to lead change (e.g., Kotter, 1996). One of the principles of complexity theory concerns sensitivity to initial conditions. It notes that major, unpredictable consequences can arise out of small fluctuations in initial conditions (Kauffman, 1995). Thus small changes at anytime, anywhere in the system, can cascade and lead to massive change that may be inconsistent with the leader’s change vision. The new reality to replace this myth, then, is that “leaders try to make sense of patterns in small changes” (Plowman & Duchon, 2008, p. 141). By detecting and labeling patterns in the midst of emergent change, leaders have a greater chance of helping their organizations to respond effectively.

Myth #3: Leaders eliminate disorder and the gap between intentions and reality. Leaders are typically seen as needing to influence others to accomplish the tasks required to achieve organizational objectives. They are also expected to minimize conflict and cultivate harmonious relationships, such as in the case of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). Complexity theorists contend that organizations are not characterized by stability and harmony, but rather exist on a continuum between stability and instability (Prigogine, 1997; Stacey, 1996). As organizations gravitate toward greater instability, due to destabilizing forces, new, emergent ideas and innovations arise. Therefore, rather than constantly attempting to stabilize an organization, leaders can at times help their organizations to benefit by being a source of disorder and destabilization. The new reality to replace Myth #3 is therefore: “leaders are destabilizers who encourage disequilibrium and disrupt existing patterns of behavior” (Plowman & Duchon, 2008, p. 142).

Myth #4: Leaders influence others to enact desired futures. The core of leadership is often considered to be influence. Two assumptions about influence run counter to a principle of complexity science. First, influence is often based upon the assumption that a leader knows what needs to be done and that the leader can subsequently influence those who need it to bring about a desired future state. These notions are, in turn, grounded in assumptions of linearity: that changes in one variable lead to anticipated changes in another. Complexity science, though, is based upon nonlinear interactions, in which multiple agents with varying agendas engage and influence each other’s actions. Nonlinear, living systems can learn, though. With such complexity and uncertainty within organizations, is it impossible for leaders to know and prescribe to others what to do. Instead, organizational members often help leaders to find directions out of confusion and uncertainty. As such, the new reality to replace Myth #4 is: “leaders encourage processes that enable emergent order” (Lichtenstein & Plowman, 2009, p. 143). An example would be for a leader to focus on clarifying processes rather than clarifying outcomes, and allow the organizational members to determine the relevant outcomes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Discovery Bible Study vs. Preaching

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

Friday, April 18, 2014

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

Repost from Justin Taylor:

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

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

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

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

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

This is what it looks like:

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Basic Theology of the Relationship between Gospel and Culture

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

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

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

“Victorious Jesus” Presentation, by Christopher Johnson

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

Victorious Jesus, by Christopher Johnson

Why I Came up With This

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

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

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

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

A Doorway into Greater Revelation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, Not Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

Christ the Victor—A Model for Sharing the Gospel

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

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

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

A Note About Power

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

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

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

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

God Is the King of the Universe

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

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

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

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

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


The Covenant

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Death and Resurrection

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

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

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

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


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


Two Steps

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pray with Me

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 23, 2014

“Conversionary Protestants” and Democracy

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

“CITO” vs. “Socio-religious Insider”

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


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

Related: Essentialist vs. Cultural Interpretation of Religion

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Was Paul wrong to contextualize in Acts 17?

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

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

There are good reasons for rejecting this false reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“A Wind in the House of Islam” Released

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

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

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

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

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

Kindle edition to be released later this spring, unfortunately.

Here is a review from Marti Wade:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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