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Monday, April 09, 2012

book response: Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale

I've been greatly encouraged by this complementary Kindle review copy from Booksneeze of Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale. It was even more profound for me as I read it over this past Easter weekend. This book is a report on the success of a church planting movement (CPM) among African Muslims as simply strategized by Cityteam, originally an outreach to the down and out in San Jose, California.

Their methods are simple, and familiar to anyone, like myself who has studied the simple/house/organic church movement. Here's the process. Love your neighbors. Find the "son of peace," (Luke 10:6) by depending desperately on prayer. Read the Bible together with those who are interested and let the Bible change them. As they read it, ask them what they learn about God, about humanity and what God wants them to do with what they've read. Next time you get together, ask how it went. Read some more. The study format is extremely simple but everyone is challenged to apply what they've learned every week. Eventually, many convert and are baptized. The converts are encouraged to replicate what they have encountered. They claim over 600,000 converts to Jesus in the past 6 years. They believe this remarkable success among a group perceived as violently resistant to Christianity is the result of a literal application of Jesus' command at the end of Matthew, the Great Commission,
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Their focus is on discipleship and obedience instead of conversion.
Too often, ministries focus on mass marketing the gospel, creating enough consumer impressions to drive demand, casting a wide net hoping to restrain a percentage of the fish from jumping out of our boat, reducing the gospel to the lowest common denominator of conversion rather than discipleship, with a hope (but not a plan) for eventual maturity.
They are not saying this is the only way, but that this way succeeds where they are working.
This kind of discipleship model—one that begins with discipleship and moves toward the point of conversion—is how many Muslims are becoming Christ followers.
No one wants to be discipled by a salesman though. But people are interested in what their friends are doing. That's why loving their neighbors is key for these church planters.
But he had learned a secret in his disciple-making training: if you want to touch a Muslim’s heart for the gospel, you have to be a genuine friend. You need to ask God to give you honest concern for them, not see Muslims as trophy conversions, but as people whom God loves and whom you can love as well.
They have no beef with larger churches with big buildings and staff. They note, however, that these systems in antagonistic regions have a very hard time getting off the ground or sustaining their outreach.
We often talk about two kinds of churches: Elephant churches have lots of programs, activities, and people. We need churches like this, but they are very slow to multiply, just like two elephants that take two years to produce offspring. Rabbit churches are small, able to hide in plain sight, and multiply very quickly. Two rabbits can theoretically produce more than one hundred million rabbits in three years.
On the other hand, Bible reading groups can easily lay low and stay unthreatening. The facilitator is no threat either, because he or she only seeks to keep the focus on the text, which is also a strength of the model.
When working with lost people, we have to avoid falling into the role of explaining Scripture. If we do, we become the authority rather than allowing Scripture to be the authority. If we are the authority, replication is limited by our leadership capacity and the time we have to teach every group. Consequently, shifting from Scripture being the authority to the teacher being the authority will keep groups from replicating as they should.
Elsewhere they write, "Do not teach or preach; instead, facilitate discovery and obedience." I've seen this method work in the small groups I've facilitated. Why should I tell people what to hear from God when God is more than capable of revealing that to them himself? This model is not limited to Africa either. It bears fruit around the world, including the United States.

The book is full of anecdotes from their believing friends in Africa who have left Islam. This is not an anti-Islam book but a pro-African book and needs to be read by those who want to see God's kingdom come but have run out of ideas on how to facilitate that.

 Update: Similar ideas from Central America on Short Term missions our way and Jesus' way.

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