Can God use ordinary people to launch miraculous movements? Certainly, says Jerry Trousdale, director of International Ministries for CityTeam International and author of ‘Miraculous Movements’, a book that captures the stories of 130 Muslim leaders and entire communities in Sub-Saharan Africa who have embraced Christ over the past few years. The key to this remarkable harvest was the return to biblical principles and approaches of discipleship: helping Muslims to discover and obey Jesus and make new disciples. Trousdale uses the term ‘disciple making movements’ rather than ‘church planting movements’ to describe what is happening.
The main characteristics of these movements:
1) An approach that demonstrates the compassion and love that Jesus has for individual Muslims.
2) Grounded in much prayer.
3) Depending on Muslims discovering God in the Bible and faithfully obeying his Word.
4) Grounded in making disciples who make disciples, and churches that plant churches.
5) Achieved by the efforts of very ordinary people participating in an extraordinary harvest.
6) Expecting the miraculous favor of God to reproduce transformed people who are transforming whole societies.
Trousdale states that over the last seven years in Sub-Saharan Africa more than 6,000 new churches have been planted among Muslims in 18 different countries. Hundreds of former sheikhs and imams, now Christ followers, are boldly leading great movements of Muslims out of Islam. Around 45 different ‘unreached’ Muslim-majority people groups, who a few years ago had no access to God’s Word, now have more than 3,000 new churches among them. This happened in the midst of persecution where converts lost possessions, homes and loved ones, but nevertheless continue to serve Jesus.
"One morning Zamil got into a taxi and went to a Muslim community nearby."
Take Zamil, a successful businessman and a respected leader at his mosque. One night he dreamed that Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) appeared to him and said that he (Jesus) was the light of the world. After that dream, Zamil could no longer see.
He came across some Christians who took him to a prayer camp where despite the prayers, his sight did not return. He later met Mama Nadirah, who was the organizer of the prayer camp, and she took responsibility for him. Zamil’s family, including his wife, abandoned him as soon as they found out he had become a Christian. He was homeless and lost all his possessions.
Under Mama Nadirah’s care, Zamil attended Discovery Bible Studies and learned to be an obedient disciple of Jesus and that Jesus commanded his follower to go out and lead others to him. Despite being blind, Zamil told Mama Nadirah he intended to go to another village and become a disciple maker for Jesus. Everyone gently told him that he couldn’t go because he was blind.
But then one morning Zamil got into a taxi and went to a Muslim community nearby. A few days later, Zamil called Mama Nadirah and told her where he was, and within a month he called to announce that a church had already been planted in the community and he was coming home before setting off for his next community.
“An unlettered widow (Mama Nadirah) discipling a successful businessman who had previously been a committed Muslim until he was blinded by the Light of the World, these are the kinds of miracles and turnabouts that are happening every day, launching movements of new Christ followers,” says Trousdale.
Seven keys for effective disciple making among Muslims
While he first and foremost credits God for this unexplainable phenomenon occurring among Muslims in Africa, Trousdale also points to the counterintuitive disciple making approach:
1) Focus on a few to win many, like Jesus spent almost all his attention on intentionally discipling just 12 men.
2) Engage an entire family or group, not just the individual.
3) Share only when and where people are ready to hear, and only invest time in people God has already prepared to bridge the gospel into their family or community.
4) Start with creation, not with Christ, because Muslims need to see the similarities and differences how the Quran and Bible describe God from Genesis on.
5) Disciple people toward conversion, not vice versa. Like Jesus chose ordinary men and allowed them to walk with him as he revealed truths of God, then they came to a point where they decided to become a committed follower.
6) It’s about discovering and obeying biblical truth, not teaching and knowledge.
7) Prepare to spend a long time making strong disciples, but anticipate miraculous accelerations. Often the hardest places yield the greatest results!
“Too often, ministries focus on mass marketing, reducing the gospel to the lowest common denominator of conversion rather than discipleship,” says Trousdale. “This approach settles for making converts, instead of Jesus’ final command to ‘make disciples, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 29:19-20). The irony is that Muslims in scores of different people groups are submitting their lives to Jesus at rates that are much faster than most church growth in North America. And it is happening, not by making the gospel journey somehow easier to traverse, but by focusing from the first day on making obedient disciples who are daily seeking to follow Jesus and obey his will. That is the pathway over which hundreds of thousands of Muslims have come to Jesus.”
The best way to reach Muslim communities is by training indigenous workers to become the kick-starters of 'Jesus movements' within their ethnic culture.
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