My longtime good friend, John King, is engaged in training people around the world in Discovery Bible Studies as part of the CityTeam Ministries’ Disciple Making Movement or the Church Planting Movement (specifically the work of David Watson). I love what he is doing with the support of his wife Debra.
John recommended that I read Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus (Thomas Nelson, 2012) by Jerry Trousdale. Since John began telling me about his work I had wanted to read something substantial that tells the larger story. I am happy to report that this book does just that.
Is it possible that 200,000 Muslims have become Christians in West Africa since 2007? Is it possible that 6000 new churches have been planted? Is it possible that 45 new people groups have been reached? This book tells that story which includes more than 350 different ministries cooperating in these efforts. It is not so much a history of that development as it is a story that narrates the church-planting or disciple-making method that facilitated such Spirit-generated fruit. That method involves saturating prayer, finding a “person of peace,” focusing on groups rather than individuals and utilizing the Discovery Bible Study method.
Surveying the reports and analyzing his own experience, Trousdale notes seven “paradigm shifts” in his own approach to ministry (chapter 12):
- Make Intercessory Prayer the Highest Priority (or, nothing is more important than prayer…period!).
- Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (or, invest time in discipling a few who will themselves disciple others).
- Invest Time in the Right Person (or, instead of mass marketing invest in a “person of peace” who will “bridge the gospel into that community”).
- Don’t Tell People What to Believe and Do (or, give space for the Spirit to work through the Word as people discover Christianity for themselves).
- Never Settle for Revealing Just One Dimension of Jesus’ Life (or, follow the model of Jesus’ own ministry who demonstrated compassion rather than merely disseminating information).
- Never Substitute Knowledge About God for an Obedience-Based Relationship with God (or, information is good but obedience is better).
- Understand that Jesus Does Impossible Things Through the Most Ordinary People (or, professional ministers are helpful but not necessary).
This is not an academic book, and that is a good thing. Rather, Trousdale utilizes extensive oral reports from former Muslims and on-the-ground ministers who have seen and experienced this tremendous harvest. The stories from former Muslims are compelling.
The book is filled with stories of answered prayer, courageous believers, Muslim conversions, dramatic transformations, and God’s faithfulness to his witnesses. Through these stories, we learn about Muslim dissatisfaction with their sense of assurance, their lack of knowledge about Jesus, the social pressure that hinders their own search, and the violence that follows converts. People are often martyred in Africa for their witness to Jesus.
The witness present in this book is a sobering encouragement for believers who live in the comfort of the United States. It is also a report of what God is doing and in reading it we should all give thanks for God’s marvelous movement among Muslim people-groups in Africa.
Reading these stories encourages us to look more simply at Christianity. Western modernism has complicated Christianity and academia has often subverted it. The movement of Christianity in West Africa among Muslims is simple, powerful and courageous. Meeting in small churches (an average of 32 disciples per congregation), these disciples are changing the landscape of West Africa by the power of God’s working among them.
I must admit that my Western skepticism is high (some of the stories are way outside my comfortable box), but I also recognize Western skepticism is often antithetical to what God is actually doing. I too easily limit God for the sake of my own rational, emotional and self-righteous comfort. So, I’m listening and hoping to learn more. May God help my unbelief.