Fruitful practices: Using social networks and new scripture formats
October 2020
By a member of SEND’s Diaspora | North America team — We continue our series that we began last month on Fruitful Practices —elements of ministry that often are present when evangelical churches start in Muslim communities. These 8 Fruitful Practices were researched and developed by Vision 5:9, a network of mission agencies seeking to encourage and enable outreach among the 1.8 billion unreached Muslims scattered around the world. This month we are looking at numbers 3 and 4: Connecting through Existing Social Networks and the Varied Use of Scripture.

3. Connecting through existing social networks
We know that while God is entirely able to (and sometimes does) work miracles and bring diverse people together in unity, the vast majority of churches are made up of people with similarities and/or some overlap with one another: similar work, age, hobbies, ethnicity, social status, traditions, musical interests, maturity in their faith, or just that they live in a nearby neighborhood. 

When we seek to bring the gospel into a new geographic area, we need to think about the existing social networks and try to find a way to enter into one or more of these groups. There are only so many hours in a day, and if we set up a completely new (possibly competing) group, we risk alienating one of the existing groups. If possible, we don’t want to alienate people; we want all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. There are people everywhere who will take offense to the good news of the gospel, but we want to reduce the chance of our adding other reasons for them to take offense. 

A second, and more important, reason to enter into an existing group is that we want to get the word out about the gospel, and a group by definition is made up of people who are already familiar with each other and networked together. The gospel will spread more easily among those who are comfortable around each other. 

Families are one of the key social groups that come to mind, but we also can network through other formal and informal groups. This might mean connecting with those who have a passion for chess, gardening, sewing, knitting, Frisbee, baseball, or some other sport or hobby. 

Note that sometimes the networking isn’t done by you, but by someone in the community that you are trying to reach. We knew a woman who, though she was an unbeliever, liked us and kept introducing us to her friends and acquaintances. Because of her, we built up a network of people that we could reach out to—people whom we otherwise might never have met. 

4. Varied uses of scripture 
In today’s world, there are many forms of Scripture through which we can present the gospel. These include: the printed Bible; individual biblical books; online versions of the Bible; audio recordings of the Bible on MP3 files or online; The Jesus Film; hymns and songs; and oral storytelling. And all these possibilities exist in hundreds if not thousands of languages! 

Smart phone sitting on a Bible

If your contacts can read, then you can use the Bible as part of an English lesson, or perhaps you can do inductive Bible studies. If they are internet savvy, you can show them websites where they can find the Bible and Christian music online. If they can’t read, there are still numerous tools available to share scripture. If the person you want to share with speaks a different language, a quick search online or at the International Bible Society website could yield options for you.  

Think about how good teachers teach in your local schools. They use a variety of methods to get the same point across, and we can do the same thing to share the gospel. This is especially true when reaching out to families. Some things appeal to children but not to adults, and vice versa. But when you teach the children at their level, the message also reaches the parents sitting nearby. Some cultures have a special ear for hearing and remembering stories. We will talk more about the storying method next month, as it has the potential and appeal to reach large numbers of people.

And don’t laugh, but in this age of computers and the internet, don’t forget flannelgraph. That’s right, flannelgraph, especially if you are working with refugees and immigrants with young children. This visual storytelling method probably won’t appeal to older kids, but if it touches a young heart then that is what we want to do.

We encourage you to have a “Bible tool box” of different tools and methods that you are comfortable with and that you can draw upon in different situations so that you are ready and able to share the gospel at a moment’s notice. 

Prayers for the Muslim world
  • Please continue to lift up families and individuals serving Christ in COVID-stricken areas. Difficulties abound when you live in another culture, and life and ministry become even more complicated when there are COVID restrictions as well. 
  • Pray for 10% of the Muslim world to come to Christ in the next 10 years. This is a huge ask and only God can make it happen. Join with Christians around the world interceding for Muslims to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. 
  • The US is seeing a lot of strife these past months, and it will probably continue through the election. Pray for Christians and churches to take steps to reach out to neighbors and others who need God’s grace extended to them in a loving way. 
  • Christians are being persecuted worldwide, especially in Muslim countries. Pray for these Christians to rely on the Lord’s grace in the midst of very difficult times; may he sustain and uphold them, and may their lives be living testimonies to God’s abundant love. 
  • Praise God for those involved in Bible translation over the years, working to bring God’s word to all the peoples of the earth.

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