Fruitful Practices #7 and #8 - Intentional Reproduction and Courageous Witness

By A SEND Worker
Tags: Muslim Ministries, Southeast Asia, Muslim Ministry, Story

In the past two years, we have been looking at “Fruitful Practices” in ministry to Muslims. These approaches have been gathered by people researching successful church planting among Muslims over many years. It was an interagency collaboration, not the work of any one individual or organization. The goal was to find things that were working well and then share those ideas or themes widely with other agencies and individuals working with Muslims. We hope they have been a blessing to you.

The last two Fruitful Practices are Intentional Reproduction and Courageous Witness. You can find links to the first six Fruitful Practices at the end of this article.

Intentional Reproduction

It is wonderful when someone you are sharing with comes to Christ, especially someone from the Muslim world. And while we treasure these new believers and want to work with them to help them become as strong in the faith as possible, we need to be careful not to shelter and coddle them as they grow. When you work in a dangerous location or with a difficult people group like Muslims, there is a temptation to be overly cautious — not only with yourself, but with new believers, too.

In whatever setting we feel called to use to reach Muslims — community development, emergency relief, education, medical work, etc. — it is important that we find ways to intentionally share Christ. In some settings we will have more freedom than others, but in all settings we must find ways to be intentional in living out and sharing our faith. This calls for sensitivity and understanding, but it is not enough to just live a good life among Muslims. We need to share the Good News verbally as well. This is true for cross-cultural Christian workers and for those who come to faith in that setting.

When we went out to the mission field and finally began working with Muslims who came to faith, knowing the Muslim world to be a dangerous place for new Christians, we felt we had to prepare them to be the best Christians possible before they shared with others and the heat got turned up on them. We didn’t just share Bible verses with them, we tried to share deep theological concepts, centuries of detailed church history, and on and on.

What we didn’t emphasize enough in our early years was the fact that new believers (and old) needed to share the faith that they had, right from the beginning. No, they were not to share frivolously or carelessly, but they were to share what they did know, to take the amazing Good News and pass it on.

Telling others what God had done in your life has power, and that is something people cannot deny. The demoniac’s healing, recorded in Luke 9:26-39, is a clear illustration of this fact. The freed man wanted to join Jesus and the disciples, who were getting ready to set sail and move on. In fact he begged Jesus to allow him to leave and travel with him. But Jesus said, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you. So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

This is intentional reproduction. Not just keeping the Good News to yourself, but telling others, so that they too might be saved, is very important. It is the very lifeblood of the church and is what keeps her healthy and vibrant, as it keeps the focus on Jesus and his amazing power to heal and save. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus, having your life transformed and then telling others how they can have their lives transformed as well.

I really like what a Christian worker from another Muslim field said, “We want to put it into (a new believer’s) DNA … that to know Jesus, is to speak of Jesus.” We need Muslims, when they finally come to Christ, to speak of him immediately, not years later when they are well grounded, not years later when they have a seminary degree. We want those who come to Christ to respond the way the Apostles did in Acts 4:20, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." We need to encourage all new believers to memorize this phrase: “To know Jesus, is to speak of Jesus” — that, my friends, is Intentional Reproduction.

Courageous Witness

Courageous Witness goes hand-in-hand with Intentional Reproduction. Do you think it was easy for the former demoniac to return to a town that he had terrorized for years? Hadn’t the people of that town tried to restrain him hand and foot with chains, only to have him break those chains and flee into the tombs and solitary places? And Jesus was telling him to return to that place and to tell those people about all that God had done for him? Yes, indeed, that was Courageous Witness!

This same Jesus calls you and me and new believers in the Muslim world to trust him and to go to these difficult places and to tell all that God has done for us. This means we cannot go on our own strength, but only in his strength and by his power, claiming his promise that he will never leave us or forsake us, and remembering that he will be with us to the ends of the earth.

Too often, well-meaning Christian workers actually create fear in the hearts of new believers. This has happened on many fields. Do we need to be cautious when we work in Muslim countries? Of course we do, but there is a difference between being cautious and being fearful — and I think we sometimes cross from caution to fear without knowing it, and also teach the same thing to those we are trying to reach.

May God give us strength and grace to trust him for who he is, the Lord of heaven and earth. To trust that he is big enough to handle all that life can throw at us and our friends, even in a Muslim land. We have excellent models for this kind of trust:

  • Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church that he was delighted not only to share the gospel with them, but his life as well. He was willing to speak up for Christ, even if there was a cost.
  • Jim Elliot is famous for his quote: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot was not called to work among Muslims, but he was sold out for Christ.
  • Samuel Zwemer went to the Muslim world in 1890. He was not martyred in a Muslim country, but he knew heartache as he buried not only his brother, who succumbed to sickness overseas in 1898, but also his own two daughters, who died from fever in Bahrain in 1904. How much courage does it take to continue in ministry when your heart is broken like that? But Zwemer continued on and labored among Muslims and called others to the mission field for the rest of his life. In fact, Zwemer’s biographer, J. Christy Wilson Sr., considers him to have challenged and called more people into ministry to Muslims than any other person in history.

SEND Hope and Light is seeking that same courageous witness and spirit that we have seen in days gone by, people whose hearts burn and yearn to see unreached Muslims reached for Christ. All the easy places have been reached for Christ; what remain are those places that are not only hard to reach, but also hard to remain in as a witness for Christ.

That is not to say that all will be safe. We have known a number of friends and local believers who have been faithful even unto death at the hands of those following Islam. This does not mean that they should not have been there. God never promised to keep us safe; he promised to keep us in his hand. In the West, we have simply chosen to understand that to mean that if God keeps us in his hands then we will be safe.

Most Muslims have all kind of religious vocabulary in their conversations, especially in their greetings and goodbyes. Find ways to bring Jesus (and prayer and comments about God) into your daily conversations. Of course, this doesn’t mean every conversation, but sometimes in the States, we seem to avoid bringing Jesus into our conversations, and we can be overly conscious about speaking of religious things and using religious words so that someone doesn’t take offense or to avoid violating our workplace restrictions on tolerance. For example, when we avoid praying visibly for our food at mealtime, we miss a great opportunity to let others see us say thank you to God.

For most Muslims, coming to faith is a journey. I cannot emphasize this enough. Many North Americans can point to the day and time they came to Christ; it is not that way for most Muslims. For the most part, Muslims who come to faith in Christ do so over a period of time. It is a journey, not a single, one-time event. Let us be patient and gracious, as our heavenly Father is gracious. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some of you understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9  

Read more 

Fruitful Practices #1 — Prayer 

Fruitful Practices #2 — Language Fluency 

Fruitful Practices #3 — Varied Use of Scripture

Fruitful Practices #4 — Social Networking

Fruitful Practices #5 — Build a Good Reputation 

Fruitful Practices #6 —  The Art of Storytelling 

Find resources for reaching Muslims on the SEND Hope and Light page.