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Encouraging Stories, Pragmatic Methodologies
on July 29, 2012
A friend recently recommended Jerry Trousdale's new book, Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus. The salvation of Muslims is a topic close to my heart. But being too Dutch (or Scotch, or Jewish) to buy it, I was delighted to find that if I would agree to review the book for BookSneeze.com, I could get a free electronic copy of it. (And no, I did not have to give a positive review!)
The bulk of the book is carefully reported stories of rapid multiplication of churches (mostly underground) throughout Islamic Africa. The author attempts to analyze the reasons for this surprising expansion of Christianity and find a pattern that other Christians can follow. Some of the principles he describes have been circulating in missiology for some time: chronological Bible storying, finding a "person of peace" in the community, making disciples and not just converts, targeting groups and not just individuals. Other ideas were new to me: Bible studies which require no teachers (called "Discovery Bible Studies") and discipling people to conversion (e.g., beginning to disciple people before they become Christians).
The weakness of the book seems to be an inadvertent tendency towards pragmatism. Rather than taking time to start from Scripture to build a theology and methodology for evangelism, the author starts from "what's working in Islamic Africa" and then finds Bible verses to fit. Although I'm sure this wasn't the author's intent, the message seems to be, "These principles are working in Africa. Here are some Bible verses to support these principles. Therefore, you should use these principles too."
This tends to make the principles taught in Miraculous Movements surprisingly lacking in nuance. For example:
The challenge in making obedient disciples is to teach obedience. In the context of Disciple Making Movements, we have seen that the best tool to teach obedience is Discovery Bible Study (DBS). Do not teach or preach; instead, facilitate discovery and obedience. (Kindle Locations 1515-1517).
The Islamic cultures are cultures of shame and guilt. Talking about sin will not touch them. But talking about what causes shame or guilt will have an effect. So try to find out the things in the community that are bringing shame and guilt and that are also seen as sin in the Bible. (Kindle Locations 2778-2780).
This leads to some of the stories describing what I would regard as poorly-founded conversions. For example, in this story from a Christian donkey cart driver, we are left wondering what exactly this woman asked Jesus to save her from:
A lady told me that her husband beats her. He gives cattle as a sacrifice for an evil spirit, and they are getting poor. She asked me what to do. I told her that there is a solution. I told her about Jesus, and she said, "If he is going to be a solution, I am willing to follow him." She accepted the Lord as her Savior. Now she is a Christian and she has peace and joy in the Lord. (Kindle Locations 2558-2561).
Miraculous Movements, a bit like the book of Acts, awakens a hunger to see God convert sinners and exalt Jesus. Read it and be encouraged that God is still at work in our world. Thank Him that He even works in spite of our occasionally misguided techniques. And look to the Bible, not this book, for your methods.