Book review: Stubborn Perseverance

Stubborn Perseverance: How to launch multiplying movements of disciples and churches among Muslims and others (a story based on real events) by James Nyman with Robby Butler.

How-to manuals are generally difficult to read, and those who purchase them are not often motivated to read them from start to finish. Stubborn Perseverance is a different sort of how-to manual. Now in a second edition, the book explains a step-by-step process of starting a church planting movement among an unreached Muslim people group. But it is presented as a story, a novel that walks through the experience of a small group of Indonesian believers who work together to start such a movement among their own people group. The story is based on real events.  The characters and their experiences were created by combining various people and their situations, both to protect their identity and to better illustrate a number of principles in one short book.

The author is telling a story that probably reflects his own experiences and the stories of many of his own friends. James Nyman (a pseudonym?), serves as a cross-cultural missionary in Indonesia. He and his wife have been actively seeking to start a church planting movement among an unreached people since 2009, and in the past few years, have been coaching various missionary teams and training workers in the skills and strategy outlined in the novel. So this novel is real-to-life, and its principles have been tried and refined in practice.

Although written by a cross-cultural missionary, the book puts any expatriates in very much of a backstage role. Stubborn Perseverance says very little about cross-cultural missionaries, and only refers to them indirectly as trainers and coaches to the Indonesian team leader.  His team, all of them Indonesian followers of Jesus are the real heroes of the story.  They form a church planting team that covenants together to pray and strategize together to bring the Gospel to their own people. The team leader is a school teacher who teams up with his wife, a taxi driver and his wife, and a honey seller and his wife. The book presents the training for the team as part of the plot development, as well as both the failures and successes the team experiences in implementing their agreed-upon strategy.

Stubborn Perseverance presents an integration of a T4T (Training for Trainers) model with a DMM (Disciple-Making Movement) strategy.  People of peace are aggressively pursued by the team, using a number of different methods. If people are interested, they are invited into Discovery Bible Studies that use a standard 8-question format. As soon as a person starts studying the Scriptures (prophet studies), they are challenged to lead a similar study with their friends and family members. The story moves forward beyond individuals coming to faith and discusses how these believers are then nurtured to maturity and house churches are formed that continue to multiply.

Although the story ends with the birth of a small movement, the plot is filled with tension and conflict. The story clearly presents the sacrifice and hard work required of the team, the frustration of waiting for God to open doors, and the opposition new believers and the team members receive from those who are opposed to their message. Although at least one of the new followers of Jesus presents himself to his radical Muslim friends as a Muslim follower of Isa Al Masih, he ends up dying for his new faith. Truly stubborn perseverance is required to birth such a movement.

The chapters are short, and each one ends with a series of questions that very clearly focus on application of the material that has just been recounted.  The question, “How did you obey what you concluded God wanted you to do from the previous chapter?” is asked at the end of every chapter starting in chapter 2. But there are several other questions as well, as well as some practical assignments that would assist a church planter in working toward starting a disciple-making movement.

Much of the value of the book can be found in the 70 pages of appendices. Various diagrams are presented, illustrating the process followed in the church planting movement. Helpful lists of various prophet story sets are given, with different starting points, depending on the readiness of those participating in the Discovery Bible Study. This is followed by lists of Biblical passages that could be studied to ground the new believer in his faith, help them gain freedom in Christ and move toward emotional health, study Christlike character and learn about the church. In the final appendix, 15 pages are devoted to answering various frequently-asked questions of Muslims, including showing them from the Qu’ran that the Scriptures are not corrupted and that Jesus really did die.

Finally, I want to highlight the website that is connected with the book – https://stubbornperseverance.org/.  Besides listing 50+ endorsements of the book from many well-known trainers and practitioners in CPM/DMM, the book also lists multiple ways of receiving free or discounted copies of the book.

If you are interested in learning more about Disciple Making Movements or how to engage unreached people groups, particularly Muslim people groups with the Gospel, I would highly recommend this book. The book is both informative and challenging, and in this story format, it is very easy to digest and understand.

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