Fruit to Harvest: the key is abiding

In October 2017, a major consultation on Muslim ministries was held in Thailand. It was called, “Abide, Bear Fruit“, and was a follow-up consultation to the one held 10 years earlier, also in Thailand. Both conferences were organized by Vision 5:9, “a global mission network focused on ministry among unreached Muslim people groups”.

The 2007 conference had identified 68 fruitful practices in working among Muslim peoples and these practices have significantly impacted missiological strategy for the past decade. The conference also resulted in a well-known book in mission circles, From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices and Emerging Issues among Muslims.  That book, edited by J. Dudley Woodberry, was reviewed by this blog in a post a few years ago.

The 2017 conference was organized with the understanding that in the last 10 years, significant advances have been seen in Gospel work among Muslim peoples. Unprecedented movements to Christ are being observed among Muslims around the world. There are now many Muslim-background believers who are serving alongside workers from Christian backgrounds. More than 25% of the 2017 conference’s participants were MBBs.

The conference also sought to refocus attention on the need to abide in Jesus in order to bear fruit (see John 15). While recognizing that there had been great value in talking about fruitful practices, the organizers sensed an over-emphasis on the latest methods and strategies. The conference emphatically declared that abiding in Jesus is the first priority of the worker and the foundational methodology of mission. Significant time was given to listening to the preaching of the Word and to prayer and listening to the Spirit. The commitment made by the participants reflects this priority.

A significant decision made by the consultation is what is called the “10/10 Prayer Initiative.” The participants adopted a prayer goal to pray and fast around the clock that the Lord would bring at least 10% of the Muslim world to Christ in the next 10 years (by 2028). SEND is a part of this prayer initiative, and has committed to praying and fasting to this end on the first Friday of every month.

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The book, “Fruit to Harvest: Witness of God’s Great Work among Muslims” , is the product of this consultation. It was edited by Gene Daniels, Pam Arlund and Jim Haney and was published in 2019 by William Carey Press. The entire table of contents for “Fruit to Harvest” can be found on the SEND U wiki on this page.  It includes 30 chapters dealing with various issues discussed at the conference but also 5 sermons that were preached during it.

In the first sermon by Dick Brogden, the theme of abiding in Christ is highlighted. Brogden defines “abiding” as “precious and delightful extravagant time lavished on Jesus, which involves quantity and quality time” (loc 343). This understanding definitely influenced the participants.

Over and over delegates confirmed that God clearly spoke and reordered their lives; their action step going forward is to lavish extravagant time with Jesus, allowing that rich intimacy to season and guide all that they do in church planting.

loc. 202, “Fruit to Harvest”.

Section 1 of the book focuses on “Harvest Trends”, dealing with topics such as the need for boldness in ministry to Muslim peoples, the growing dominance of the Majority World church in new work among Muslims, the decrease in the number of unengaged Muslim peoples, and how movements are being evaluated and assessed.

Section 2 focuses on the “Harvest Field” and talks about the urban context where so many Muslims are found as well as the fact that many of these people groups are displaced from their homelands. A chapter is given to working with Muslim women and another to understanding the role of honor and shame in a Muslim society. But the chapter I found most helpful was one by David Arzouni on “How would Jesus Shepherd an MBB’s heart?” Arzouni is himself a Muslim-background believer who has served for 42 years in Africa. He makes an intriguing appeal to use Jesus’ model of making disciples, rather than building our discipleship model primarily on the Pauline letters. Arzouni says,

I believe it is important to remember that Jesus , in dealing with his disciples, was dealing with people whose worldview was very similar to that of Muslims. If this point is missed, the common outcome is a rush to develop shepherding/ discipling models that are more focused on the Pauline literature, and thus more focused on the people who were the center of his calling: the Gentiles (see Galatians 2: 8). Although all discipleship models will eventually merge and embrace Paul’s teaching, I believe it is wiser to limit oneself initially to Jesus’ approach when working with MBBs.

Fruit to Harvest, loc. 3289

He argues that a discipleship model drawn from Jesus will spend lots of time with disciples and demonstrate how to follow Jesus, not just inform. It will focus on questions of cleanness and address issues such as Pharisaism and worldly care hindering spiritual growth. It will teach by asking questions, rather than prescribing for disciples how they act in every circumstance.

In Section 3, the book looks at the “Harvest Force”, focusing on the workers engaged in Muslim ministry. This section highlights the growing role of Muslim-background believers in leading the work among Muslims and the need for workers to be prepared for suffering. There is also a chapter on the significant role of Christian household servants from other countries (e.g. Filipinas) serving in Muslim homes.

The final section (Section 4) talks about “Harvest Pathways.”  In this section, the book suggests some new ideas for fruitful engagement of Muslim peoples. A chapter talks about setting up new types of sending structures for the Global South, another about mobilizing workers through Diaspora Ministry and a third using indigenous media as catalysts for disciple-making movements. As a trainer for workers serving in restricted-access countries, I found the chapter by Brian Eckheart on preparing workers to deal with risks and threats to be particularly helpful.

The book ends where it begins – with focusing on abiding in Jesus as the key to seeing fruit become a harvest.

Jesus makes it clear that if we abide in him, we will produce much fruit. The hard thing is figuring out what abiding in Jesus practically looks like in the rough and tumble of ministry in the Muslim world. This volume is offered to help give you food for thought on that topic.

loc. 5450

 

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