Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Tag: discipleship

Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities – a review

In the last number of years, many books have been published about how to engage and do evangelism among Muslim peoples. But few books address the specifics of how to help new believers from Muslim contexts grow in their faith while remaining in their Muslim communities and families. Given that some claim that up to 90% of converts from Muslim backgrounds reconvert back to Islam, discipleship and support of these converts is clearly a critical need in mission work among Muslim peoples.

A few months ago, in this blog, I posted a review of Evelyn and Richard Hibberts’ “Walking Together on the Jesus Road: Intercultural Discipling.” Now, I would like to highlight another book in this same vein, speaking even more specifically to the challenges of disciple-making among Muslim peoples – Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities: Scripture, History and Seasoned Practices by Don Little. This book is one of those recommended on our SEND U pre-field reading list for those preparing to serve in Islamic contexts.

Not OUR disciples

Who are your disciples? Whom have you discipled?

While these questions are helpful in directing our focus on the importance of disciple-making and encouraging us to be intentionally investing in other believers, I think there is an inherent danger as well in these well-intentioned questions.

During my sabbatical last year, I spent a lot of time thinking and reading about discipleship and disciple-making. I became increasingly convinced that in order to be a disciple-maker, we first need to be a disciple. In other words, to learn how to be a disciple-maker, we need to be learning from Jesus. As Dallas Willard so aptly said,

Teaching to Trust and Obey

There is a lot of emphasis on obedience in discipleship today and rightly so. Obedience-oriented discipleship has its roots in the Great Commission. Jesus said part of making disciples is, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20a ESV). However, some advocates of obedience-oriented discipleship seem to minimize knowledge and belief. The dominant question in many discovery Bible study approaches is “What do we need to obey?”. I suggest that we add the question: “What do we need to believe (trust)?” I believe it is reductionistic to separate these questions. It can lead to misunderstanding, specifically leading to merit-based religion. It is a false dichotomy to center discipleship either in trust (faith) or in obedience. Both doctrinal knowledge and practice are part of healthy discipleship.

The Bible keeps faith (trust) and obedience together. In Romans 1:5, Paul says the aim of his apostleship was to bring about “the obedience of faith.” Douglas Moo, commenting on this verse, writes,

My Concerns about Insider Movements

Over the past several months I have written a number of posts on various issues of Insider Movements. I have read many books and articles over the last year by both advocates and critics. In this post, I will summarize my chief concerns about Insider Movements (IM). These concerns apply to any religious context where an insider approach is practiced. I am not making judgments on the character or motives of either advocates or critics. I am expressing my concerns about the insider model. In my opinion, the insider model weakens the Gospel message and the discipleship process.

Concern #1: IM tend to diminish the uniqueness and authority of the Bible.

When other sacred books, such as the Qur’an, or religious traditions are regarded in some sense revelatory, the uniqueness and authority of the Bible is lessened. Historic evangelicalism has held that the Bible alone is God’s written revelation. For example, our organization’s (SEND International’s) doctrinal statement reads:

We believe in the plenary and verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible as originally given; that it is the only infallible Word of God, and the supreme and final authority in all matters of faith and conduct.

Keeping Evangelism and Discipleship together

During my college years I was involved in a coffee house ministry that reached out to street people in Worcester, Massachusetts. Many who dropped in were under the influence of drugs and alcohol. One of the evangelists said to me that if he could just get someone to say the sinner’s prayer (even if they were drunk), there was one more on the way to heaven. This was certainly an extreme separation of evangelism and discipleship, certainly also a distortion of evangelism. In the 1970’s I often observed and participated in evangelism that had little emphasis on discipleship. Now some talk about discipleship before conversion. So the pendulum swings.

I have heard presentations on discipleship that did not even mention the cross and the resurrection. Perhaps that was assumed. But the cross and resurrection are matters of “first importance” that Paul reminds the Corinthians of in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

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