Middle East Resources

A New Era in Missions to Muslims

A New Era in Missions to Muslims

July 2021

Bassam Michael Madany

The advent of the Internet and social media have given rise to an unprecedented spread of the Christian Gospel and the birth of new indigenous churches worldwide. In June 2021, I came across an Arabic-language YouTube channel operated by Haydar, an Iraqi convert who had “crossed-over” from Islam to Christianity. (The Arabic term for a convert from Islam to Christianity isAbir meaning “someone who has crossed over”.) Haydar is a convert of Shi’ite Muslim background who found his way to a European country where Christians helped him settle. He was given an Arabic Bible and received instructions in the Christian faith. After conversion and baptism, he is now reaching through his YouTube Channel, Arabic-speaking Muslims in their homelands and in Europe.

Having memorized passages of the Qur’an in the past, now he is memorizing portions of the Bible in the spread and defense of the Christian message and engaging in polemics with the teachings of the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunna (the Life of Muhammad.)

I watched several of Haydar’s programs and was impressed by his ability to explain the faith. He is not the first convert from Islam to use the Internet as a tool in Christian Missions, but his work is available daily to anyone roaming the Internet. Other converts have weekly programs.i    

A major feature of these missionary endeavors has been the spontaneous nature of their origin. While Haydar had received instruction in the Christian faith by Western Christians in Europe, and Brother Rachid first learned about Christian beliefs from Christian radio broadcasts, their motif for launching their work, came from a conviction that their new faith was to be spread through the best available means. In their study of the Bible, they learned that proclaiming the Gospel leads people to faith in Jesus Christ. 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  Romans 1:16a

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.    I Corinthians 1: 21 – 24

This new method in Missions to Muslims radically differs from the ways that had characterized Christian missions from the 18th to the middle of the 20th centuries as critiqued by the British missionary Roland Allenii,  who opposed the Western missionary methods that primarily used educational institutions in their work.
 
In my study and reflection on this subject, I benefited from an essay by Dr. Harry R. Boeriii in The Reformed Journal, of August 1953. Here are excerpts:

“A few weeks ago, two booklets gave me long, long thoughts. I held in one hand William Carey’s An Enquiry into The Obligations Of Christians To Use Means For the Conversion of The Heathen. It was published in 1792.  In the other hand, I held Christian Missions and The Judgment Of God, by David M. Paton. It was published in 1953.  Both are English, both were printed in London.  Between them lie the century and six decades which history will record as the massive effort of European and American Protestantism to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  This period begins with the publication of Carey’s book, and it finds a decisive historical turning point in the expulsion of the missionaries from China.  To the analysis of this last significant and tragic event Mr. Paton’s book is devoted.  It will be good and sobering for us to place ourselves between the dawn and the sunset of modern missions and contemplate the lessons which this spectacle can teach us. 

“Carey pleaded for a world-wide preaching of the Gospel.  He was not indifferent to the need of the heathen with respect to education, health, and science, but there is no evidence in his book that he regarded the meeting of these needs as a ‘preaching of the Gospel.’ Rather he expected these needs to be met as a result of the preaching of the Gospel.

“The Christian West was not content with a program of proclamation.  It was deeply convinced of the superior quality of its civilization, it shared the sentiment that it was the “White Man’s Burden” to transmit its culture to the Orient and to Africa, and it showed little appreciation and often a great deal of contempt for the culture of the people it sought to Christianize… the heathen do not have the knowledge, the comforts, and skills that we enjoy.  As a consequence, they suffer.  Let us therefore lift them to a higher level of existence.  This current ran in and through and alongside the true motivation for missionary effort.  The result of this total motivation complex was a mission activity that was often as much intent on civilizing as on evangelizing.

“In China, particularly was it felt that the social structure must be so influenced as to create an atmosphere favorable to the Church’s growth not only, but also to make increasingly possible the introduction of the general benefits of Christianity and civilization enjoyed by the West.  Not all Protestant missions were agreed as to this, it is true.  The large China Inland Mission did not accept this point of view, and others expressed dissent from what was known as the Social Gospel.  Nevertheless, the movement was imposing and was characteristic to a marked degree of Protestant missions in China and in other areas at the turn of the century and later. The growth of the new emphasis did not mean that evangelization was ignored, but it did mean that a substantial proportion of the total Protestant missionary effort was given to social services and did not aim directly at conversion and at the building of the Church. 

“We are not here called to evaluate the result of the Social Gospel simply, but also the results of orthodox missionary effort which availed itself of education and hospitals and rural reconstruction and the like.  The answer seems to be, not that the sun rose higher, but rather that the shadows lengthened until at last the missionary sun disappeared behind the Communist horizon.”

As mentioned above, a similar analysis of the Modern Missionary Enterprise was undertaken by Roland Allen the Anglican missionary, who advocated planting churches that from their inception would be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing.

Here are excerpts from his book, The Spontaneous Expansion Of The Church And The Causes That Hinder It:

“This then is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share; I mean also the expansion of the Church by the addition of new Churches… …the spontaneous expansion of the Church involved not merely the multiplication of Christians but the multiplication of churches

“I know not how it may appear to others, but to me this unexhorted, unorganized, spontaneous expansion has a charm far beyond that of our modern highly organized missions. I delight to think that a Christian travelling on his business, or fleeing from persecution, could preach Christ, and a Church spring up as the result of his preaching... The spontaneous expansion of the Church reduced to its elements is a quite simple thing. It asks for no elaborate organization, no large finances, no vast number of paid missionaries…. The organization of a little church on the apostolic model is also extremely simple …There is no need at the beginning to talk of preparing leaders to face great national issues. By the time the issues have become great and complex the leaders of the little churches of today will have learned their lesson, as they cannot possibly be taught it beforehand.”

Roland Allen directed his critique at the use of educational institutions in foreign missions in Education in The Native Church, published by the World Dominion Press in 1928. In Chapter 3, he wrote:

“Christian education is far more the education of Christians than education given by Christians. We often speak of the education given in missionary Institutions as Christian education because the teachers are Christians; but if education is education of the pupils, it is far more important for Christian education that the pupils should be Christians than that the teachers should be Christians. All intellectual enlightenment, from whatever source it is derived, received by a Christian becomes Christian enlightenment for him and in him; but intellectual enlightenment given by a Christian to a non-Christian is only the intellectual enlightenment of a non-Christian, and is not for him Christian enlightenment. Teaching received by a Christian from a non-Christian is made Christian in the Christian mind; teaching received by a non-Christian from a Christian is non-Christian in the non-Christian mind. Therefore, non-Christians cannot receive Christian education in a Christian school even if they are compulsorily taught much Christian doctrine and Gospel history, whilst Christians can receive Christian education in a non-Christian school, even if they were compulsorily taught the doctrines of Hinduism or Confucianism. Thus, the native Church could be educated in government schools.

“Christian education so established, whether in Church schools or in government schools, no Government could destroy, even if it desired to do so. If the Church established its own schools a Government might insist upon a standard of educational efficiency being maintained, but that would be all to the good. It might nationalize all schools; but then Christian education would be carried on in its own institutions. An education rooted and grounded in the life of the Church occupies an impregnable position. Nothing short of the destruction of the Church can destroy it…When all is said, the thing of real importance is that we should establish the native Churches, and it is that work which we have yet to begin. The mission field is dotted with communities of Christians which are not churches, and which are not native, dependent upon foreigners, in every viable way. Until these are native Churches there can be no education of native Churches.”

The assertions of Roland Allen may shock many Christians, namely that “Christian education is far more the education of Christians than education given by Christians” and “Teaching received by a Christian from a non-Christian is made Christian in the Christian mind; teaching received by a non-Christian from a Christian is non-Christian in the non-Christian mind.”

In our discussion of this subject, we must remember that the term “mind” has been used by writers dealing with cultural subjects. For example, Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind,iv is an anthropological-sociological work on how the Arabs think, look at the world and seek to organize their thoughts. Several authors have used “mind” in their works, such as the following:

The Christian Mind, by Harry Blamires.  S.P.C.K., London, 1966
The Secularist Heresy: The Erosion of The Gospel in The Twentieth Century, by Harry Blamires. Servant Books, Ann Arbor, MI, 1980
Recovering the Christian Mind: Meeting the Challenge of Secularism, by Harry Blamires. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1988
Creeds, Councils & Christ, by Gerald Bray. InterVarsity Press, 1984

The Bible refers to "mind" on several occasions. For example, the summary of the moral law is mentioned in all the synoptic gospels. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matt. 22:37)   "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12: 30) These words are repeated in Luke 10: 27, with a slight difference in order.

The Word of God informs us about the devastating effects of the Fall on the human mind. In Romans 1:28 we read: "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done."

The closest approximation to the phrase "Christian Mind," occurs in two passages. In First Cor. 2: 16: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ."   And in Philippians 2:5 "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." (AV) It is important to remember that development of a Christian mind does not entail a journey into one's own subjective world. Rather, it is a life-long exercise in appropriating and assimilating a Christian mind that is informed by these basic biblical motifs of Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.  

In God’s wonderful providence, the New Era in Missions, especially in Missions to Muslims, was ushered in by a renaissance of Indigenous missions as advocated in the past by William Carey, David Paton, Harry Boer, and Roland Allen.

I find no better way to end the article than these verses from William Cowper’s Hymn:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Amen

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iBrother Rachid is a Moroccan former Muslim and convert to Christianity whose father is an Imam. He is a Christian apologist and critic of Islam and hosts a weekly live call-in show on Al Hayat TV where he compares Islam and Christianity. brother rachid on karma tv - Bing video

iiMissionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours? World Dominion Press, London, 1953, 1912
The Spontaneous Expansion of The Church: And the causes which hinder it. World Dominion Press, 1956, 1927

iiiDr. Harry Boer (1913 -1999) graduated from Calvin College in 1938 and from Calvin Seminary. In 1942, during WWII, he served as chaplain in the U. S. Marine Corps in the Pacific region.  After the war, he continued his theological studies at the Free University of Amsterdam. His doctoral dissertation was later published by Eerdmans under the title of “Pentecost and Missions.” The dissertation may be summarized in these words: “Whereas the Lord Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission in the Imperative Mood, in the life of the early church it functioned in the Indicative Mood. Dr. Harry Boer was a missionary of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. He served in Nigeria as professor and director of the Theological College of Northern Nigeria.

ivThe Arab Mind is a cultural psychology book by Hungarian-born, Jewish cultural anthropologist and Orientalist Raphael Patai, who also wrote The Jewish Mind. The book advocates a tribal-group-survival explanation for the driving factors behind Arab culture. It was first published in 1973, and later revised in 1983. A 2007 reprint was further "updated with new demographic information about the Arab world".