Lausanne Movement

10 Ways to Care for Creation

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In light of last week’s article about rubbish, here’s something from the Lausanne Movement that captures the growing concern among global evangelicals regarding our responsibility as God’s image bearers to steward the creation he has blessed us with. To receive a free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at lausanne.org/analysis

 

The Lausanne Global Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel met from 29 Oct – 2 Nov 2012 in St. Ann, Jamaica to build on the creation care components of the Cape Town Commitment.  We were a gathering of theologians, church leaders, scientists and creation care practitioners, fifty-seven men and women from twenty-six countries from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, North America and Europe.  We met under the auspices of the Lausanne Movement in collaboration with the World Evangelical Alliance, hosted by a country and region of outstanding natural beauty, where we enjoyed, celebrated and reflected on the wonder of God’s good creation. Many biblical passages, including reflections on Genesis 1 – 3, Psalm 8 and Romans 8, informed our prayers, discussions and deliberations on the themes of God’s World, God’s Word and God’s Work.  Our consultation immediately followed Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the Caribbean and coincided with that storm’s arrival in North America; the destruction and loss of life was a startling reminder as to the urgency, timeliness and importance of this Consultation. 

Two major convictions

Our discussion, study and prayer together led us to two primary conclusions:

Creation Care is indeed a “gospel issue within the lordship of Christ”  (CTC I.7.A).  Informed and inspired by our study of the scripture – the original intent, plan, and command to care for creation, the resurrection narratives and the profound truth that in Christ all things have been reconciled to God – we reaffirm that creation care is an issue that must be included in our response to the gospel, proclaiming and acting upon the good news of what God has done and will complete for the salvation of the world. This is not only biblically justified, but an integral part of our mission and an expression of our worship to God for his wonderful plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. Therefore, our ministry of reconciliation is a matter of great joy and hope and we would care for creation even if it were not in crisis.

We are faced with a crisis that is pressing, urgent, and that must be resolved in our generation.  Many of the world’s poorest people, ecosystems, and species of flora and fauna are being devastated by violence against the environment in multiple ways, of which global climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, water stress, and pollution are but a part. We can no longer afford complacency and endless debate.  Love for God, our neighbors and the wider creation, as well as our passion for justice, compel us to “urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility” (CTC I.7.A).

Our call to action

Based on these two convictions, we therefore call the whole church, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, to respond radically and faithfully to care for God’s creation, demonstrating our belief and hope in the transforming power of Christ.  We call on the Lausanne Movement, evangelical leaders, national evangelical organizations, and all local churches to respond urgently at the personal, community, national and international levels.

Specifically, we call for:

1. A new commitment to a simple lifestyle. Recognizing that much of our crisis is due to billions of lives lived carelessly, we reaffirm the Lausanne commitment to simple lifestyle (Lausanne Occasional Paper #20), and call on the global evangelical community to take steps, personally and collectively, to live within the proper boundaries of God’s good gift in creation, to engage further in its restoration and conservation, and to equitably share its bounty with each other.

2. New and robust theological work.  In particular, we need guidance in four areas:

An integrated theology of creation care that can engage seminaries, Bible colleges and others to equip pastors to disciple their congregations. A theology that examines humanity’s identity as both embedded in creation and yet possessing a special role toward creation. A theology that challenges current prevailing economic ideologies in relation to our biblical stewardship of creation. A theology of hope in Christ and his Second Coming that properly informs and inspires creation care.

3. Leadership from the church in the Global South.  As the Global South represents those most affected in the current ecological crisis, it possesses a particular need to speak up, engage issues of creation care, and act upon them.  We the members of the Consultation further request that the church of the Global South exercise leadership among us, helping to set the agenda for the advance of the gospel and the care of creation.

4. Mobilization of the whole church and engagement of all of society.  Mobilization must occur at the congregational level and include those who are often over-looked, utilizing the gifts of women, children, youth, and indigenous people as well as professionals and other resource people who possess experience and expertise.  Engagement must be equally widespread, including formal, urgent and creative conversations with responsible leaders in government, business, civil society, and academia.

5. Environmental missions among unreached people groups.  We participate in Lausanne’s historic call to world evangelization, and believe that environmental issues represent one of the greatest opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ and plant churches among unreached and unengaged people groups in our generation (CTC II.D.1.B).  We encourage the church to promote “environmental missions” as a new category within mission work (akin in function to medical missions).

6. Radical action to confront climate change.  Affirming the Cape Town Commitment’s declaration of the “serious and urgent challenge of climate change” which will “disproportionately affect those in poorer countries”, (CTC II.B.6), we call for action in radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilient communities.  We understand these actions to be an application of the command to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Christ.

7. Sustainable principles in food production.  In gratitude to God who provides sustenance, and flowing from our conviction to become excellent stewards of creation, we urge the application of environmentally and generationally sustainable principles in agriculture (field crops and livestock, fisheries and all other forms of food production), with particular attention to the use of methodologies such as conservation agriculture.

8. An economy that works in harmony with God’s creation.   We call for an approach to economic well-being and development, energy production, natural resource management (including mining and forestry), water management and use, transportation, health care, rural and urban design and living, and personal and corporate consumption patterns that maintain the ecological integrity of creation.

9. Local expressions of creation care, which preserve and enhance biodiversity.  We commend such projects, along with any action that might be characterized as the “small step” or the “symbolic act,” to the worldwide church as ways to powerfully witness to Christ’s Lordship over all creation.

10. Prophetic advocacy and healing reconciliation.  We call for individual Christians and the church as a whole to prophetically “speak the truth to power” through advocacy and legal action so that public policies and private practice may change to better promote the care of creation and better support devastated communities and habitats.  Additionally, we call the church to “speak the peace of Christ” into communities torn apart by environmental disputes, mobilizing those who are skilled at conflict resolution, and maintaining our own convictions with humility.

Our call to prayer

Each of our calls to action rest on an even more urgent call to prayer, intentional and fervent, soberly aware that this is a spiritual struggle.   Many of us must begin our praying with lamentation and repentance for our failure to care for creation, and for our failure to lead in transformation at a personal and corporate level.   And then, having tasted of the grace and mercies of God in Christ Jesus and through the Holy Spirit, and with hope in the fullness of our redemption, we pray with confidence that the Triune God can and will heal our land and all who dwell in it, for the glory of his matchless name.

Christian witness in today’s post-truth society

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This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at lausanne.org/analysis

By Tony Watkins.

 

‘Truth has perished; it is banished from the lips’ (Jer 7:28).

We now live in a ‘post-truth’ society. The adjective ‘post-truth’ was Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2016. It relates to ‘circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals’. This perfectly describes the 2016 political campaigns leading to the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK and the US presidential election.[1]

Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries, said that the term’s rocketing popularity is ‘fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment.’ He suggests that it will become ‘one of the defining words of our time.’[2]

As Grathwohl implies, the term ‘post-truth’ is closely connected with the deluge of ‘fake news’ we have experienced. Jonathan Freedland writes, ‘In this era of post-truth politics, an unhesitating liar can be king. The more brazen his dishonesty, the less he minds being caught with his pants on fire, the more he can prosper. And those pedants still hung up on facts and evidence and all that boring stuff are left for dust, their boots barely laced while the lie has spread halfway around the world’. [3]

The changing news landscape

Why do fake news wildfires spread so quickly across the media landscape? One key factor fanning the flames is, of course, political agendas. Fake news affects far more than politics, but it has recently characterised that sphere of public life to a frightening degree. There have always been lying politicians desperate to promote themselves, and propaganda is a vital tool for any totalitarian state. Yet it does feel that there is something very different about the current political landscape, at least in the West.

Two things are different in particular:

First, social media allow anybody to communicate anything at any time to a vast audience. Donald Trump exemplified this during his 2016 election campaign when he tweeted things that were inflammatory or blatantly untrue, but which resonated well with his target audience. Second, social media have become the main way we access news; so the incomes of established news media are plummeting. They desperately need more clicks on their content to bring in more advertising revenue. The Guardian’s editor-in-chief Katharine Viner laments that ‘the new measure of value for too many news organisations is virality rather than truth or quality.’[4]

‘All are greedy for gain . . . all practice deceit’ (Jer 6:13; 8:10).

Fake news is also driven by greed. A great deal of it is dreamed up by teenagers in Veles, Macedonia.[5] Having discovered that they could attract vast traffic to bogus websites by publishing sensationalist stories, they are becoming rich by selling advertising. These teenagers have become masters at click-bait headlines. Interestingly, most fake news stories from Macedonia have been pro-Trump; the hoaxers found during the US election campaign that pro-Clinton stories did not bring in anything like the same traffic.

Macedonia is not the only fake-news factory:

The Czech government now has a unit confronting the flow of potentially destabilising fake news in the lead-up to the general election in October 2017. The false stories (mostly about migrants) come from websites which, the Czech authorities claim, are supported by the Russian government.[6] In Burundi, journalists accuse President Pierre Nkurunziza of using fake news to re-ignite ethnic tensions while simultaneously dismissing UNHCR and EU reports of human rights abuses as lies.[7]

However, fake news is not always created with an obvious agenda. Often on social media, especially following an atrocity or disaster, it is merely careless, unverified reporting which quickly spreads. Anyone who was on Twitter after recent terrorist incidents in Western Europe will know just how much conflicting ‘information’ was circulating.

Information cascades and filter bubbles

Whatever its origin, fake news relies on social media to spread widely and rapidly. A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2016 suggests that 23 percent of US adults have shared fake news, knowingly or not.[8] We need to look at sociological and psychological reasons to understand why people share it with others at all.

The key way social media platforms persuade us to share content is by social proof. The more ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ a post has, the more likely we are to like or share it ourselves. And so it spreads in ever-widening circles, accumulating more likes and shares as it goes. It does not take much for an unstoppable ‘information cascade’ to develop.

We also share posts that push our emotional buttons: if something makes us laugh or cry, or angers us, we will share it. We may share something just because the headline or image has stimulated the pleasure centres in the brain—even though we have not engaged with the actual content. If we later see something revealing that what we have shared is false, that affects us less. A rebuttal does not stimulate the brain’s pleasure centres; so we do not bother sharing it. In other words, our response to much of what we see within social media is primal, not rational.

Then there is the problem of confirmation bias. We all have a strong psychological tendency to latch on to information that confirms ideas we already have. Conversely, we tend to avoid or reject anything that challenges us. So we readily believe anything that meshes with our existing worldview or values, and dismiss anything that threatens them.

Even without all these factors, social media platforms would still be ‘filter bubbles’. When we like and click on things in Facebook’s news feed, its algorithm delivers us more of those kinds of things, and less of the content with which we do not engage. Day by day, our timelines become increasingly filled with things that reinforce our perspectives—whether or not they are true.

Truth stumbles in the street

When ‘alternative facts’ take over from truth, a culture is in big trouble. Katharine Viner says, ‘This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means . . . that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.’[9]

Isaiah’s assessment of his society is startlingly relevant: ‘So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey’ (Isa 59:14–15; see also Jer 9:3–6).

The implications for the church are sobering. When public discourse becomes nothing but competing viewpoints claiming to be ‘facts’, debate over the truth of the gospel becomes much harder. Those insisting on the existence of ‘true truth’ are swiftly dismissed as bigots, and their message is ignored. Any appeal to a source of authority, such as the Bible, is neutralised by writing it off as just ancient ‘fake news’.

Where do we go from here?

Paul follows Isaiah in insisting that suppressing the truth brings God’s wrath (Rom 1:18). Will God ‘give us over’ to our pursuit of feelings over truth, so that the West totally loses its bearings and collapses in chaos? Or will we embrace truth and wisdom once more and turn away from the relativistic mess into which we are sliding? We must pray that the West takes this second route and that the majority world does not also become infected by the post-truth disease.

I see some signs that people and even media companies are increasingly troubled by the present state of our society. Mark Zuckerberg has committed to tackling fake news on Facebook[10] and The New York Times has promised a ‘renewed focus on truth and transparency’,[11] for example. Are people realising afresh how vital truth is to society? Or is it just a momentary slow-down in the decline? The role Christians play in society could well be the deciding factor.

Responding to fake news

Christians should be passionate about truth because we follow the One who is the Truth (John 14:6). However, it is inconvenient and uncomfortable to do so; it makes us unpopular and requires courage. Yet we must not flinch from it. That means not only holding to truth intellectually, but living it out day by day.

 ‘The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy’ (Prov 12:22).

It is tempting to share something which fits comfortably with our views, whether or not we are sure of its truthfulness. However, we must never become like those Paul warns against, who ‘gather around them . . . teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear’ (2 Tim 4:3). Instead, we must resist our confirmation bias, questioning the assertions that come streaming our way. We must not assume that ‘social proof’ proves anything. We must commit to discovering the truth, which includes doing our best to be sure of the sources of the information which comes our way.

Our commitment to truth must take us beyond simply reporting and sharing things that are true. We must be prepared to challenge false assertions and spin, to present alternative viewpoints, and to share fresh perspectives. If the church is to have a prophetic role within society, we must dare to speak precisely those biblical truths which most challenge and discomfort society (Jer 7:27–28; John 16:7–11). Let us pray for courage to do so.

 

 

Tony helps Christian leaders develop a better understanding of how the Bible (especially the prophets) relates to today’s media. He partners with several organisations, including Damaris Norway and the Lausanne Media Engagement Network, for which he is the Network Coordinator. He is a visiting lecturer at the Norwegian School of Theology and Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communications, Norway. Tony is the author of Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema and Dark Matter: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Philip Pullman, and co-author of seven other books. Visit tonywatkins.uk for free resources on media and the Bible.

 

 Endnotes

[1] Editor’s Note: See article by Darrell Jackson entitled ‘BREXIT and Its Impact on European Mission’ in September 2016 issue of Lausanne Global Analysis. See also article by Thomas Harvey entitled, “Trump’s First Hundred Days” in this issue.

[2] ‘Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is . . . Post-truth’, Oxford Dictionaries, 16 November 2016.

[3] Jonathan Freedland, ‘Post-truth politicians such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are no joke’, The Guardian, 13 May 2016. Mark Twain is credited (falsely, ironically) with saying ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on’ (or lacing its boots). The Victorian preacher C.H. Spurgeon quoted the saying in Gems from Spurgeon (1859), referring to it as ‘an old proverb’.

[4] Katharine Viner, ‘How technology disrupted the truth’, The Guardian, 12 July 2016.

[5] Emma Jane Kirby, ’The city getting rich from fake news’, BBC Magazine, 5 December 2016; Samanth Subramanian, ‘The Macedonian Teens Who Mastered Fake News’, Wired, 15 February 2017.

[6] Robert Tait, ‘Czech Republic to fight “fake news” with specialist unit’, The Guardian, 28 December 2016.

[7] Rossalyn Warren, ‘”Fake news” fuelled civil war in Burundi. Now it’s being used again’, The Guardian, 4 March 2017.

[8] Michael Barthel, Amy Mitchell and Jesse Holcomb, ‘Many Americans Believe Fake News Is Sowing Confusion’, Pew Research Centre, 15 December 2016.

[9] Katharine Viner, ‘How technology disrupted the truth’.

[10] Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook note, 13 November 2016.

[11] Minda Smiley, ‘”We are preparing for the story of a generation”: New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet discusses covering President Trump’, The Drum, 12 March 2017.

Lausanne’s first ever open-concept gathering

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On the 500th anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation, the Lausanne Movement invited 90 global mission leaders to Wittenberg, Germany, to participate in a gathering entirely dependent on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. New partnerships, collaborative ideas, and exciting initiatives have been formed as a result of the gathering, all of which have the potential to significantly impact global mission over the next 3-5 years.

The room was buzzing with excitement as Lausanne’s first-of-its-kind gathering came to an end on Wednesday in Wittenberg, Germany. During the three days of the gathering, 90 of the most influential men and women in global mission, representing all regions of the world and different age groups, sought to hear from God regarding the first two parts of the four-fold Lausanne vision: to see the gospel for every person and an evangelical church for every people.

’These past three days, we wanted to seek new and innovative ways to work together, in order to see a significant acceleration in the spread of the gospel,’ says Dr David Bennett, Lausanne’s Global Associate Director for Collaboration and Content. ’Because of the high birth rate among Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, the rate of population growth is overtaking the growth of the church in many parts of world, despite the hard work of church planting, evangelism, discipleship, and other areas of mission.’

In preparation for the gathering, Lausanne had asked the participating leaders to identify what they saw as the most critical factors for seeing breakthroughs in global mission, especially from their own perspectives as leaders of various ministries. Through three rounds of research surveys, we arrived at the 12 clusterings of topics that would be discussed and prayed about at the gathering. The participants themselves were then subdivided into 12 corresponding table working groups, based on their individual passions and interests identified in the survey process. These working group topics included clusters of priority areas for mission such as evangelism, church planting, and intentional discipleship.

The gathering’s schedule was unique in that it was designed to depend entirely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. There were no plenary speakers other than morning Bible expositions, and participants spent most of their time in table working groups, listening to each other as they spent time praying, dialoguing, and brainstorming about the topic of their working groups.

’Coming into the gathering, we didn’t exactly know what to expect, but we were hoping that it would result in action plans that can start to be implemented in the next months and bear fruit in three to five years,’ says Dr Bennett, in summarizing the Wittenberg 2017 gathering. ’As an incredible answer to prayer, all of the 12 table working groups came up with significant initiatives, ideas, and commitments. These plans are more realistic than we first imagined, not pie-in-the-sky dreams, but big enough steps to significantly accelerate the spread of the gospel in five years.’

One table working group, for example, decided to research ways to provide need-based training tailored specifically for different kinds of evangelists. Another group centered on partnership and collaboration sought to catalyze more partnership for global mission by launching an annual partnership award to highlight the remarkable examples of missional collaboration as a way of inspiring further partnerships, and initial funding for the award has already been committed. Detailed plans and next steps are now being worked out by the 12 table working groups, and Lausanne looks forward to sharing stories of what takes place in the days ahead. Other strategic directions from these initiatives include: making prayer a practical priority in missions; repositioning disciple-making as the church’s primary call; facilitating the continued formation of a local church culture with a kingdom mindset; and encouraging the 2% who are in professional ministry to prepare the 98% (laity) for ministry.

Besides the initiatives and research projects from specific groups, there were overall trends that emerged throughout the conversations among many groups, with the urgency of prayer and partnership topping the list. ’A prophetic call is going out from this place to the global church, reminding us that our first action point is prayer, and the second is to partner more closely together,’ says Dr Michael Oh, Global Executive Director and CEO of the Lausanne Movement, reflecting on the early outcomes of the gathering.

He continues, ’There isn’t a bigger barrier to global mission than the attitude of “I don’t need you.” We know of over half a thousand networks formed to advance global mission. What could happen if these networks partnered deliberately, with a laser-sharp focus for global mission?’

The deliberate partnership and collaboration of diverse peoples across many nations is exactly what happened at this Wittenberg gathering—and it is our prayer that its outcomes will ripple across the world.

’Lausanne’s role was to convene the influencers, set the table, and make space through this unique agenda for God to speak,’ concludes Dr Bennett. ’The participants are now responsible for moving these plans ahead as they made their commitments to each other and to the Lord. We will follow-up with the table working groups to support and encourage progress on the plans launched here in Wittenberg. Mission is ultimately about God, and he’s the one we’re trusting to complete his work on earth.’

How Should Christians Relate to Muslims?

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Developing a Biblical World-view on Islam By Ida Glaser Now that the Islamic holy month of  Ramadan has started, we thought it would be good to highlight some material on Islam. This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.

The UK Times newspaper last autumn introduced its readers to the use of taweez[1] in popular Sufi Sunni Islam. Why? Because it was reporting on the conviction of a Salafi for murdering an imam who practised this form of Islam[2].

 

The variety of Islam

 

Times readers, already familiar with terms like Sunni and Shi’a, Sufi and Salafi, were being introduced to yet another sort of Islam that is practiced by 41% of Pakistanis and 26% of Bangladeshis[3]. How, I wonder, will they integrate this information into the categories of ‘extreme’ and ‘moderate’ Islam that the media have been using hitherto? And how do Christians integrate the variety of Islam into their worldviews?

 

Over the four and a half decades since I perceived God’s concern for Muslims, I have heard many discussions about how Christian mission should be directed. We should focus on ‘folk’ Islam—on the huge percentage of those who use taweez and whose lives are dominated by beliefs in jinn. We should focus on service—to abused women, to minorities suffering from racism and to people in poverty. We should focus on apologetics, on polemics, on dialogue, on co-existence . . . or maybe on political concerns. Perhaps Christians should be at the forefront of countering ISIS-type terrorism.

 

How should we view Islam?

 

Underlying such discussions are questions about how we should view Islam, and these are echoed in the polarized responses to Muslims that are tearing apart today’s evangelical world. I think that the major problem is that we do not know how to fit the variety of Islam into our thought categories. As the secular world struggles to add the world of taweez into its understanding of ‘religion’, so Christians struggle to find room for Islam in their understanding of the world; so we choose existing categories and focus on those Muslims who fit them. Our teachers and preachers urgently need a way of reading the Bible that enables the whole church to relate to the whole variety of Islam and of Muslims.

 

Put this way, we see that the challenge is broader: Islam may be a special case, but we need a biblical worldview that gives a framework for relating to all peoples of all faiths. My book, The Bible and Other Faiths,[4] seeks to provide just that: a way of reading the Bible that so takes into account the religious world ‘behind’ the biblical texts that it helps us to make sense of our own religious world. My recent book, Thinking Biblically about Islam,[5] deals with the special case of Islam.

 

Biblical frameworks

 

Thinking Biblically about Islam develops two biblical frameworks for thought, and applies them in two ways:

 

The biblical frameworks deal, first, with developing a view of humanity that includes Muslims and, second, with developing a way of understanding Islam. The two are related, because ‘Islam’ is practised by human beings—which is, of course, why it displays such variety.

 

The applications ask, first, how we might think about various aspects of Islam—the Qur’an, Muhammad, the Umma, and Shari‘a—and, second, how our biblical studies might transform us in our relationships with Muslim people.

 

The double two-fold analysis reflects a tension that underlies much of the polarization of Christian responses to Islam: that we are trying to understand Islam as a system that post-dates Jesus Christ and sees itself as superseding Christianity, and also trying to relate to the huge proportion of human beings who are Muslims. On the one hand, many Christians feel that Islam should never have come into existence, and that Muslims are intruders in their world. On the other hand, many Christians live in places where they meet Muslims every day, and have Muslims as friends and colleagues and family members whom they love.

 

Here is a ‘taster’ of the two biblical frameworks:

 

The framework for a view of humanity that includes Muslims

 

This is developed from Genesis 4-11. It is a standard analysis of text as a chiasm(the Greek capital chi looks like X)—that is, it has a shape ABCB’A’ or ABA’ or ABCDC’B’A’ etc. The first and last elements ‘match’ as they set themes and subjects, and may repeat words. The central element is the heart of the matter. The intermediate elements ‘match’ (here, they are both genealogies) and tell you how the whole argument sticks together.[6] Hence the analysis matches Genesis 4 and 11, Genesis 5 and 10, and then sees Genesis 6-9 as central.

 

From Genesis 1-3, we learn that all human beings, including Muslims, are both made in the image of God and fallen. Genesis 4-11 gives an analysis of a religious fallen world that can be read as a chiasm. The beginning and the end deal with individual and societal religion; the centre point is the flood story; and in between come the genealogies that are so important to the whole structure of Genesis:

 

A Chapter 4: Human beings outside Eden seek to approach God through a religious act. It is not clear why one is accepted and another is rejected, but it is clear that this results in violence.

 

B Chapter 5: Humans have a common origin, and all (except Enoch who points to a hope of life) share in the genealogy of death.

 

C Chapters 6-9: God’s response to spreading violence is one of anger and pain (6:6). The flood story is read as offering two possible ways for God to deal with the evil—the judgment of the flood, and the covenant commitment that follows Noah’s sacrifice. The latter indicates God’s preference for the duration of history.

 

B’ Chapter 10: Human societies have a common origin, and are under the providential life-giving hand of God.

 

A’ Chapter 11: There is a human tendency to use religion to propagate a particular people’s power and territory. This is dangerous religion, which God will judge in order to limit the resulting evil.

 

This analysis provides some simple but powerful categories for thinking about Sunniand Shi’a, about Sufi and Salafi, and about users of taweez and ISIS supporters who kill idolaters.

 

A: Individual religion. We can understand all Muslims as people trying to approach God, whether with Abel-like or with Cain-like motivations. We can expect violent religious quarrels to arise over questions of what pleases God.

 

So we can expect schisms like those between the Sunni and the Shi’a. However, we can also expect some of the Sufis, who seek the face of God as a lover seeks the beloved, to be ‘Abel’s’ of the Muslim world. The story makes us ask how far we can judge which of the ISIS supporters who sacrifice their own lives are like Cain, and which are like Abel.

 

A’: Societal religion. We can understand the various political dimensions of Islam as manifestations of a normal human tendency to fuse religion, ethnicity and power.[7]We can be sure that, where this fusion builds exploitative power structures that are against God, he will limit the damage that they do to his good creation.

 

B and B’: Genealogies. All this is the shared human condition. Muslims are not intruders in our world: we are all part of God’s world. One implication is that we can expect the Genesis patterns among Christians as well as among Muslims. Christians, too, can argue over who is acceptable to God. Christians, too, can fight and kill each other. Christians, too, can use religion to build empires.

 

C: At the heart of it all is the problem of evil. I do not mean here the question of the origin of evil, although the book does explore some key differences between Muslim and Christian views on the subject through a study of the Adam stories in the Qur’an and the Bible. Rather, the big question raised by the Genesis Noah story is how God deals with evil, and that has implications for how human beings should deal with evil in themselves and in others.

 

This suggests a key to biblically based thinking about the varieties of Islam: we can ask what these particular Muslims see as evil, and how they are trying to deal with it. Take, for example, the taweezusers’ and ISIS supporters’ polarization. Taweez users focus on evils that affect them and their families in their everyday lives; they deal with this through ritual and, often, through trying to control the jinn whom they see as responsible for their troubles. ISIS supporters focus more on political evils, which they see as caused by wrong worship; they often deal with them by trying to destroy the causes.

 

I hope that the Christian reader is by now sharing something of the pain as well as the anger in the heart of God (Gen 6:6). I hope, too, that, like the One whom we serve, that reader is determined to prefer the way of sacrifice and covenant commitment to the way of judgement in response to evil. That takes us to Jesus and His cross, and to the blood which cries out so much louder than that of the martyr, Abel. Perhaps our biggest pain is that that the cross and the blood is missing from Islamic thinking, and so not considered by either taweez users or ISIS supporters in their struggles with evil. That takes us to the heart of the second analytical framework.

 

The framework for understanding Islam

 

This is developed from the transfiguration. Writing the book has led me to realise the centrality of the transfiguration to the synoptic gospels; and John’s Gospel can be read as an exegesis of the transfiguration.[8]

 

The questions to which the transfiguration is the answer are Islamic questions: How does Jesus relate to the previous prophets? What does it mean that he is Messiah? How do we deal with the scandal of His insistence that he will be shamefully killed?

 

Up to this point, the Gospels have been largely in harmony with the qur’anic view of Jesus; and the Qur’an raises the very questions that the Gospels raise. However, Muslims answer them differently.[9] They deny the crucifixion and put Jesus on the same level as all the other prophets. In effect, they reverse the transfiguration and then develop a prophetic-legal tradition built on a figure who combines the law-giving community-founding paradigm of Moses with the law-enforcing monotheistic zeal of Elijah.

 

Such observations provoke a re-reading of the legal and prophetic paradigms represented by Moses and Elijah, not least as ways of dealing with the evils of human sinfulness. On the one hand, how can the biblical material help us to appreciate the strengths as well as the weaknesses of Islam? On the other hand, why is it that the biblical accounts of these prophets find their fulfilment in the cross of Christ rather than in the Medina of Muhammad?

 

Hence, an understanding of the purpose and nature, riches and limitations of biblical law and prophethood offers some categories for thinking about Islam; and it opens a way of reading the New Testament that sheds light on how and why it holds such good news for Muslims. From cover to cover, the Bible speaks into the world of Islam, and into the bewilderment of secular and Christian people who are struggling to understand it.

 

What is the implication for evangelical leaders? Let us seriously put the Bible ‘in conversation with’ Islamic thinking and with Muslim people, and let us preach the whole counsel of God into our hurting world.

 

Muslims are still waiting for the coming of Jesus and other messianic figures, to deal finally with evil by destroying the wicked and rescuing the good. As Christians, too, wait for the final judgment, what difference does it make to our preaching and to our lives that the Messiah has already come, and has dealt with evil on the cross? The cross is the acceptable sacrifice available for the Cain’s as well as for the Abel’s; it challenges all fusions of religion and power, and it brings together, once and for all, the judgment that cleanses and the pain that forgives. How can we make that cross the basis of all our responses to Islam?

Disciple Making Movements

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By Kent Parks. 

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.

 

In the mid-1980s, 24% of world’s population (1.8 billion people) had little or no Gospel access. Today, that figure has grown to 29% (2.1 billion people). Two interchangeable terms, while technically different, essentially define this population:

 

Unreached People Groups (UPGs) — less than 2% evangelical Christians (Joshua Project).

 

Least Evangelized Peoples (LEPs) — with little or no Gospel access per a multiple-factor list (World Christian Database).

Tragically, only about 3% of global missionaries serve this 29%. Christ-followers should be outraged by this spiritual injustice. That Jesus’ command to make disciples of all ethne is unfulfilled is disobedience. Doing more of the same activities expecting different results is futile and irresponsible.

 

Mission revolution

A holy urgency has caused many to re-study Scripture as a strategy manual—and has as a result revolutionized results among some UPGs. Sound motives fuel these efforts, including a deep love for Jesus; a joyful desire for all to have the chance to love and serve him; a holy concern to bring spiritual justice; and a commitment to obey Jesus’ command. The resulting radical methodological changes have resulted in amazing results reflected in the quantity and quality of disciples and churches.

 

Church-planting movements

Globally, ‘Book of Acts’-type movements (called ‘Church Planting Movements’ below) have recently emerged, often among the ‘hardest’ peoples to reach. The reality of these movements should not be skeptically or lightly dismissed. These exciting, transformational results—with millions of new believers and churches in hard places—should receive greater emphasis from those committed to bringing Jesus’ gospel to all peoples.

At least 158 Church Planting Movements (CPMs) resulting from a process called Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs) have begun since the mid-1980s, but especially within the last 15-20 years, and largely, but not only, among UPGs.

A movement is defined as when a number of the initial churches each reproduce to fourth generation (great-grandchildren or later) churches. When this ongoing reproduction happens in multiple ‘family-tree branches’, critical mass and ability to reproduce is achieved. This does not seem to be the case if the reproduction stops at only second-generation (children) or third-generation (grandchildren) churches.

 

Biblical model

Jesus launched a movement in three years, with disciples learning to love him and obey all his commands. The numerical growth of disciples in these three years is clear: twelve, 72 others (Luke 10), 500 (1 Cor 15:6), more than 3,000 at Pentecost and then at least 5,000 (Acts 4:4). The belief that God uses people to start movements today is based on Jesus’ promise that His disciples would do greater things (John 14:12-14).

Every segment. Jesus went to every town and village (Matt 9:35-38). He sent the twelve to a specific population segment (Luke 9:1-6). He sent 72 others, but now to all the places to which he was about to go (Luke 10:1-23). Thus, when Jesus expanded their scope to make disciples of all population segments globally, his disciples were already experienced in the pattern.

Jesus’ pattern. His pattern was simple but deep. He modeled it regularly (eg Luke 4 and 8) and sent them to do the same (Matt 10, Luke 9 and 10). He focused on discipling whole groups (oikos—households), such as one of his first households of peace (Mark 1—Simon and Andrew’s household) and the Samaritan village (John 4). Sent workers were to pray for local workers to be found within the harvest. The welcoming person of peace (one spiritually hungry and God-prepared) is the focus. The person of peace opens his/her social unit/group to hear the message. Focusing on discipling whole groups makes great sociological, numerical, and practical sense, which results in sustainable growth.

Holistic role. The disciples’ role is holistic—both to tell the good news of the Kingdom and to heal the sick and cast out demons. They are to depend on the receiving household rather than providing all the resources or answers. They must focus on discipling the household of peace rather than going from household to household. This new group will be better able to disciple and influence their community than the outsider can.

Discipling groups. This focus on discipling groups continues in the Book of Acts, as all but three people (Saul, the Ethiopian eunuch and Sergius Paulus) came to faith in groups. Paul and his teams, following Jesus’ model, started movements among population segments, which were multi-cultural, multi-religious, and often hostile. These movements ensured that all in each area had a chance to hear of Jesus:

 

Jerusalem: ‘numbers of disciples increased rapidly’ (Acts 6:1, 7).

 

 Cyprus: ‘. . . the whole island’ (Acts 13:6). 

 

Phrygia: ‘The word of the Lord spread through the whole region (Acts 13:49).

 

 Galatia: In Iconium ‘a great number of Jews and Greeks believed’ (Acts 14:1); in Lystra . . . ‘some disciples’ (Acts 14:22); and in Derbe . . . ‘won a large number of disciples’ (Acts 14:21).

 

Macedonia: In Philippi, the families of Lydia and the jailer (Acts 16); in Thessalonica ‘some Jews and a large number of God-fearing Greeks and many prominent women’ (Acts 17:4); and in Berea many Jews believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men (Acts 17:12).

Achaia: In Athens ‘some believed’ (Acts 17:34); and in Corinth the family of Crispus and many Corinthians believed (Acts 18:8).

Ephesus: Within ‘two years, . . . all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord’ (Acts 19:10). Some 15 million people (Roman census) in much of the area of modern Turkey could only have had access within two years if obedient disciples were reproducing.

Paul’s missions: Only the use of several disciple-making movements with multiple branches can explain Paul’s following statement: ‘. . . from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum [the Balkans], I [Paul] have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ’ (Rom 15: 19). Within the 15 or so years represented in this statement, Paul and his small teams would not have had the time or physical ability to ‘fully proclaim’ Jesus in this whole area. The only way this scriptural statement could be accurate is if they served as catalysts to raise up reproducing disciples and groups who reproduced all across this region.

 

Some key principles

God through his Holy Spirit is the teacher. The outsider helps new disciples to learn directly from the Father and to obey everything Jesus commanded. (Isa 54:13; Jer 31:33-34; Matt 23:8; John 6:45; 14:25).

Obedience-based group discipleship is an essential factor. Without it DMMs do not happen. The group members hear the Scripture, retell it to each other, discuss God-given insight and the obedience God is asking from the passage. People are to obey what is learned each week. Each person is to share the passage with another. At the next meeting, each shares what they obeyed (or did not) and who they told. Group accountability is built into the process. Their theology is strong. ‘Accurate obedience’ leads to ‘accurate belief’.

Results transform. Testimonies from several movements indicate that alcoholism diminishes in their area. For example, a drunken colonel in South Asia fired his rifle point blank at his newly believing wife—and miraculously missed. He then broke her legs with the rifle. Through her continued witness, he quit drinking and became a believer and reproducing church-starter. In other movements, husbands learn from God to stop beating their wives.[1]

Churches seek God’s provision together to help the poor and widows and orphans in their communities, such as a South Asian movement where whole communities quit selling their daughters into sexual slavery. In another South Asian movement, one church branch hired a Hindu seamstress to train young women to earn a living. They only asked that this training group read each week’s Bible story and ask the simple questions. Soon, the Hindu seamstress, five Hindu girls, and three Muslim girls came to faith and were baptized—along with the Hindu and Muslim families, because they saw the change in their daughters.[2]

 

Movements today

Researchers are tracking over 150 church planting movements, and more are being added every year. There is at least one per continent. Disciples reproduce. Leaders reproduce. Churches reproduce and love and obey him by helping the widow and orphan, healing the sick, stop selling children into slavery, casting out demons, and sharing the good news of the Kingdom:

A movement born four years ago in India has over 7,000 congregations including some eighteenth generation churches.[3] One of the earliest movements began about 25 years ago in another part of India among the Bhojpuri language group. It has been audited several times by researchers. The latest audit shows at least 8 million baptized believers and approximately 200,000 congregations, which serve their community through literacy efforts, health education, etc. Movements of several thousand congregations are growing in several continents in areas hostile to the news of Jesus. A movement has emerged in the US among groups often ignored by existing churches. Exponential growth necessity

Churches must reproduce obedient churches more quickly than traditional expectations because it is the only way to exceed population growth and give all peoples access to the gospel. If it takes five years for a church to reproduce, it will require 30 years for one church to become 64 churches. On the other hand, if each church starts a church every twelve months, 32,000 churches could start (and sometimes have started) within 15 years.

 

Concerns addressed

Does this kind of rapid growth result in heresy? Less heresy is evident in these movements than is often seen in more traditional approaches. Most heresies historically have been fostered by a key leader/s (eg Judaizers), not groups. The group process of obeying God’s Word together reduces this possibility.

Are movement proponents diminishing or insulting existing churches? This is not the case. These proven and biblical strategies to disciple many people groups should excite the church, even if these approaches cause re-examination, discomfort, and change in order to achieve greater impact.

Is not a formally trained human leader required for accurate teaching / prevention of heresy? Might this be an arrogant lack of faith that God is really the best, most able teacher?

Might movement success hurt feelings of traditional workers? The more important concern should be how the Least Evangelized Peoples feel without Christ.

 

Implications

Many missiological theories promote strategies that should reproduce. Church planting movements are based on strategies which have reproduced.

The existence and legitimacy of church planting movements should not be skeptically dismissed, as is the tendency among some in Christian mission circles. The comment that UPGs have been over-emphasized needs to be disputed. The call to have a ‘balanced’ mission emphasis should be affirmed.

It is indeed time to bring balance. At least 30% (not the current paltry 3%) of global missionaries should be assigned to serve the 30% of the world’s population (UPGs) who have never enjoyed gospel witness of any kind, using proven best practices.

Jesus’ simple but deep strategies (rather than our often complex but non-reproducible efforts) need to be used to change whole people groups. These proven, biblical, multiplicative, and transformative discipling methods should be used rather than theoretical, unproven, and unscalable approaches. Church planting movements which transform societies represent the only strategy which brings the scalable growth needed to exceed population growth and to finish the task.

State of the World 2016

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In this video Jason Mandryk and Molly Wall, editors of Operation World, give insight to key issues in the church, the Great Commission, and the world based on their extensive research and encounters around the world.

‘These are tumultuous times. Change in every sphere of life seems to be accelerating. What really is happening in the world? And how does this relate to the staggering scale, complexity, and urgency of the Great Commission?’

During this session of the Launsanne Movement’s Younger Leader’s Gathering, participants were asked to listen to the groans of the world and to how the Holy Spirit might be speaking specifically to their context.

This presentation was given at the third Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG2016) held in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 3-10 August 2016.

Download the presentation and the accompanying notes

Younger Leader’s Gathering

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I’ve recently had the privilege of attending the Lausanne Movement’s Younger Leader’s Gathering in Jakarta, Indonesia. This movement is all about bringing together mission leaders and new missional ideas – and we were gathered to ‘seek God about his plans for our generation.’ Lausanne isn’t a mission organisation; it’s a connection point for numerous mission groups, denominations, nationalities… all uniting around the dream of seeing God’s Kingdom reaching to the furthest corners of the world and influencing society at every level.

It’s impossible to even summarise the connections and strategies that emerged from this gathering, so I’ll offer just one. The Church of an Asian country have a strategy to send over 20000 missionaries by the year 2030. That sounds all good and well, but they are actually making it happen! During the conference, the delegation from this country met with groups from every region of the world, asking how they can partner together to see this dream become a reality! In the near future we will see this become one of the top missionary-sending nations in the world! This is just one example of a considerable number of partnerships that forged during the gathering, and I’m privileged to be part of it all.

 

The State of the World

I thought you’d be interested to hear some details from a “State of the World” presentation by Operation World. Their figures are, of course, just estimates, but they certainly challenge us about the reality of the world we live in. It’s essential that we have clear understanding of our global context, as this informs our on-the-ground local efforts. Here’s some highlights.

Only during the 1990s did we gain a somewhat complete picture of our global context. We know better than ever where the church is, where the church still needs to go, and what the church still needs to do.

More people have become believers in the last 25 years than at any other point in history, and the number of unevangelised people has dropped from 50% in 1960 to 29% in 2015. However, due to population growth, the actual number of people who have no access to the Gospel is growing daily – we’re actually starting to lose ground!

Likewise, Christians have made up a third of the world’s population for the past 100 years, but where that third is has shifted. In 1960, 19% of evangelicals were from Africa, Asia or Latin America. Today it’s about 78%. And the global number of evangelicals has increased from 3% to 8%.

Global mission has changed from being “the West to the rest” to what’s being called polycentric mission: missionaries are being sent from everywhere to everywhere! This means the world’s cross-cultural mission force is now more diverse than ever – in terms of location, nationality and ethnicity as well as methods and organisations. Perhaps this will involve recognising NZ as not only a ‘sending country’ but also a mission field for missionaries coming from places like Africa and Latin America – we’re in desperate need of outside voices to call us back to God and his mission.

Out of the 200 000 who move into cities every day, 80% end up in slums. Over 1 billion people now live in slums – one out of six people – yet less than one out of 500 missionaries work in slums.

We’ve seen significant decline in global poverty in recent years. Only about 10% of the world live in ‘extreme poverty’ – though that’s 700 million people! And 85% of those living in poverty are located in unevangelised regions.

1.2 million children are victims of human trafficking each year. 80% of trafficked people are women and children, the majority trafficked for the sex trade.

The migration challenges we see today are merely the tip of the ice-berg. Over the next 40 years migration will be the context for much human need and conflict – and for ministry opportunity!

About 81% of the world’s non-Christians don’t personally know a Christian. Even if we can’t all go – and we still need many more people willing to go to the ‘difficult places’ – we can all be involved in the urgent task of praying for God’s world.

We live in an age of unprecedented change, unprecedented complexity and unprecedented uncertainty; the challenges the emerging generations will face will be unlike those ever seen before. But this is also an age of unprecedented opportunity. Let’s make the most of the open doors God has placed before us!

Younger Leaders From Over 140 Countries Connected in Jakarta

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Zane (NZCMS Council) and Jon (NZCMS Communications) had the privilege of attending a significant gathering of the Lausanne Movement. Below are some excerpts from an August 12 press release from the Lausanne Movement’s website summarising the event. The full article can be read by clicking here.

The Lausanne Movement’s most ‘connected’ gathering, the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, came to a close last night. More than one thousand younger leaders and mentors convened for a week from over 140 countries to connect for global mission, in Jakarta, Indonesia, at the Global Campus of Universitas Pelita Harapan.

The vision for YLG2016 was rooted in the same conviction out of which Billy Graham started the Lausanne Movement, namely to help influencers of global mission, who were often working in isolation, to meet and collaborate. Participants for this gathering have been invited through an extensive, prayerful, regionally based selection process after receiving thousands of nominations. About two thirds of the participants were from the Majority World, and about one third were women.

‘I’ve never seen the mission of the Lausanne Movement—connecting influencers and ideas for global mission—more powerfully displayed than during this amazing week’—says Michael Oh, Lausanne’s Global Executive Director/CEO.

Connections took various forms during the programme, such as the 160+ mentoring groups where participants connected their personal life stories to God’s grand narrative of the world. In addition to regional gatherings and 35 workshops focused on many of the most significant missiological issues set forth in The Cape Town Commitment, there were also hundreds of pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings between senior and younger leaders throughout the course of the carefully crafted programme. To emphasize the importance of connecting at YLG2016, the planning team put significant amounts of free time into the week which was key in making space for numerous divine appointments.

Building connections, however, began long before the gathering itself. In perhaps the most ambitious effort in the Lausanne Movement’s history to prepare participants for a gathering, participants had to commit to an entire year of monthly preparation. This included both substantive reflection on the narrative of Scripture around which YLG2016 was focused, and also starting to make individual and national/regional connections long before setting foot in Jakarta.

Throughout the gathering, major challenges for this generation have been tackled: how to proclaim the truth of Christ in a skeptical world, what does it mean to preach the whole gospel and the Lordship of Christ over poverty and the environment, how to respond to different conceptions of human sexuality, the persecuted church, and major challenges facing evangelicalism in the next decades.

‘The gathering has been organized by younger leaders and for younger leaders, most of whom are likely to become the shaping voice of global evangelicalism. But we know we’re not self-sufficient as a generation. I strongly believe that this week has been a defining moment, when our generation consciously stepped into the rich heritage of the Lausanne Movement, looking at God’s mission from a global perspective’—reflects Sarah Breuel, Chair of the YLG2016 Planning Team.

Summarizing his experience at the gathering, Michael Oh reflected: ‘I believe that years later we may look back on this week as an historic gathering where many of the leaders of the global church first connected to one another and were uniquely inspired to lay down their lives in partnership for global mission. Our heart is full of gratitude. To God be the glory!’

 

Thank you to the Lausanne Movement for hosting at the gathering Jon and Zane from the NZCMS family. To see the full article please click here. Personal reflections on the event will be shared by our participants at a later date.

The Women’s Mosque Movement

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By Moyra Dale.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.

 

A female religious scholar of 15th century Hadramawt, Yemen, al-Shaykha Sultana bint ‘Ali al-Zubaydy was well known for her piety, knowledge, and teachings. One of her male counterparts, expressing the conventional opinion that religious scholarship and teaching were the domain of men, challenged her in verse: ‘But can a female camel compete with a male camel?’ She completed the couplet, responding: ‘A female camel can carry the same load as a male, and produce offspring and milk as well.’[1]

As I approach the mosque in a Middle Eastern city, my all-covering full-length coat and headscarf clothe me anonymously among dozens of other women who are entering through the gates and across the yard, past the places for men to wash, away from the spacious main door of the mosque, to pass behind the curtain hung between the corner of the building and the surrounding wall. The curtain conceals the small side door, which opens to a set of carpeted stairs. Wooden shelves are at the bottom of the stairs and on the landing, and we remove our shoes and leave them in the shelves, making our way up the stairs in socks or stockinged feet.

There is not much furniture in the upper meeting hall: the carpet, some shelves for books at the back, a few plastic chairs, sponge mattresses to sit on around the side of the room, and a desk-and-seat for the speaker. Framed pictures of Arabic text hang on the wall. This is the hall where women come and go for the different meetings, do the ritual prayer (salah), greet friends, softly recite pages of the Qur’an or just sit quietly on the floor. The hall opens onto the balcony overlooking the main mosque area where the men pray. Theirs is the high roof, sense of space: here there is more limited space, a lower roof, looking through balustrade or windows onto the main men’s part below—behind, seeing, and unseen.

Women in the history of Islam

Women in mosques are not new in Islam. Traditions (Hadith) that refuse to forbid women from mosques are ascribed to Muhammad, Prophet of Islam. They support stories that women attended the mosque in Muhammad’s time, including Friday sermons and feasts. However, over the centuries as Islam expanded, men went to the mosque and women stayed at home to pray.

There have been women leaders[2] and teachers throughout the history of Islam. Aisha (Muhammad’s wife) and Fatima (his daughter) are often mentioned, along with some of Muhammad’s other wives and companions, as muhaddithat—women who taughthadith to others. A number of religious histories mention famous women scholars and teachers, women who were active in Islamic law (fiqh), interpreting the Qur’an and giving legal rulings (fatwas), exercising the same authority as men scholars.

Women scholars flourished more in the 7th-8th centuries (the early days of Islam) and 12th-16th centuries (times of disruption and invasion from the Crusaders and Mongols).[3] These women were often taught by a male relative such as their father, and sometimes also had private tutors. Education, a male patron, and often, social class were important factors.

A recent influential example was Zaynab al-Ghazali (1917-2005) in Egypt, who founded the Muslim Women’s Association (Jama’at al-Sayyidaat al-Muslimaat) when she was 18 years old. She claimed it had a membership of 3 million throughout the country by the time the government dissolved it in 1964. She gave lectures to thousands of women who attended each week at the Ibn Tulun Mosque. Her association offered lessons for women, published a magazine, maintained an orphanage, offered assistance to poor families, and mediated family disputes. Al-Ghazali worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood, and spent six years in prison until released in 1971 by President Anwar Sadat.

The women’s movement in Islam today

The women’s piety movement has roots in the history of women scholars within Islam. However, it is also a contemporary movement, with unprecedented numbers of women involved in the Islamic revival movement, which has spread through the Muslim world since the 1970s. It has become more visible through the increasing number of women wearing hijab. In the 1980s and 1990s a new wordmutadayyinat, ‘religious women’, was invented, to describe the growing piety movement among women.[4]

Women’s literacy worldwide has increased at the same time as expanding access to Islamic teaching through pamphlets, cassettes, radio, TV, satellite, and Internet. These two factors have helped to grow the Islamic revival movement and women’s part in it. Some women preachers are self-educated; but increasingly religious institutions in the Muslim world are offering training to women.[5] Al-Azhar University in Cairo began training women preachers in 1999.

Where they face social restrictions, Muslim women have always used religious occasions in the home, such as Qur’anic recitations or recitative prayer (dhikr) to gain blessing. So religious practices provide support for the chance to gather and talk together over a glass of tea or a meal. Women began to organize religious lessons in their homes to learn the Qur’an and other religious materials. Increasingly, homes and special gatherings became used as places where women were encouraged to make sure that their behaviour and clothing fit with what Islam teaches. A birthday party might include a time to urge all the young women attending to wear hijab.

Throughout the world

In the Middle East in the 1990s and early 2000s, women began to move more into mosques for their gatherings, and to become involved in public religious teaching, including on television. Mosque classes train women how to behave as good Muslims, and also how to teach others at community events such as weddings or births. Furthermore local neighbourhood mosques are used as centres to organize activities including both religious instruction and medical and welfare help for Muslims in need.

Elsewhere in the world, in Indonesia from the early 1900s, both the reformistMuhammadiya and traditionalist Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organisations have offered Islamic education to women as well as men, from grassroots informal religious classes up to Islamic training schools (pesantren). So now large numbers of women are equipped to discuss and teach about Islamic texts and legal rulings.[6]

In China, the growth in women’s mosques and women’s religious culture among the Muslim Hui people has been connected to China’s move in the 1980s towards reform and openness to the outside world.[7] In the Indian sub-continent, the efforts of the conservative Tablighi Jama’at was at first directed at men. However, women are now included among those who travel for shorter or extended periods to promote reformist Islam (while maintaining the rules of purdah).[8]

A new space for women

This has led to a generation of women literate and competent in the Qur’an and the traditions, and able to interpret them with regard to the issues of women’s everyday lives. A growing number of publications by women give women’s perspectives on reading the Qur’an and its teachings. In Malaysia, the Sisters of Islam draw on the religious texts in their effort to enable women and to help them get justice in issues of family law such as divorce.

Women’s authority in Islam has traditionally been in the home and at times of rites of passage, family transitions. Now they are taking up authority in the area of religious texts and teaching. It is still within conservative Islam, and women support their place in mosques and teaching, by conforming to conservative religious practices of dress and general behaviour. By reading the Qur’an and traditions for themselves, to answer the questions from women’s daily lives, they are reforming the role of women within Islam.

Implications and suggested responses

We recognise that Muslims and Christians may both meet questions about the place of women in a conservative reading of our faith and our books. We have common cause in working for women who face unjust marriage or divorce laws, or violence. So there is a place to meet and work alongside women in the Muslim piety movement. We need to bring a robust understanding of the place of women in Christ to our meeting.

It is good to be able to interact with the discussions around the Qur’an, the nature of the Messiah, the authenticity of the Bible—the arguments in which they have been trained. Going beyond argument to telling the stories of Jesus, of his interactions with women—including the place he gave them in his ministry (Lk 10:39, Jn 4); his power to purify (Lk 8:26-56); his refusal to condemn (Jn 8:1-11)—speak right into the aspirations and longings of women in the piety movement.

We can share from our own hopes and struggles, and how Jesus meets and answers us. As we pray, they may encounter the Messiah who is powerfully present to hear and answer our petitions.

The women’s mosque movement reminds us that within the Muslim world, there are different understandings of the place of women, just as there are different understandings of violence and its use. In the end, the basic place of meeting between Christian and Muslim is our shared regard for Jesus the Messiah; and the most fundamental point of difference is not the place of women or of violence, but who we believe the Messiah to be.

 

Image: ‘Enjoining the mosque’ by Giuseppe Milo (CC BY-NC 2.0). 

Strategic Foresight: A New Horizon for Innovation in Ministry

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By Derek Seipp.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at lausanne.org/analysis

 

You may not be aware that there is a plan on the horizon to begin colonizing Mars by 2026. SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s plan does not stop there. Musk’s ultimate goal is to see one million people living on Mars by the end of the century.

Let us consider US President John F Kennedy’s speech in 1961, calling for a man to be put on the moon within a decade. In order to put his vision in context, in 1961 there were no personal computers, most commercial aircraft still used propellers, and TV was still predominately black and white. Considering the available technology at the time, Kennedy’s horizon was audacious. People thought it just could not be done; yet eight years later, Neil Armstrong descended a ladder and took that famous ‘one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’.

Higher horizons versus incremental steps

If we had simply continued doing what we were doing, taking incremental steps to do it a little better each year, we would probably never have set foot on the moon. Yet this is where most of us find ourselves: looking for steady, incremental improvements. The problem with this kind of thinking is that we look back at what we have done in order to see what is possible in the future. In essence, we look backward in order to look forward.

However, Kennedy did not base the future upon the past. He set an audacious horizon, looking forward, to something far and beyond where we were. It inspired people to reach beyond mere incremental improvements.

Kennedy knew that the knowledge and technology needed did not even exist in 1961. This caused scientists to look forward and explore what technologies would be necessary to accomplish such a radical goal. Once those necessary technologies were identified, scientists began working their way back to the present. This allowed them to create a roadmap starting from the future, which identified each technology that needed to be developed to bring them to their desired destination.

Great horizons always push us to look forward beyond ourselves. Once we understand the desired future, we walk back to the present and figure out how to get there. This kind of thinking results in innovative, paradigm-changing ways of impacting our world.

When we set our sights on higher horizons, it is amazing what can be done. Pyramids are built. Cathedrals are constructed. Brave new worlds are discovered.

Horizons for mission

Bill O’Brien was Vice-President at the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) when he read an article in 1994 about a physicist at NASA who was setting broader and higher horizons. The article literally changed the course of his career. It described how physicist Dr John Andersen led his team to find a revolutionary new approach to space travel. As a result, they cut the time necessary to fly to Jupiter down from several years to just a couple of months.

‘This is what we need in Christian mission’, O’Brien excitedly thought. He contacted Andersen, who was more than happy to lead a group of ministry leaders through a similar process. In 1996, international leaders gathered to discuss the future of Africa in the year 2050. O’Brien said: ‘The reason Andersen pushes those horizons out so far is that it helps people engage in the process and stop just extrapolating elements in the present. The second thing is that we need to construct a new framework, not just for fantasizing, but for using critical relevant thinking within that framework.’

‘This is not a way of creating strategic plans, but it is a way of creating new ways of thinking’—O’Brien.

Andersen kept pressing the group to look out further and further to the future, while exploring higher and higher leverage capabilities. Then the group worked backwards to today in order to discuss all the steps necessary to arrive at this new future. O’Brien says the results were revolutionary for everyone involved.

O’Brien was convinced. He began helping other organizations practice this type of thinking. One such project was with World Vision. They explored the possibility that the organization would be forced out of business by 2030. ‘It got everybody scared’, says O’Brien. The organization realized just how vulnerable it was to the many changes happening in our world. Many significant changes came out of those meetings.

‘This is not a way of creating strategic plans, but it is a way of creating new ways of thinking’—O’Brien.

Understanding potential futures

Our world is changing faster than ever before. Entire cultures are changing in the light of globalization, technology, urbanization, and a host of other factors. Unreached people groups are migrating to cities. The number of global languages will likely drop by half. In the face of these radical changes, merely seeking incremental improvements in our ministries will only set us further and further behind.

Forward thinking empowers leaders to explore and understand all the various places the future could take them. They break free from limited thinking patterns holding them back from something greater. As leaders do this, they begin to see themselves differently. They also view the resources at their disposal differently too.

Gideon example

The Bible is full of stories which highlight this type of thinking. Take Gideon, for instance. He limited himself by thinking he was the least family member of the smallest tribe in Israel. Yet God saw Gideon as something else entirely. To enable him to share God’s perspective, he needed a radically new horizon. God told Gideon he would rout the entire enemy army; but he would have to do it with just 300 men. Now, it is important to note that God never told Gideon how to do it.

As a result, Gideon deployed 300 soldiers in an innovatively new way. To the old Gideon, hiding in a well and constrained in his thinking, the original vision was as impossible as sending a man to the moon.

Studying trends

A good soccer player knows not to go to the ball, but to get to where the ball is going to be. The same can be said about ministry organizations. As the changes leaders face come faster and faster, leaders must learn to align their organizations with the future environment before it emerges.

To do so, leaders must seek to understand the most likely environments to emerge in the future. One way to do this is by studying the emerging trends, issues, and choices being made. As a weatherman creates forecasts by examining how weather changes interact in the environment, leaders can use trends, issues, and choices to create forecasts about their future environment as well. The greater these are understood, the clearer the forecast of the future will be. And when leaders have a clearer picture of the future, they have a much greater chance of getting to where the ball is going to be.

Mission Society example

O’Brien was asked by The Mission Society to help them address an issue of growing concern. It was their 25th anniversary and a significant gap had developed between their vision and the way their missionaries were being deployed on the ground. They gathered missionaries and leaders from around the globe in Prague in 2008.

‘The horizon was 25 years’, says Vice-President Jim Ramsay. They explored what the world would look like far into the future. Ramsay said they realized: ‘If we don’t change, we won’t be addressing the key global issues in 10-15 years . . . the future is going to challenge our structural models as well as our funding models. We have to rethink how we do everything. It’s an exciting time, and there is a lot we have to wrestle with. Broad organizational shift is happening as a result of that meeting—its fingerprints are all over many aspects of our organization today.’

‘Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding.’—Proverbs 4:7 (NET).

The results of that meeting in 2008 are still creating an impact. The organization refined its vision and mission, and then changed its structure and culture as well. They are also realizing the tremendous potential in developing multi-agency collaboration for global partnerships. Other new innovative ideas continue to emerge as individuals continue to align themselves with the future.

‘Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding.’—Proverbs 4:7 (NET).

The chiefs of Issachar

David had been cast out from King Saul’s presence into the wilderness. There he gathered to himself the best men of Israel. Among them were great warriors, able to use their weapons with both their right and left hands. In the middle of this great list of warriors is a curious group. The Bible says these 200 chiefs of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. They understood how the issues and choices would interact to create a future in which David would be king. These warriors’ greatest weapons were their minds.

Implications and suggested responses

The Bible commends the chiefs of Issachar for understanding the times and knowing what to do. God is looking for similar men and women today, who are prepared to lead ministries into the future. To get started, leaders should begin engaging their teams in conversations about the future. Here are some initial questions to ask:

What emerging trends, issues, and choices do we see happening in our environment? 

How might these combine to change our future environment? 

To what new horizon is God calling us? 

Is our organization prepared for the future 5, 10, 20 years out? 

There is also a small but growing set of books and resources which can fuel these conversations. In 1998 Paul McKaughan, Dellana O’Brien, and William (Bill) O’Brien co-authored Choosing a Future for US Missions, which is available from the William Carey Library. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity produces many resources highlighting global Christian trends. More often, however, the most innovative ideas arise as we study other disciplines and then seek to apply them in our own areas of expertise. Finally, later this year, the William Carey Library is publishing a book by the author of this article specifically designed to help ministry leaders develop a comprehensive framework for analyzing trends, thinking about the future and setting broad new horizons.

 

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