Friday, May 4, 2012

More About Miraculous Movements

Yesterday I featured and reviewed the book Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale. It is an incredible book that testifies of a reality that is not portrayed on the news channels: God is moving in the hearts of Muslims and wooing them to Him! Today I want to share this Q&A with the author, Jerry Trousdale.

1. In Miraculous Movements, you take readers through stories of what you have witnessed in countries where Muslims are coming to Christ in staggering numbers. Why do you think Cityteam is seeing this depth of conversion?

I think it may have something to do with God’s sense of humor and his delight in inviting unlikely people and organizations to join Him in extraordinary Kingdom adventures. There are several things that characterize not only Cityteam but other organizations we train and coach that are also seeing success in disciple making movements.

First, a passion for engaging lostness. Cityteam’s history is working with people in cities who are in desperate and dangerous situations, showing not only compassion on human suffering, but also a commitment to being faithful disciples of Jesus making other disciples.

Second, Cityteam and others are willing to make radical paradigm shifts to align ministry with biblical values and principles. This is very counter-intuitive but powerful.

Third, wherever you see rapidly multiplying movements you see much prayer. It is always prayer that initiates processes by which we partner with God to do what we can, and He does what only He can.

Fourth, most ministries having success in disciple making movements have a Kingdom of God mentality. It is not about their own ministry but about freely giving away what they are learning to other ministries.

Fifth, it is all about making disciples, not converts. This makes a huge difference in our ministry’s strategic intent, our focus on obedience to God’s Word, and transforming families and whole

2. You talk about Discipleship Making Movements. What does this refer to?

Jesus last words on earth were among his most important. It was a charge to the church to "make disciples of all peoples of the world, teaching them to obey everything He had commanded.”

But today the church seems to have more focus on making converts who accept some propositional truths and then try to make them become obedient disciples. This strategy is not the model Jesus used and this strategy is typically slow and not easily reproduced from person to person.

The Great Commission will never be achieved by addition, it has to be multiplication. That is the principle that Paul described in II Tim. 2:2 and what we see in the book of Acts.

Today disciple making movements of “disciples making disciples and churches planting churches” are sweeping across more than 40 countries and more than 170 different people groups, including some of the most historically unreached Muslim and Hindu people in the world. And now they are beginning to happen in North America and Latin America.

3. Do you have to be a so-called leader, pastor, or even consider yourself an evangelist to put this into practice in America?

Ordinary Christians, with or without a lot of theological training are not only permitted to engage lostness and make disciples—they are commanded by Jesus to do exactly that. As the body of Christ we are not always so encouraging of ordinary Christians going outside of their church’s programs to make disciples and perhaps even launch communities of faith.

As a pastor for 15 years I did not do a very good job of mobilizing and training the people who called me their pastor to take the gospel into their part of the marketplace. I didn’t know how.
I might have done so if I had known how simple and powerful it could be.

I think a lot of pastors today are in the same boat I was—we really want to empower people to change our communities but we just don’t know how, so we default to small groups that are great for nurturing, but typically not so good for engaging lostness around us.

Jesus chose 12 very ordinary people to invest his attention to make them his disciples, and they launched movements that swept over the Roman Empire within 70 years.

The greatest joy in my life is observing hundreds of thousands of farmers, school teachers, taxi drivers, police officers, soldiers, custodians, and domestics discovering that God has an
“extraordinary call” on their lives, and then he empowers them to do it.

The church will always need well-equipped leaders to train, coach, and mentor God’s people but the model we see succeeding around the world bears little resemblance. It’s time for us to
realize that leaders of local churches can mobilize and utilize their members in the marketplace to change their communities.

4. One of the fascinating things shown in the book is the Sheiks and Imams who are coming to Christ. Why is this happening?

Early on as we watched movements begin to happen in Muslim populations of Africa we realized that a high percentage of the people that the Bible calls “people of peace” – the people whom God had prepared to bridge the Gospel into Muslim communities – were in fact Imams, Sheiks, senior Muslim leaders. That was shocking to us. We never expected that.

In God’s historic economy of things, he seems to pluck great men and women of faith out of the most unlikely circumstances.

In our interviews with more than 100 former Muslim leaders we have discovered that there is a tremendous dissatisfaction and discouragement among the very people who know the Qur’an
best and who are themselves desperate for assurance in their own religion. Many of these people are hungry to experience a God that loves them.

And then when they become Followers of Jesus they naturally related back to many of their former Muslim associates whom they know also are hungry for more than they have experienced in Islam. We have a chapter in the book called “Expect the Greatest Results from the Hardest People” because this is an extraordinary phenomenon.

5. What percentage of converted believers in countries that Cityteam has trained leaders for disciple-making movements will suffer for their faith?

Eighty to ninety percent of the former Muslims we interviewed described the persecution that they experienced when they made that decision. Since most of those interviews were with former leaders that percentage is likely less with former Muslims with a lower profile. Still a very high percentage of new Muslim background disciples experience persecution. And that is to be
expected--the Bible says more about persecution than it does about love.

We had one case in a very dangerous place where one new Christian leader reverted to Islam after his family was taken away from him. That was of course devastating to the church there, but that is the only case like that I know of.

New Muslim background disciples of Jesus are just fearless. We have a section in the book that describes the answer to the question we asked of six leaders of an underground movement where almost all of the leaders have been arrested at least once, and some have been imprisoned for years. The answers are incredibly powerful and humbling.

6. How many teams does Cityteam have set up to help believers in Africa and other countries share their faith?

There are about 18,000 new churches planted over the last seven years in Africa, more in North America, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. But we have our greatest concentration of focus in about 20 African countries. Most of those churches have been planting among people considered “least reached” or less than 2% Christian and 1/3 totally unreached--virtually no Christians in that region. There are somewhere between 20,000 - 25,000 new leaders serving 600-700,000 new Christians.

It is difficult to give precise numbers of trainers because the situation changes daily, but in general there are 350 partner ministries. Between their teams and ours there are about 1,000 trainers who coach and mentor 600 trainers, coaches, and mentors who have some regular contact with the 20,000 plus leaders. This is by cell phone or by regular visits in their area during a week with 10 or 15 leaders gathered every 3 or 4 months for training and coaching.

This is key: training does not extract people from where they live.

7. How is it that Cityteam is training leaders of many other ministries? What is applicable for any ministry regardless of size or function?

Our ultimate goal is to see the fulfillment of the Great Commission and especially the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14.

Many of our team members are veterans – seasoned missionaries and students of mission – and God has allowed us to see outcomes beyond what we had ever believed possible in our lifetimes. But the reality is that no one ministry can ever hope to close the gap on the thousands of unreached people groups who are living and dying with no option of Jesus. So one of our most important goals is to introduce thousands of other ministries to the simple Biblical values and principles that will challenge our traditional practices but which seem to produce tremendous outcomes that give God much glory.

Over the last seven years we have probably trained the heads of more than 1,000 different ministries – Western, African, Middle Eastern, European, Southeast Asian, and Latin American. There is no syllabus and no take-home packet. Until this book came out there wasn’t anything in print.

What we do is encourage in-room discovery Bible groups where individuals open their Bibles and search the scriptures for a week with one question: “If I was to obey these teachings of Jesus how would my ministry change”? God does the rest. Engaging lostness is simple, but not easy. But for sure it is very exciting.

8. Do you think current models of discipleship are wearing out or are no longer as effective? Is the Church going to need to rethink how we attract people to become followers of Christ?

Pastors have the most difficult job I know. I pastored two churches over 15 years and both were by far harder than my 60 hours a week job as director of marketing. Pray for your pastors. They are working very hard to see the Kingdom of God happen in your life and in your families.

Our Western world has become more developed, our lives more mobile, and our schedules completely jammed as technology both enhances some aspects of life but also squeezes our relationships. And the church has had to adapt to all of this.

The one constant of our world is relationships suffer at the expense of schedules. And so churches have compensated beginning with the first drive-in churches 40 years ago. Pastors have tremendous challenges like meeting people’s needs, serving them in crises, and seeing them become discipled. It boils down to a few simple things that are left out of the equation:
  • No time for prayer for God-sized visions
  • No time for reading the Bible, and no group process that we commit to obey what we are reading and hold each other accountable
  • No time for being discipled or making disciples
  • No time for intentionally engaging lostness around us the way Jesus did
  • No time to find people God is preparing to bridge the Gospel into a new family
  • No time to facilitate Discovery Bible groups that result in new communities of Christ followers

This is why Cityteam is focused on disciple making movements. We see that it is very effective not only for us but for those we are trying to reach as we work to fulfill the Great Commission.

9. What do you want to underscore from what you have shared in the book, Miraculous Movements?

Disciple making movements are counter-intuitive, completely Biblical, and transformational. It requires a total reorientation of ministry models with much less control than we’re used to having. But it produces outcomes we have only dreamed about. Some of the strategic points of disciple making movements are:

  1. Go slow at first to go fast later. Focus on a few to win many.
  2. Share only when and where people are ready to hear.
  3. A novice insider is often more effective than a well-trained outsider.
  4. Start with creation not Christ.
  5. Disciple people to conversion - not vice versa.
  6. Prepare to spend a long time making strong disciples, but anticipate miracle accelerations.
  7. The best time for a church to plant a new church is when it is brand new.
  8. Expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results For more on this, go to our website at

10. How do you plan to help church leaders and lay leaders implement the methods behind Discipleship Making Movements that are not just attracting individuals but entire families to follow Jesus?

We would recommend that churches not try to change their whole program to do this, but rather adopt it as a way of reaching their community outside the walls of the church.

Finding people of peace is easy and starting discovery Bible studies is easy, but if you try to implement all of the paradigm shifts in a church you may create some unnecessary stresses.

We find it is better to encourage some members of a church to implement the full Disciple making movement processes as a ministry of the church and the resulting new communities of faith will likely be most productive if they are allowed to grow in their own unique context to be a community of Christ followers in their unique cultural niche—likely different from the church that launched the initiative.

Some U.S. churches are already experimenting with this among a range of segments of a population, including immigrant populations, people recovering from addictions, and others.

11. For anyone who wants to see our world penetrated with who Jesus really is, what is your encouragement for those who want to follow Jesus – not a program or a church but a Savior?

If you will begin to implement in your life a few things that Jesus modeled when He was on the earth to engage lostness around you, then God will honor your partnership in doing what you can but He will do what only God can do and you will get to see people’s lives changed by the power of God. You will never be the same again. Nor will your community.

(Q&A provided by Thomas Nelson and The Blythe Daniel Agency.)


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