Posts tagged ‘muslim background believers’

February 15th, 2011

Convert Drought Fatigue and New Bible Translations

Published also on Lausanne Blog HERE on February 15, 2011

The cover story of the February 2011 issue of Christianity Today, “The Son and the Crescent,” is about new Bible translations geared toward Muslims that avoid the phrase “Son of God” which according to Wycliffe/SIL linguist and missiologist Dr. Richard Brown are effective because many Muslims become “quite open and interested in knowing more about Jesus” when they read these Bible translations, some have even embraced Jesus, who to them is not the Son of God.

I really appreciate Christianity Today and Collin Hansen for bringing this discussion to the fore, making it mainstream. Christian outreach to Muslims already grapples with issues ranging from new Muslim background believers facing severe persecutions to difficulties adjusting to their new identity. Now this. Here are a few pitfalls this article reveals.

First, the article mentions how “representatives from several prominent mission agencies, both national and expatriate, met to compare notes about the progress of their respective ministries in one Muslim-majority country.” [Emphasis mine.] These representatives were concerned about the numbers. They cared about how their organizations fared in the field, comparing notes, using each other as yardsticks. When has a mission organization’s progress deemed successful based on number of new “converts?” Christian Missions have become business enterprises. The success of a Christian ministry is now judged based on how many souls are “saved.”

This notion puts missionaries serving among Muslims under immense pressure to deliver. A pastor once asked a missionary why the fruits (converts) had not been realized even after 20 plus years of his denomination’s ministry among Muslims in Kenya. This pastor was asking for the returns of his church’s investment. Missionaries among Muslims face immense pressure. There is no doubt some of them end up feeling the effects of convert drought fatigue thus employing these unbiblical tactics to gain converts.

Second, there is confusion when it comes to Islam and Muslim in one of these countries this cover story addresses. I have wondered how can a “closed” Muslim country allow a movie about Jesus and even allow it to be “aired on national television” when Islamic teachings ban depiction of any prophet—Jesus is considered a prophet—in a movie? A friend of mine is a missionary in one of these countries. He told me local Muslims he encountered were not knowledgeable of Islam. Islam he knew before he came to this country was foreign to the locals. He had to relearn their type of Islam. For example, local Muslims did not take seriously the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan. Discussions about basic tenets of Islam failed. Why should Christian missionaries risk the integrity of Bible translations trying to overcome these so-called Muslims misconceptions?

Muslim scholars are aware of new Christian missionary efforts at gaining converts. When they find out about this particular case in these countries, they will establish dawa (Muslim missionary efforts) and these Christian missionaries’ tactics will backfire. In case these missionaries get kicked out, they would leave behind adulterated translations of the Bible, which Muslim scholars might use to further undermine the Bible. Fellow Muslims would also dismiss these converts as not to have been true Muslims before they became “Christians.” They might even ask them to convert to the Islam they never practiced. Why take this risk?

Third, there is no problem with a Christian missionary using the term “Allah” in reference to God provided the Muslims end up understanding the Judeo-Christian concept of God as radically different from Allah who Prophet Muhammad preached. [I am not opposed to Arab Christians using "Allah" for "God." Allah and Muhammad in some cases in the Qur’an were one and the same. You can read it here.

Fourth, these Christian missionaries who advocate for change in Bible translations to cater to Muslims seem ignorant of Islamic teachings. It is possible since they reach out to Muslims who are just traditional Muslims not knowledgeable of Islam, these missionaries don’t understand what Islam teaches. Using “the Beloved Son who comes (or originates) from God” is not the same as the “Son of God” even to a Muslim who practices Islam. The Qur’an already has references to Jesus and when it shows he is “from” Allah, it doesn’t mean he is any different from other human beings. His virgin birth in Islam is unique but he is not divine in any way.

Suratul An-Nisa verse 171 states:

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” …

The meaning of this verse, which even some Christians use when witnessing to Muslims, embodies what a practicing Muslim believes about Jesus and is summed up best in this Tafsir (commentary of the Qur’an):

O People of the Scripture, the Gospel, do not go to extremes, do not go beyond the bounds, in your religion and do not say about God except, the saying of, the truth, such as exalting Him above any associations with a partner or a child: the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word which He cast to, [which] He conveyed to, Mary, and a spirit, that is, one whose spirit is, from Him: he [Jesus] is here attached to God, exalted be He, as an honouring for him, and not as you claim, that he is the son of God, or a god alongside Him, or one of three, because one that possesses a spirit is compound, while God transcends being compound and the attribution of compounds to Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, that the gods are, ‘Three’, God, Jesus and his mother.

Muslims are confused about the Trinity because the Qur’an erroneously claims the Trinity is Mary, Jesus, and God. The Allah Muhammad preached got it wrong. Ancient Christian creeds (Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed) even addressed this issue a few hundred years before Prophet Muhammad’s revelations. This confusion about the Trinity is the heart of matter. Christian missionaries need to debunk this myth and not come up with new terms that further exacerbate this confusion.

Last, I don’t deny that missionaries who use this flawed and heretical method would lead some Muslims to Christ. Even when the push for this mode of outreach was spurred by impatience and ignorance, those who the Father draws will come to Him. The unashamed Son of God says:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Let us tread biblically.

Hussein Wario is a former Kenyan Sunni Muslim. He is the author of Cracks in the Crescent. He blogs regularly. You can listen to his testimony here.

The cover story of the February issue of Christianity Today, “The Son and the Crescent,” is about new Bible translations geared toward Muslims that avoid the phrase “Son of God” which according to Christian linguist and missiologist Dr. Richard Brown are effective because many Muslims become “quite open and interested in knowing more about Jesus” when they read these Bible translations, some have even embraced Jesus, who to them is not the Son of God.

I really appreciate Christianity Today and Collin Hansen for bringing this discussion to the fore, making it mainstream. Christian outreach to Muslims already grapples with issues ranging from new Muslim background believers facing severe persecutions to difficulties adjusting to their new identity. Now this. Here are a few pitfalls this article reveals.

First, the article mentions how “representatives from several prominent mission agencies, both national and expatriate, met to compare notes about the progress of their respective ministries in one Muslim-majority country.” [Emphasis mine.] These representatives were concerned about the numbers. They cared about how their organizations fared in the field, comparing notes, using each other as yardsticks. When has a mission organization’s progress deemed successful based on number of new “converts?” Christian Missions have become business enterprises. The success of a Christian ministry is now judged based on how many souls are “saved.”

This notion puts missionaries serving among Muslims under immense pressure to deliver. A pastor once asked a missionary why the fruits (converts) had not been realized even after 20 plus years of his denomination’s ministry among Muslims in Kenya. This pastor was asking for the returns of his church’s investment. Missionaries among Muslims face immense pressure. There is no doubt some of them end up feeling the effects of convert drought fatigue thus employing these unbiblical tactics to gain converts.

Second, there is confusion when it comes to Islam and Muslim in one of these countries this cover story addresses. I have wondered how can a “closed” Muslim country allow a movie about Jesus and even allow it to be “aired on national television” when Islamic teachings ban depiction of any prophet—Jesus is considered a prophet—in a movie? A friend of mine is a missionary in one of these countries. He told me local Muslims he encountered were not knowledgeable of Islam. Islam he knew before he came to this country was foreign to the locals. He had to relearn their type of Islam. For example, local Muslims did not take seriously the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan. Discussions about basic tenets of Islam failed. Why should Christian missionaries risk the integrity of Bible translations trying to overcome these so-called Muslims misconceptions?

Muslim scholars are aware of new Christian missionary efforts at gaining converts. When they find out about this particular case in these countries, they will establish dawa (Muslim missionary efforts) and these Christian missionaries’ tactics will backfire. In case these missionaries get kicked out, they would leave behind adulterated translations of the Bible, which Muslim scholars might use to further undermine the Bible. Fellow Muslims would also dismiss these converts as not to have been true Muslims before they became “Christians.” They might even ask them to convert to the Islam they never practiced. Why take this risk?

Third, there is no problem with a Christian missionary using the term “Allah” in reference to God provided the Muslims end up understanding the Judeo-Christian concept of God as radically different from Allah who Prophet Muhammad preached. Allah and Muhammad in some cases in the Qur’an were one and the same. You can read it here.

Fourth, these Christian missionaries who advocate for change in Bible translations to cater to Muslims seem ignorant of Islamic teachings. It is possible since they reach out to Muslims who are just traditional Muslims not knowledgeable of Islam, these missionaries don’t understand what Islam teaches. Using “the Beloved Son who comes (or originates) from God” is not the same as the “Son of God” even to a Muslim who practices Islam. The Qur’an already has references to Jesus and when it shows he is “from” Allah, it doesn’t mean he is any different from other human beings. His virgin birth in Islam is unique but he is not divine in any way.

Suratul An-Nisa verse 171 states:

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” …

The meaning of this verse, which even some Christians use when witnessing to Muslims, embodies what a practicing Muslim believes about Jesus and is summed up best in this Tafsir (commentary of the Qur’an):

O People of the Scripture, the Gospel, do not go to extremes, do not go beyond the bounds, in your religion and do not say about God except, the saying of, the truth, such as exalting Him above any associations with a partner or a child: the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word which He cast to, [which] He conveyed to, Mary, and a spirit, that is, one whose spirit is, from Him: he [Jesus] is here attached to God, exalted be He, as an honouring for him, and not as you claim, that he is the son of God, or a god alongside Him, or one of three, because one that possesses a spirit is compound, while God transcends being compound and the attribution of compounds to Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, that the gods are, ‘Three’, God, Jesus and his mother.

Muslims are confused about the Trinity because the Qur’an erroneously claims the Trinity is Mary, Jesus, and God. The Allah Muhammad preached got it wrong. Ancient Christian creeds (Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed) even addressed this issue a few hundred years before Prophet Muhammad’s revelations. This confusion about the Trinity is the heart of matter. Christian missionaries need to debunk this myth and not come up with new terms that further exacerbate this confusion.

Last, I don’t deny that missionaries who use this flawed and heretical method would lead some Muslims to Christ. Even when the push for this mode of outreach was spurred by impatience and ignorance, those who the Father draws will come to Him. The unashamed Son of God says:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Let us tread biblically.The cover story of the February issue of Christianity Today, “The Son and the Crescent,” is about new Bible translations geared toward Muslims that avoid the phrase “Son of God” which according to Christian linguist and missiologist Dr. Richard Brown are effective because many Muslims become “quite open and interested in knowing more about Jesus” when they read these Bible translations, some have even embraced Jesus, who to them is not the Son of God.

I really appreciate Christianity Today and Collin Hansen for bringing this discussion to the fore, making it mainstream. Christian outreach to Muslims already grapples with issues ranging from new Muslim background believers facing severe persecutions to difficulties adjusting to their new identity. Now this. Here are a few pitfalls this article reveals.

First, the article mentions how “representatives from several prominent mission agencies, both national and expatriate, met to compare notes about the progress of their respective ministries in one Muslim-majority country.” [Emphasis mine.] These representatives were concerned about the numbers. They cared about how their organizations fared in the field, comparing notes, using each other as yardsticks. When has a mission organization’s progress deemed successful based on number of new “converts?” Christian Missions have become business enterprises. The success of a Christian ministry is now judged based on how many souls are “saved.”

This notion puts missionaries serving among Muslims under immense pressure to deliver. A pastor once asked a missionary why the fruits (converts) had not been realized even after 20 plus years of his denomination’s ministry among Muslims in Kenya. This pastor was asking for the returns of his church’s investment. Missionaries among Muslims face immense pressure. There is no doubt some of them end up feeling the effects of convert drought fatigue thus employing these unbiblical tactics to gain converts.

Second, there is confusion when it comes to Islam and Muslim in one of these countries this cover story addresses. I have wondered how can a “closed” Muslim country allow a movie about Jesus and even allow it to be “aired on national television” when Islamic teachings ban depiction of any prophet—Jesus is considered a prophet—in a movie? A friend of mine is a missionary in one of these countries. He told me local Muslims he encountered were not knowledgeable of Islam. Islam he knew before he came to this country was foreign to the locals. He had to relearn their type of Islam. For example, local Muslims did not take seriously the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan. Discussions about basic tenets of Islam failed. Why should Christian missionaries risk the integrity of Bible translations trying to overcome these so-called Muslims misconceptions?

Muslim scholars are aware of new Christian missionary efforts at gaining converts. When they find out about this particular case in these countries, they will establish dawa (Muslim missionary efforts) and these Christian missionaries’ tactics will backfire. In case these missionaries get kicked out, they would leave behind adulterated translations of the Bible, which Muslim scholars might use to further undermine the Bible. Fellow Muslims would also dismiss these converts as not to have been true Muslims before they became “Christians.” They might even ask them to convert to the Islam they never practiced. Why take this risk?

Third, there is no problem with a Christian missionary using the term “Allah” in reference to God provided the Muslims end up understanding the Judeo-Christian concept of God as radically different from Allah who Prophet Muhammad preached. Allah and Muhammad in some cases in the Qur’an were one and the same. You can read it here.

Fourth, these Christian missionaries who advocate for change in Bible translations to cater to Muslims seem ignorant of Islamic teachings. It is possible since they reach out to Muslims who are just traditional Muslims not knowledgeable of Islam, these missionaries don’t understand what Islam teaches. Using “the Beloved Son who comes (or originates) from God” is not the same as the “Son of God” even to a Muslim who practices Islam. The Qur’an already has references to Jesus and when it shows he is “from” Allah, it doesn’t mean he is any different from other human beings. His virgin birth in Islam is unique but he is not divine in any way.

Suratul An-Nisa verse 171 states:

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” …

The meaning of this verse, which even some Christians use when witnessing to Muslims, embodies what a practicing Muslim believes about Jesus and is summed up best in this Tafsir (commentary of the Qur’an):

O People of the Scripture, the Gospel, do not go to extremes, do not go beyond the bounds, in your religion and do not say about God except, the saying of, the truth, such as exalting Him above any associations with a partner or a child: the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word which He cast to, [which] He conveyed to, Mary, and a spirit, that is, one whose spirit is, from Him: he [Jesus] is here attached to God, exalted be He, as an honouring for him, and not as you claim, that he is the son of God, or a god alongside Him, or one of three, because one that possesses a spirit is compound, while God transcends being compound and the attribution of compounds to Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, that the gods are, ‘Three’, God, Jesus and his mother.

Muslims are confused about the Trinity because the Qur’an erroneously claims the Trinity is Mary, Jesus, and God. The Allah Muhammad preached got it wrong. Ancient Christian creeds (Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed) even addressed this issue a few hundred years before Prophet Muhammad’s revelations. This confusion about the Trinity is the heart of matter. Christian missionaries need to debunk this myth and not come up with new terms that further exacerbate this confusion.

Last, I don’t deny that missionaries who use this flawed and heretical method would lead some Muslims to Christ. Even when the push for this mode of outreach was spurred by impatience and ignorance, those who the Father draws will come to Him. The unashamed Son of God says:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Let us tread biblically.

October 19th, 2010

Muslim Followers of Jesus? A Response to Joseph Cumming

I wrote this in response to Joseph Cumming’s advance paper, Muslim Followers of Jesus? He has written it for Lausanne World Congress which is taking place in Capetown, South Africa. The discussion is on Islam and Christian outreach to Muslims. You can read his entire article here. He wrote:

Ibrahim was a well-respected scholar of the Qur’an, a Hafiz. When he decided to follow Jesus, he closely examined the Qur’anic verses commonly understood as denying the Trinity, denying Jesus’ divine Sonship, denying Jesus’ atoning death, and denying the textual integrity of the Bible. He concluded that each of these verses was open to alternate interpretations, and that he could therefore follow Jesus as a Muslim. Soon members of his family and community came to share his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Ibrahim was also imprisoned for his faith, but unlike Nabil, Ibrahim still wanted to follow Jesus as a Muslim. Nonetheless some whom he led to Jesus no longer see themselves as Muslims. Ibrahim and Nabil are friends and respect each other as brothers, though they disagree about their identity.

Ibrahim seems to suffer from identity crisis. A Christian, possibly from Muslim background, should sit down with him and talk with him about how his identity should be in Jesus Christ. Ibrahim doesn’t have to leave his culture but to continue living in obedience to Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, observing some of the five pillars of Islam is syncretism. I don’t know what else to call it when even the Hadith shows Muhammad invented these practices. How could Ibrahim come up with “alternate interpretations” of the Qur’an when for 1400 years these verses have had zero alternate meaning?

Here is my personal story. I came to know the Lord in August 1989. Then in April 1990 I met a Kenyan national missionary who had a great idea. [We are still friends :) .] He wanted me to go back home to my own people so that I could live with them and be a Christian witness. Sad to say at that time the Kenyan government representative in my home area had already severed my ties to my family due to persecution. My missionary friend was oblivious to danger I had faced. He was a big believer in C4 contextualization. (His library contained books from leading advocates for C scale.) Had I followed through with his idea, I would have either been hurt or dead. Even sadder, this missionary’s idea came to fruition in 1995. He had about 20 C5 believers. To date, none of them has come forward to publicly profess his or her faith in Christ. One of them had a wife of Christian background who died a few years ago. He refused to have a “Christian” funeral for her. She had a Muslim funeral. Do you see the problem here? She was dead as a “Christian” yet she couldn’t be buried as one! Not that it mattered but there is a serious flaw in a Muslim background believer’s (MBB) thinking if he or she still practices some core Islamic teachings. Proper discipleship is the only antidote to this morass that has befuddled Christian outreach to Muslims. I hope and pray Lausanne Congress charts the way forward.

Another severe problem facing Christian outreach to Muslim is scriptural integrity in Bible translation. Christians already struggle explaining to a Muslim how the Bible has not been corrupted yet some organizations don’t get the idea. An organization that does Bible translation for a Muslim audience has a hard time translating the New Testament because of the term “Son of God” in the Gospel and other epistles. There is a bizarre case in Ethiopia where major errors have been made, thus compromising the meaning of certain verses. You can read that story here.

I believe some western Christian scholars are behind this confusion in Christian outreach to Muslims. They have no idea what problems they have created for MBBs and Christian workers among Muslims. Muslims are already mocking Christian scholars who advocate for C4, C5 and C6. Can’t we get the clue? It is time for us to put our egos aside and preach the Gospel without diluting its message. After all, it is “the power of God unto salvation.” A big thank you to Brother Joseph Cumming for keeping this discussion alive.