Sunday, March 30, 2008

L'Affaire Allam, mission, Islam and Great Commission Christians

A couple of articles related to the above issues:

At Abu Daoud's excellent blog "Islam and Christianity" Sherry Wadell and the author continue their very civil conversation about the baptism of Magdi Allam. This is an excellent article, not just for the civility of the conversation, but for the light it shines on the reality of mission in the Muslim world, especially the question: what is the most effective way of sharing Christ in this context? Sample excerpt:
SW: Abu Daoud: Another factor in this debate that no one has mentioned so far is the huge charism [sic. I think what was meant was "chasm.") in mission experience since the 60's between Catholics and evangelical Protestants. Catholic missionaries, for the most past, jettisoned the proclamation of Christ as the primary focus of mission 40 years while evangelicals revved their engines. (Emphasis added. This is SO true!

AD: And they (The Catholics) were castigated for this by JPII in his encyclical, missio redemptoris, which is about the permanent validity of the church's evangelistic mission to the nations. Wherein he also says that religious dialogue is nice, but it's not the same as mission. The exact position I hold to.

SW: So the two categories that Catholics tend to think of as Catholic are 1) the (understandably) extremely cautious, we-won't-bother-you-by-sharing-Christ-if-you'll-just-leave-us-alone stance of historic Christian minorities in the ME and parts of Asia and 2) the older Christendom model where everyone is assumed to be Catholic and state and cultural norms and church all reinforce one another and the Catholicism fills the public square. The fearful, quiet minority or the big battalion. Egypt and Italy, if you will. (Allam's life bridges both)
But in my experience, Catholics are hardly ever familiar with [option 3] the vastly different evangelical experience of the past 40 years in the Muslim world - where a huge number of creative, pro-active, alternatives to categories 1 & 2 above have been tried. Many have proven fruitless but some have born enormous fruit and given rise to the first Muslim background Christian communities in history. AD, your own ministry would fall into [option 3] I think?
In this piece at ID, Sherry talks about what being a Great Commission Christian might mean in the Muslim world. (She also refers in passing to the story getting a lot of press, about the Vatican "admitting" [admitting? Reluctantly? Or as if it were changing its position? Or finally owning up to something that it was in denial about?] that there are now more Muslims than Catholics in the world. See Thomas Peter's comment on that story here.) Here's the heart of the matter:
It is these evangelizers - almost all of whom are lay - living in Muslim communities, loving their neighbors, teaching school, healing the sick, founding and running businesses, planting thousands of evangelizing small Christian communities in hundreds of different language groups and situations, writing books, making radio broadcasts, building relationships, trust, and credibility with Muslims they actually know personally - who have been used by God to turn the tide. Fr. Zacahrias is one rather loud horn in a vast symphony orchestra - and he isn't even first chair.

Remember that study that Dudley Woodbury did about why Muslims become Christian? Of the 5 primary reasons that 750 MBBs gave - the central theme was love. God's love reflected consistently in the lives of Christians they knew. Being exposed to the love of Christ through the gospels.

Not media, Not TV. Not apologetics. Love. From tens of thousands of expat missionaries and hundreds of thousands of national Christians who are "Great commission" Christians.
Love. God's love, revealed in Christ, enfleshed in the Body of Christ, in the quite lives of countless Christians who live and share this. Mission is about love. Not about acquiring numbers, or about destroying cultures, or even (I don't know if evangelical Protestants would necessarily agree with this formulation) primarily about saving the heathen from hell, but about the love of Christ that compels us to go out and to share and live the Good News.

[The article Sherry refers to is this one that appeared in Christianity Today a little while back: 5 reasons Muslims Convert.]

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