Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Make Disciples of All Nations

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28.16-20

Abu Daoud is an Anglican lay missionary to Arab Muslims. He holds an MA in Theology and a BA in Philosophy as well as a certificate in Arabic. He is working towards a PhD through the School of Divinity of a well-known university in the UK. He also has a diploma in Arabic. He lives in a Muslim-majority, Arab city in the Middle East.

The following is an virtual interview with him:

Albion Land: Why Muslims?

Abu Daoud: I was called to the Muslim world while doing a great missions study at my church, it is called Vision for the Nations, and is a lot like Alpha. I learned that there are about 11,000 unreached people groups around the world, and that 4,000 of those are in the Muslim world. I also started to study history more and learned that North Africa and Asia Minor--these were Christian areas prior to Islam. I also learned that for centuries now the church has done almost nothing in terms of actually evangelizing Muslims.

AL: Why is that?

AD: The reasons given are multiple. In my view it is a simple lack of faith. But the reasons are: it's too expensive, we don't see any fruit, you send a guy there for years and he comes back with a handful of converts, the language is very difficult, it is dangerous, they persecute the missionaries and kill the converts, and so on. Kyrie eleison! Where would be if our Lord and his Apostles had been so faithless!

AL: You mention the term "unreached people group". Could you explain what you mean by that?

AD: We really need to change how we read Scripture. When we find Jesus saying "Go into all the world, making disciples of all nations..." we have been reading that word, nation, thinking of nation states, a concept that wasn't even invented until the 19th C. What Jesus is talking about is ethnoi, or peoples. An unreached people group is an ethnos that has fewer than 2,000 followers of Christ or is less than 2% Christian. In other words, it is an ethnos that does not have a community that can start to do its own work of evangelism.

AL: What defines a people group?

AD: The main thing is this: can the Gospel flow freely within it? Within a people group there is a common sense of identity, language, ritual, linguistic commonalities, and so on. God has always dealt with humans in terms of people groups: the Amalakites, Jebusites, Hittites, Samaritans, and so on were all distinct people groups. They were judged communally and they also received the call to repentance communally, as we find with Jonah and the Ninevites. In Revelation [5:9] we find that they will be around forever, for there are people from every "tribe and tongue and nation." In Is. 2 we find that the Lord will judge between many nations and many peoples will go to Zion to learn the Law of the Lord.

In other words, the variety of peoples is a key aspect of Creation and our Lord was aware of this: "This Gospel of the Kingdom must be preached to all peoples, and then the end will come" [Mt 24:14].

The point is this: one third of the world's population belong to unreached people groups.

AL: What are the Continuing churches doing in terms of mission among the unreached?

AD: I have met with Continuing folks a number of times and it always comes down to: we send teams to Mexico to do this or that or we have friends in Africa and we give them money for x, y or z. I'm not saying any of this is bad, there is much to be said for short-term teams and there are unreached groups in Africa, but they are mostly in N. Africa which gets no attention.

AL: You have heard people say that if you have a thriving foreign missions program, then you will also have successful domestic outreach. What do you think?

AD: I would agree! If you don't share the Gospel cross-culturally then you how can you expect your people to share it within their culture? Ephesians 4:11 gives us a list of the vocations in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The apostle is one who is sent out from his people group to another people group to share the Gospel with the view of making converts, catechizing and baptizing them, and ultimately planting a new congregation.

The evangelist shares the Gospel within his own culture. They are different charisms and callings: it is quite different to communicate the Gospel across cultural lines. All of us have chances to evangelize. Here I am talking about vocations and long-term callings within the church.

AL: But most continuing churches have a hard enough time just keeping their heads above water as it is.

AD: If your church is focused on receiving and retaining God's favor then it will be like the Dead Sea, which only receives water and has no life. If your church receives from God but then goes out to the people of the world to share what has been received, it is like the Sea of Galilee, which though small is full of life.

AL: Many readers would reply that the office of the apostle is the same as the office of the bishop. Whereas it seems you are saying the office of the apostle is in fact that of the cross-cultural missionary who is engaged in evangelism and church-planting.

AD: I am not speaking here about the Twelve, or about apostolic succession. The word apostle is used in two senses in the NT, that is one of them. The fact that there are two related but distinct meanings of the word apostle explains how Junia can be an apostle--she is a lay missioner, as is my wife. The apostolic missioner may be a lay person or ordained to any of the Orders. This is also the case with the vocations of evangelist, teacher, and so on.

AL: Let me push you a little: it seems you are saying that most of the "missionaries" around the world are not technically missionaries by your definition--they are running expat churches, teaching at schools, working in administration, and so on. Is this really what you mean to say?

AD: I am saying that those people are doing good work, but they are not missionaries unless they are focused on evangelism and church planting. That is apostolic mission. These people are certainly ministers of the church (whether laity or clergy), they have vocations as teachers, pastors, and prophets perhaps, but the heart of apostolic ministry is communicating the Gospel across ethnic boundaries, specifically, as Paul says, where the Gospel has not been preached before. That is, among the unreached, what is also called frontier mission.

AL: How can churches and individuals learn more about frontier missions and how to make a difference when it comes to third of the world population that is, as you say, unreached?

AD: I know of one Anglican missions agency that is focused on frontier work, Anglican Frontier Missions [www.afm-us.org], I would say to give them a call and see what the possibilities are. The easiest way is to start funding the work already going on among unreached people groups. This will be hard for Continuing Anglicans as they would need to work with evangelical Anglicans until they get their own people on the ground. Ultimately the goal will be to have teams of continuing Anglicans on the ground among the unreached groups of N. Africa, the Gulf, and South Asia. We are talking about countries like Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Saudi, Pakistan, India, Chad, and Iran. It is not easy to get into these countries, but it is certainly possible and you will be amazed to see how God opens doors when you make yourself available. A practical book from the point of view of strategy is Planting Churches in Muslims Cities by Greg Livingstone. I also recommend using the Vision for the Nations course for Sunday School. It is evangelical, but with some creativity and supplementation it can be very effective for an Anglo-catholic parish.


poetreader said...

Peace to the Father of David! May your words, Abu Daoud, catch fire in the Continuing Churches. We've been pretty good at defense, but it's a truism of sports that a team which has only a defensive strategy ultimately loses. We've been commissioned to challenge the Evil One on his own turf. It's high time we do so. Your work is probably the most difficult and most dangerous outreach Christians can make in these days. May His hand be upon you, and may His word be heard among a deluded people.


John Dixon said...

"If your church is focused on receiving and retaining God's favor then it will be like the Dead Sea, which only receives water and has no life. If your church receives from God but then goes out to the people of the world to share what has been received, it is like the Sea of Galilee, which though small is full of life."

Hit the nail on the head. Reminds me of the Parable of the talents.

Albion Land said...

I should have followed up my final question with a more practical one, and perhaps Abu Daoud will be kind enough to answer it here.

How does he think the continuing churches, as jurisdictions, dioceses or even parishes, can help this work in a tangible way?

Abu Daoud said...

Hi Albion,

The beautiful thing about the large swaths of the earth where many of the unreached people groups live is that there is no territorial bickering because guess what, there aren't churches there yet. Who is going to become upset if you (discretely and quite possibly secretly) consecrate a missionary bishop for the missionary diocese of Comorros or Bhutan?

I think this could really bring the continuing churches together. If each of the main four would select adn train two units (families or individuals) and come up with a decent platform, then you could hope for, after five to eight years, a congregation in one of these places.

That's hard work. But it would belong to all the continuing Anglicans and is there any reason that the first deacon or priest there could not belong to all of those continuing churches? Just an idea...

Fr_Rob said...

What a wonderful interview! Thanks for this, Albion. Abu Daoud is truly doing the Lord's work. Certainly one way we can all help is by prayer. Pray that the Lord will bless Abu's ministry and also pray that the Holy Spirit will stir up our hearts to want to reach those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. The harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few.

Mike L said...

abu daoud:

Thanks for your work and your blog. I have very much enjoyed our interactions in the past, and agree with your conception of mission, especially in Muslim territory.

May God bless you. Please keep in touch.


Abu Daoud said...

If anyone would like to discuss possibilities for getting more involved in frontier missions (among the unreached) please do feel free to e-mail me at winterlightning [at] safe-mail [d0t] net

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post.

As an side, I once met a man of Malaysian extraction, reared a Muslim, who converted to Christianity and planned to return home as a missionary, were he expected to face certain death sooner or later.

I am simply humbled and awed by courage of Christian Missionaries to Muslim lands (such certain neighborhoods many English cities).

Albion Land said...

Fr Rob,

Among the petitions in my daily prayer for All Sorts and Conditions of Men is the following:

"For all Muslims, that they might see their error and embrace the one true faith."

It goes without saying that we must pray; I ask all of us, what can we do in a tangible sense to help realise the goal of our prayer?

Anonymous said...

The idea of continuing churches acting jointly to consecrate missionary bishops to unreached people groups is a compelling one...