Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale

A friend recently recommended Jerry Trousdale's new book, Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus.  The salvation of Muslims is a topic close to my heart.  But being too Dutch (or Scotch, or Jewish) to buy it, I was delighted to find that if I would agree to review the book for, I could get a free electronic copy of it.  (And no, I did not have to give a positive review!)

The bulk of the book is carefully reported stories of rapid multiplication of churches (mostly underground) throughout Islamic Africa.  The author attempts to analyze the reasons for this surprising expansion of Christianity and find a pattern that other Christians can follow.  Some of the principles he describes have been circulating in missiology for some time: chronological Bible storying, finding a "person of peace" in the community, making disciples and not just converts, targeting groups and not just individuals.  Other ideas were new to me: Bible studies which require no teachers (called "Discovery Bible Studies") and discipling people to conversion (e.g., beginning to disciple people before they become Christians).

The weakness of the book seems to be an inadvertent tendency towards pragmatism.  Rather than taking time to start from Scripture to build a theology and methodology for evangelism, the author starts from "what's working in Islamic Africa" and then finds Bible verses to fit.  Although I'm sure this wasn't the author's intent, the message seems to be, "These principles are working in Africa.  Here are some Bible verses to support these principles.  Therefore, you should use these principles too."

This tends to make the principles taught in Miraculous Movements surprisingly lacking in nuance.  For example:
The challenge in making obedient disciples is to teach obedience. In the context of Disciple Making Movements, we have seen that the best tool to teach obedience is Discovery Bible Study (DBS). Do not teach or preach; instead, facilitate discovery and obedience.  (Kindle Locations 1515-1517).

The Islamic cultures are cultures of shame and guilt. Talking about sin will not touch them.  But talking about what causes shame or guilt will have an effect. So try to find out the things in the community that are bringing shame and guilt and that are also seen as sin in the Bible. (Kindle Locations 2778-2780).
This leads to some of the stories describing what I would regard as poorly-founded conversions.  For example, in this story from a Christian donkey cart driver, we are left wondering what exactly this woman asked Jesus to save her from:
A lady told me that her husband beats her. He gives cattle as a sacrifice for an evil spirit, and they are getting poor. She asked me what to do. I told her that there is a solution. I told her about Jesus, and she said, “If he is going to be a solution, I am willing to follow him.” She accepted the Lord as her Savior. Now she is a Christian and she has peace and joy in the Lord. (Kindle Locations 2558-2561).
Miraculous Movements, a bit like the book of Acts, awakens a hunger to see God convert sinners and exalt Jesus.  Read it and be encouraged that God is still at work in our world.  Thank Him that He even works in spite of our occasionally misguided techniques.  And start with the Bible, not this book, for your methods.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bless the Lord, because He is merciful!

On Sunday I had the privilege of giving the sermon in our church.  My text was Psalm 103.  At the risk of boring you, I'm giving a link to the video, as well as the notes I prepared to speak from.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Great Things Come From Small Churches

While I was up in Ogden a couple months ago, I began flipping through some booklets on Pastor Kolkow's coffee table.  I learned they were printed and mailed out regularly by Mount Zion Bible Church--a small church in Florida--for free!

When I got back home, I visited their web site and signed up for a free subscription to their quarterly printed magazine, the Free Grace Broadcaster.  Sure enough, a few days later, the mail brought not only a copy of their latest magazine, but also a sampling of their other free-upon-request booklets as well. 

Most of their materials are carefully selected reprints of works by noteworthy dead Christians such as Spurgeon, Pink, Bunyan, Whitefield, Bonar, Calvin, and a number of the Puritans.  All of these materials are also available for free download as PDF's from their web site. 

If you like chewing meat, not cotton candy, send an email with your mailing address to and ask to be added to their mailing list!

"I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections {for God} of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with." -- Jonathan Edwards

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Looking for Gift Ideas?

Dear _______,

I pray that the enclosed “surprises” will be as great a blessing to you as they have been to me.

I love using the Psalter in my personal devotions.  Many of the tunes are borrowed from familiar hymns, and for the ones that aren’t, I have usually been able to find another tune with the same meter that I do know.  (I’ve enclosed a few ‘cheat sheets’ to help you with this.)

I just learned of the “Dispatches from the Front” DVD series recently.  It came highly recommended, and now I can see why.  I’m not sure I can put their impact into words.  They’re an unusual but beautiful blend of missions, Scripture, spiritual depth, simplicity, unnoticed heroes, and good videography.  The one caveat I have is that in the first episode (southeast Asia) they deal some with sex trafficking.  For portions of this episode, I found it best to look away from the screen.  (And for young children, the beginning of episode 3 would be frightening as they recap the history of civil war in Liberia, West Africa.)  But still, all five episodes are worth watching and sharing with others.  May the Lord of the Harvest use them to thrust many more laborers into the fields!
Grateful for your years of friendship and prayers,