“Discipling Muslim Background Believers Is My Calling”
After a Muslim says “yes” to Christ, what happens next?
Very few discipleship programs properly disciple Muslim Background Believers (MBBs). However, in Southeast Asia Paulus* is leading more than 20 lay leaders to teach the Bible to MBBs through a weekly discipleship class. He has been leading and making disciples for more than a decade.
“Discipleship is the very first and most significant step in following Jesus,” Paulus says. “You can’t expect a new believer to understand the Bible without proper guidance. Chances are they’ll get confused, or worse, mislead themselves because of self-interpretation.”
For this reason, discipleship is one of Open Doors’ main priorities for MBBs in Southeast Asia.
Due to the lack of resources and training needed to help them flourish in their faith, many new believers become spiritually stagnant. Even more scarce are new MBB Christians who can help answer misconceptions about Christianity–often carried from their former religion of Islam.
Like all believers everywhere, new MBBs can have trouble understanding the Trinity.
“It’s not easy to teach this,” one of the MBB leaders shares. “In Islam, they were taught that the Trinity is three gods, not one.”
Building a Solid Foundation
Proper discipleship trainings for MBBs and their leaders helps build a solid foundation for their faith. To meet this need, Open Doors, together with Paulus and 17 other MBB leaders, formed a partnership.
Since then, Open Doors has been sponsoring discipleship classes for 18 MBB house churches in various locations. The support goes to help new believers attend these classes; most of these new Christians come from lower income families and live a considerable distance from their leaders. Without this support, these MBBs could not afford to travel to these classes.
To evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the discipleship project, a few months ago (August 2017) Open Doors field staff met up with Paulus, other partners involved in the project, and their group of MBBs.
“My life has changed after attending this discipleship class,” says Aisyah.* This discipleship method works very well for me. I have become a better person. That is why I’m dedicating myself to disciple others so that they can also develop good character.”
Aisyah is one example of the multiplication impact of discipleship. His mentor, Bayu,* has always encouraged her disciples to share their learnings with others, asking them questions like, “Who will you share this material with?” Questions like these spark interest and cultivate a longing for missions among these disciple makers who typically focus on sharing the gospel with family and friends.
Disciples Making Disciples
One of Paulus’ lay leaders, Pramudya* (45), and his wife, Sri* (47), disciple more than a hundred people, ranging in age, education and cultural background. More than a decade ago, God gave him a vision to serve Him among the MBBs. As a result, Paulus resigned from his secure position as a pastor of an established church to serve in house churches instead.
“I have finally found fellow workers who share the same vision as me,” Pramudya says.
“Discipling MBBs is my calling,” Pramudya adds. “Jesus did so as an example. He took off His divine robe and became human with flesh and bones so that He could touch people and be with people. I am just modeling my Savior.”
Paulus’ lay leaders are passionate about this ministry and the people they’re leading–evidenced by the many hours they log traveling twice a week to his house for teachings and evaluations. There, they share about various challenges they are encountering in their efforts to disciple MBBs and discuss how well these MBBs are doing with life application.
To encourage each other, they also share success stories, such as the testimonies of Tina* and Sinta,* both senior high school students who regularly attend the youth discipleship classes.
At a recent class meeting, Tina shared that her Catholic family is not religious.
“My mother rarely reads her Bible and prays by reading written prayers,” she said. “I used to easily lose my temper and rarely pray.”
The discipleship class has changed her: “But now I read the Bible and pray every day. I am a less angry person. So I encourage my mother to read her Bible and pray from her heart; I encourage her to talk to God. It’s not easy, but she is starting to do it.”
As for Sinta, an MBB, she says the verse, “Love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you,” (Luke 6:27) is the most impactful from her discipleship class. The scripture, she explains, closely relates to her own experience. Before, she would always fight with her sister. Recently, she testified that now she prays regularly to God to give her a heart of patience.
“I am starting to get closer to my sister”–encouraging words to these leaders who desperately want to see the Word of God become real in the lives of those they lead.
Strength for the Journey
At the beginning of this year, Open Doors realized the need to further strengthen the discipleship class and began distributing a new discipleship training called The Straight Journey, a series of 12 books written by a well-known Bible theologian and expert on Islam. The training is designed to help MBBs on a one-year journey to learn the basic tenets and doctrines of the Christian faith.
The 12 books walk with students as they progress in their faith. For example, the first book starts the journey with the question, “Who is God?” and is designed to help those struggling with the concept of the Trinity.
The next topic (book two) focuses on “The Holy Bible,” another contentious issue and struggle for MBBs because Islam teaches that the Holy Bible has been corrupted and is no longer the Word of God.
“It’s important for us to rebut such claims and prove that the Bible is still the Word of God,” shares Open Doors field staff.
Paulus believes in the need for his lay leaders to grow and learn.
“These topics, even though they are heavy and difficult, challenge us to think and work harder than before. It is also helping us to prepare lessons in the right order, where before we would randomly select our topics. This will help us to grow in our capacity as leaders and teachers.”
Not only are Paulus and these leaders growing in their capacity as disciple makers, they’re also preparing many disciples to become leaders and make more leaders–Jesus’ Great Commission fulfilled. More and more MBBs are getting involved in Open Doors’ training programs such as SSTS, Youth Bridge Building, Women Conference, Youth Camp, etc., serving as speakers, facilitators, volunteers and activators.
Please pray for these leaders and for the MBBs they’re discipling. Pray that MBBs would come to understand the Trinity and quickly see the Bible as the inherent Word of God. For more ways to pray for MBBs, check out this recent article, “10 Specific Prayers for Muslim Background Believers.”
*Names changed for security reasons