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November 11, 2013

Learning to Make Disciples


One year ago, a dear member of my congregation gave me a book. It sat on my office desk until last week, when I finally opened it and began reading. I only wish I hadn’t let it sit so long.

Miraculous Movements cover

Miraculous Movements principally presents amazing stories of how God is establishing thousands of churches in inhospitable, even hostile, Muslim lands, using Muslim converts with very little training. What are the keys to this? Enthusiastic prayer, discipling relationships, and a basic understanding of key Bible stories, all intertwined with the presence and power of God transforming lives.

It is wonderful, of course, to see the gospel penetrating what for centuries was seen as an adamantine fortress of anti-Christian territory. What is equally exciting, however, is the proposition that the same elements which have led to Kingdom expansion in the antipathetic Muslim world are just as effective in the apathetic Western world! But they demand a change in our church culture and mentality. Here’s what I’ve picked up:

  • Prayer can no longer serve to festoon our self-reliant ministries, but must arise from a deep conviction that nothing of eternal worth is accomplished unless God acts, and guides us in His will. It must be the first of our priorities, and must continue through all our activities.
  • We must seek to discern where God is already at work in our communities, and join Him there.
  • The goal is not conversion but discipleship. We are to disciple seekers toward conversion and growth, not seek quick conversions and then hope converts will want to become disciples.
  • Making disciples demands relationships, which take time, energy and love.
  • New churches can and should be planted by ordinary disciples who are simply seeking to obey an extraordinary Savior/Lord.

Is it possible we’ve been so blinded by our culture’s drives toward instant gratification and “bigger is better” that we have sought quick conversions through mass evangelism and the creation of church plants that are quickly “institutionalized”, and then wonder why our members seem apathetic or uncommitted, and remain more focused on their worldly pursuits than the Kingdom of God?

As ECO seeks to build flourishing churches that make disciples, there is much we can learn from what God is doing among ordinary Christians operating on the unlikely stage of the Muslim world!

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Rev. Mateen Elass

Mateen was the second of four children born to a Syrian Muslim who had married an American while studying at the University of Wisconsin. Some years after Mateen’s birth, the family moved to Saudi Arabia where his father worked as an oil company executive. During his early teens Mateen began a search for God, largely through reading. For six years he focused on eastern mysticism and meditation including a stay at an ashram in India. His heart is for those who walk where he once walked, those who search but have not yet found the love of Jesus. For that reason he particularly appreciates the church’s welcome to visitors, its willingness to walk beside them as they move toward God, and its growing enthusiasm to move outside the confines of the church campus to share Christ’s love with all who wish to hear. A frequent speaker about Islam, Mateen sees his experience on both sides of the Christian-Muslim divide as providing a unique opportunity to create bridges of understanding. His great hope is that God will use him to reveal the love of Jesus to both sides. “God will provide guidance to those who seek him, and will equip his people to do his will.”

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