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Review: Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale

In the last few decades, and especially since 9/11, the Muslim world has seemed both invincible and dangerous, not only to the West but even more to Christians.  Miraculous Movements is a compelling and heartening reminder that God is in control.

Rather than living in dread of persecution by their neighbors and countrymen, Christians are successfully reaching out to them.  Former Muslims are overjoyed to experience the love, hope and freedom that only the Lord Jesus Christ can give.

This movement is huge and is especially impacting disillusioned Muslim leaders who seem to realize better than anyone else how empty and uncertain their faith is.  Trousdale relates many stories of individuals as well as whole families and even communities turning to the Lord.  Throughout, he points to a ‘new’ approach to missions that is uniquely effective in the Muslim world.

While giving full credit and praise to God, Trousdale states that the blessing on the Disciple Making Movement is due to missionaries following New Testament directives rather than modern mass evangelism techniques.  You’ll have to read the book to fully understand these ideas, but here are some of the main ones.

1.In the Great Commission Jesus tells his followers to make disciples of all nationsteaching them to obey all I have commanded you.  The church has been very successful in teaching ideas, but it has often assumed that obedience would automatically follow.  This does not always happen, and having knowledge without obedience creates a toxic spiritual dichotomy.  However, obedience to God is the very purpose of all Biblical knowledge.

2.People are not taught a legalistic set of rules, nor are they told to earn their own salvation.  Rather, they are shown how to study the Bible together, and after learning and studying each Bible story, they ask themselves, “If we believe that this passage is from God, how must we change?”

3.Whether sharing with their neighbors or entering new villages as friends, ordinary people are spreading the Word, even in very hostile areas.  They pray for the area and its people very specifically as they walk through it, they ask God to show them a ‘person of peace’, and when they find one, they share God’s Word with that person and his or her network of family, friends, and neighbors.  This way of evangelization is modeled on the 12 and the 70 that Jesus sent out.

4.Obviously, many of the people in Muslim areas are illiterate and very few have any contact with Christianity.  When people do not have access to his Word, the Lord seems to use dreams and miracles to awaken people to his truth and to confirm their faith in the face of almost certain persecution.  The new believers learn Bible stories and form simple churches, often underground, that are focussed on learning and obeying the Bible.

5.Prayer, specific, focussed prayer, is the cornerstone of this missionary.  New believers learn prayer by example and by participating.  Then they go out and spread the Word, many in their everyday lives, and some as missionaries in other places.

This is a paradigm-shifting book in many ways, giving new perspectives on outreach, life, faith, and even parenting.  I have not finished thinking about it, but the review needed to be written.

Here are some points I am still contemplating:

  1. Not all the mission work in the New Testament followed this model.  There are other ways of doing mission work, although God seems to greatly bless this method for Muslims living in their own countries.  Furthermore, there is much to be critically examined and understood in this book.
  2. Western Christians, like their culture, are individualistic; other cultures are more family and community oriented.   It is better in such situations to teach the Bible to a group rather than an individual.
  3. It is better for new converts to organize simple churches where the people are than to ‘come to church’ to a Western-style Christian church.   In fact, due to cultural issues, new ex-Muslims would be highly offended by some accepted church practices.  As the people grow in faith, ‘they will find healthy ways to relate to the traditional churches around them.’
  4. Having Biblical and theological knowledge without obedience creates a toxic spiritual dichotomy.  We cannot assume that knowledge will lead to obedience.  This is undoubtedly true, for James as written the same thing.  However, this statement as emphasized by Trousdale has staggering implications for all of life.  How does one make it work without being legalistic?  And, after all,  knowledge is crucial.  Remember, God has said that his people perish for lack of knowledge.
  5. Trousdale warns against explaining Scripture to new believers.  That makes us, not Scripture, the authority.  We must trust that God’s Word and the Holy Spirit are enough, he says.  My question is, “Why should we neglect God’s good gifts of confessions and the legacies of godly believers?”  Of course, if they are not available, God can easily work without them.  This point, together with the previous one, seems to downplay the value of Biblical knowledge.

This is a worthwhile book, especially for those involved in missions and outreach, but I urge you to read it critically as well as thankfully.

As I was thinking about mission work to Muslims, I came across Middle East Resources by long-time missionaries, Bassam and Shirley Madany.  I think it provides a balanced point of view and reflects Reformed thought and practice.  The resources mentioned there would be helpful in evaluating Trousdale’s book.  (Do note that this website is not related to Miraculous Movements by Trousdale.) 

Another Reformed ministry, MERF, offers you opportunities to get involved.

Here is an enlightening resource: Behind the Veils of Yemen tells the story of a Christian woman who ministered to her Muslim neighbors in Yemen.

This is yet another book in the in the 2012 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and is also linked to Saturday Reviews.

Disclosure I received a free review copy of this book from Booksneeze in order to share my honest opinions.

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