To learn first-hand about gospel-centered church planting in Muslim-dominated West Africa watch this brief Pathway Learning video taken from the conclusion of one of my recent public presentations.
New reports are now coming out of West Africa regarding the increase of Islamic Terrorism. This week’s report includes a brutal attack by radical Muslims on an American owned Mali hotel in which innocent people were killed at random as the terrorists yelled, “Allahu akbar” (Arabic “Allah is Great”).
When I began training national church planters in West Africa (2006), including church planters from Mali, I had never known church leaders willing to give their lives for the sake of advancing the Gospel.
As a seminary professor I’d also never been asked the kinds of questions they asked me. Like questions regarding whether or not they should kill the Islamic terrorists who were killing their families. I’d also never wondered if the church leaders I was training might actually give their lives doing what I was training them to do among the Islamic terrorists before I returned.
Should We Pray for ISIS To Be Defeated or Converted?
Russell Moore recently wrote an article entitled, “Should We Pray for ISIS to Be Defeated or Converted?” in which he makes a case for followers of Christ to answer yes to both questions.
Moore makes the case that Christians should be praying, with the martyrs in heaven, for justice against Islamic Terrorists–especially when our own brothers and sisters in Christ are being martyred. And followers of Christ should also be passionately praying for God’s mercy toward them.
The single most effective way for the gospel to go forward with great power into the Islamic State is through church planting. The church is the only institution Jesus Christ promises to build and bless (Matt 16).
But the only kind of churches that can bring true hope in a terror-filled world are gospel-centered churches that produce the kind evangelism, discipleship and acts of mercy that result in both transformed lives and societies.
The global war with the Islamic State will not ultimately be won in the military battles on the field but in the battles for hearts and minds.
The greatest threat of Islamic terrorism is not their rapidly accumulating weapons of warfare but their rapidly disseminating evil ideology and worldview that is now able to self-radicalize masses through social media.
This is why the gospel must be understood as not only a way of salvation but also a way of holistic transformation that includes a true ideology and worldview that is able to reshape every sphere of life–cultural, social, economic, and political–for good.
This is also why there must be a renewed focus on equipping church leaders globally to start, grow, and multiply the kinds of churches that result in authentic conversions, holistic discipleship, and acts of justice and mercy drawn deeply from a true ideology and worldview rooted in Scripture.
We’re now living in a time of war–not a time of peace.
We’re facing war on the military battlefields and war on the battlefields for hearts and minds. And war is hell. So we cannot afford to be naïve. Like all wars, there will be casualties. Some church planters called to the frontlines to establish the first kingdom outposts in enemy’s domain of darkness will be killed. The blood of Christian martyrs has always served as the seed of the church in the hardest places where it’s most needed.
So we should be praying for both God’s swift justice to be poured out against evildoers through the mission of the state (Rom 13:4) and for God’s mercy to be poured out on evildoers through the mission of the church using the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6) against the spiritual forces of evil. These are not contradictory prayers but a reflection of God’s holy justice and holy mercy displayed in the cross.
Followers of Christ are called to be a people of the cross–a people of both radical justice and radical mercy.
Christ followers are called to be a people whom Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount not only to hunger and thirst for justice (Matt 5:6) but also to be merciful (Matt 5:7). A people whom God calls “…to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
So we must pray and stand against every form of Islamic terrorism that continues to ruthlessly murder thousands of innocent people. But we must also pray for their conversion and transformation–including the transformation of their ideology and worldview.
Join me and begin praying with others that God would raise up a host of new converts from within Islamic terrorism who would become like Saul of Tarsus among them, transformed from being murderers to being church planting movement leaders turning their world upside down with the gospel.
These church planters in West Africa know they may not live to see the result of their ministries. But their hope and prayer is that the children and grandchildren of these terrorists will choose Christ instead of terrorism.