EN and Church Planting Movements

I have been blogging on Evangelii Nuntiandi for a week or so now and I have found that it in many ways portended trends in evangelical missions to the Muslim world. (I wish I could say the same for Catholic missions to the Muslim world, but I don't know of any Catholics in MENA who have expressed a desire to see Muslims converting, and I have talked with a good number of them.)

The first trend is at the end of EN21:

"All Christians are called to this witness, and in this way they can be real evangelizers. We are thinking especially of the responsibility incumbent on immigrants in the country that receives them."

In fact this does and has happened, more and more intentionally in recent years. In fact one might call it evangelistic emigration, where Christians from places in S. Asia and E. Asia emigrate to places like the Gulf States with the intention of spreading the Gospel and with the blessing of their churches. Often times this migrants are working in very humbles positions like construction or as maids or nannies, so their access to certain sectors of society are limited, which is a slight drawback.

The second trend is in EN 24:

Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.


The name of this strategy that I have heard is "training the trainer," though though are other names. The traditional model in missions was to send out a pastor-missioner or a group of missionaries who would start a church and then run the church. A missioner could easily spend his entire career with one church which he had worked hard to found and then pastor. The drawback was that it just did not make a big impact. That is not to say that effective work will always make a big impact, but certainly it should some times.

So the idea came about: get a handful of solid converts, train them to pastor a church and send them to start their own churches. Build the replication of churches into the DNA of the community so that people at these new churches simply assume that it is normal that, should they move to a new town or should their church grow, that they should start a new church in their front yard or shop. These churches tend to be small, agile, and messy. Because they multiply so quickly it is nearly impossible for the original missionaries to enforce doctrinal orthodoxy on all of them. It is called a church planting movement, and if you want to know more about CPM's then just Google the term.

There has never been a successful CPM in an Arab Muslim country, though we have seen results in other Muslim regions. In any case, EN does not explicitly outline the CPM, but it does state the basic concept.

What is particularly fascinating is this question: could there be a Catholic CPM? Given that Holy Orders is a sacrament in the RC tradition is a very weighty matter, it seems risky to ordain someone who has been baptized for all of a few weeks, but that is in fact what happens in a CPM. On the other hand, since only a priest can preside over Communion, it seems like ordination would be needed fairly soon, with the reserved sacrament being used for a period of time. We should also remember that if there is no clergy present, any Christian can baptize a new convert.

Even then, it is difficult to see how a CPM could prosper within a clergy-centered tradition like Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

Comments

JohnG. said…
Mister Abu Daoud,

you wrote : "I wish I could say the same for Catholic missions to the Muslim world, but I don't know of any Catholics in MENA who have expressed a desire to see Muslims converting, and I have talked with a good number of them"

First, Vatican II has still not be correctly received in The Church (although many progress have benn noticed these last years) ... And Paul VI "Evangelium Nuntiandi" has been written after... ;-D

But that's not the real goal of my post.

I have found the following article which dramatically goes in the sens of what you wrote. And on the other hand, it opens interesting doors. It is from Samir Khalil Samir :

"For my part, I have experienced tragedy. Years ago I was in Morocco. A 35 year old Moroccan teacher of Arab tongue came to visit me, to speak with me about the Gospel and Christ. No more than half an hour had passed when I told him of my stupor before his knowledge of Christian themes. He replied that he had been seeking baptism for over 14 years. Initially I thought that he had mistaken expression. Hours later I met with the bishop and a small community of priests and I told them of my encounter and I told them that this Muslim had been asking to be baptised for over 14 years and that the priests had refused him. One of the priests stood up and reprimanded me: “It is right to refuse him baptism. We don’t want to make any martyrs”. After having revealed his reasons for caution, the priest berated me on how I had not understood the Second Vatican council according to which everyone can be saved, even within their own religion etc…..

I replied that the priest had no right to refuse baptism. If the Muslim seeks baptism, he can be warned of the risks he is running, he can be put on his guard, but he cannot be refused because he has been called by the Holy Spirit and he is free, the choice is his.

On leaving, the bishop thanked me for having clarified the matter.

The very next day I travelled to Marrakesh and meeting with the small community of friars and nuns who live there, I described the episode to them and my conclusions, those being that you cannot refuse a person baptism, even if he is Muslim. All of them greeted my words with applause, cries of joy and shouts! And they revealed that for years they had been forbidden to draw close to Muslims and that the priests have continued to refuse baptism to those who desire it. Their “prudence” is explained in their fear that out of revenge the Muslims have Christian schools closed down, thus throwing the organisation of mission into crises.

On another occasion, after having concluded Holy Friday ceremonies, I was about to close the Church door, when three young Muslims between 20-25 years of age asked me if they could enter to visit the church. Their curiosity urged them on to ask me many questions regarding the building, the covered cross and Christianity. At a certain point the parish priest arrived and immediately chased the young men away, saying: “We have no right to speak to them of the Christian faith”. All of this points to a very grave fact, because beyond highlighting the censorship in Muslim countries of the Christian mission, it also shows how Christians censor themselves, which is what Magdi Allam spoke about in his letter.

I therefore think that the pope’s gesture means this: the Churches mission is universal, even towards Muslims and it must be explicit.

On other occasions the Christian mission is halted in its tracks by “opportunists”. For example, non Christians are advised not to seek baptism in order to act as a bridge between cultures. Even Cardinal Newman, when he was Anglican, thought so. But the point is that once the person in question feels duty bound to take the step towards complete and explicit belonging to the Church, he must take the step that his inner self suggests."

The entire article called "Magdi Christian Allam, a contested conversion" is worth reading and is available here : http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=11865&geo=&theme=&size=A
Abu Daoud said…
Hi John G:

What comes to my mind is the parable of the talents. I mean, these monks in N. Africa don't have much, so instead of trying to preserve what they have (bury it), they really need to try to invest it and maybe God will bless them abundantly, even in the midst of whatever persecution may come to them--and it will come.
JohnG. said…
Hi Abu,

I had never understood those priests living in muslim countries "as a testimony for the christian faith", but refusing to convert anyone... It seems incoherent...

I was aware that -as underligned by one of the priests in the quotation of the article- the reason many christians don't evangelise other religion, especially muslims (because they are monitheists?) is erroneously : "After having revealed his reasons for caution, the priest berated me on how I had not understood the Second Vatican council according to which everyone can be saved, even within their own religion etc….."

Yes, I agree with you : the parabole of the talents is good to be used here ; They have many wealth and they don't use them for the salvation of the others... Perhaps by fear; perhaps by a bad knowledge (the famous "spirit of Vatican II", which means the way many understood this councile, out of the Great Tradition of the Church)...

But you know, what gave me great joy were the following sentences, from those Father Samir Khlil taught about the necessity of making disciples -even in muslims countries- :
- "On leaving, the bishop thanked me for having clarified the matter"
- "All of them greeted my words with applause, cries of joy and shouts! And they revealed that for years they had been forbidden to draw close to Muslims and that the priests have continued to refuse baptism to those who desire it."

A little sign of hope...

With JPII pontificate and with the present pontificate of Benedict XVI, i Think that those who interprated the coucile out of the Chruch's Tradition are in a bagend : either they will be better intructed ( if their bad interpretation was by lack of knowledge) by the many papal documents, either they will leave the Church (if the interpretation was not made in love of the Truth but was ideological).

But all that takes time : thousands of catholics had they faith destroyed or weakened by these bad interpretation. A entire generation I would say concerning my country....
Abu Daoud said…
Yes, John, the Catholic Church is making progress in these areas, it just is taking a long time and the changes are happening very slowly. I too enjoy the work of Fr Samir Khalil, he is a good man.

How are you these days? How is your witness going? Still in Europe, as I recall?
JohnG. said…
Yes Abu, still in Europe, trying to serve Christ as best as I can.
And I 'm just trying to learn arab langage ! Very interesting. Trying to interest me in hadiths and Kuran .
I'm reading french priest Fran├žois Jourdan, "specialist" in islam which says clearly things : when something is hurting he is not afraid of saying it loudling (even if it's politically, or rather clerically incorrect).
The book I read is about the cross as being seen by the first centuries christians communities (aramaic and syriac); and how the fight on jesus nature and the heresies following, how the different sects (denying the salvific role of the cross) could have played a role in the birth of islam.
To inform you brother Gallez has a nexw post in english in his webpage : http://www.lemessieetsonprophete.com/annexes/Ahl-al-Kitab_people-of-the-book.htm

Sincerely

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