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Editorial: Multiplying Missional Leaders

In January, I was in North Africa hosting a four-day mission training event for local church leaders. The Church in this particular country has survived centuries of subjugation and humiliation as a persecuted minority at the hands of Muslim governments. The Church has also been heavily influenced by a teaching that says that Muslims are cursed by God as the descendants of Ishmael. These realities have created animosity between the two religious communities and left them looking upon each other with deep mistrust. 

However, many Muslims today are becoming disillusioned with their traditional Islamic faith and they are longing for an authentic experience of God’s presence and love. Throughout this region and around the world, they are being drawn to Jesus. As Muslims put their faith in Jesus, will they be welcomed into the Church? Will the Church in this region set aside old wounds and reach out to their Muslim neighbors in love?

Razia, a young Muslim woman from this region, recently went on hajj (the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca) and, while she was walking around the Kaaba (the holiest shrine of Islam) with hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims, she had a miraculous encounter with Jesus. Razia was so transformed by this encounter that she abruptly ended her pilgrimage and returned to her home country. Local friends there put her in touch with our team and now Razia is being discipled. With so many Muslims like her finding Jesus through dreams and visions, church leaders are re-examining their history and honestly trying to dismantle any obstacles to the Gospel in their culture and theology. 

At the event in North Africa, we brought a message of God’s blessing through Abraham for all nations. Through Jesus, all nations are welcomed into God’s family, and the blessings of Abraham become ours. For 1400 years, the story of Ishmael has been distorted and has created an impediment for the Gospel in this part of the world. Today, Jesus is on a mission to change that!

In every missional context, including our own, there are unique challenges and obstacles to the Gospel that missional leaders must be equipped to respond to. In my context in Canada, the Church’s relationship with First Nations (Native) peoples has been very painful. In the US, race relations have similarly been strained. Missional leaders who follow Jesus must be ready and willing to incarnate the Gospel in their unique cultural context.

As we focus on multiplying healthy disciples, missional leaders, and reproducing churches, we see how all three are linked. The foundation of our mission mandate from Jesus is making healthy disciples who obey all that Christ commanded. Out of the seedbed of healthy disciples, God grows missional leaders who help their churches embrace their mission, whatever their context. Those churches, in turn, become the means for ongoing multiplication: reproducing disciples, leaders and communities of faith, both locally and through partnerships in other parts of the world. 

In this issue of Witness, we are focusing on how God is growing missional leaders and how they are making unique contributions to the witness of the Church. What makes a missional leader?  

Nasser al’Qahtani is a close friend of mine who accompanied me on my latest trip to North Africa. He is also an inspiring example to me of a missional leader. Although he currently lives in the US, Nasser comes from Saudi Arabia where his father is from a long line of Sheikhs. Nasser’s mother, however, is a Mennonite from Kansas. His DNA is linked to both pioneer Mennonite settlers in the US Midwest and to the most devout desert tribe in the Middle East that conquered North Africa 1400 years ago! You can’t make up stories like this!

Twenty years ago, Nasser was still a radical jihadist Muslim until Jesus appeared to him in a vision and revealed the necessity of the cross as the only way God could have a relationship with him (listen to his story online here). Five years ago, Nasser joined a team from Wichita’s First MB Church that went to Paris to work with a Multiply team that was sharing the Gospel with local Muslims. While on that trip, Nasser had a dream in which Jesus called him to leave his comfortable career as a software architect and to give his life to proclaim the Gospel. Today, his teaching gift is being used to equip believers from Muslim background to find their inheritance in the kingdom of God. Nasser has been given a love for the Scriptures and God is using his humility and servanthood to open doors to disciple many young leaders who come from a similar background as him (see more about Nasser’s ministry on page 4).

Nasser played a key role at the recent mission training event in North Africa. As a former Muslim, and a direct descendant of the tribes that conquered this region, Nasser helped all of us understand the history of the dhimma, a contract that Muslim governments imposed on conquered non-Muslims. This contract required that Christians pay an annual head tax—delivered with a symbolic blow to the back of the neck—and also prohibited them from sharing the Gospel with their Muslim neighbors. In general, the contract enforced a culture of shame and subservience for Christian minorities. Although the dhimma was legally abolished many years ago, the spiritual impact is still felt to this day. As we prayed into this significant barrier to reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, Nasser was able to confess on behalf of his people their mistreatment of Christians and Jews. In turn, church leaders who represented the historic Christian community confessed not only their resentment and mistrust, but also their apathy in accepting restrictions on Gospel witness. The resulting prayer time with all participants set many captives free!

Missional leaders find their identity in Christ and help others find the same freedom. They are clear on their inheritance in the kingdom of God, and they help others find righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. A missional leader is anyone who has embraced their calling to serve Jesus’ mission of making disciples of all nations. They equip others to do the work, knowing that we are called to multiply our servant leadership and impact. They are growing in Christ-likeness through adversity, testing, and persecution, valuing character and faithfulness over popularity and worldly measures of success.

In every context, the enemy is trying to distract, disqualify and destroy missional leaders, because these men and women are perhaps the greatest threat to the kingdom of darkness. The MB family around the world has been blessed with many missional leaders over the past 160 years. Today, we are working with key men and women who are leading the Church on mission and thriving in various ministries, yet they need our prayers, encouragement and support. As we increasingly link our Multiply mission strategies with national, provincial/regional MB conferences, as well as with MB churches around the world (through ICOMB, the International Community of MBs), we are praying for a new generation of missional leaders to be equipped and sent out, both locally and globally.  

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart”
(2 Corinthians 4:1).

Thank you for investing in, praying for and encouraging this collective work of mission God has called us to! As we each embrace God’s call upon our lives to be leaders in mission, the best is yet to come.

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