Counting the Cost Among the Muslims

27 05 2013

There is a price to pay for my brothers and sisters that come to Christ in Africa.  In Tanzania, if a man makes his living making alcohol and comes to Jesus, he must abandon his profession.  That is a step of faith for a person to leave a thriving business and move out in faith trusting Jesus to provide.  But for the Muslims we reach out to the cost is much higher.


I was at a house church meeting this week in East Leigh.  It is an area inhabited mostly by refugees.  We meet in a building owned by Muslims with a mix of believers and seekers.  Seekers are Muslims that come to our meetings and want to learn about Jesus.  This week a woman we will call Ruth was sitting in our meeting.  She is from Yemen.  Most of her family was there as well.  There were seven people in this little 8×12 room.  We sat on the mattress in the floor and on a bunk bed.  Others just on the floor.  It took a minute to quell the little boys from their excitement over a Muzungu being in their room/home.

I trust Abrahim that we are safe.  He says it seems safe to him.  But really we just trust that the Lord will protect us from harm or give us the grace to endure any hardship.  Just before we came into the building some Arab looking youth, pulled up behind me and honked loudly.  Honking here in really just communicating.  Unlike America where most honking is in anger.  We honk to let people know we are coming, especially when we will pass close by.  Bus drivers honk to see if you need a ride.  Friends honk at friends.  But this was different.  These young men honked and yelled loudly at me.  Here the pedestrian does NOT have the ride of way.  But I was literally almost on the curb.  The reason I was not on the curb was a vendor had set up product there.  As they passed they glared at me and hollered again.  I am the only Mzungu for blocks.  I say to them amani kaka.  Meaning peace brother.  This is a term used here when someone is getting very exercised over something and you are saying, basically, there is nothing to be angry about.   These men did not take this as it was intended and got more angry.  Abrahim basically told them there was no problem and that we were leaving. They stopped the car and yelled more.  We entered the building and quickly forgot about them.

After I taught on Mark 12 and Jesus telling the teachers about the greatest commandment of all, to love the Lord our God with all we have and give Him our undivided attention and love our neighbors as ourselves a sister spoke up.  I had ask for questions trying to have a dialog.  She shared a common theme among seekers.  What happens if I give my life to Jesus and my family cuts me off from my finances.  You see many come to the city to seek a better life and the family at home funds them for a while so they can search for jobs.  Others are run out by war and family members support them as they live here in this refugee area.  Since they are Muslim, when their family finds out they have become Christians they are cut off.  Of course we have lost three brothers and sisters here to the harsher reality of murder by radicals.  So I realize that other problems will be on their minds as well.  They never asked about that.

I share that when we step out to embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender everything to Him we are in His loving hands.  We trust Him to provide for us practically, as we seek His Kingdom first.  I am ask a more pointed question. What will YOU do if I become a Christian.  I reply that she will be my sister in Christ and that the body of Christ will help all we can.  I explain to her that I am poor.  I came poor, I live poor, among the poor.  I help all I can.  But I can’t guarantee her I can meet her obligations.  She will have to trust the Lord for that.  She said I know you help others that come to Christ and get them off of the street.  I share that I can only help anyone because the Lord answers all our prayers for provision.  I have no bank account to draw out of for the newly saved and  homeless.  I help where I can.  I tell her sometimes I can only help a few.  Our source is the Lord.  He is faithful.

I cannot save nor help every person that comes to Christ in this Muslim area.  But God can.  He can meet the needs of every one of them.  But we struggle sometimes.  They don’t eat as much as they want sometimes and sometimes we trust Him when it seems hopeless.  But He is faithful.   I can’t protect them from harm.  But I can ask God to.  Sometimes God saves them almost miraculously.  Other times He gives us the grace to suffer and still love our enemies.  She must trust Him because He is God.  He loves her.  He died for her.  While she was still a sinner.  The brothers have been sharing with her for weeks now.  But she has small children.  If she steps out in faith it is not just her she has to trust Jesus for.  She has to trust for her whole family.

She asked me these things because one of our brothers just had this happen.  He is raising two young boys.  His aunt sent them to him so they could go to Kenyan schools.  She was paying him a little to watch over them, their school fees and giving some food money.  Two months after finding out he was a Christian, she cut him off AND left the children still in his care with no money.  Life is hard here sometimes.   He was sitting in the room, next to me.  He is also reaching out to the glue boys in our area.    He shares with me that at first it was just an assignment I had given him.  Now as he prayed for them he was coming to love them  in a special way.  I suspect he is coming to love them like Jesus loves them.  His group of glue boys has grown from two to seven in one month.  Still no repentance.  Just love and rice.  But we are praying.

I just left him 5000 Kenyan schillings.  Enough to buy a wheelbarrow and some fruit.  He will begin to sell fruit on the street as a vendor.  If he works hard it will replace his funding his family just took away and he can feed the boys the aunt left in his care.  I bought 10 Kilos of rice and gave him about half what he needs for rent.  It is a good start here.  About 60 bucks.  I charged him to work hard, pay his own way and earn enough to bless others.  He is growing in the Lord right before our eyes.  He is no longer, that new Muslim brother, that just came to Jesus.  He is now my trusted brother and I am connected to him.  We’ll call him Peter.  We hug and embrace.  We hold on a while.  I tell him I love him.  I tell him you love him.  He knows I cannot support him.  But he knows his brothers and sisters in Christ in America have given so he can have this chance.  He knows he has been entrusted with an important ministry.  Please pray for Peter and Ruth.  Pray for the Lords protection and provision.

It cost to become a Christian here.  Sometimes it cost all you have.  I walk outside and the young angry men are gone.  We stroll down and look for good places for his fruit stall.  Then I leave to head back to my safe and secure house where the missionaries stay here that visit.  They stay behind of course.  It is their home, now.  It is becoming a bit like mine.  I am still a stranger here.  I am white.  To people on the street,  I am a silly Muzungu who is where he does not belong.  But to some others,  I am their brother.  And they are my brothers and sisters.  With them I am at home.  Everyone of us must count the cost.  And all of us are asked to give “everything”.  But here “everything” can get very practical.  Very day to day.

If you would like to share in this ministry I welcome you to donate.  A little goes a long way.  It changes lives.  click here to make your tax deductible gift.  But above all pray.



A Different Gospel: The Gospel of the Kingdom, a Gospel of Repentance!

14 05 2013

A Different Gospel?  Do I preach a different Gospel than you are use to? I have been accused of that. One reason is my methods and another is my insistence of preaching a Gospel like Jesus preached. Now you may be saying wait a minute I believe in Jesus and I know the Gospel. How can the Jesus Gospel be different that what many have heard? First let me tell you a story. My pastor in Memphis, Tennessee during my first years at my home church ICC, was a genius at talking to people about Jesus. I literally watched him stroll through a grocery store and strike up a conversation with a young man I knew really did not care for Christians or Christianity and within minutes actually had an appointment with you young man, on his next break from managing produce, to share with him about Jesus. How do you do that? For Jeff Brawner, now, Dr. Jeff Brawner it was as natural as breathing apparently. I begged him to teach me how but he said we would talk about it but we never did. Instead he modeled this exemplary ability to communicate with people of all persuasions about faith and coming to know Jesus. He just let me watch him. He is gifted. Later he suggested I go to a ministry that would help me share and eventually our associate Pastor, Mickey Rainey took me there and my life has never been the same.

We went to a local Christian food bank where over 20000 families were given groceries a year on Saturdays. But first they met with Christian councilors and we shared the Gospel and led many to Christ. During that next year I prayed with over a hundred people to receive Christ into their hearts after praying the sinner’s prayer. It was exhilarating and life changing for me. I went almost every Saturday for almost two years. By the time I left Memphis for the mission field I had prayed with over 277 people to receive Christ. But I had some changes I want to share with you that I made then and continue to make as I move forward. I knew we were to make disciples and not just converts. But I did not see that happening. I asked the leaders of the grocery ministry to allow me to contact the people I had prayed with and some others suggested to me by other workers in the grocery ministries. After an extensive background check and the recommendation of my Pastor and others I was accepted and a ministry was born. First I began calling all the men, I was not allowed to contact women, and invite them to meet for discipleship classes. Hey, we are Baptist, if you are going to do something you have to start a ministry with a program.That’s how we work.

I was stunned to realize that out of the hundreds I called only a handful were walking with the Lord and after extensive trial and error I was able to only get about 8 to meet with me. I found the condition of their faith was shaky at best. Most were still involved in drinking and I suspected some marijuana use. Over time these men became my dear brothers and I cherish them and their walk in the Lord still. But why were so many praying to accept Jesus and so few following him. I followed up a Billy Graham crusade many years ago and found the same thing. Thousands came forward and dozens continued in their faith. At least that was what my personal follow up showed in Memphis, Tn and that of my peers in the same ministry. After reading and learning about the Kingdom of God I began to make changes. Particularly reading David Bercot’s book The Kingdom that Turned the Word Upside Down and speaking personally with Marc Carrier of Kingdom Driven Ministries, my in country mentor, here in Africa. Marc’s writings on a variety of subjects continue to provide me perspective as well as his leadership. One breakthrough for me, was when I was sharing at the food bank with about a dozen people in a small room. Everyone in the group said they wanted to be saved. There were a variety of people represented in the room. Older men with drinking problems, widows with no hope, some believers walking faithfully with the Lord and a group of “twenty something’s” that had grown up in the poor and drug riddled community we served in. I sensed the youngsters wanted a ticket to heaven but had no intention of changing. They wanted the benefits of Christianity without the cost of discipleship. So as I was leading them in the typical “sinners prayer” instead of praying before them to ask Jesus to forgive us our sins, I did something different. I began to confess our sins of drinking, smoking pot, premarital sex, cursing, lying, cheating and stealing. The older people began to weep as they confessed and were visibly affected as they repented after me. I glanced up and saw stunned faces on the youth as they, obviously, reluctantly, uttered MY words. Then I led them in renouncing those sins one at a time and they young people went silent. When we were done, I stood and hugged the older folks and got their information and took them to get their groceries and scheduled the men for my class. I told the others to wait I had something to say. When I returned I told them they were not saved. I told them I had no tickets to heaven for them. That it was obvious that they did not repent of their sins nor renounce them in prayer. I urged them to avoid hell and turn immediately. They could not wait to get away from me. I learned a lesson that day.

In Rwanda, not many years ago, ¾ of a nation rose up and tried to slaughter the other ¼ of the nation. You have heard about the Hutu and the Tutsi uprisings. What you did not know is that Rwanda was one of the most evangelized countries in Africa. That is what I am told. In fact one of the worst slaughters those first days of the genocide was when the Tutsi people fled to church hoping for sanctuary sure no one would harm them there. They were wrong. The blood and bodies were thick and the same people that sang hymns with them the Sunday before used machetes and farm tools to kill them. How can this be? How can this happen? Now I want you to understand right now that I got saved in the sinner’s prayer context. I went down front at a traditional Methodist Church in Memphis, Tn and bowed at an alter and wept over my sin stunned that Jesus gave everything to save me and that the Father sent Him to die for me a horrible sinner. Yes I confessed some sins and I truly turned away from them as my life demonstrated. I was born again no doubt by our definition. I was baptized later and I walked faithfully with the Lord. I found I was not the rule, but the exception. Now I know many of you came to Christ the same way and many have walked with the Lord as faithfully as you know how. I get that. Praise God for that. But the easy believism that is so prevalent today is destroying the truth of the Gospel. And I am convinced this unbiblical beginning is a major part of the problem. We have reduced salvation to a formula. It is not.

I decided to learn what Jesus preached. As I studied His writings from a new perspective and reading other men dissatisfied with this prayer and theology based salvation I saw Jesus knew nothing of the sinners prayer. Neither did Paul or Peter. I learned that true repentance did not involve any sinners prayer and that this was a recent innovation in the church introduced first most notably in the ministry of Moody. I am not criticizing Moody for starting this, I suspect it began before and has been degrading every since. But he was famous and introduced it to many. Some wonderful men of God including Billy Graham, a man I hold in high esteem practiced this as well as the wonderful people that lead me in saving faith. When reading the New Testament I came to realize that repentance and baptism was the entry into the Kingdom. I am not going to go all theological on you on this topic. If you want to see the theology on it, and there is plenty, please email me at I would love to share.

Just let me share with you now, what I do when I share the Gospel. First read Peters first sermon and acts and look at his alter call. Look at Jesus in Luke 14, when the masses followed Him and He turned in look seeing the masses following Him and said that if any man wanted to become His disciple they must hate their mother , father, sister , brother, yes even their own lives and take up their cross and follow Him. Later in the same passage He adds they must give up EVERYTHING and come and follow Him. Paul went Ephesus and in Acts 19 preached the Gospel and those that believe came confessing their sins and brought out their books of sorcery and burned them in public. Now that is repentance. The next verse says the Word of God grew mightily. I’ll bet. So now my alter call is Jesus, alter call. After presenting the Gospel of the Kingdom, I tell them it cost everything to become a disciple. If they say they are willing I have them confess out loud and renounce their sins. We then tell God in prayer we turn from each of those sins individually and we renounce them to God. If there is drinking or pornography mentioned we get them if they are available, and burn them. There was a fire in Ephesus and there is a fire in Tanzania. If they were cheating and lying they have to make restitution and confess to those they lied to.

Examples: Three young boys 12 to 15 came to me asking to be saved. We knelt in the dirt together and went over their sins. I made sure they listed them all. They agreed they wanted to turn from them and surrender completely to Jesus and serve Him only. We went to God and renounced them, cried out for forgiveness from each one and then agreed to go straight home and put thing right. They all confessed lying to parents and specific occasions they lied to get their way. They then went home and confessed to their parents and sibling their deceit and begged forgiveness. THEN, we baptized them.

Uluquay. You may remember from my previous post he was the drunkard who caned his wife and children while drunk. Weary and exhausted by his own sin he sent for me through his daughter to ask me to come to lead him in repentance and join him to Christ. This happened literally the same day I prayed for God to send me a “man of peace” a person to reach out to the alcohol brewers in my area. I knelt in the dirt and after hearing the Gospel he wanted to surrender EVERYTHING to Jesus. He did NOT however, want to individually confess his sins. He just wanted to say he was sorry he was a sinner. I would have none of it. I told him he would NOT be saved unless he repented and renounce them all. He began to weep as did his family. He was so ashamed. The flesh does NOT want to repent. It does NOT want to name the sins. Something dies in a man when he confesses and turns from his sins. And that something is the old man being put to death to make room for the new man, given birth to through the Holy Spirit. When we rose from the dirt I hugged his whole family and as I did I noticed the backs out of their clothes were gone and felt the scars on the children’s bare backs under my hand. Later I looked and saw the multitude of white lines on his oldest sons back from the canings. Joshua his oldest wept when his father was saved too. Most likely for a multitude of reasons. His family is below you can see the smile on Joshua’s face.

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Evelyn.  I shared the gospel with her and she too wanted to just say she was a sinner and sorry to God. After much prodding for her to confess and renounce her sins aloud I stood and announced to her and the people I was training to go door to door ministering the Gospel, that I would not baptize her. I told her I would not be a part of her being deluded into thinking she was saved if she would not confess and renounce her sins. I backed away and one of the young ladies in the training asked to talk to her and soon announced that it was best she confess to her. I determined that there must be sins of a delicate nature to her as a woman and allowed it if she would openly confess and repent with this sister. She did and was baptized by the pastor later. I know I may sound harsh to you in what and how I say this. The word Christian is mentioned four times in the NT and one of those was a pagan king. The word disciple is used over 300 times. Jesus never called a person to become a Christian. He came to make disciples and so do we. Jesus set the bar to become a disciple very high and who are we to lower it. Yes Jesus came to save sinners , but He came to save them and make them disciples. We have it backwards. We want to get them saved and then we hope to someday they grow to become a real disciple. Jesus did it the opposite way, as did his disciples. He started them out understanding it cost everything. He is the pearl of Great price the treasure in the field worth selling everything for to follow. I have been told this is a different Gospel. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom, as preached by the King. At least a part of it. I will be glad to share more if you are interested. But I hope you will join me in making disciples and stop trying to make church going believers in a theological position after a sinners prayer experience. It’s harder. The flesh does not want to repent. It just wants to be saved. Don’t let them think they are getting a ticket to heaven. There isn’t one. Jesus said the path is narrow and few will follow it. The first step is genuine repentance.