Monday, November 4, 2013

Reflections on New Directions

Reflections on New Directions By Dr. Dave Johnson November 5, 2013 Two events happened last week that leave me wondering if, at long last, some demonic strongholds over the Philippines are being broken. For the last twenty or twenty five years or so, evangelicals in the Philippines have been giving increased attention to ministry to Muslims. However, I believe that history may someday record that recent developments may have opened the floodgates to a renewed and focused emphasis on these unreached peoples. Last week, Dr. Melba Maggay and her team at the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC) in Manila convened a conference on contextualization (making the gospel understandable within various cultures) in Asia and focused on ministry to Muslims. Some time ago, Dr. Maggay opined in an email that God has been leading her ministry more in the direction of Muslims. Since Dr. Maggay is one of the most well known and respected evangelical leaders in the Philippines, this move toward Muslims is significant. I personally believe that she will undoubtedly lead others on the same journey. Conference speakers included Dr. Andrew Walls, who spoke by videotape as health issues prevented him from attending and Dr. Miriam Adeney, an internationally known writer and Christian anthropologist, as well as others. Dr. Walls gave us an overview of the history, development and expansion of Islam since its founding in 622 AD. While limited by time restraints, his review was impressive in scope and calls for much reflection on how “Christians” have treated and mostly ignored Muslims throughout the centuries. Dr. Adeney spoke to a number of issues, including some touching stories of some of the eight million Filipinos working abroad whom God is using in some very difficult places. Prof. Amina Rasul-Bernardo and Attorney Johaira Wahab, both Muslim women from the Magindinao tribe in Mindanao (Southern Philippines) who are involved in the efforts to resolve the “Christian”-Muslim conflict that has raged there for a number of decades, updated us on their perspective on the ongoing efforts to bring peace to the troubled parts of the region. Both women were candid that Muslims as well as “Christians” have contributed to the problem. Rev. Dann Pantoja, a Filipino evangelical who is the founder and director of Peacebuilders, a Mennonite consulting team dedicated to the peace process (see, shared his story about engaging in this work and gave a Christian perspective on the peace process dialogue, particularly noting the unresolved tensions that remain. Other speakers gave lectures on contextualization that were not necessarily focused on Muslims and gave us broader exposure to these issues. Another significant development of the conference was the launch of a new book, edited by Dr. Maggay and co-sponsored by ISACC, OMF Lit, the largest Christian publisher in the Philippines and the Nagel Institute entitled The Gospel in Culture: Contextualization Issues through Asian Eyes. For nineteen years I have scoured the bookstores, buying anything I can find on contextual theology in Asia. This is by far the most significant, in-depth work produced by evangelicals that I have ever seen. It should be in bookstores throughout the country soon. I assume that those outside the Philippines will be able to buy it online, but I do not know this for certain. The second event occurred on the day after the ISACC conference when 20 of the 40+ AG USA missionaries assigned to the Philippines gathered to strategize about reaching the Unreached People Groups (UPGs) in the Philippines which, according to the Joshua Project website, are overwhelming Muslim. The call for concentration on UPGs was issued during the Asia Pacific missionary retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in July of this year. For the first time in the history of our field, to the best of my research and knowledge, we were united on making Muslims a priority for prayer and strategic engagement. In the past, Muslims were considered important, but so were other ministries. Without diminishing the importance of our other work, we will be giving focused future attention to Muslims. What shape and scope this will take remains to be determined by the task force that is being formed to give leadership to this new focus. Nevertheless, I am optimistic that a new day is dawning. Your prayers for all concerned are deeply appreciated. For the fractured family of Abraham, Dave PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation. For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “join this site.” Copyright 2013 Dr. Dave Johnson