Holistic discipleship of Christians with Islamic background that is sometimes refers to as Muslim Background Believers (MBB) is both timely and imperative. The need for a special attention on MBBs in the church today is increasing. This is in view of the fact that the Muslim world is the largest unreached people group around us. This work aim at establishing the need and providing a document that can be use in the process of providing holistic discipleship to Muslim background believers.
It is discovered both from experience and research that Kaduna diocese like any other church community receives converts from Islamic background regularly. Sometimes these converts accept Jesus Christ in churches that are in the rural areas. They are sometimes brought to their mother churches for assistance. This assistance is usually financial to meet up their immediate needs for a source of livelihood. Many of them end up indicating interest into becoming Evangelist or pastors depending on the context. They are normally interview by the house of clergy or any other group that may be approved by the church community. Some of these intending Evangelists or pastors used to prove to be genuine in their callings while others never. It appears glaringly that some use to come looking for a source of livelihood.
Sometimes, many do end up been employed. Unfortunately, some of them do fail in the discharge of their duties. Those who have genuine calling do prove in their areas of primary assignments. The reason is some of them assume that a call to salvation automatically means a call to ministry. By this, it is difficult to distinguish between genuine and fake calls. Another unfortunate aspect of it is that many Christians, including leaders are sometimes optimistic that Muslims Background Believers do make good pastors. This impression arises from listening to converts’ testimony of conversion which normally sounds encouraging.
On the other hand, one does not have to blame those who hold to this opinion because when Muslims become Christian, they lost the privilege to be educated or employed in their states of origin. This is more pronounced where Muslims holds key positions. Their lives end outside native home. This is another form of persecution in Muslim dominated states of northern Nigeria like any other.
Furthermore, another unfortunate aspect is when the church in which the convert confessed Christ begins to take endless financial burden on the convert and finally gets exhausted financially without any idea of how to reduce the burden the burden gets heavier for the church to bear. At this point, the convert must seek a means of livelihood. One of such means of livelihood is to become a pastor. The male opt for the work of a pastor as the last option. On the other hand the ladies may end up looking for whom to marry all toward retaining their faith in Christ. Sometimes, mega churches in end up receiving converts from other states where is more severe. It is worthy to note here that churches normally do their best but the best is sometimes abused by converts. This affects how future converts are received in the Church leading to the lost of genuine converts.
LOOKING AT KADUNA
Kaduna town is the capital of Kaduna state in the north-west political zone of Nigeria. The town has an ancient history that dates back to the Colonial era. It was the headquarters of the Northern Protectorate as far back as the 1914. It also became the capital of the Northern region in 1957 and subsequently became the capital of then Kaduna state comprising of today Kaduna and Katsina states. When Katsina was created on 23rd September, 1989, Kaduna town remained the capital of the present Kaduna state. Kaduna town is divided into two by the popular river Kaduna; North and south. The North is dominated by Muslims while the south is also dominated by Christians. This is as a result of the constant religious crises the frequently occurs in the town. The recent was in June 2012 with a bomb blast in a church during worship hour. Kaduna serves as a link between the South and the core or far north. The state has religious, economic and political significance in Nigeria.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Right from the advent of Christianity in northern Nigeria (Kaduna inclusive) in the early 19th century, there has been conversion from Islam to Christianity. Unfortunately, the approach to discipleship of converts from Islam has remained the same with little difference despite the advent of various challenges posed by the changing faces of Islam. Here is an unfortunate assertion from one Muslim who never liked what a convert faced at conversion, “When I consider what you faced when you became a Christian, I cannot be a Christian”. He was referring to a convert that kept his faith despite the challenges. Though this statement might be coming from two dimensions; what convert faces in terms of persecution from fellow Muslims and what one may face from the church in trying to find a source of livelihood. In whichever dimension the issue is that things were the opposite of expectation to both the convert and the church. This was not because the church never helped but she helped to some extent and realized that she could no longer afford the help due to some financial responsibility.
Another experience that prompted this work is the story of a Muslim Background Believer who though finally made his way into the ordain ministry yet had this to say:
After confessing Christ, I was left to attend Church service and probably Choir practice or any other Church program like Bible study for adult that I was able to attend. I had nothing to eat because my Muslim relations drove me out of the house and also denied me food. My only place of hope was the Pastor’s house. Even there, I was idle and had to beg for what I needed. After about two years, it became difficult for me to ask for even soap to wash my dress. The question of where to get my needs led to the thought of becoming a Pastor. I never thought of this at the beginning. My desire was to continue my education and get a better job that could sustain me and enable me to help even my mother. At this stage, this aspiration failed. Finally, I went to a Bible school from there I became a Pastor (Appendix 1).
If there were an available option for this brother, it was likely, that he would have taken option. The absence of an option has causes some converts to return to Islam. Many Christians at times see them (converts) as fake converts rather than genuine. Similarly, some Muslim converts tend to see the church as a source of livelihood in the name of conversion. The scenario is unfriendly for both Christians and intending converts. This is becoming a threat to the Christians’ fulfillment of the great commission among Muslims. In view of the fact that the Muslims are the closed mission field in Nigeria like any other place, the situation calls for a re-think. The situation is becomes more worrisome with crises as well as stylish persecution with the enactment and increase advocacy for Shariah law in the northern part of Nigeria and any other place Islam believes to be majority. (Shariah simply refer to the Islamic legal system). A new approach to discipleship becomes imperative. Certainly, not all converts genuinely realized that they are called to become Pastors. What should they do to become relevant and also serve God faithfully without feeling been isolated? This is an important question. How can the Church help them realize their rightful place and even become contributors as well as Evangelist to their fellow Muslims? Besides knowing the Bible, what do they need as converts to know that will reduce the risk or the temptation of returning to Islam? How will converts overcome their culture-shock primarily in the area of worship? What will the church benefit from these converts without over-spending since the church has to assist them and also take care of other financial needs? This work is an attempt to help both the church and the convert.
The place of discipleship is important. It is in this regard that Coleman states that, “Knowledge was gained by association before it was understood by explanation”, (Coleman 2000, 42). For Muslim background believers to understand Christianity, they need to associate with Believers first. Unless a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) remains with Christians, he might not be able to learn from Christians. This, togetherness is a unique principle of discipleship which this work aim at addressing.
Interestingly, the principle of holistic discipleship is not limited to Christianity alone. In Islam, a disciple desire to copy exactly from his teacher or mentor. Uncompromised emulation is a sign of loyalty and forms an integral part of Islam. This can be traced back to the days of Muhammad (the founder of Islam) and the caliphs. This was also the life of the early church during the days of Christ on earth. The same was practiced in the days of the apostles. A convert from Islam, might have had an experience of the Islamic method of discipleship. Such convert will expect to see the same or a better one among Christians when converted. A failure to see this expectation might have some negative impact to the life of the convert. It is an attempt to establish the fact that Muslim Background Believers can do better in other fields if given the opportunity than just automatically becoming pastors after conversion.
WHAT WE MAY GAIN
The purpose of this work is to establish that converts with Islamic background need holistic discipleship. That this holistic discipleship has been lacking in the church. The work will help the Church to find possible ways of reducing the expenses on MBB, (Muslim Background Believers) in the process of helping them by providing meaningful suggestions that can make converts self-dependant. It is in line with these that this work will:
1. Try to find out if there has been dichotomy on holistic Discipleship for Muslim Background Believers and see how to give them holistic discipleship to help them earn a living without necessarily becoming Pastors for the purpose of earning a living or in order to ensure they keep their faith.
2. Seek to show the challenges of holistic discipleship and provide a teaching document that can help address some theological, economical and social plight of Muslim Background Believer (MBBs) thereby become contributors to the church rather than being dependant on the little income of the church for a living as well as create passion among them for Muslims,
3. Explore toward knowing how this new holistic discipleship will help churches in future in their evangelism among Muslims and reduce the temptation of Muslim Background Believer (MBB) returning to Islam,
THE NEED FOR THIS WORK
It is evident that there has been conversion from Islam to Christianity for over a century since Christianity came and met Islam already in practice in northern Nigeria. These converts has being without a structured pattern of discipleship. The task of discipleship has always been base on the rationale of the Pastors or concern individuals in the church. This scenario is not global because there are discipleship materials for Muslim Background Believers which are written from a Western context. The task here is to look at a new approach toward this essential and timely ministry in the African Context and particularly in Northern Nigeria. The rising increase of Muslim violence reveals need for a new approach. It is in line with this, that the following questions become imperative.
- How best can holistic discipleship to Muslim background believers be given?
- What are the challenges faced by Muslim background believers?
- What are the challenges face by the church leaders and members in holistic discipleship?
- What are the possible benefits of Muslim background believers’ holistic discipleship to MBBs?
- What are the possible benefits of MBBs holistic discipleship to the church?
Providing answers to these questions becomes imperative and timely. The work will challenge the churches and church leaders together to wake up to the reality of the long-age dichotomy in the process of providing discipleship to Muslim background believers. The work will also help converts understand that becoming a Christian from Islam does not automatically makes one a pastor. Help them to see the pastoral call as a call not a vocation or profession. Above all, the work will unveil the reality that Muslim background believers need special attention because of their peculiar background.
What then is Holistic?
The Advance Learners Dictionary defines ‘Holistic’ as “having regard to the whole of something than to just part of it. It is a Holistic approach to life”. The wholesome of life involves all aspects of the human life. Materially and spiritually, the term refers to medically the act of treating the whole of the person rather than just treating the symptoms of a single disease. In the context of this work, the term implies having regard to the whole life of the Christian who has an Islamic background. There is the need for the convert to be trained all- round to meet-up his/her physical as well as spiritual needs. Jakonda explains this using an acronym: SPEECS which denotes holistic. This has to do with the social, political, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual life of a believer (Jakonda, 2001, 74).
What is Discipleship?
The term discipleship comes from the noun ‘disciple’. The word ‘disciple’ seems to fill the entire gospel with a more often appearance in the book of Acts. This refers to one who learns under his/her mentor particularly on religious fields. It is a process where a master produces his kind through intensive teaching and concerted effort to influence the life of the learner. In the context of this work, it refers to the process where a convert from Islam to Christianity is taught both the Bible and how to live in this world but not to be of this world. Janzier describe discipleship as a personal relationship between a more matured Christian and a younger one for the purpose of Spiritual growth and placement in Christian service’, (Janzier 2005, 59).
Muslim background believers
This is sometimes represented with an acronym, MBB. It refers to those Christians who had an Islamic Background before becoming Christians. The term is commonly used in the western world. It is seen as an umbrella body that covers all believers that comes from Islamic background worldwide to the Christian faith. In Northern Nigeria in particular, where this work is focused, there is no such organized body with this acronym MBB but there are young groups of believers that operate in blogs. One of these groups is known as the Imani group. The word ‘Imani’ in Hausa refers to those Muslims who have faith in Christ from Islamic background.
(THIS WORK WILL COME IN SERIES AND THE LAST SERIES WILL COME WITH THE BIBLIOGRAPHY).