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Training New Ministry Leaders in a Muslim Context

January 19, 2024 |  By Eric Vess

Joshua* is an ANM native missionary in Asia who works primarily in a Muslim context. I sat down with Joshua recently to talk about his approach to training emerging and existing leaders in such a challenging spiritual environment. 

Consistency and Persistence

Eric: Joshua, how do you select the leaders that you will train? What do you look for?

Joshua: First of all, I look for faithfulness and consistency. In other words, [I am looking to see that] their lifestyle does not contradict their faith and that they are transparent. Are they consistent with ministry and biblical principles, especially biblical principles? Are they true to those principles? Also, it’s important that leaders be persistent. Sometimes, they do not see the results immediately, but they still press on to do what God has called them to do. That, for me, is a key factor.

Eric: Who are these leaders? Are they emerging leaders, existing leaders, or those new to the faith? 

Joshua: The first two – emerging and existing leaders. If they are new to the faith, they would first need to go through a refining process to evaluate their character. 

Existing leaders are those who are already working in leadership roles. Emerging leaders may not know they are in the leadership role and need encouragement to fit that role without being fearful or intimidated. They need to realize that this is a way they can serve the Lord, not to bring glory to themselves, but to honor him by fulfilling their ministry and their calling. You can be called into a leadership role without knowing how and where to lead people. So, if they do not know where they’re going and what ministry they are fulfilling, how on earth will they be able to lead others to fulfill their [God-given] vision as well?

Eric: Are many of the emerging leaders coming out of a Muslim background?

Joshua: We have some [from a Muslim background] who are strong, faithful, and sincere. We give them a chance to prove themselves. We challenge them to minister in their context and report back. We look for transparency from the emerging leader and the mentor guiding them. This way, we can see if the emerging leader is suited to the task. Leadership is a proving process, and in this process, the Lord will confirm [their calling] in their conscience and their spiritual walk. Then, I believe they will be able to rely upon the Lord, who will take them to the next level. 

Eric: If they do come out of a Muslim background, how does that affect the way you mentor them?

Joshua: It depends on what kind of Muslim background they come from. Some could be very liberal, very secular, very shallow Muslims; some could be very devout, radical, and extremist. It is easier if they come from a secular mindset. But if they come from a typical Muslim background that’s very communal in nature and very radical in thinking, then they need to change their spiritual mindset. They will need to be discipled and mentored in the truth of the Word of God. We can then gear them towards truly biblical principles of leadership and leave some of their Islamic nuances behind. But that doesn’t mean they leave behind all their outward religious expressions. Some may still wear their skullcap and traditional Muslim clothing. To me, these expressions are external, secondary issues.

Eric: Are you saying that if these emerging leaders come from a much more fundamental Muslim background, It just takes longer to mentor them? 

Joshua: Yes. Maybe 50 to 70% longer. Each case has to be evaluated on its own merits, on its own conditions and situation. And we need to empathize and sympathize and be patient with them.

Eric: Do you have a general curriculum or plan, or do you tailor the mentorship and the training to the individual or the group?

Joshua: According to the group. Our curriculum is Bible-based. It has to come from the Bible. 

[However] it’s not a formal curriculum with a syllabus. In a Muslim context, it really depends on the relationship the mentor has with the emerging leaders. That relationship needs to be very good, open, and trusting, where the emerging leader is willing to abide by scriptural principles and biblical truths. They must be serious about their Christian life, serious about their discipleship with the Lord. They must want to walk in obedience in order to be an agent and a channel of the Kingdom of God for their own people.

You can help support missionaries like Joshua by giving today. 

*Name has been changed for security reasons.