Have you ever faced a challenge and felt in your heart that “someone must have faced this before”—but ended up solving it alone? In our common calling, we often discover that we have “reinvented the wheel” and repeated mistakes that others already have made before—and learned from. Have you ever wondered why fellow workers seem reluctant to learn from others and share what they know?
We speak often of being good stewards of time, money, people and resources. Rarely, however, do we talk about being good stewards of our experience, especially insight and knowledge gained from watching the Father work in, through and around us. Practicing good stewardship of knowledge would actually allow us to use our precious time, resources, and energy more effectively. We presently spend much of our time and resources re-learning key lessons which have already been learned somewhere else.
More significantly, we can learn habits of equipping one another by sharing the best of our experience. Intentionally learning from, and sharing from, our experience increases fruitfulness across our common calling. It is our responsibility and privilege to be good stewards of the experience and knowledge that has been entrusted to us.
The Fruitful Practices List is the result of an inductive multi-year, multi agency study. It was distilled from the experience of hundreds of practitioners working among Muslim peoples. In this context, “Fruitful Practice” means an activity that promotes the emergence, vitality, and multiplication of fellowships of Jesus followers in a Muslim context (though, of course, this kind of study is not limited to Muslim peoples). We studied field efforts across the Muslim world and identified factors that practitioners recognize as contributing to the formation of communities among Muslims. This document offers short descriptions of those practices.
This is not a set of formulas to follow. Instead, we offer descriptions of significant principles. You must always apply your own knowledge of local conditions as you prayerfully adapt these practices to work in your own context.
We present this list as a starting point for the ongoing and important discussion of what indeed contributes to fruitfulness based on the realities of experience and the foundation of Scripture.
Read these carefully. Many of the principles listed here may be common sense but are not always common practice. Reflect on what is relevant in your context from this rich harvest of wisdom, then share what you’ve learned.
Research and Analysis. We initially surveyed and interviewed teams from 13 organizations representing over 5800 workers in the Muslim world. Then, in 2007, we conducted 100 recorded interviews and collected notes from 25 discussion groups that met daily throughout a five-day consultation. Together, this produced over 300 responses from individuals experienced in planting fellowships and representing over 30 organizations, two-thirds of which have witnessed the emergence of at least one Christcentred community in the Muslim world.
Benchmarking. This approach seeks to develop a benchmark using inductive methods, discovering what God is currently inspiring and blessing as He establishes his Kingdom communities among Muslims. We do this so that all of us may better partner with him in sowing and reaping. After research and analysis, a multi-agency team combed through results in order to clarify this list.
Cooperating with God. This process is our imperfect attempt to understand the mystery of ministry. All true ministry involves God’s part and our part. We cannot transform the heart. That is God’s part. But we can share the gospel and demonstrate Christ’s love. That is our part. (See 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 for a vivid description of that dynamic.)
Fruitful Practices enlighten us as we endeavour to do our part to invite Muslims to follow Jesus. They show how God has repeatedly worked through certain principles and practices to accomplish his purposes. They point us in a direction that has great potential to bear fruit for his glory. When our faces are turned to him and his good work, the rest is up to him!
As you approach this list, please keep the following in mind:
• Descriptive, not prescriptive. This not a set of formulas to follow. Instead, we offer descriptions of significant principles. You must always apply your own knowledge of local conditions as you prayerfully adapt these practices to work in your own context.
• Evolving. This list represents what we have currently learned. We are still in the process of discovery about what is fruitful. It is by no means exhaustive. Certainly, there are gaps. Over time, as we learn more, we will add new practices and even new categories and we will revise the current set. You play a crucial part in this process: Sharing practical knowledge is essential in this work.
• Holistic. These practices are mutually reinforcing. They live in relationship with each other; this is especially true of practices within a particular category. You will not be effective or particularly fruitful if you simply select practices here and there while ignoring or neglecting the other ones in the list.
• God factor. Think of this list as a summary of many ways we see God working through teams. These are practices that teams have found help them work with God.
For ease of understanding, the practices are grouped into eight basic categories and each practice is labelled for ease of reference. Note that the order does not imply precedence or importance.