CIU January Course
Early in January 2017, I taught a course at Columbia International University in Columbia, SC. It was quite an experience. I had a relatively small class that included a financier from Wall Street and a man who is aspiring to be pastor, and the rest were missionaries. I was honored to spend eight hours a day for five days in the company of those sharp people. At the end of each day I asked that they share a main insight they gained on that day and an issue they are struggling with or on which they disagree with me. At the end of the week, I requested a longer response addressing how the course impacted their lives and their thinking.
I teach the same course at our house or wherever I am invited, not just at the seminaries where I teach as an adjunct professor.
In this blog, I want to share some of my students’ final responses (with their permission, of course).
This course was very valuable to me. It brought renewed clarity of Christ as the hope.
Not that I thought that he wasn’t, but I have renewed clarity that keeping him in the center
of my sight and learning more and more to live with him as guide is the way that needs to be
followed. I am surrounded by methods and principles and best practices that, while being well
intentioned, distract from Jesus as the center. The last two days of the class brought some
renewed clarity that the way of Christ is the way of letting no other ways get in the way of
following His way.
It also brought affirmation. This class has personally affirmed me in my love for Muslims and their culture. It has given me deeper insight into their history and, therefore, a greater empathy for what that history means for them and for me (as a western Christian). I was affirmed in the knowledge that although it’s a lonely road in evangelicalism to love and value Muslims, it is (of course!) an ideal of godliness and righteousness. I feel a greater confidence in moving forward in the direction we’ve been praying for and planning. Not foolish confidence that everyone will come to Christ but a greater level of faith, which is the example of the confidence of what I can’t see.
One more thing: I am grateful for your years of experience, commitment to the gospel, and knowledge of Islam and Muslims in today’s world. I will take everything you taught this week and use it in ways that will, hopefully, open the hearts of God’s people to be willing to risk a relationship with a Muslim in order to reveal the Kingdom of God to them. Thank you!
I was very thankful for your affirmation during class that I am in a good situation and, that by being in New York City, I am in the middle ground of being in the world but not of it. It is very hard each day to trust God that this is the place He wants me to be. I pray that I will be able to be used by Him daily as He calls me to work and serve there.
I was feeling worn out from living and working in New York while serving in my local church. Through our intensive course, you affirmed that I was in the right place and that I was in the world and not of it, instead of being in the holy huddle or being of the world. Thank you so much for a great week and for refreshing my heart for the Muslim world!
I think one of the most significant things about this week is how God used it to continue answering a prayer of mine. I have been asking God to give me a real heart-level passion for Muslims (not just an intellectual acknowledgement of the great need). This course has moved my mind, but more importantly, my heart. It is another step in God leading my heart along.
Although the content of the course was so rich, I don’t think that I could over-state the value of you, as an Arab-Christian, with the unique life and insights that you have, being the messenger of this material. Also, Barbara’s role in this ministry is such an example to my wife and I. Her example has impacted our commitment to prayer.
Some of the practical ministry tools you gave me will continue to impact our lives and ministry: I am so grateful to have learned about the paradigms that Muslims relate to the best (honor/shame, clean/unclean and power/fear). Hearing you recount some of Jesus’ parables from the Middle Eastern perspective motivates me to learn how to do this. That is so effective, even to the Western mind.
What a week! This has been a fantastic time for me. From the different perspectives of the Scripture passages we reviewed, mostly the parables, I’ve found a deeper meaning and significance to my own life in them. My understanding of God and how He operates has increased, and I see His fingerprints on the journey that He has taken me, leading me to worship Him and reach out to Muslims, both through prayer and active efforts to build friendships with them.
I think the most significant impact that this week has had has been on my own prayer life. While I take time to pray and study Scripture on a daily basis, my prayers are often short and only contain one or two points. I’ve never carried out an active campaign of prayer before. After seeing the effects of your wife’s prayer for us this week, and the impact that prayer can have in the lives of others, I have a greater respect for the value of concerted prayer efforts. I’ve made adjustments to my own devotional and prayer times, and I find my own heart changing from an attitude of “What can God do for me?” to one of “What can God do through me?” This is a significant change in my attitude, and I’m excited to see God work.
One of the things that stood out to me was the realization of the danger of becoming politically minded instead of being Kingdom of God minded. God’s business is always greater than my interests. His Kingdom is not from this world. His Kingdom is really what matters.
Thank you for coming to teach us! I am still processing the content of the course. I feel God still wants to teach me from what we covered last week. I hope that as I read the books and write my paper, I will continue to learn from God. The Lord has used you in a mighty way to impact my life and I am sure the prayers of your wife have played a major role in all of this.
* * * * * * *
Barbara and I are in awe about how privileged we are that he allows us to be in contact with people of caliber. What a privilege it is that Barbara's call is prayer and mine is teaching and that we partner together in the same ministry.