Church Planting Among Muslims in Bangladesh

April 23, 2009

The Presbyterian Church in Bangladesh Strategy for Planting Churches in the Muslim World
Prepared by: Rev. Edward Ayub,  Moderator
The Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh

[NOTE:  The Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh is a denominational member of the WRD and Rev. Ayub is an individual member of the WRF.]


Personal Evangelism: The Gospel must be presented in Muslims’ language and culture in an understandable approach. Evangelists are encouraged to share at least 20 persons in one month. We believe aggressive evangelism which removes deception in God’s ministry.

Church Planting: Presently evangelism is going on, and fruits are to be gathered in the church. We think church planting is our Biblical mandate. Creating impact and establishing influence by our love for the community and engaging in social affairs is our cultural mandate. A group can be small but must be lively. Church planting is to us main focus. The Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh (hereafter PCB) plants churches through cell groups – each church has 5 cell-groups as pillars of the church. The enquirers are introduced to a nearby cell group not directly to the core worship group. In the cell group there is informal Bible training, prayer, singing, learning by group discussion and discipleship materials, witnessing, literacy program, micro credit program, etc are taking place. Cell group makes the relationship warm among the believers and new comers. But in weekly worship group worship is formal. Believers are attending weekly worship from the cell groups.

Promotion of Justice & Human Rights (Life-style Evangelism): We believe ourselves as salt and light of the world. So our lives should be scriptural. PCB trains its workers in promoting law and justice and in protecting human rights by giving legal aid. We are committed to be effective catalyst not isolated hypocrite.

Center for Religious Studies: Training local church leaders and new converts through short-term training and long-term residential education; Specialized Training in 3 major areas: Evangelists must know the Quran, Hadis and Islamic history well to communicate Christian faith well with the Muslims where Quran is not used as bridge but is used during arguments if needed; second area is Bible and Doctrine/theology so that evangelists can answer the challenges and questions from the Word of God; and thirdly Constitution and Christian Laws. PCB is committed to start a CENTER named Center for Religious Studies which will offer five months course on comparative religion.

Literature: Small tracts focusing the Muslims, of course, in Muslim Bangla. Quality books are needed to answer Muslim readers both educated and less educated. Internationally accepted books could also be translated but the best would be written in our context. Occasional Writings: on Contemporary Issues; on Law & Justice; on Moral Issues; on Environment etc.

Sensitive questions, objections & misunderstandings from the Muslims must be responded intellectually, Biblically (with care since it may create sensitivity to Muslims and with Biblical soundness so that the message must not be compromised; the Quran can be used in some areas). Educated Muslims ask questions where scripturally clear, God-guided direction is needed.

Radio Ministry: Safe media for Muslim Evangelism. Answering the issues raised by the Muslims. Presently PCB Chairman is serving as a producer of a program named Ruhani Path and doing radio program in Muslim Bangla through Gospel for Asia. Four times a week the programs are broadcasted.

Correspondence Courses for Enquirers: PCB usually gets many letters from enquirers because of its publishing books, tracts, booklets and personal contacts.

Evangelist cum Rural Doctor: Integrated education in Bible College to build self-supported evangelist. After one year residential theological education, interested graduates are sent for rural doctor’s training. [Details are given below] 

A Biblical Solution toward Making New Churches Self-supporting:

Why is this Self-supported strategy Biblical?

I found the principles of missions from Paul's Tent-making business. In the book of Acts 20: 35 Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Paul shared with Ephesian elders, "I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak" (Acts 20: 33-35; see also 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10). We do not want to receive continuous help from foreign mission. Our plan is to provide a minimum support for our rural evangelists for 5 years. Then we are asking our brothers to help us to make our churches self-supported so that new field could be concentrated. 

In the Book of First Corinthians 9 Paul said that he had every right to take help from the congregations he had founded. But he did not take any help from them, because he shared: “We did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9: 12). Paul realized if he takes money, the gospel preaching will be hindered – he had to preach according to people’s expectation, maximum harvesters may not be sent because financial resource is limited, and newly planted church will be pushed to carry burden like Bangladesh where weekly offering of a rural congregation may be Tk. 20-30 or 0.50 US$. 

"If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me" (I Cor 9: 17). He wanted to preach voluntarily. If we take money from outside rather than our own congregations, it is not voluntary service but job. So we want to work by our own hands as Paul did hard labor. 

"..... in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights of preaching it" (1 Cor 9: 18). Paul wanted to preach the gospel free of charge. In Bangladesh, the congregations are so poor that sometimes we need to support them. Sometimes they do not have food to eat or do not have money to educate their children or do not have money for treatment. So we are trying to adjust with the needs and situations which may not possibly be similar in other parts of the world.
Missionaries have been spending many years in church planting. Some are trying to apply Old Testament principles of self-supporting and insisting upon the faith of the congregations. But our congregations are weak spiritually. The reality is so sad and their economic condition is so severe that we cannot expect much from them. Reforming and developing economic condition has become our humanitarian responsibility.

So after studying and researching for a long time, God has put in our hearts two strategies for our churches to be self-supporting:

1.  Theological schools for educated leaders based on the strategy of Paul's tent-making: one of the BEST "tents" is the Rural Evangelist-Doctor:

There are various kinds of tents appropriate to Bangladesh, but, according to our survey,  the best "tent" in different parts of our country is the rural doctor. Reasons for choosing this profession to equip self-supported evangelists are as follows:

a. The evangelist's time and plan should not be bound or interrupted by anybody. He must be free any time to move anywhere if needed to respond to God’s call. Business is also another tent, which Paul followed. Whenever he needed money, he did business for his and his team's expenses. Again when he would get enough fund or support like from Philippian Church or Macedonian Church, he spent his fulltime in evangelism See Acts 18: 5 - “When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ”.  A doctor is free and may go without any barrier and respond to God's calling. 

b. Doctors are well accepted by everyone Bangladesh. Graduate doctors are not willing to go to the rural areas. There is a great need for doctors in the villages, because many people are dying without treatment. This would be a great humanitarian service, if doctors could be sent in the villages.  Even the Bangladesh government is ready to encourage this program. 

c. Since people are poor, they want cheap even free treatment. The charge for a graduate doctors' visit is very high and most rural people cannot afford this expense. So they want rural doctors, because their visit may be up to Tk. 20-30 whereas graduate doctors' visit may be Tk. 100 plus. 

d. Rural doctors are available. Rural doctors are ready to look after patients even during the middle of the night. Even in natural disasters, they are willing to go to patient house. If evangelists become doctors, they should go and serve more. 

e. Through a theological institution,  the training of rural doctors can be integrated. A combined medical and theological training program for rural doctors could be accomplished in just two years, a year longer than is currently required for the medical training that rural doctors currently receive.Graduates of such a combined program may later serve as leaders in local rural chruches.

2. Church Planting through land purchase and development.   Why this could be the best self-supporting strategy in rural areas?

a.  Land is available and relatively inexpensive.  A one-acre plot of land would cost approximately US $12,500., including all taxes. 

b.  If this one-acre plot of land were divided into three parts - a pond for farming fish, a space for growing rice, and a space for a small chapel and evangelist's home - the plot, including the home and the chapel, could easily be self-supporting within five years.

c.  The Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh would own the land and would manage the activities on the land.

d.  For 2010, the PCB is planning to purchase and construct two such two such one-acre plots for a total cost of US $ 24,706.

For more information about the above report, contact Rev. Edward Ayub at ayub@presbyterianbd.org