jQuery Slider

You are here



VIRTUEONLINE obtained an exclusive interview with the Rev. Alan Argo. He and his wife Aimee are doing pioneer clandestine missionary work among mostly Muslims in the Middle East, Europe, and in several African nations. Because of the sensitivity of their work their names must remain anonymous.

By David W. Virtue, DD
August 28, 2023

VOL: You and your wife are doing pioneer missionary work among Muslim groups in the Middle East. How many years have you been doing this now? Can you tell us how you got started? What was the impetus to get you on this journey?

ARGO: We've been in the mission field for 20 years. God just called us out of a very comfortable life in Texas. I had achieved all of my life's goals and had more money than I knew what to do with by age 30. And was utterly miserable.

God grabbed our attention and He wouldn't let go until we all got on the plane. It involved excitement, nervousness and kicking and screaming. My misery ended; I found a purpose beyond myself.

We've been in the Islamic World and clandestine missions for 12 years now. We were happily serving in Tanzania where I was Dean of a huge cathedral. But then the Lord opened our eyes to the unreached, people with no access to the gospel. Out of 10 missionaries, only ONE goes to the 3 billion unreached. That's 42% of the world's population. Do you see the disparity? And it's worse for missionaries who go to the Islamic World with 2 billion souls; we're only 4%. So out of 100 missionaries, only FOUR go to the Islamic world. There is one missionary for 450,000 Muslims. Aimee and I each have 450,000 Muslims on our hands.

So, God gave us a heart for these unreached and unengaged People Groups. We felt a burning call to the unreached. We now only go to places 4% or less are reached with the Gospel.

VOL: Can you tell us the countries you are operating in, including cross-border work in countries?

ARGO: Let's just say the Middle East... I was on Al Qaida's top ten hit-list and don't want to re-activate them. Plus Tanzania, Kenya and an undisclosed country in Africa. And now we're starting to catalyze work in Europe.

VOL: I have read that the church in the "Big Islamic Country to your east" is the fastest-growing evangelical movement in the world with more than one million persons. What role are you playing in that growth?

ARGO: It's actually at least 8 million by the most conservative numbers. Probably closer to 12 million. Our partner is catalyzing Disciple-Making-Movements there with 700+ churches now to the 8th generation and we help with the work. They just added 200+ churches in the last two months. This requires training, training, training.

We don't put money into the church side of things. Only mercy ministries and training. The local church has to be financially self-reliant. Otherwise, if you get them hooked on Western money, when they run out of money they run out of mission. That will stop the multiplication.

The "Big Islamic country to our east" is the world's fastest-growing Church with no church buildings, no paid clergy and no seminaries. It's not possible. Maybe there's something to learn here. Financially dependent churches don't multiply.

The only metric for success is multiplication. Globally, we will never complete the Great Commission by merely adding people. In the West, adding will not keep up with deaths, attrition or population growth. Adding is failing. We think a few new families in church every month is success. That's not going to keep up.

VOL: Can you talk about persecution in these predominantly Muslim countries?

ARGO: The persecuted Church always says, "Never pray for the persecution to stop." Persecution means the Gospel is moving forward. If there's no persecution, there's no Gospel movement. "Pray for us to be faithful. Pray for us to not lose heart and be courageous." It's not pretty or pleasant. But God gets the last word. We pray for the grace to endure and run the race to the end. You can keep the work hidden for only so long. Eventually, it gets so big it becomes noticeable and that's when the real persecution starts. It's expected. It is a sign of a big Gospel movement.

American Christians scream "persecution" when Starbucks doesn't put up a Christmas display. We have no idea!

Just this week I heard of a Chinese church leader who was imprisoned. After a week they kicked him out of prison and sent him home because he started too many Bible studies and worship services in the jail.

VOL: How many people have you discipled to Christ, and in how many countries over the years? How many church plants have you done?

ARGO: People have described our approach as "Celtic." We roll in, camp out, form a team, train the locals and then coach them once they get going. These discipleship groups become church plants. Our goal is to leave behind a maturing, multiplying disciple-making movement that become healthy churches.

The first seven years in the Middle East were heavy refugee relief and recovery. Our team has now really focused on Disciple-Making over the last two years. In this timeframe, the team (24 of us) have planted 1,100+ churches and discipleship groups to the 8th generation (meaning a church that planted a church that has planted a church that has planted a church ...). This includes the largest unreached country in the Middle East and the largest unreached Muslim country in the world. Thousands and thousands of baptisms.

We've just had our work in the north of our country where we live audited by outsiders and they've confirmed 7 generations of healthy multiplication. One of our movements is well beyond the certified level -- the minimum is 100 house churches with some multiplying to the 4th generation and 1,000 baptisms -- and about four others are well underway. Presently we're engaged with 34 Unreached People Groups.

We want to see sustained growth and multiplication. A one-generation church, even a really big one, doesn't really accomplish anything. Sustained multi-generational churches that continue to multiply are what create big impact and societal change.

Most American church planting thinking is stuck on addition. Addition will lead to demise. We want ALL. God wants ALL. The question isn't, "What do we need to do next?" The question is, "What is it going to take to reach all." We're asking the wrong question in the West.

VOL: As you know Western mainline churches have serious age issues. What is the average of your converts?

ARGO: Well first, we don't like the word "convert." Let's use, "Come into the Kingdom." "Convert" is a religious term. Religion is terrible. We're not trying to get Muslims to switch from one set of religious burdens to another. That's not Good News for anyone.

Muslims always want to talk "religion" because that's all they know. We have to get them to see, right off the bat, this is something entirely different. I'm with Tim Keller. Gospel is the opposite of religion. Christianity is NOT one of the world's great religions. It's not a religion. It's the opposite. All religion is about the burden of works. Gospel is all about God's grace and what Jesus did for us because we couldn't.'

To finally answer your question, twenties, definitely. It's a very young movement. Young people in the Middle East are checking out of Islam in droves. Only 42% of the populations of the two largest countries in the Middle East now consider themselves Muslim. That number was 98% just five or so years ago. But because there is so little Christian presence, they become atheists. It's their default. I'd say it's more common we help lead them out of atheism than Islam.

We're seeing the same thing in the West. We're starting work in Europe and they're all in their early twenties. Same for the U.S. Gen Zs are really easy to reach. Our team is mostly Z's. They're an amazing generation. You just have to know how to talk to them, the questions they are asking and the issues which concern them. So often the Church is answering questions no one is asking.

Zs (twenty-somethings) are hyper-issues oriented. And that's a good start. They're not far off. They're seeking the Kingdom. They just want the blessing of the Kingdom without seeing the need for the King. Jesus is real and He can solve what concerns you. Only He can. Only the Gospel of the Kingdom can solve racism and division and injustice, etc.

VOL: I've noticed in your correspondence that you draw a distinction between church planting and discipleship. I notice that Jesus did not say "go ye into all the world and plant churches," but "make disciples." Can you expand on this? Is this a paradigm shift in mission strategy?

ARGO: You can plant churches and have no disciples. I've preached at these places. If you make disciples, you'll always plant churches. The best way to plant churches is NOT to plant churches; it's to teach disciples to obey Jesus. It always goes better when you do it the way Jesus says to do it. He never said to make church members. He said to make disciples. And He said to TEACH them to OBEY.

Most church planting strategies have it completely backwards. They don't bear much fruit and end up with small, one-generation churches with burned-out, exhausted planters. Churches that don't replicate are mules. They're sterile. We plant rabbit churches. Rapidly multiplying.

A problem in the West is we've made Church the goal. It isn't. It's not Jesus' goal. His goal is the Kingdom. The Church is the means to the goal. When we don't have Jesus' goal and vision, don't expect to flourish.

Jesus announces the Gospel of the Kingdom right off the bat in Mark 1, then He goes on a healing and deliverance rampage to demonstrate the power of the Kingdom. That's the very first chapter of the very first Gospel.

VOL: You focus a lot on obedience. How does this differ from faith (as the central thrust of Scripture). Have we got it wrong in our focus on church planting in the West and not on discipleship?

ARGO: Obviously it starts with faith. But from faith comes love and a desire to follow Jesus. Discipleship -- following -- is all about obedience to Jesus. This is where the Calvinists and neo-Calvinists always bristle. They smell "works." It's simply not the case. They're just hyper-sensitive and that's ok. Someone needs to keep us all honest.

Obedience is a love response to what God has done in Jesus. And what Jesus does in us. We don't earn anything. It's a joy to obey Jesus. As we obey, our faith grows and we find joy. Once I explain it this way to the Calvinists and Neo-Cals they calm down and are fine.

Another HUGE problem in the West is that we have an incomplete Gospel. The Gospel is NOT, "Get saved, go to church while waiting to die and go to heaven." Jesus never said that.

Fixing the Church in the West starts with getting the Gospel right. The Good News of the Good News is that the King and His Kingdom have come. There was a Gospel before the death and resurrection. It's not the Gospel without the Kingdom. The Good News of the Good News is Jesus and His Kingdom. How many sermons do we hear on the Kingdom?

Then it's repent and believe. And finally ... follow. "Follow" is an essential part of the Gospel. The Gospel demands a response. We have to teach and encourage people to follow, to obey Jesus. In the West, we've lopped off Kingdom and we've lopped off follow. We just focus on repenting a little and then believe. That's incomplete.

We have to get the Gospel right. Our incomplete Gospel doesn't make disciples. Repeat that in your head. That should be more than obvious.




Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top