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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 31, 2023

VOL: How do you define church to these new Muslim converts?

ARGO: We don’t define anything ourselves. We take the Believers to the Word and have THEM define church. We recently worked on this with our local leaders. But as ever, we didn’t answer the question. We took them to the Word to find the answer to “what is church?” “Okay boys and girls, let’s open our Bibles!”

After a day of digging through the New Testament together, what they came up with is: The Church is a group of baptized Believers committed to obeying Jesus, committed to one another, and committed to doing everything they see the church do in Acts 2:37-47. Not bad.

VOL: You are quite critical of Western church structures. Explain?

ARGO: I’m actually not so much critical as I am pointing out the obvious. Stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Stop trying to do a better job of what wasn’t working and will never work. Wake up! There’s a new normal and it matters. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You MUST make sense of the changing landscape and the new normal.

One problem is we tend to love our church the way it is more than we love Jesus. That’s idolatry. It’s all about us and our comfort level. We “go to Church” trying to find comfort and security in a bumpy world. Jesus didn’t describe following Him like that. The Church should be out in the world being incredibly uncomfortable and getting in all kinds of trouble. We call it “Kingdom mischief.”

I’d say most church leaders now recognize there is a problem. Great. Step one in recovery is admitting you have a problem. But they don’t know what to do. I think that’s where things presently stand. Realization and . . . confusion. We’re trying to show them there is a way forward. The biggest move of God in history is now underway. And It’s now ramping up in the West.

The problem is getting the paradigm shift. That’s hard. I understand. But once you get to the point where you realize, “Hey, this isn’t working” you have to ask yourself, “What is absolutely essential and where can we bend/change?” If your list of essentials is pages long, you won’t get anywhere.

We didn’t ask that diocese in Africa to stop being Anglican. We didn’t ask them to stop ordaining male-only priests, just get the laity moving and practising as a Priesthood of Believers. We didn’t ask them to stop being High Church. Lace and incense are nice, fine by me. We simply taught them how to share their testimonies, how to share the Gospel, how to heal the sick, and how to obey Jesus in forming groups around Discovery Bible Study. In all things we submitted to the Word of God.

Huge change is scary. But God isn’t done with us. And He’s always good. There absolutely has to be Church. You can’t say “I love Jesus but not the Church.” That’s totally unacceptable. But the way we’ve been doing church in the West isn’t the only way. It’s a way . . . . and it’s coming to an end. That’s not the end of the movement Jesus launched.

VOL: You talk about a paradigm shift in mission. Explain.

ARGO: The big global paradigm shift is going from information/head-based discipleship to obedience-based discipleship. It's not what you know, it's what you obey. We have lots of Christian information, churches, Bible colleges, Bible studies, DVD sets, websites, podcasts .... how is that working? Obedience-based discipleship is how God is moving.

That’s the big shift, from information/head knowledge to obedience. It’s going from a person behind a pulpit to raising up a priesthood of believers. It’s going from a going to a building to a group of people out in the word being the church, being salt and light.

In our world, everyone is trained, everyone knows how to share the Gospel, and everyone is empowered to bring the Kingdom. We release authority early on and believe disciples grow by doing and making mistakes, correcting the mistakes, and getting better and better at sharing, healing, and forming groups, all while expanding the Kingdom.

VOL: You talk about “movements.” Explain.

ARGO: Movements are what God is doing. Today we have 1,900 certified movements and about 5,400 emerging ones. We have to certify, meaning audit, movements because we need really accurate information. We’re all trying to figure out together, in communities of learning and praxis, what God is doing and how He’s doing it. So this means we need highly reliable data. If you say you have a movement, you’re going to be audited.

We define a “Movement” as work starting in an unreached area, over a three to five-year period, seeing 100 house churches, some multiplying to the 4th generation, with at least 1,000 baptisms. The average movement has about 50-60,000 believers. Two years ago there were 7 known movements in North America and Europe. Today there are over 240. We’ve been saying for years this is coming to the West. Now it’s here.

VOL: What about training?

ARGO: Train, train, train. That’s the key to moving movements. We spent 90% of our time in the early years just training. We trained our brains out. Now that the work is maturing we spend about 90% of our time coaching. Ultimately, you want to work yourself out of a job. The locals can do the level one training. With the existing movements now maturing we only train in new areas, e.g. Paris and the U.S.

If anyone wants (free) coaching or training, we’re happy to help. Email us at multiplydisciples@proton.me. And here’s a site where you can find the tools https://noplaceleft.net/tools/.

The biggest obstacle to movement is not enough prayer and fasting. This is all about going into the secret place and being with the Father. We spend inordinate amounts of time with Him and listen to what He says. Every time we have been stalled out or had a problem, the solution has always come from God in the secret place.

For example, our northern group wasn’t multiplying as fast as other movement streams. We went to the secret place and asked God for help. We heard from Him, “Train them to train others.” Got it. So we held a 3-day training and put our best trainer in the room with 15 leaders and said you’re not leaving until you can train. After three days being held hostage in our living room, every leader could train better than us.

We then told them to train every new believer until they are confident and competent. They went on a training rampage. And the immediate growth was explosive. It was ALL from God. I hope you see this is all about Jesus. We rely heavily upon God for direction and empowerment from Holy Spirit. Think True Vine and a branch.

VOL: What is the key to evangelizing Muslims accepting Christ? How hard is it to persuade them of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

ARGO: An encounter with Jesus. We can only get somewhere with people who are open. Only God draws people to Himself. (I just made the Calvinists happy). So we look – filter is our term - for open people. We call them persons of peace and they are open to the Gospel, have a lot of influence, and open the door for others to receive as well. We pray for them to feel the presence of God. When they feel His presence, we go for physical healing or soul wounds and then share the Gospel.

As I said before, 80% of the time, globally, people come into the Kingdom from healing and deliverance. In our case, it’s about 95%. Muslims are all about power. They see, feel and experience the power of God. They can argue about the Gospel and the Bible but not about what just happened to them.

There are many ways to do this. Movement practitioners have different approaches. This is just what we do and how we’re seeing big fruit.

One-third of all Muslims who come into the Kingdom have a dream or vision of Jesus. We know tons of them. They don’t see a picture of Jesus. They meet Jesus. Revelation and Transfiguration Jesus. And He says the same thing, “Follow me.” When they’ve had this kind of encounter, you just have to land the plane. Zero skill set necessary. You can’t mess it up.

As you build your Generation One (first group of new Believers), the key dynamics are basing everything on Scripture, not the traditions of man; having a clear path to multiplication, understanding what you need to do; strong, clear commitment; a clear understanding of essential truths (Jesus is the only way, the physical resurrection, the primacy of the Word, the Priesthood of all Believers); and heavy training and coaching.

VOL: I don’t think this would work in the US. It is too radical.

ARGO: It’s already working in the U.S.! It’s happening whether you like it or believe it or not. And it’s growing. The Gospel is pretty radical! Movements are going to largely replace what we have called church in the West. Clusters of movements will be what we’ve called dioceses.

Successful clergy are going to be disciple-making catalysts and coaches. The focus of the job is going to change for those who make it. We had best change our seminary and priestly formation. Fast. I hope TSM and Nashotah are listening. Are we still preparing ordinands for a world that no longer exists?

The 1/3 of churches that survive will become hubs and catalysts for movements. There’s no Plan B. It’s going to look very, very different. But we’re bullish. We could see far fewer church buildings. But many more healthy, faithful followers of Jesus.

American church members have a very hard time with the paradigm shift. I understand your skepticism. This is not what church members signed up for.
Instead of fighting an uphill battle, go to the great unwashed, to the margins, to the highways and by-ways, to the unwanted and unloved. Jesus is always working on the margins. And new Believers will do whatever Jesus tells them. They have nothing to unlearn.

Unlearning is harder than learning. I'd much rather work with Muslims than American churchgoers. Muslims are far easier. They’ll never demand the vestry fire you for changing things.

So a good way to start is just to find your own Generation One, your first wave of new Believers, outside the existing church. That's what we had to do in our country. When we learned that hard lesson after five years of futility, that we couldn’t fix the established church, and changed our approach, the work began to flourish. In the northern part of our country, we now have 278 groups, 157 of them are churches, to the 7th Generation. That’s in two years.

Look for FAT people: Faithful, Available, and Teachable. Don't worry about who is not doing it. Worry about those who are. Step over the dead and work with the living. We rolled into Paris this summer while on vacay and looked for FAT people. We didn't bother with trying to get churches to do this. We’re on a short break and don’t have the time.

We simply went out in between eating croissants and found FAT people and trained them. They’re all in their 20s. And they’re hungry for Jesus. We’ve started two discipleship groups with more forming, training about 20 local Believers, with baptisms upcoming whilst on our little summer break here.

When starting out, forming your first group is the hardest thing you will do. You may have many false starts, meaning groups that fail. Pray, fast, seek Jesus and when that first group sticks you are on your way.

Your second hardest thing is for the original group to birth a new group. Again, work with them, model for them how to share, how to heal. Literally, take them by the hand and show them how to do it. You MUST MODEL. Do it together. Then watch them. We call this MAWL: Model, Assist, Watch, Launch. After you get that first group and it births a group, it becomes easier.

The key dynamics for starting are a God-sized vision (multiplication, you have to renew your mind and believe multiplication is God’s way and IS possible), a foundation of effective practices, extraordinary prayer and fasting, testing access strategies, and wide-sowing, sharing, and filtering. We are walking with Jesus and relying heavily on the Holy Spirit. These tools are simple, but they will not work in the hands of a natural man. They are spiritual tools and only work in the hands of a “spiritual man.”

What seems to be working in the U.S. is what we call “Hybrid-Church.” Keep the existing church as it is. Don’t frighten the women and horses. Don’t change Sundays (you’ll have a riot). Just cast vision, find people with a heart for making disciples, train, send them out and coach them. If you’re intrigued by this, here’s a great, short book on what this looks like. Free on Kindle https://tinyurl.com/47tft6xd. And, again, we’ll be happy to coach you for free.

Keep the “inside” as it is and catalyze a movement “outside.” You don’t even have to tell the Altar Guild you’re doing this. Personally, I’m more terrified of the Altar Guild than I am of ISIS. That’s why we’re in the Middle East. We’ve just circled back to your initial question. We’re in the Middle East because I fear Altar Guilds.

VOL: Thank you Alan.

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