By Roy Oksnevad
Eighteen years ago Roland Müller’s book introduced me to the concept of two faces in discipleship of MBBs. The concept of two faces is that one face is the MBB’s Christian faith, and the other is how the MBB relates to their Islamic family and community. Müller, from his years of experience, concedes that developing two faces is normative at the beginning of becoming a Christian. Recently, a lot of ink has been spilled in contextualization theories to avoid the two-faced dichotomy so as to unify the two faces from the beginning. It is not the purpose of this article to enter the debate over contextualization and the two faces. For most of us working with Muslims in the West, our contacts are not living in Muslim majority communities where it is more advantageous to develop the two faces. We relate to MBBs who are living in the West and yet they must relate to relatives or ethnic community found here. They are living in a Christian majority country where some find the Western church and Christian community as their new home. However, lurking in the recesses of the person is another set of values that need to be addressed, two faces. If they are not discipled to bring the two faces together, they will be unprepared to relate to their ethnic communities, in particular when for various reasons they return home, where the patterns of relating are different. The following are examples of how these two faces reveal themselves.
An MBB fellowship or church: If a fellowship or church was started by a Western pastor/leader with language skills or working through a translator to lead the fellowship, the MBBs realize that the ministry style and values are set by the Westerner. Under the Western pastor, people seemed to get along without much conflict. The church grew and then they decided to get an ethnic pastor. However, when a new pastor is installed in a church from the MBB community, the dynamics of relating change. Behavior that was just under the surface manifests itself when the leader is one of them. Soon after, the ethnic pastor is called upon to meet their every need. Conflicts that were under the surface show up and soon individuals and families are offended and start leaving the church. What seemed to be a stable fellowship under the Western pastor changed when someone from their own community takes leadership. Is it possible that the two faces were not addressed under the Western leader?
Handling discipline: If you are working with an MBB church or fellowship, you as a Westerner might be called upon to handle problem issues, both large and small. For example, once I was standing in a hallway of an American church that shares their building with an ethnic ministry, and I saw an elderly Muslim woman take the hangers from the coat rack and put them into her large carrying bag. The ethnic pastor was further down the hallway and also saw this. I told the woman that she couldn’t take the hangers and to put them back on the coat rack. Later the ethnic pastor thanked me for doing this because since she was an older woman, it would be shameful for him to correct her. He was handcuffed by cultural norms and values. On several occasions he would ask me to address problem situations, since it would be too shameful for him to address them. His perspective was that as a Westerner outsider, I could address obvious behavioral problems that he as an insider could never do. Will the members of this church ever grow into maturity when cultural norms and values are not addressed by the ethnic leadership?
Bible studies: The two faces can present themselves when conducting Bible studies. For instance, in a Bible study on truth and lying, I asked the MBB some situational questions. I got all the correct answers, but then decided to shift the context. I asked, “If you were to go back home, what would your answers be to these questions?” He thought for awhile and said that he would not respond the same way. The rules of the culture are different. People don’t play by the same rules as Westerners. It is more acceptable to be truthful in the West, but when relationships are the cultural focus, truth-telling may not be the best way of relating.
How much of the gospel is transcultural? Where are Richard Niebuhr’s five views relevant: Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture paradox, and Christ transforms culture? Are we as Western Christians trained to recognize and address the two faces in our discipleship? Are we so culturally bound that we fail to address deep-seated cultural issues in our discipleship that are really sinful behavior?
Jesus confronted culture patterns, particularly the established religious ones. Christ was above culture when he said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. It may be that Christ transforming culture put him at odds with the disciples who left him, as well as the religious and political leaders (John 6:60-70). In our ministry we should be aware that the two faces exist. All of us need to abide in Christ (John 15:1-17). Yet in the same discourse, Jesus discloses to his disciples that being cultural change agents for him will mean that the world will hate us and persecute us (John 15:18-25).
Muslim ministry can be very messy. If the MBB has not been discipled with the intention of bringing the two faces together, Western Christians will be called upon to handle issues that the MBB leader should be doing. This can stunt the growth of the MBB and their ability to be leaders in their MBB community or living an exemplary life when they return back home with family.
In our discipleship, we need to be intentional in addressing the two faces – their new Christian face and the face of their Muslim past. Unless we venture into this area, our new disciples may revert back to their cultural default patterns in relationships. The Christian life can be lived out in any culture, not just the Western culture. Our goal should be that our MBBs live a life that is consistent, full of integrity that reflects the new life in Christ in any culture. Beware! Discipleship is messy and costly but well worth it!
 Roland Müller, The Messenger The Message, The Community: Three Critical Issues for the Cross-Cultural Church Planter (Altona, Manitoba, Canada: Canbooks, 2010).
 Richard H. Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper & Row, 1951).