Starting house churches among Muslims in Indonesia
Surdi is the fifth of eight children born to a Muslim family in Indonesia. His family practiced the Islamic faith until Surdi’s father became a believer in 1975, having observed the positive, joyful life of a believer at his workplace. After that, Surdi and his siblings were raised in the church and Sunday school. At a junior high retreat, Surdi put his faith in Christ. After graduating from Bible school and getting married, Surdi and his wife began a small church among the Sundanese people using traditional performing arts in their services. In 2000, having witnessed the positive response to Sundanese Christian performing arts, Surdi and his wife and two other believers started the Christian cultural arts center under ICGN. Surdi and his wife have two children.
Ministry Vision & Strategy
Since their inception in the mid-1960s, Indonesian Church Growth Network (ICGN) has seen 2,600 Muslims come to faith in Christ. Through their network of 160 house churches, they are seeing 120-150 Muslim Indonesians come to faith each year. In addition to the Sundanese, ICGN is working among the 18 million Muslim Javanese along the northern shore of Java and the 5 million Hindu Balinese.
Woman's Faith Despite Hardships
As a young woman, Mrs. S began seeking answers from faiths other than Islam. One day, on a whim, she visited a church in Jakarta which happened to be a Sundanese church. “This isn’t possible,” she thought to herself, marveling at how comfortable and interested she was in the service. Attracted to the teaching, Mrs. S kept coming back and she began to study the Bible and Christianity. In time, she put her faith in Christ. Her relationships with her Muslim family suffered greatly as a result. She was eventually expelled from her family and neighborhood. Her parents told her, “You aren’t our daughter any longer.” Despite this very painful time, she remained faithful. Mrs. S. joined ICGN’s evangelistic training program and is extraordinary in her studies and godly living. She is a bold evangelist. Mrs. S is still devastated over the loss of her family, but she keeps looking to Jesus and does not lose hope that one day they will find Jesus too.
Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest country with more Muslims than in the entire Middle East. The country’s 130 major unreached people groups include one of the world’s largest unreached groups, the 36 million Sundanese. The Sundanese live almost exclusively in West Java and Banten, in the western end of the island of Java.
Many Sundanese live in superstition and fear that is rooted in ancient animistic and cultural beliefs. Their religious practice is often a syncretistic mix of animism and Islam. Fewer than 250 Sundanese house churches exist and most of them are quite small.
One of the major challenges in reaching Indonesia’s Muslims is not theological, but sociological. Believers are viewed as leaving their local culture, and thus often suffer painful ostracism from family, friends, and cultural traditions. Also, church planters’ past experience with Christianity is influenced by the West, including a worship style far removed from the Sundanese context. Thus, it is critical to share the Gospel in a way that is both biblical and relevant to their culture.
Although there has been an upsurge in Muslim fundamentalism, local leaders believe the time is ripe to reach the Sundanese with the Gospel.
[h3 name=MO]MULTIMEDIA OUTREACH: $5,000 for songfest, $1,200 per one-hour broadcast[/h3]
Multimedia Outreach, ICGN
The Sundanese have a rich heritage of performing arts, which plays a very important role in the daily lives of the people. ICGN has learned that what has been traditionally rejected by the Sundanese is not the truth of the Gospel, but rather the Western style of Christianity that they associate with colonization. Currently, there is a growing number of house churches among the Sundanese that want to maintain their Sundanese identity and learn to use their treasured performing arts in their services, retreats, and outreach, as well as for weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies.
ICGN’s Cultural Arts Center creates, records, and performs Sundanese art forms (music, drama, dance, and comedy), all with the goal of contextualized evangelism and worship. Current programs include evangelistic television programs, Christian music, dramas, live evangelistic performances, and training in simple contextualized worship for house churches.
This year, Partners will be sponsoring three of ICGN’s multi-media efforts. One is the annual Sundanese Christian Cultural Arts Songfest hosted by ICGN. This festival is actually a competition which encourages believers from all over the province of West Java to improve their performance skills as well as their ability to present salvation truth more creatively. This year, ICGN anticipates 30-50 local performers or performing groups to take part. If each group performs an average of just five times per year in their local area, that would mean up to 250 creative Gospel presentations being made to Muslim audiences.
A second aspect of the project involves the production and broadcast of 60-minute television specials for Christmas and Easter. Christmas is a time of great openness among Muslims since their faith also acknowledges the birth of Jesus. The special will be aired on two local television stations. Of the two regions where this special will be broadcast, one is a particularly difficult area where very little ministry work has been attempted. The special will be in the Sundanese language, include a theme of village community, and will clearly present the true meaning of Christmas. The Easter special will be broadcast on one station. These multi-media efforts have consistently sparked new levels of interest in Christianity among the Sundanese.
The third part of the project includes ICGN’s television programs. One is a weekly 30-minute television talk show called “Voice of Life.” The show is an interactive dialogue answering questions asked by Muslims and presenting apologetic arguments in a non-threatening way. Of the six million people who receive the signal, ICGN estimates a listenership of 250,000 people, almost all of them Muslims. A second show, a pre-evangelistic drama called “Father’s Village,” is shot in a village setting and focuses its content on problems typical to a Sundanese village. The father figure in the show gives advice on solving the problems directly from God’s Word. An estimated 500,000 people tune in each week. Partners hopes to help with the staff and production costs to produce new episodes, 36 and 12 respectively, of each show this year.
[h3 name=YTAS]YOUTH TRAINING AND SCHOLARSHIPS: $825 per scholarship[/h3]
Youth Training and Scholarships, ICGN
Because most of the believers in ICGN’s network are poor tenant farmers, without assistance from others, most of their children will not attend school past the sixth grade. Because there are generally only one or two Christian families living in a village of thousands of Muslims, the majority of these youth end up marrying Muslims and leaving the Christian faith.
ICGN’s Transform Youth Indonesia program works toward transformation in the lives of young Sundanese believers throughout West Java. True transformation requires more than just poverty alleviation and educational opportunities. It requires a deep change in the underlying worldview that keep so many youth from succeeding. For this reason, Transform Youth Indonesia is not simply a scholarship program. Rather, it includes five key aspects: academic scholarships, spiritual mentoring, responsibility in their local church, business mentoring, and vocational training. The business mentoring portion is modeled on Junior Achievement in the U.S. where students run small businesses each year, gaining valuable experience in leadership, decision making, planning and bookkeeping.
Through this program, 56 children of Muslim-background believers will gather twice a month for integrated spiritual and business training. As part of the goal of developing the faith of younger believers, ICGN will hold a three-day youth retreat for 100-150 children of Muslim-background believers. Through this project, we hope to see a new generation of educated, hard-working leaders who are committed to seeing God’s love spread among their communities and people group.
[h3 name=TS]FAITH-BUILDING RETREATS: $30 per participant[/h3]
Evangelistic Training, ICGN
For several years, ICGN has held an annual retreat for Sundanese believers from many isolated villages to celebrate being a Sundanese Christian “umat” (religious community). By being together with hundreds of other Sundanese believers, they realize that they are not alone and are strengthened to continue to grow in their faith.
In the last five years, some 30-60 Sundanese have come to faith each year at the annual West Java-wide retreat. These seekers are evangelized in their villages and in their hearts want to follow Christ, but they are afraid. When they come to this retreat, they feel strengthened to make a decision to follow Christ.
With the increase of Sundanese believers in the last five years, retreat attendance would probably be in excess of 1,200 people. To avoid expense and additional harassment, ICGN has limited the retreat to 500-600, prioritizing “reaping” of seekers.
This project will sponsor an annual, three-day retreat for 500 Sundanese. This retreat has separate tracks for adults, youth, and children. A side benefit of the retreat is that it solves the problem of finding a mate of the same faith. Many young people return to Islam because they cannot find Christian friends or a Christian mate. The retreat is a place where youth can form these important relationships. In addition to the larger regional retreat, we hope to sponsor a worker retreat designed to provide spiritual refreshment and deeper study for 70-80 Muslim-background believers who are serving in ministry to the Sundanese.
[h3 name=CD]COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: $4,300 per village[/h3]
Community Development, ICGN
Most Sundanese house churches are located in poor communities (either rural villages or edges of towns or cities) that lack basic infrastructure such as running water, sewage disposal, or health care. Many Muslim leaders teach that the presence of believers brings the curse of Allah. However, through a variety of community development projects, ICGN hopes to show that believers bring blessing to communities. In this way, local persecution generally lessens and the community becomes more receptive to the conversion of Muslims to Christianity.
Over the next year, ICGN hopes to construct community wells and bathrooms in two villages. These will result in greater hygiene and decreased incidence of illness. ICGN intentionally chooses communities in which a house church exists and where the house church is positioned to expand. Their leaders are evangelistically-oriented, have good character, and they are sufficiently integrated with the local Muslim community leadership to work together on a community development project.