With gospel workers in Muslim-majority countries desperately under-represented in world mission, Ben has a dream.
The Mentac Coordinator for NSW and ACT would love to see more Muslim background Christians coming forward to do the two-year training to make disciples and minister to Muslims in locations across the world.
“What I would love is for more people from Muslim background to come through Mentac,” he says.
“They have the cultural and linguistic skills quite often but not necessarily the ministry skills or the understanding of Christian ministry or the scriptures. That’s something I’d like to see change.”
Ben and his wife Sally studied at St Andrew’s Hall in Melbourne before spending time in the Middle East to better understand Islam, the Arabic language, and the gospel needs there. Now, they seek to share the good news of Jesus among the Muslim community in Sydney and train Christians for service in Muslim majority countries.
Since being established, the Mentac apprenticeship (Mentoring Across Cultures) has trained 22 Australian Christians of whom 14 are serving in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Central Asia.
“It has helped them develop key cross-cultural skills in an environment where it’s easy to live.” – Ben
There are five current trainees and a small group including Ben who are serving among Muslims in Sydney.
“God has used Mentac in significant ways to recruit long-term gospel workers and give them a big push forward,” says Ben.
“It has helped them develop key cross-cultural skills in an environment where it’s easy to live – where they can make mistakes, learn, and have mentors around them. And then they can go somewhere else where the living is much harder, but now with very important foundations of cross-cultural ministry in place, not just in theory but also in practice.”
Sally and Ben did Mentac in a previous incarnation of the program before they went overseas from 2014 to 2016.
“Two of our mentors were long-term workers with CMS in the Middle East and they started Mentac at St Andrew’s Hall as a monthly gathering with dinner, where people with an interest in reaching Muslims with the gospel would talk through a book that they were reading together and encourage each other and pray for the ministry among Muslims,” he explains.
The Church Missionary Society (CMS) helped to design it as a recruiting pathway because they saw the need. There are about 1.7 billion Muslims in the world, yet we are very under resourced in terms of missionaries.
“Obviously, CMS’s heartland is ministries like theological education in places like East Africa, and more recently student ministries in European countries – there were natural recruiting pathways for those, through Bible colleges and campus ministries here. But there wasn’t any established pathway for evangelism and disciple making in Muslim majority countries. And so that became part of the reason why Mentac was born.
“Since that time, it’s firmed up into this formal two-year apprenticeship, a bit like a Ministry Training Strategy apprenticeship, although almost all of the people that we’ve had come through have already done Bible college training. So it’s more like a finishing school for cross-cultural ministry than it is a first taste of Christian ministry.”
“It’s more like a finishing school for cross-cultural ministry than it is a first taste of Christian ministry.” – Ben
So far Mentac has focused mainly on Muslim people, but there are plans to see it branch out among Buddhists and Hindus.
“We have a starting group reaching Hindus. And it would be wonderful to see a fully-fledged Hindu Mentac and Buddhist Mentac and see experienced workers here mentoring and training people for long term work in those communities. That’s something that we’ve been praying towards and it’s just starting to happen on the Hindu side of things.”
Asked what role CMS has in Mentac, Ben explains that they provide significant support on the organisational side, providing the trainees with prayer cards and administering their finances. He says CMS has a significant relationship with each trainee, as part of tracking with them to see what ministry the Lord opens up in the future.
Ben concludes: “I’m keen for Christians of all backgrounds to prayerfully consider working among Muslim people because missionaries among them are so underrepresented here and around the world. I would like to raise people’s awareness that this is something that exists and get them to consider whether they should contact us.”