The latest mission strategy: “Insider Movements”

We’ve blogged about those translations of the Bible for Muslims that avoid little terms like “Son of God” in order, supposedly, to attract followers of Islam.  It turns out that such Bible translations are only one strategy in a whole new approach to mission work, one that encourages Christian converts to continue as members of their old religion!  Bill Nikides explains in Modern Reformation:

The most explosive issue in global missions within the evangelical church today is something called “Insider Movements.” . . .

It has become a go-to option for all sorts of traditional evangelicals working with ostensibly reputable missions organizations such as Navigators, Frontiers, Summer Institute of Linguistics (a branch of Wycliffe), Global Partners for Development, and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Some embrace the Insider Movement label and identity; others prefer to remain low key. In many cases entire organizations—while in others, only some individual members—are committed to its core principles. Even worse, it appears that some missionaries and agencies are guilty of dissembling so as to maintain plausible deniability. . . .

Here are a couple of stock definitions to get us on our way. Insider Movements (IM) are variously defined as “popular movements to Christ that bypass both formal and explicit expressions of Christian religion” (Kevin Higgins, “The Key to Insider Movements,” Internal Journal of Frontier Missiology, Winter 2004). Another definition Higgins offers is that they are “movements to Jesus that remain to varying degrees inside the social fabric of Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, or other people groups.” In other words, as John Ridgeway of the Navigators relates, Insider Movements advocate “becoming faithful disciples of Jesus within the culture of their people group, including religious culture.”

Fundamentally, Insiders are those who profess faith in Christ but remain members of their original religious communities; Muslims remain Muslims, Hindus remain Hindus, and Buddhists remain Buddhists. In the Muslim world that means they must acknowledge one exclusive God, Allah, and that Mohammed is his final and greatest messenger. They remain members of the mosque, practice the five pillars of Islam, live openly in their cultures as Muslims, participate in Muslim sacrifices and feasts, and identify themselves as Muslims. In many cases, I’m familiar with baptized Christians who are persuaded to re-enter the mosque after renouncing their Christian identities. . . .

There are, of course, major problems with such an approach to missions and evangelism. First, Insiders make the unbiblical assumption that such biblical passages teach that true believers can have a purely inward faith that can be manifested inside any faith system, including that of other non-Christian religions.

Second, practitioners and Insider missiologists (or scholars of the theology of missions) ignore the fact that the Bible is loaded with texts, even entire books, devoted to distinguishing truth from error and true religion from false religion. In other words, doctrine matters and has to be central in our theology of missions. Unfortunately, doctrine is surprisingly absent from much Insider literature, and rarely do their proponents address the twin topics of idolatry and false religion. Instead, Insiders suppose that religions are relatively harmless cultural creations, that they are man-made and therefore disposable. Even Christian articles of faith, such as the church and the sacraments, can be said to be cultural creations that can simply be replaced with other things in Muslim cultures.

via Modern Reformation – Articles [subscription required].

Never mind about what the Bible says about syncretism, idolatry, having no other Gods, Church, etc., etc.  But this approach helps missionaries rack up bigger numbers of converts!

Here is an objective, fair and balanced Wikipedia account that  confirms that description.

This is an example of the mindset that I’m seeing more and more that is at the root of a lot of church issues today:  Christianity is just about becoming a Christian–having a conversion in which a person “accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”–whereupon, since “once saved, always saved,” the Church and the Christian life don’t matter!

HT:  Jim Rademaker

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    heresy

    Recently, Pirate Christian radio featured a series on heresies in history.

    Very interesting and helpful.

    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2012/06/survey-of-historical-heresies-the-arians-part-2.html

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    heresy

    Recently, Pirate Christian radio featured a series on heresies in history.

    Very interesting and helpful.

    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2012/06/survey-of-historical-heresies-the-arians-part-2.html

  • http://Drhambrick.com Drhambrick

    It’s transcendental Christianity. Jesus Christ died on a cross in your head and in your heart, and salvation is merely a mental ascent. Any problems you personally deal with is not sin so much as it is stress and you don’t need confession, preaching, body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, you need counseling.

  • http://Drhambrick.com Drhambrick

    It’s transcendental Christianity. Jesus Christ died on a cross in your head and in your heart, and salvation is merely a mental ascent. Any problems you personally deal with is not sin so much as it is stress and you don’t need confession, preaching, body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, you need counseling.

  • kerner

    I read somewhere that the missionaries to Korea took an appraoch that was different than that of earlier missionaries in that they did not try to get the Koreans to change their entire cukture to immitate the West. Rather, the idea was to try to get the converts to take Christianity into their own culture in so far as there wasn’t some explicit conflict between the culture and Christianity.

    To the extent that this made the missionaries an “insider” movement, I don’t think I object to it, but the results are mixed. Korea is about 23% Christian last I checked, which is a high success rate for an East Asian country. On the other hand, cults, such as the Unification “Church” of Sun Myung Moon have developed in Korea, which indicates that the “inside” strategy can just end up producing more unbelievers.

    Still, I think that some level of this “inside” strategy is probably a good thing, as long as missionaries don’t end up disguising Christianity to the point that you can’t recognize it.

    Now that I thnk about it, I have heard of Missions to the Jews being like this too. They call themselves Messanic Jews and talk about Yeshua. This sounds ok until you start hearing about people who like the whole Messianic/Yeshua message who are later surprised to find out that Yeshua = Jesus and that the message is Christian, at which point they turn away.

    At some point, Christianity is about renouncing the World, including your own culture. Even rejecting your family for Jesus’ sake. Not that I believe that anyone does this by his own reason or strength, but I hope you all know what I mean. Either you’re a sheep on the right or a goat on the left, and missionaries shouldn’t make people think that they can be both.

  • kerner

    I read somewhere that the missionaries to Korea took an appraoch that was different than that of earlier missionaries in that they did not try to get the Koreans to change their entire cukture to immitate the West. Rather, the idea was to try to get the converts to take Christianity into their own culture in so far as there wasn’t some explicit conflict between the culture and Christianity.

    To the extent that this made the missionaries an “insider” movement, I don’t think I object to it, but the results are mixed. Korea is about 23% Christian last I checked, which is a high success rate for an East Asian country. On the other hand, cults, such as the Unification “Church” of Sun Myung Moon have developed in Korea, which indicates that the “inside” strategy can just end up producing more unbelievers.

    Still, I think that some level of this “inside” strategy is probably a good thing, as long as missionaries don’t end up disguising Christianity to the point that you can’t recognize it.

    Now that I thnk about it, I have heard of Missions to the Jews being like this too. They call themselves Messanic Jews and talk about Yeshua. This sounds ok until you start hearing about people who like the whole Messianic/Yeshua message who are later surprised to find out that Yeshua = Jesus and that the message is Christian, at which point they turn away.

    At some point, Christianity is about renouncing the World, including your own culture. Even rejecting your family for Jesus’ sake. Not that I believe that anyone does this by his own reason or strength, but I hope you all know what I mean. Either you’re a sheep on the right or a goat on the left, and missionaries shouldn’t make people think that they can be both.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    kerner @ 3

    There is a difference between a Koren coming to saving faith and remaining a Korean vs. a Buddhist Koren coming to saving faith and remaining a Buddhist. Buddhism and Christianity are mutually exclusive on several fronts, one of the most obvious (aside from Buddhism being works-righteousness based and believing in the false idea of reincarnation/transmigration) being the view of suffering (Buddhism believes in a mandate to suffer for suffering’s sake, which is quite contrary to Christianity that calls for suffering when suffering is a natural outcome of the faith; but does not teach a carte blanch “we must always suffer” doctrine).

    You know, the first commandment dealing with God tolerating no other gods or religions should give people a clue here…

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    kerner @ 3

    There is a difference between a Koren coming to saving faith and remaining a Korean vs. a Buddhist Koren coming to saving faith and remaining a Buddhist. Buddhism and Christianity are mutually exclusive on several fronts, one of the most obvious (aside from Buddhism being works-righteousness based and believing in the false idea of reincarnation/transmigration) being the view of suffering (Buddhism believes in a mandate to suffer for suffering’s sake, which is quite contrary to Christianity that calls for suffering when suffering is a natural outcome of the faith; but does not teach a carte blanch “we must always suffer” doctrine).

    You know, the first commandment dealing with God tolerating no other gods or religions should give people a clue here…

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  • Pingback: I wish this were a joke....

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Didn’t our Lord say something about the necessity of confessing Him as Lord openly, too? This kind of syncretism would seem to have some seriously bad side effects in terms of “salvation,” too.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Didn’t our Lord say something about the necessity of confessing Him as Lord openly, too? This kind of syncretism would seem to have some seriously bad side effects in terms of “salvation,” too.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Do these people skip 1 Corinthians 10?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Do these people skip 1 Corinthians 10?

  • Mockingbird

    @ Dr Luther:

    No, they skipped 1 Corinthians 1.

  • Mockingbird

    @ Dr Luther:

    No, they skipped 1 Corinthians 1.

  • CRB

    Yesterdays’ O.T. reading: “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:21

    I guess those who skipped 1 Cor. 10 are not familiar with this text either! It seems that when false doctrine is clinged to for a long time, it just gets worse and eventually ends in apostasy, no?

  • CRB

    Yesterdays’ O.T. reading: “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:21

    I guess those who skipped 1 Cor. 10 are not familiar with this text either! It seems that when false doctrine is clinged to for a long time, it just gets worse and eventually ends in apostasy, no?

  • Rick McCready

    Too bad that the Apostle Paul missed this approach to missions.

  • Rick McCready

    Too bad that the Apostle Paul missed this approach to missions.

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    and we have Lutheran ‘leaders’ selling Lutheran properties to muslims –
    a valuable property here in LA – sold to muslims – against the advice of a few women in the congregation (they got ‘eye rolls’)- now has a huge mosque that looks awfully like the WTC-
    I could name more – but won’t-
    BAD BUSINESS-
    P-31- aren’t women supposed to be involved in property-management ..
    men at the gate-
    just looking at the KJV again-
    C-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ C-Christian Soldier

    and we have Lutheran ‘leaders’ selling Lutheran properties to muslims –
    a valuable property here in LA – sold to muslims – against the advice of a few women in the congregation (they got ‘eye rolls’)- now has a huge mosque that looks awfully like the WTC-
    I could name more – but won’t-
    BAD BUSINESS-
    P-31- aren’t women supposed to be involved in property-management ..
    men at the gate-
    just looking at the KJV again-
    C-CS

  • DonS

    Who is actually doing this? I am intimately familiar with the work of a number of mainstream missions agencies, and I have never heard or seen any hint of an idea like this.

    I think this report may be very greatly exaggerated.

  • DonS

    Who is actually doing this? I am intimately familiar with the work of a number of mainstream missions agencies, and I have never heard or seen any hint of an idea like this.

    I think this report may be very greatly exaggerated.

  • Stone the Crows

    Having lived in Saudi Arabia for a short time, I”m trying to imagine someone who has converted to Christianity living a complete and utter lie day after day. I doubt this is happening, it is completely contrary to the first table of the law.

  • Stone the Crows

    Having lived in Saudi Arabia for a short time, I”m trying to imagine someone who has converted to Christianity living a complete and utter lie day after day. I doubt this is happening, it is completely contrary to the first table of the law.

  • Joanne

    How much did the Christian religion change the Roman Empire?
    How much did the Christian religion change Irish, Welsh, and Scots culture?

    How much did the Christian religion change the Arabs who were Christians for hundreds of years before Islam came along.
    How much did Christianity change the Russian culture?, the Bulgarian culture.

    How much did Christianity change Ethiopian culture?
    How much does Christianity change the culture of the Untouchables in India? I hear they don’t give Brahmins and other higher castes the defference due in the Hindu plan for them?
    How much did Christianity change American culture, and how much is American culture changing as Christianity slips away from us?

    God grants faith as a gift and withdraws it when He wills. We preach the Word, we baptize, and we teach all that Christ has taught us. We pass on what we have received. The new Christians will have a profound effect on their cultures, but that’s the work of the Law and the Gospel. It had a profound effect on our culture and we are beginning to see just how much as it slips away, and we seem to be devolving into the prechristian Roman Empire.

    What you describe above as a Christian mission technique, sounds like the type of mission work the Gnostics would have had. There really are no new heresies.

  • Joanne

    How much did the Christian religion change the Roman Empire?
    How much did the Christian religion change Irish, Welsh, and Scots culture?

    How much did the Christian religion change the Arabs who were Christians for hundreds of years before Islam came along.
    How much did Christianity change the Russian culture?, the Bulgarian culture.

    How much did Christianity change Ethiopian culture?
    How much does Christianity change the culture of the Untouchables in India? I hear they don’t give Brahmins and other higher castes the defference due in the Hindu plan for them?
    How much did Christianity change American culture, and how much is American culture changing as Christianity slips away from us?

    God grants faith as a gift and withdraws it when He wills. We preach the Word, we baptize, and we teach all that Christ has taught us. We pass on what we have received. The new Christians will have a profound effect on their cultures, but that’s the work of the Law and the Gospel. It had a profound effect on our culture and we are beginning to see just how much as it slips away, and we seem to be devolving into the prechristian Roman Empire.

    What you describe above as a Christian mission technique, sounds like the type of mission work the Gnostics would have had. There really are no new heresies.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    The point, as J. Dean says, is not about adopting Christianity without giving up your culture. It’s about adopting Christianity without giving up your religion, which is assumed to be nothing more than culture.

    Don S, this is real and increasingly common in mission societies. It is a big part of the controversy over Bible translations to Muslims that we discussed here earlier. But Google “Insider Movement” and you will find a lot of material, including fervent defenses of this approach.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    The point, as J. Dean says, is not about adopting Christianity without giving up your culture. It’s about adopting Christianity without giving up your religion, which is assumed to be nothing more than culture.

    Don S, this is real and increasingly common in mission societies. It is a big part of the controversy over Bible translations to Muslims that we discussed here earlier. But Google “Insider Movement” and you will find a lot of material, including fervent defenses of this approach.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith @ 14: I don’t have access to the linked article, which may name names, but I would be curious to know which mission societies. None that I have experience with.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith @ 14: I don’t have access to the linked article, which may name names, but I would be curious to know which mission societies. None that I have experience with.

  • Nathan Girdner

    In order to understand the Insider Movements approach, it’s very important to understand the difference between the Essentialist and the Cultural views of religion. A brief overview is given in the Wikipedia article Dr. Veith linked. Briefly stated, most of us in the West hold to an Essentialist view of religion, which tends to view the specific doctrines of a religion as being primary lens through which we view the world. The Cultural view, however, looks at the way that religious identification is intertwined with understanding of identity on a cultural and an individual level. In my opinion, the Cultural view of religion better accounts for the phenomenon of nominalism and outward adherence to traditions that may not correlate with inward belief among people who identify with a religion (be it Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism). It seems to me that this difference of approach in understanding the meaning and role that religion plays in society and individuals lives lies at the heart of the controversy over Insider Movements.

    I am very familiar with one of the growing church movements in South Asia, and I know some of the workers and the early converts who God has used to bring fruit. In the country I was in, Islam and Christianity were are not seen as external systems one may subscribe to, but rather fundamental cultural identities, as unchangeable as birth family or hair color. Islam is often not seen so much in terms of beliefs one subscribes to and lives out, but simply part of the day-to-day traditions that make up life and culture. To become a Christian is not seen as a redirection of faith, but as a betrayal of family and an abandonment of morals. One convert I know feared that his new faith now meant that he was expected to eat pork and drink alcohol (which was still abhorrent to him), as the Christian peoples around him did. The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but it is often understood as such in these cultures.

    In my experience, disciplers and leaders in the church place a very strong emphasis on Scripture as the primary guide for faith and obedience, and they teach a strong dependence on the Holy Spirit to use Scripture to bring His people to conform their lives and their culture to reflect the Kingdom of God. Among the missionaries, there is a hesitancy to proscribe specific practices that may be more readily identified with Western cultural expressions of Christianity than truly following Jesus as a faithful disciple within one’s culture. The missionaries I know do not specifically encourage converts to worship in the mosque, but as questions of practice arise, they do help believers to search the Scriptures and develop convictions about faith and actions that are in line with God’s truth. Bible study, baptism, and communion are taught and practiced as critical parts of a new identity of following Jesus, but old practices, such as praying 5 times a day or going to the mosque on Fridays are not necessarily rejected as being irredeemable. The end goal, as I understand it, is to help local believers create a new shared identity as followers of Jesus; externalities such as mosque attendance are generally expected to fall away over time as the Holy Spirit continues to teach and guide the new church. In practice, I believe that the faith of these converts (at least the ones I know) is genuine, and there are significant, noticeable differences in their lives, that are seen by their neighbors and family, as God grows fruit in their lives.

    I will admit that I still have questions about some aspects of the Insider Movement approach. The biggest problem to me is that my understanding of the Church leads me to believe that our sense of identity is intended to be found primarily in our identification with Jesus and with the Church, rather than with family, tradition, status, or anything else. But I also think Jesus intends to redeem our cultures, not simply replace them, and that extracting believers from their culture and societal context may create additional obstacles in transforming cultures with the Gospel.

    The following article from the International Journal of Foreign Missions is a bit lengthy, but I think it shows a good dialogue between proponents and critics of the Insider Movement approach to Missions. I would recommend reading the article (and there are many more on both sides) before rejecting what I believe God is doing to build His church among new peoples.
    http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/24_1_PDFs/Corwin.pdf

  • Nathan Girdner

    In order to understand the Insider Movements approach, it’s very important to understand the difference between the Essentialist and the Cultural views of religion. A brief overview is given in the Wikipedia article Dr. Veith linked. Briefly stated, most of us in the West hold to an Essentialist view of religion, which tends to view the specific doctrines of a religion as being primary lens through which we view the world. The Cultural view, however, looks at the way that religious identification is intertwined with understanding of identity on a cultural and an individual level. In my opinion, the Cultural view of religion better accounts for the phenomenon of nominalism and outward adherence to traditions that may not correlate with inward belief among people who identify with a religion (be it Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism). It seems to me that this difference of approach in understanding the meaning and role that religion plays in society and individuals lives lies at the heart of the controversy over Insider Movements.

    I am very familiar with one of the growing church movements in South Asia, and I know some of the workers and the early converts who God has used to bring fruit. In the country I was in, Islam and Christianity were are not seen as external systems one may subscribe to, but rather fundamental cultural identities, as unchangeable as birth family or hair color. Islam is often not seen so much in terms of beliefs one subscribes to and lives out, but simply part of the day-to-day traditions that make up life and culture. To become a Christian is not seen as a redirection of faith, but as a betrayal of family and an abandonment of morals. One convert I know feared that his new faith now meant that he was expected to eat pork and drink alcohol (which was still abhorrent to him), as the Christian peoples around him did. The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but it is often understood as such in these cultures.

    In my experience, disciplers and leaders in the church place a very strong emphasis on Scripture as the primary guide for faith and obedience, and they teach a strong dependence on the Holy Spirit to use Scripture to bring His people to conform their lives and their culture to reflect the Kingdom of God. Among the missionaries, there is a hesitancy to proscribe specific practices that may be more readily identified with Western cultural expressions of Christianity than truly following Jesus as a faithful disciple within one’s culture. The missionaries I know do not specifically encourage converts to worship in the mosque, but as questions of practice arise, they do help believers to search the Scriptures and develop convictions about faith and actions that are in line with God’s truth. Bible study, baptism, and communion are taught and practiced as critical parts of a new identity of following Jesus, but old practices, such as praying 5 times a day or going to the mosque on Fridays are not necessarily rejected as being irredeemable. The end goal, as I understand it, is to help local believers create a new shared identity as followers of Jesus; externalities such as mosque attendance are generally expected to fall away over time as the Holy Spirit continues to teach and guide the new church. In practice, I believe that the faith of these converts (at least the ones I know) is genuine, and there are significant, noticeable differences in their lives, that are seen by their neighbors and family, as God grows fruit in their lives.

    I will admit that I still have questions about some aspects of the Insider Movement approach. The biggest problem to me is that my understanding of the Church leads me to believe that our sense of identity is intended to be found primarily in our identification with Jesus and with the Church, rather than with family, tradition, status, or anything else. But I also think Jesus intends to redeem our cultures, not simply replace them, and that extracting believers from their culture and societal context may create additional obstacles in transforming cultures with the Gospel.

    The following article from the International Journal of Foreign Missions is a bit lengthy, but I think it shows a good dialogue between proponents and critics of the Insider Movement approach to Missions. I would recommend reading the article (and there are many more on both sides) before rejecting what I believe God is doing to build His church among new peoples.
    http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/24_1_PDFs/Corwin.pdf

  • Jon

    Is the Insider Movement theory that hopefully after incubating long enough inside the foreign “womb” of another religion that suddenly, one day, out pops a functioning Christian, separate and apart from the host religion? Ala “Alien,” the movie, anyone?

    Or are they expected to behave more like a parasite, remain a permanent resident that sort of exists with and feeds off of the host religion and/or culture peculiar to that religion, and hopefuly reproducing with in the religion until they slowly kill the host religion, starving it from within?

  • Jon

    Is the Insider Movement theory that hopefully after incubating long enough inside the foreign “womb” of another religion that suddenly, one day, out pops a functioning Christian, separate and apart from the host religion? Ala “Alien,” the movie, anyone?

    Or are they expected to behave more like a parasite, remain a permanent resident that sort of exists with and feeds off of the host religion and/or culture peculiar to that religion, and hopefuly reproducing with in the religion until they slowly kill the host religion, starving it from within?

  • Jon

    Or is it supposed to be more of like a permanent symbiotic relationship, with the crypto-Christian spore just peacefully coexisting within the host religion, maybe even providing some benefits to the host?

  • Jon

    Or is it supposed to be more of like a permanent symbiotic relationship, with the crypto-Christian spore just peacefully coexisting within the host religion, maybe even providing some benefits to the host?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    How different this is than in the book of Acts, where people who were former occultists publicly burned their magic and witchcraft books! You don’t see Paul saying “You know what? You can still be a good Christian and worship Diana!”

    II Corinthians 6 addresses this as well: what fellowship does light have with darkness?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    How different this is than in the book of Acts, where people who were former occultists publicly burned their magic and witchcraft books! You don’t see Paul saying “You know what? You can still be a good Christian and worship Diana!”

    II Corinthians 6 addresses this as well: what fellowship does light have with darkness?

  • Tim R.

    Just be sure you make the religion/culture distinction mentioned above. It _is not_ consistent to remain within, say, a Hindu religion; it _may_ be consistent to remain with a Hindu culture.

    (And consider the reverse with America as the example: It _is_ consistent to remain within the Christian religion; it _may not_ be consistent to remain within the American “Christian” culture.)

  • Tim R.

    Just be sure you make the religion/culture distinction mentioned above. It _is not_ consistent to remain within, say, a Hindu religion; it _may_ be consistent to remain with a Hindu culture.

    (And consider the reverse with America as the example: It _is_ consistent to remain within the Christian religion; it _may not_ be consistent to remain within the American “Christian” culture.)

  • kerner

    Matthew 10:32-39 Our Lord says:

    “32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

    34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

    “‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law —
    36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]

    37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

    As American Christians, we can be glib about this passage, because our families are not very likely to hate us if we turn to Jesus Christ. But Nathan Girdner points out @16 that a lot of people in other cultures are literally put in a position of renouncing everyone they ever cared about for Christ. This seems really harsh, so we can understand how missionaries might shy away from it. But the words stand and there is no getting around them.

    But this is why allowing Christianity to be viewed as a characteristic of a culture is so dangerous. If you thnk of yourself as a Christian (or a particular kind of Christian) because you are Irish (or Northern Irish), or Italian, or Swedish or non-Muslim Lebanese or Russian or whatever, you lose the point of being a Christian. For almost 400 years, the Church was a counter-cultural phenomenon everywhere it existed. I have a great deal of trouble believing that Constantine did the Church a big favor.

  • kerner

    Matthew 10:32-39 Our Lord says:

    “32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

    34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

    “‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law —
    36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c]

    37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

    As American Christians, we can be glib about this passage, because our families are not very likely to hate us if we turn to Jesus Christ. But Nathan Girdner points out @16 that a lot of people in other cultures are literally put in a position of renouncing everyone they ever cared about for Christ. This seems really harsh, so we can understand how missionaries might shy away from it. But the words stand and there is no getting around them.

    But this is why allowing Christianity to be viewed as a characteristic of a culture is so dangerous. If you thnk of yourself as a Christian (or a particular kind of Christian) because you are Irish (or Northern Irish), or Italian, or Swedish or non-Muslim Lebanese or Russian or whatever, you lose the point of being a Christian. For almost 400 years, the Church was a counter-cultural phenomenon everywhere it existed. I have a great deal of trouble believing that Constantine did the Church a big favor.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    kerner @ 21 “I have a great deal of trouble believing that Constantine did the Church a big favor.”

    His involvement with the church was a mixed bag. In some ways it was good, but in others it was not.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    kerner @ 21 “I have a great deal of trouble believing that Constantine did the Church a big favor.”

    His involvement with the church was a mixed bag. In some ways it was good, but in others it was not.

  • Doug Coleman

    Thank you for posting this. I would like to make a couple of comments, including my own perspective on the supposed International Mission Board support of IM.

    First, I have been serving with the International Mission Board in Central Asia since 1998. I completed my PhD dissertation last year, which was a theological analysis and critique of the Insider Movement paradigm. It was published in the EMS dissertation series and is available in print and Kindle versions via Amazon (Kindle here: http://amzn.to/MWNdcS and paperback here: http://amzn.to/OshXP3). The dissertation considers at length a number of passages, some of which have been mentioned in the comment thread already.

    Second, I am unaware that the IMB’s senior leadership or trustees have issued any opinions or directives regarding IM. Perhaps that will happen in the future. The IMB is a large organization, and I cannot assume I speak for everyone, but when I discuss IM with my field colleagues, I get the sense that there is significant concern regarding the approach. Of course, in an organization with approximately 5,000 field personnel, it is possible that some may be favorable towards IM, but I suspect the overwhelming majority would not affirm a true religious IM approach (and, by the way, there is a difference between encouraging a believer to remain socially and culturally connected while separating from false worship).

  • Doug Coleman

    Thank you for posting this. I would like to make a couple of comments, including my own perspective on the supposed International Mission Board support of IM.

    First, I have been serving with the International Mission Board in Central Asia since 1998. I completed my PhD dissertation last year, which was a theological analysis and critique of the Insider Movement paradigm. It was published in the EMS dissertation series and is available in print and Kindle versions via Amazon (Kindle here: http://amzn.to/MWNdcS and paperback here: http://amzn.to/OshXP3). The dissertation considers at length a number of passages, some of which have been mentioned in the comment thread already.

    Second, I am unaware that the IMB’s senior leadership or trustees have issued any opinions or directives regarding IM. Perhaps that will happen in the future. The IMB is a large organization, and I cannot assume I speak for everyone, but when I discuss IM with my field colleagues, I get the sense that there is significant concern regarding the approach. Of course, in an organization with approximately 5,000 field personnel, it is possible that some may be favorable towards IM, but I suspect the overwhelming majority would not affirm a true religious IM approach (and, by the way, there is a difference between encouraging a believer to remain socially and culturally connected while separating from false worship).

  • Doug Coleman

    Also, I wrote a series of short blog posts which summarizes some of the key issues discussed in my dissertation. Those can be read here: http://betweenthetimes.com/index.php/category/series/insider-movements-series/

  • Doug Coleman

    Also, I wrote a series of short blog posts which summarizes some of the key issues discussed in my dissertation. Those can be read here: http://betweenthetimes.com/index.php/category/series/insider-movements-series/

  • DonS

    Thanks to Nathan and Doug above for their helpful links. Here’s another one from World Magazine, which might be a little more layman-friendly: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17944

    I think this movement is more “explosive” in terms of controversy than it is in terms of being widespread. It is easy to see how such an approach could be tempting when toiling in a place where the price of conversion is so steep. And it is right to emphasize to a seeker of Christ that salvation is through trust in Christ’s work on the Cross alone, and does not require any other work on our part, including the work of leaving the Muslim church, telling family, employers, friends, etc. Leave it to the work of the Holy Spirit, after salvation, in concert with good biblical teaching, to move the new believer to these steps. The error in this “insider” approach is in not wanting to teach that the new believer is to separate himself from false teaching and apostasy and to identify publicly with Christ.

    I will make it a point to discuss this philosophy with those I know working in the Muslim world.

  • DonS

    Thanks to Nathan and Doug above for their helpful links. Here’s another one from World Magazine, which might be a little more layman-friendly: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17944

    I think this movement is more “explosive” in terms of controversy than it is in terms of being widespread. It is easy to see how such an approach could be tempting when toiling in a place where the price of conversion is so steep. And it is right to emphasize to a seeker of Christ that salvation is through trust in Christ’s work on the Cross alone, and does not require any other work on our part, including the work of leaving the Muslim church, telling family, employers, friends, etc. Leave it to the work of the Holy Spirit, after salvation, in concert with good biblical teaching, to move the new believer to these steps. The error in this “insider” approach is in not wanting to teach that the new believer is to separate himself from false teaching and apostasy and to identify publicly with Christ.

    I will make it a point to discuss this philosophy with those I know working in the Muslim world.

  • David Harriman

    Dear Gene,

    I just checked your blog and found this item on insider movements (IM). Let me assure you that the same basic forces (and some of the same basic players) driving this idea are driving the MIT (Muslim idiom translation) approach. The leading proponents have been Frontiers, the Navigators, the U.S. Center for World Mission, and Wycliffe. Advocacy for this approach — and the in particular the exegetical foundation for it — was one of the reasons I resigned from Frontiers in 2009.

    To get a sense of the theology animating IM, see these papers by Becky Lewis of Frontiers/U.S. Center for World Mission:

    http://ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/26_1_PDFs/26_1_Lewis.pdf

    And in particular:

    http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/27_1_PDFs/27_1_Lewis.pdf

    In the latter paper, Becky makes the startling claim that the Apostle Paul “forbid” New Testament believers from “changing the religious expression of their faith.” In the first paper, you will see that Becky describes the church and its services as “odd or competing religious institutions or events.”

    I will separately send you papers by both Bill Nikides and Dave Garner of Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, critiquing Becky’s theology. The good news is that the PCA Study Committee will continue its work into 2013, focused on insider movements (the first year focused on the translation issue).

    To give you a quick and immediate sense of how organically (and emotionally) the translation controversy is related to IM, see Becky’s comment in this CT article concerning the approval of the PCA Study Committee report (on Muslim idiom translations) at the PCA General Assembly in June:

    http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2012/06/stop_supporting.html

    Your readers may want to know that formal papers on the MIT approach advocated by both Frontiers and Wycliffe are available online:

    Presbyterian Church in America:

    http://www.pcaac.org/Ad%20Interim%20on%20Insider%20Movements%20Report%205-17-12.pdf

    Assemblies of God:

    http://www.fatherson.ag.org/

    Likewise, the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey has taken a formal position against Frontiers’ Turkish Matthew translation:

    http://biblicalmissiology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Matthew-TR-Translation-TeK-Ltr-Eng.pdf

    OK, too many links for a blog, but hopefully they are helpful.

    David

  • David Harriman

    Dear Gene,

    I just checked your blog and found this item on insider movements (IM). Let me assure you that the same basic forces (and some of the same basic players) driving this idea are driving the MIT (Muslim idiom translation) approach. The leading proponents have been Frontiers, the Navigators, the U.S. Center for World Mission, and Wycliffe. Advocacy for this approach — and the in particular the exegetical foundation for it — was one of the reasons I resigned from Frontiers in 2009.

    To get a sense of the theology animating IM, see these papers by Becky Lewis of Frontiers/U.S. Center for World Mission:

    http://ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/26_1_PDFs/26_1_Lewis.pdf

    And in particular:

    http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/27_1_PDFs/27_1_Lewis.pdf

    In the latter paper, Becky makes the startling claim that the Apostle Paul “forbid” New Testament believers from “changing the religious expression of their faith.” In the first paper, you will see that Becky describes the church and its services as “odd or competing religious institutions or events.”

    I will separately send you papers by both Bill Nikides and Dave Garner of Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, critiquing Becky’s theology. The good news is that the PCA Study Committee will continue its work into 2013, focused on insider movements (the first year focused on the translation issue).

    To give you a quick and immediate sense of how organically (and emotionally) the translation controversy is related to IM, see Becky’s comment in this CT article concerning the approval of the PCA Study Committee report (on Muslim idiom translations) at the PCA General Assembly in June:

    http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2012/06/stop_supporting.html

    Your readers may want to know that formal papers on the MIT approach advocated by both Frontiers and Wycliffe are available online:

    Presbyterian Church in America:

    http://www.pcaac.org/Ad%20Interim%20on%20Insider%20Movements%20Report%205-17-12.pdf

    Assemblies of God:

    http://www.fatherson.ag.org/

    Likewise, the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey has taken a formal position against Frontiers’ Turkish Matthew translation:

    http://biblicalmissiology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Matthew-TR-Translation-TeK-Ltr-Eng.pdf

    OK, too many links for a blog, but hopefully they are helpful.

    David

  • rjwl

    Paul, and the many other early Gentile believers, did not renounce their Roman citizenship, but instead retained a socio-religious identity associated with believing in many gods, the Roman Emperor being the most important god. Gentile believers who were Roman citizens were occasionally persecuted and martyred for the next 250 years because they were retaining their Roman citizenship but, when called to account, refusing to worship the Emperor (as required of all citizens). Nevertheless, they did not take the easy out of becoming Jews who were exempted from this requirement. Why not? Why did they stay associated with a religious-political system that was demonic and idolatrous when they had an “out”?

  • rjwl

    Paul, and the many other early Gentile believers, did not renounce their Roman citizenship, but instead retained a socio-religious identity associated with believing in many gods, the Roman Emperor being the most important god. Gentile believers who were Roman citizens were occasionally persecuted and martyred for the next 250 years because they were retaining their Roman citizenship but, when called to account, refusing to worship the Emperor (as required of all citizens). Nevertheless, they did not take the easy out of becoming Jews who were exempted from this requirement. Why not? Why did they stay associated with a religious-political system that was demonic and idolatrous when they had an “out”?

  • http://duanemiller.blogspot.com Duane Miller

    Hi Gene et al,
    I see you are interested in the ‘insider movement’ issue so popular nowadays. I have recently published an article on the possible origins of the concept back in the 1930′s, and I thought you might find it of interest. Check it out here:
    http://tinyurl.com/bqczrp8
    Peace,
    Duane


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