Monday, March 8, 2010

The Insider Movement Debate: Which C5?

There has been a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the issue of contextualization as it relates to "Insider Movements", or "C5" ministry, in the Islamic context.  One of the primary areas where I believe these misunderstandings have happened centers around the definitions that we are using for C5.  I would argue that C5 might mean one thing to one person, but something else to another.  I feel that this is chiefly why we have seen such unhelpful polarization.  Below I have constructed two tables that seek to rectify this confusion by bringing clarity to the issue.  I would argue that on the one hand, we should not just blindly seek to implement C5 ministry as some sort of magic bullet - because this can and does lead to unbiblical syncretism.  However, I would also argue that we should not just write off C5 as some sort of unbiblical approach to ministry without first considering that a highly contextualized approach to ministry can truly lead to a healthy, contextualized local expression of the Church.  Thus, the tables below are my attempt to delineate what I see as a "syncretistic" or unhealthy view of C5 ministry versus an "appropriate" or healthy view of C5 ministry.
A tip: you might want to click on the tables to enlarge them!

Table 1 represents most of the fears concerning Insider Movements.  If not carefully monitored and guided, many C5 ministries could end up in this model.  Table 2 represents the exciting possibilities of properly guided (both by man and God) Insider Movements.  I sincerely believe that this transitional model will be acceptable to both sides of the current debate on high spectrum contextualization for two reasons.  First of all, it brings further clarity and distinction to the often-ambiguous Insider Movement discussion in such areas as methodology, ecclesiology, ethics and anthropology.  One of the biggest obstacles in the current debate concerns the overall confusion about what exactly is meant by “C5” or “Insider Movements.”  Different authors have used it in different ways, resulting in more confusion than is necessary.  We can converse more intelligently when we are using the same language about this subject.  In future discussions of C5, we should qualify which C5 we are speaking of.  The second reason why I feel this transitional model will satisfy both sides is that it has a more clearly delineated end goal, which is marked by limits on all sides.  The end goal of Table 1 is unclear, and thus leaves open dangerous possibilities such as syncretism or “Churchless Christianity.”  By way of contrast, Table 2 has a clearer set of guidelines that should not be compromised, and a clearer end goal – an indigenous church movement that is well related to the global church.  I welcome your feedback!

*HU Principle - Homogeneous Unit Principle.  Developed by Donald McGavran, it describes the phenomena that peoples of similar backgrounds are more likely to come to faith together, and would naturally prefer to remain in their homogeneous community.
*Ephesians Moment - Andrew Walls uses this term to describe the epiphany believers experience when they come to understand the concepts in Ephesians 2:14-18.  Thus the HU principle, while effective in describing how a people first comes to faith, falls short of the Biblical ideal put forth by Paul in this text.
*Taqiyya - An Islamic doctrine of dissimulation.  More common in the Shi’a tradition, it allows for deception in times of perceived threat.

n.b. These tables originally appeared in my article published in St. Francis Magazine in August, 2009, entitled "Rethinking the Insider Movement Debate: Global Historical Insights Toward and Appropriate Transitional Model of C5."


Paul Lion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elnwood said...

Phil Parshall and other C4 advocates are supportive of movements that are transitional to C4. Thus I would tend to see the "Appropriate C5" strategy is almost identical to C4 strategy and not really C5 at all. Was that your intention?

AT said...

I just read about the C spectrum this last week, so I found your article very helpful.

Abdul Asad عبد الأسد said...

Elnwood, my intention was not to make a distinction between C4 and C5, that has already been made clearly by others (see Tennent, "Followers of Isa in Islamic Mosques", IJFM article). However, my intention was to allow for the fact that C5 may indeed be valid - but with a view toward C4. Again, the critical difference between C4 and C5 is "identity" - both self-identity and perceived identity in the community. Toward that end, take a closer look at points 8 and 9 on the chart and you will see the crucial differences between "appropriate" C5 and "syncretistic" C5, (whereas C4 doesn't allow for either). Thanks!

Abdul Asad عبد الأسد said...

Paul Lion, my thoughts on point 7 are pretty simple - you can't keep the light under a bushel forever! Another way to say it is eventually, the oil and water will separate. And the Bible tells us that Light and Darkness have no fellowship - so that is why I say C5ers cannot remain with a Muslim identity forever - eventually (sooner rather than later, in my experience) they will adopt a more outward (un-Islamic) identity - be it as followers of Isa, or even as Christians. I really see it as an issue of gaining critical mass to withstand persecution to the point where the community can't be wiped out by it. Then they can call themselves whatever they want to. Persecution, in my opinion, is the true test of one being "in" Christ or not.

Warrick Farah said...

Abdul Asad, would you say that the insider movement is not a biblical goal for ministry?

Abdul Asad عبد الأسد said...

Warrick, you have put your finger on the hot button my friend. The biggest mistake that C5 proponents make is to try and foster, or prescribe, an IM - as if this was something man can do. Thus they make an IM the goal. I believe our job as workers is to come alongside C5 believers and help form Christ in them more and more toward the end that a local public community of Christ-followers can emerge (ekklesia - "called-out ones") in Islamic contexts - no matter what the self-identity of the believers may be. Thus instead of making IM the goal, we should make communities of radical disciples the goal - which can only result in a more public expression of church - as you can only keep the Light under a bushel for so long! The more Christ is formed in a believer, the less he is able to tolerate that which seems totally contrary to the testimony of the Spirit inside of him (I refer to the Sunnah of Muhammad). That's why I see C5 as a bridge to the real goal. I believe that IM's are something God the Holy Spirit is doing in certain places, and when we try to replicate this by human methodology, we are walking on very thin ice. Does this mean we should flatly reject C5? No and Yes. No, we shouldn't reject it inasmuch as it is something that God is doing in certain places and we are to walk alongside and support these new brothers. And yes inasmuch as we should not try to replicate what God is doing by our own efforts. Thus, we can't confuse the goal with the means! An IM might be one of the means by which God reaches the goal - a called-out (public) community of disciples of Jesus. When we confuse the two, we fall into the more syncretistic understanding of C5 that I delineated in the chart. However, when we don't confuse them, we are more likely to embrace an appropriate (Biblically and culturally) view of C5.

AT said...

While on the subject of syncretism, I'm curious if any one could comment on the book "A Deadly Misunderstanding" by Mark Siljander.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughts. There is much discussion of this topic now in missiological circles. I do have one comment on your post though. I think for readers it is confusing to link IM & C5 so closely. While most IMs exist in C5 contexts, they are not the same thing. Again thank you for your contribution to this discussion.

Warrick Farah said...

Thank you Adam. I reposted your very helpful post here:

To summarize, I would say then that the difference between Insider and C5 is that, while there may be significant overlap between the two depending on the context, C5 stresses one being a “religious insider” (remaining in the prevailing religious system of their context) while Insider stresses one being a “cultural insider” (remaining in the same sociological network of people that they were in when they came to Christ). It is the potential for overlap between “religion” and “culture” that makes distinguishing the terms complex. In many places within the Muslim world, Insider and C5 would be synonymous paradigms.

In my opinion, new believers should remain as much as possible inside their networks, where “as much as possible” means anything that does not morally or theologically compromise their witness, integrity, and unique identity in the body of Christ. Syncretism is a serious issue and should be addressed in every context, Islamic or not. It is naive to assume or impose that a new believer should remain a “Muslim” or inside his previous spiritual/religious system because the possibility of fellowshipping with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14) is as real for him (and you and I!) as it was for the church in Corinth. Jesus is jealous for us.

But isn’t the crucial issue behind all of this one’s definition of a local “church?”