Friday, July 30, 2010

The Difference between Insider and C5

Adam Hoffman, who blogs at Missiological Blogger, has a good post about the difference between Insider Movements and C5:

Insider Movements vs. C5 contextualization: is there a difference?

By Adam Hoffman

NOTE: This is an objective article, not intended to share the opinions of the author concerning use of such strategies discussed.

There is a major issue I want to flush out and get to the bottom of.  It seems that amongst missiological circles and even published in major mission scholar journals that the terms Insider Movements and C5 contextualization are interchangeable.  I submit this humble treatise to argue that there is a crucial difference of the two, and request possible new terminology to represent such differences.

A few examples to note that combine the terms C5 and insider movements:

  • Bill Nikides’ article Evaluating “Insider Movements”: C5 (Messianic Muslims) where he reinterprets the original C1-C6 in light of insider movement terminology. (Nikides 2006)
  • John Stringer has a section titled C5: “Insider Movements” in his critique of contextualization. (Stringer 2007: 7)

Here are a few examples of those who are on target with these issues:

  • Timothy Tennent, who critics insider movements properly separates the two, “The growing emphasis on ‘insider movements’ often linked with ‘C-5′ strategy calls for continued discussion and reflection among mission leaders today.” (Tennent 2006:101)
  • H.L. Richard, a prominent Hindu scholar does a good job of separating the two. (Richard 2009: 175-176)
  • I will repost much of Rebecca Lewis’ Promoting Movements to Christ within Natural Communities (Lewis 2007: 74-75) who does a good job of teasing apart the two definitions.{Rebecca Lewis also separates the difference between ‘insider movement’ people movement’ and church planting movement’ in IJFM 26.1 (Lewis 2009: 16-19)}

According to a brilliant scholar and experienced worker, Rebecca Lewis,

“an ‘insider movement’ is any movement to faith in Christ where a) the gospel flows through pre-existing communities and social networks and where b) believing families, as valid expressions of the Body of Christ, remain inside their socio-religious communities, retaining their identity as members of that community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.” (Lewis 2007: 75-76)

John Travis, who coined the C-scale describes points of the scale,

“By definition, C3 and C4 Christ-centered communities are attempts to stay and witness within one’s community of birth: in other words, to remain an ‘insider.’ Therefore, perhaps we need to find a better term like ‘cultural insider’ (for C3 and C4) and ‘religious’ or ‘socio-religious’ insider to describe C5.” (originally in Mission Frontiers 28:5 p.7, quoted from IJFM 24.1 [Corwin 2007: 15])

Travis agrees there is a difference in culture and religion as well as how these play into the C-scale.  He admits himself that “insider” is getting used too often (or as Heath & Heath say “semantic stretch” p.173).  C5 contextualization and Insider Movements are not mutually inclusive terms.

Biblical scholar and missiologist Rick Brown says, “so insider believers can be found across the C-spectrum of Christ-centered communities, although insider movements occur only in C4 and C5.” (Richard 2009:177).  I would change one word here: “only” and substitute it for “usually.”

One key difference I see is that the C-scale is is reporting how far along the scale believers are seeking God according to their indigenous culture forms, although it also looks at identity.  Insider Movements look at the identity of the believer, but more along the lines of familial and community networks.  Members of Insider Movements would answer yes to the following: do they hold the same social status as they did before encountering Christ or not?  Are the communities  allowed to remain in their previous network (as opposed to a conglomeration of individuals from various aspects of society)?

Two situations that may help picture this:

A gathering of Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) who come from different parts of the city, but are coming together for study and prayer.  They were strangers who met at this meeting.  They only see each other once a week although enjoy each other’s company.  The style may even look Islamic but when the individuals are pulled out of their network it ceases to become an ‘insider movement’.

Albeit unusual, I propose the following as a extreme point for contrast.  There is a C3 community where a village or sector in society have all become MBBs.  These groups of families are frustrated with Islam so leave their religious ways behind.  They still worship in their language, but it does not resemble Islam.  They may not even still call themselves Muslim.  The whole community/familiar network has decided to follow Jesus and have abandoned the ways of Islam.  Perhaps they even look Western (or Asian, African, or Latin American).  However since the entire network made a group decision, they are still Insiders.

It is more about the network and communal ties than the “religion”.  The most misleading situation is a house of religion (Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, etc.) that begins to follow Jesus as a whole, but is still made of people who randomly come together for worship (like we see in the West).  Insider Movements occur when the gospel takes over a web of dyadic living, regardless of what it looks like.

Confusing stuff?!?

Once again I will refer to Rebecca Lewis’ comments on this subject to end,

“In my view, ‘insider movements’ are distinct from the C-scale in that, regardless of how Western or non-Western their forms, all that matters is that no new communities (no ‘aggregate churches’) are formed to extract believers from their pre-existing families and networks, so that they naturally retain their former identity. As such, ‘insider movements’ can take place within any socioreligious context, Western or not (such as Russian Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Chinese Communist, etc.), as long as believers remain inside their families, networks and communities, retaining the socioreligious identity of that group. So, while their new spiritual identity is in following Jesus Christ, and they gladly identify themselves with Him, they remain in their birth family and community and retain the temporal identity of their familial socio-religious context. A C5 church might or might not have developed along the lines of natural social networks, and it might or might not be part of a movement and is therefore distinct from ‘insider movements.’ ‘Messianic synagogues,’ for example, though highly contextualized in forms to religious Judaism, are not an ‘insider movement’ because they are neither flowing through Jewish family networks nor have they succeeded in retaining an acceptably Jewish identity among Jews. Messianic mosques and messianic ashrams often suffer the same fate, following an aggregate model of fellowship formation instead of letting the gospel flow through pre-existing natural communities.” (Lewis 2007: 75-76)

See also the comments at the bottom of Adam’s post.  Thanks Adam for bringing some clarity to this confusing issue.

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 is one’s definition of a local “church?”

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Thank you for the helpful post. I'm just starting to look into this whole matter and found your distinction helpful,

"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)".