Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Goal is ‘Insider Churches’ not ‘Insider Movements’

From Effective Insider Discipling: Helping Arab World Believers From Muslim Backgrounds Persevere And Thrive In Community (pgs. 32-34):

For these three primary reasons, then, I cannot go along with the C5 approach to ministry among Muslims: (1) an unsatisfactory theology of conversion (2) the false, oppressive and ideological nature of Islam, and (3) an understanding of discipleship and the church that I believe is inconsistent with the Biblical witness. Therefore, I am firmly in agreement with Schlorff, when he states that:

The emergence of ‘a people movement to Christ that remains within Islam’ is not a legitimate objective from the biblical standpoint… I believe that the future of evangelical missions to Muslims lies with that approach that views the objective in terms of bringing Muslims into the kingdom of God as Jesus preached it; including leading them to faith in Christ, training and mentoring them in Christian discipleship and leadership, and gathering them into distinctly Christian flocks that retain social and cultural ties with Muslim society as much as possible, but without outwardly remaining Muslim.*70

It is this perspective on appropriate goals and approaches to contextualization in our missional task that shapes the reflection and research carried out in this thesis. This perspective on how to go about our ministry in the Islamic contexts of the Arab world, as well as elsewhere in the Muslim world, is well expressed by Tennent:

In short, one’s religious identity with Jesus Christ should create a necessary rupture with one’s Islamic identity, or else our identity in Jesus Christ would mean nothing… A more open witness in a straightforward, but contextually sensitive way seems to hold the greatest promise for effective and ethical Christian penetration into the Muslim world…. I think the best approach is to see C5 as a temporary, transitional bridge by which some Muslims are crossing over into explicit Christian faith, hopefully to one of a C3 or C4 character.*71

The goal of the kind of discipleship in the Islamic contexts of the Arab world that undergirds this research is one that sees our ministry task as evangelizing and then discipling BMBs into thriving multiplying churches that stand boldly in authentic culturally appropriate witness for Christ inside Muslim communities.

The goal is not to start insider movements, when the term ‘insider’ means Muslims staying in their original religious identity. However, I agree with Rebecca Lewis’s suggestion that the term ‘insider movement’ should also apply to movements that are staying within their family networks, in short, everything that this thesis envisions as effective discipling of BMBs within their families and communities.*72 The explicit discipleship goal throughout this thesis is to disciple in such a way that, as far as humanly possible, BMB disciples of Christ are able to stay within their networks of families and the Muslim communities in which they live. As Lewis’ suggestion implies, this can justly be called ‘insider discipleship’ and ‘insider church planting’. The ‘insider’ vision in this thesis is to disciple new believers and plant churches that express uncompromisingly bold and culturally appropriate witness for Christ inside Muslim families and communities.


*70 Schlorff, Missiological Models, 146-7.

*71 Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity, 217. [Entire chapter of that book reprinted here.]

*72 Lewis makes the following intriguing statement: “I believe that the term ‘insider movement’ should apply to all movements to Christ where the believers are staying within where the culture is itself going, sociologically and religiously, and not be limited only to people groups that are staying in their original religious context. As long as the movement to Christ is staying within networks of families, and is not pulling people out of their networks into new networks… it should be considered an ‘insider movement.’ See Gary Corwin, with responses from Brother Yusuf, Rick Brown, Kevin Higgins, Rebecca Lewis and John Travis, "A Humble Appeal to C5/Insider Movement Muslim Ministry Advocates to Consider Ten Questions," IJFM 24, no. 1 (January-March 2007): 18.

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