To Be or Not To Be ... an Insider

  376 views

I recently attended a conference on missions to Muslims. At supper I sat down with a man from a certain country in South East Asia. I asked him what church he attended. He paused, then shook his head with a smile, and replied, “I am a Muslim.” I then paused, because this conference was for missionaries and MBBs (Muslim Background Believers). I thought we were all Christians. He went on to explain that though he called himself a Muslim, and even thought of himself as a Muslim, he followed Jesus and studied Scripture every evening with his family. Sometime after he had converted to Christianity, he had chosen to return to the Mosque and live in the Muslim community as a Muslim.

The topic of the insider movement is one of the most heated controversies in the area of ministry to Muslims. An insider is a Muslim who converts to Christianity, but who remains in the Mosque for a period of time. For some this period is short, for others, this period is a lifetime, and could extend to the second and third generation.

Many insiders stay in the Mosque purposefully because they feel comfortable in that setting and are better able to reach their extended families and friends for Christ. This is seen to be much more effective than the traditional strategy of leaving behind families, community and culture and transitioning to a western looking and feeling church setting.

However, others criticize this method, for being deceptive, or for not putting enough emphasis on the historic role of the church in advancing the kingdom of God. Others raise questions. Are insider movements just an expression of western pragmatism? Is it a result of our frustration with the historic lack of response among Muslims to the gospel? Does this strategy reflect an overreaction to our colonial past where western culture was imposed on foreign believers?

Despite the many misgivings in the mission community, there are examples where insider movements have arisen spontaneously, without the intervention of western missionaries. Insider movements in many cases reflect the desire of Muslim converts to maintain their Muslim identity as they take on a new identity in Christ. The challenge of being an insider is to continue to grow in faith and fellowship with other believers, especially as this often has to happen in clandestine ways.

It is important to differentiate between those who are cultural insiders and those who are religious insiders. While it makes sense for people to respect and practice their local culture, the more perplexing part of this is the retention of religious practices, especially ones that seem at odds with Christianity. Can Christians worship in a mosque? Can they adapt some of the forms (such as the Shahada) to a Christian confession? (There is no God but Allah and Jesus is his Messiah.) Such changes usually lead to the expulsion of the believer, but in some cases there is tolerance. I am personally more comfortable with cultural insiders as opposed to those who we would call religious insiders. But ultimately, we have to give space to those who are following the Holy Spirit and who discern God’s leading to remain in their cultural and religious community.

We won’t really know how effective this strategy is until the second and third generation. Will these movements strengthen with time or will they die out? Whatever the future holds, God is working in the world today through the many movements to Jesus that are taking place around the world — some more traditional, some more insider. God is doing a new thing. He is asking his people to discern what is truly of him and how we can be God’s instrument of grace in the world.  God is calling us to pray for our brothers and sisters who are following Jesus but remain in their socio-religious settings. We want to support those brothers and sisters from Muslim backgrounds who follow Christ, as they follow the Holy Spirit down new and challenging paths.

Posted in:
Image Credit

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Thanks Greg for your nuanced treatment of a controversial topic.  Your conclusion is right on.  No matter what position we hold on insider movements, it cannot be denied that God is at work drawing Muslims to Jesus in many suprising and wonderful ways.  Muslims responding to Jesus and moving towards him need our prayers and our love especially since there is a great price for many of them to pay to follow Jesus. We need to align ourselves with what God is already doing to call Muslims to faith in Jesus the Messiah. 

The one, true God works in ways we do not understand and this seems like one of them.  My prayer would be that these insiders would be able to find ways to fellowship with other believers and continue to grow in Christ.  I can certainly see the precarious position they would be in.

Community Builder

What deceptive definitions: religious insiders. Sorry but I don' t buy your  argument. 

Can anyone argue with the statement "God is doing a new thing?" It seems to me like it has echoes of the hyper-spiritual French prophets who castigated any of their opponents with the phrase, "If you criticize this, you will be quenching the Spirit." Funny how that has a way of disarming any kind of critical analysis.

   Sad that the voices of Bengali Christians who have seen the Insider experimenters from the West swarm their country with all their new techniques are not represented here. In their film, Half-Devil Half-Child they chide the Westerners for treating them like lab rats. The insider featured in that film tells in his own words that he is lost out in the woods. 

May we not be too quick to declare that God is doing a new thing, when in fact experimenters are doing so.                                  Shalom
W

 

 

Community Builder

Here is a part of the Heiderberg Catechism on which Banner Editor Bob DeMoor had Sermon recently):

 

26.Q.What do you believe when you say:I believe in God the Father almighty,Creator of heaven and earth?A.That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who out of nothing created heaven and earthand all that is in them, 1and who still upholds and governs them    (this is the key phrase that God is in control)by his eternal counsel and providence, 2is, for the sake of Christ his Son,my God and my Father. 3In him I trust so completelyas to have no doubtthat he will provide mewith all things necessary for body and soul, 4and will also turn to my goodwhatever adversity he sends mein this life of sorrow. 5He is able to do so as almighty God, 6and willing also as a faithful Father. 7

 

You defined an 'insider' as "An insider is a Muslim who converts to Christianity, but who remains in the Mosque for a period of time;" however, this definition is a very misleadeing. Even within ministries that are strongly opposed to IM, it is not uncommmon for new converts to remain within the Mosque for a time. Staying in the mosque for a short period of time alone does not make one an 'insider'. The primary difference is that some remain in the Mosque while they learn and grow through dicipleship, knowing that there will soon come a time when they need to take a stand for Christ and break from the Mosque while others remain in the Mosque with no intent to ever leave. IM teaches that many Islamic doctrines and Scriptures can be harmonized with the Christian Scriptures and that one SHOULD remain in the mosque if at all possible. True 'insiders' continue to affirm Mohammad as prophet (often the supreme prophet), the Qur'an as God's inspired word (often the preeminant word of God), and many reject a belief in Christ's divinity and/or his attoning work on the Cross. It is this kind of syncretism and combined with the commitment to remain in the Mosque that defines an 'insider'; it is much more than simply remaining in the Mosque for a short period of time after conversion.

There's a lot of misinformation that has been circulating about Insider Movements, but this ideology can be clearly traced historically to Western sources, and it's something that has almost completely been rejected by national believers. 

As a Lebanese Christian who does ministry among Muslims, I urge any readers to take a hard look at Insider Movements and realize that they are syncretistic, deceptive, and are not of God.

In my experience, when Muslims come to Christ, they overwhelmingly want to leave Islam behind and gain a new identity in Christ. This doesn't mean that they have to lose their witness among their families, but it does mean that they must gain a new identity, and give Christ the glory for their changed lives - if they remain in Islam, that glory goes to Islam. 

Fortunately, this is something that they naturally want to do, but unfortunately many Western workers convince them to return to Islam. This is a sad thing, and requires them to repent for leaving Islam - again giving glory to Islam and reinforcing the stereotype of "once a Muslim, always a Muslim".

I pray that Westerners would begin to listen to the nationals, who are crying out against the Insider Movement ideology. The nationals understand their own culture, and how to be Christians in it.

For some good perspectives on Insider Movements, I would recommend this report on a conference on this topic: http://biblicalmissiology.org/2011/10/03/insider-movements-a-critical-as...

I find ironic that the INSIDER MOVEMENT proponent use westernization of the converts as the excuse why Muslims should remain in their culture. 

I am an MBB from Saudi Arabia and know others like me who ha e no desire to stay inside a mosque whatsoever. After all we were freed from the bondage of the DEVIL when we became FREE in CHRIST. Why on earth do we want to stay in the temple of demons. 

In addition, who said Islam and Islamic practice is cultural? In assuming this one would insult the many ARAB Christians and Non-Arabs who live in those areas. Such assumption stems out of western ignorance.

Further more, extraction from ones community and culture is a BIBLICAL MODEL. What do we make of Abraham's story, Noah's, The Israelites of the EXODUS account, the Exiled people of God, to name a few. The whole purpose of extraction is to make ONE unique and set apart, not to mention God's sovereign purpose to extract us out of our COMFORT ZONE! After all, why do we need Gen. 12:1-3 or Matt. 28:19?

Finally, it is rather hypocritical to claim that the whole purpose of the IM method is to prevent the Werernization of new Muslim converts, when in fact the IM method is a western method!

A piece of advise to the IM proponent: please stop using my people as your test lab object for YOUR GLORY.

 

 

 

 

 

The article demonstrates the decay in what is called evangelicalism. It is loaded with unchallenged assumptions and conclusions that are mystical and outcome based. It demonstrates theology by personal opinion and preference rather than a revealed standard in God's word. If you question at any point you, you are questioning the "Spirit's movement."

 

Greg begins by saying, "I thought we were all Christians." Instead of looking in scripture to see what a Christian is, and if what he thought was correct, he unconditionally accepts what this man says and widens his christianity to be more inclusive. He concludes that pretty much anyone in any socio religious context who says they follow Jesus is in fact a Christian. At any rate we cannot question if they are or not for at least a lifetime or even several generations.

 

"An insider is a Muslim who converts to Christianity, but who remains in the Mosque for a period of time." A period of time, that sounds so reasonable for a new believer, right? This wording leads churches astray into thinking that #1, there is a conversion and #2) it is just a small period of time and, after all, they are moving forward and growing out of Islam.  It is nothing but "IM soft sell", after all it is hard and you can't expect someone to leave right away so give them time - up to a life time or several generations...

 

"Despite the many misgivings in the mission community, there are examples where insider movements have arisen spontaneously, without the intervention of western missionaries.  Where, when, and how can they be verified, what do they believe, or is it enough that someone claims there are these people somewhere who love Jesus?

 

"Insider movements in many cases reflect the desire of Muslim converts to maintain their Muslim identity as they take on a new identity in Christ." This is called remaining comfortable in your rebellion against God. No matter what religion you came from, to keep it is to not obtain a new birth. Jesus and the rich young ruler are a perfect example of this.

 

"I am personally more comfortable with cultural insiders as opposed to those who we would call religious insiders. But ultimately, we have to give space to those who are following the Holy Spirit and who discern God’s leading to remain in their cultural and religious community." Truth and theology based on liquid opinion not revelation. What spirit are they following?

 

"We won’t really know how effective this strategy is until the second and third generation." In summary, the whole debate is about strategy not truth or theology. What you believe matters.

John 4:23 - 24 Jesus speaks of true worshipers who worship in spirit and truth. Revealed truth in the plenary inspired word of God is conspicuosly absent in this article.