Should Muslims who become Christians remain in the mosque?

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There is a fair bit of debate about this issue. The actual name of this approach is called the insider movement. This methodology came about in an effort to help Muslims remain in their families and communities in order to be a gospel witness right where they live. Historically, Muslims who became Christians often left their communities and joined a church, many of which were planted by western missionaries. This meant that they often adopted western culture along with their new faith. This provided a solution to the problems of being a Christian in an Islamic setting, but any continuing witness to the community was lost.

The insider movement seeks to encourage Muslims to remain in their local setting, participate in their community and in the Mosque if possible. Although each individual situation is different, Christians with a Muslim background must decide how to proceed depending on the level of danger to themselves and family members. Many former Muslims are very open about their new faith while remaining in their local setting. Others have to be more secretive. The main point is that to be a follower of Jesus does not mean one has to adopt western means of worship or other western cultural forms that may come along with the gospel message. Christ is above culture and yet as the Incarnate One fits into every culture and language.

However, we also need to be cautious that we are not deceptive in this approach. We do not advocate pretending to be a Muslim in order to win converts to Christ. Nor do we promote the blending of Islamic and Christian beliefs (called syncretism). Rather we seek to convey the gospel message as clearly as possible, much like Paul when he says in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from having God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

Most missionaries agree that it is important to contextualize the gospel so that it is understood in each culture. This is the nature of incarnation. The crucial question is one of identity. Can a Muslim hold on to their identity as a Muslim but be a follower of Jesus? (C5). Issues of identity are complex, but certainly the main identity of one who follows Jesus needs to center on the person and teachings of Jesus, his death on the cross and his resurrection. As believers from a Muslim background fall in love with Jesus, the Bible becomes more important than the Quran and Jesus becomes more important than Muhammad. As the Holy Spirit leads and guides these believers, they will discern with more clarity how they are to live out their faith in their own contexts, how they can disciple others, and how they can be discipled in following Jesus.

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Timothy Tennett in his book Theology in the Context of World Christianity has a marvelous chapter on this issue, entitled "Followers of Jesus in Islamic Mosques."

In Luke 8 Jesus brings his disciple to "the other side of the lake" to meet a man controlled by demons.  No surprise, for this area was full of Gentile "gods" and demons would have felt "at home.  However, when "the man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him."  How does that event speak to the question you raised?  He was able to speak of what Jesus did and people began to follow Jesus as Savior. The area developed a strong Christian presence in the decades after Christ's death and resurrection.

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Thank you for the comments. The chapter in Tennant's book is very good. The point about Luke 8 is well raised. God uses all kinds of approaches and in this case a very open approach worked well in this context. Within Israel Jesus often asked people to keep quiet until the time came for him to be fully revealed. I think giving believers the freedom to follow the Spirit's leading as to how open they are about their new faith is what is important. One book I recommend in this regard is "A Wind in the House of Islam," by David Garrison.

Greetings Greg:

 Here is a sampling of responses to similar questions from a global sampling of  x-Muslims in Christ. They touch on mosque attendance, being an insider, identity issues, and so forth. [This material will form part of the deliberations of the PCA on the insider movement this summer.]. I would hope that you would agree that it is incumbent that the minority Church [i.e. mostly Western and Northern]  begin listening to the majority [mostly Southern] Church, and not only that, to the Church invisible over the centuries, whose collective wisdom dwarfs some new-found methodologies of largely pragmatic Westerners. My question is: Are we really listening?.

Q. What do you think of the insider movement in your country?
A. "I am totally against such ideas: that someone who has never been a Moslem and
who does not fully understand the challenges faced by MBBs still wants lo perscribe
me how 1 should behave as a Christian. To give you as an example, why should I go
to the mosque or call myself a Moslem if I am a secret Christian in Somalia? How
can calling myself 'a follower of Christ' and going to the mosque open me doors to
witness." (A D)

Q. Should CMBs be encouraged to call themselves Muslims?
A. "Not only is this concept improper, it is like poison mixed into food. It is a great sin
and clear hypocrisy [two-facedness] for a Somali Christian to say "I am a Muslim."
(C)
A. "Somali Muslims look on us as carrion, and this will only reinforce their mistaken
idea of Christianity." (C)
A. "The Muslims are saying, 'If Christianity is right/true, then they would openly
witness/display their faith and even be willing to die for it.'" (C)

Q. Should believers and the gospel penetrate Islam like yeast in the dough?
A. "Is infiltration idea biblical? We are not to infiltrate any religion, but totally
transform and change. I agree with the Minority Report that IM is infiltrating into
Islam. This is going into one's culture and live therein by polluting it but not being
set apart from it. So practically IMers are being infiltrated rather them infiltrating.
The more they go backward the more they distant themselves from being salt and
light for Christ." (E A)
A. "Whether the MBB feels 'called to stay relationally connected to their relatives and
friends' is almost a moot point. The community, not the M whether the MBB will stay.
If it is predetermined that the MBB must stay in good status BB or missionary,
determinesin the community, then he or she will likely need to remain a secret believer or deny the
beliefs that warrant expulsion by the Islamic community-namely. the Incarnation,
Crucifixion, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ." (F F)

Q. Can followers of Jesus have two identities: followers of Jesus and Muslims?
A. "An IMer proves his or her sectarian identity on Islam by death — by how the
Muslims view and accept him as Muslim and bury. This has become a huge issue of
focus since many IM leaders are dying. They are proving to Muslims that they were
real Muslims. So their funeral service and burial are conducted by the Muslim clerics
in Islamic way. Two questions may arise here: First why do Muslims at least
relatives try to bury in Islamic way? Conversion is to them a one-generation issue so
the relatives want to kill the influence of the converted after death. In the Muslim
majority countries, even the graveyards preach Christianity." (E A)
A. "My friend, the message of the Gospel offends Muslims. Don't worry! I have never
seen a Muslim convert to Christ who was not offended first before coming to the
saving knowledge of Christ. We need to offend them by being very clear about the
teachings of Christ!" (F B)

Q. Should followers of Christ enter the mosque?
A. "To enter the mosque is to 'reconcile/agree with Satan,' to agree to work together to
bury the cross, and God's entire plan for which He intended the cross."
(C)
A. "Church should be cautious in finding commonality between Christianity and Islam
— Islam applied this strategy to reach Christians, the followers of already existing
religion. Islam contextualised to win Christians. By learning and applying their
strategy would be suicidal for Christian church. There is no common ground between
Islam and our faith." (E A)

 

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