Position Paper on the Insider Movement

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The last four decades have witnessed a major shift in missionary thought and practice. The Lausanne Movement, launched in 1974 at the world congress in Switzerland, sparked a worldwide revolution of innovative approaches to missions. Driven by a strong desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our lifetime, myriads of mission agencies implemented major changes in their mission statements and strategies. This gave rise to an ocean of new methods and approaches.

This paper will focus on the Insider Movement (IM) because of the growing concern in missions circles about the philosophy and practices of the movement, especially in Muslim contexts. Some agencies have drafted position statements barring their staff from extreme contextualization practices.

It is worthwhile to note that God has been doing wonderful things among Muslims all over the world. The numbers of conversions to Christ are unprecedented. Although the IM claims huge results, most of the fruit is produced by national believers who faithfully preach and teach the word to their own people, often unbeknownst to western missionaries. Due to the scope of this paper we will not be addressing fruitful practices. Rather, we will expose the unbiblical concepts and practices of the Insider Movement.

What is the Insider Movement?

Insider Movement is a fairly recent term used to describe a variety of approaches such as Common Ground, Common Word, Camel Method, and the C1-C6 scale of contextualization. Although leaders of these movements do not all agree on details, they share common convictions. Some of them object to being categorized as Insiders. However, an examination of each approach reveals that they hold in common similar views of Islam, Muhammad, and the Qur’an. Consequently, their view of God, Christ, and the gospel are impacted.

David Hesselgrave, a prominent missiologist, wrote in “Contextualization that is authentic and relevant” (International Journal of Frontier Missions 12(3):115-119.):

“It is obvious that a wide variety of meanings, methods, and models are attached to the word contextualization… Still in its infancy, that word has already been defined and redefined, used and abused, amplified and vilified, coronated and crucified.(Hesselgrave 1984:693)”

Nevertheless, the writings and practices of Insiders demonstrate a number of presuppositions that they seem to agree on. Generally, Insiders tend to have a positive view of Islam, Muhammad and the Qur’an. Many believe that Muhammad is some sort of prophet from God, that the Qur’an is at least a partially inspired word from God that points to Jesus, and that Islamic culture is not contradictory to the biblical message. Therefore, they do not invite Muslims out of Islam (they would call this “extraction”). Rather, they ask Muslims to follow Jesus while remaining Muslim and participating in Islamic religious practices such as prayer in mosques, reading the Qur’an, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Proponents of these approaches are extremely vocal. They have been given major platforms in seminaries, publications, and international conferences.

 

Positive factors

It would be unfair and untrue to claim that the Insider Movement is all wrong. The study of contextualization indeed has benefitted the missionary movement in many ways.

  1. The Muslim world, which had been virtually ignored, suddenly jumped to the forefront of missions.
  2. There is a heightened awareness and involvement in the once forgotten Muslim world by churches and mission organizations.
  3. New mission agencies began to emerge for the exclusive purpose of reaching Muslims. Most large mission agencies now have Muslim ministry departments.
  4. Numerous journals, books, and publications have emerged in print and online.
  5. Seminaries increasingly offer degrees in Islamic studies and missiology.
  6. There has been a greater sensitivity to the culture and compassion toward Muslims in place of prejudice and even hatred by many.
  7. There is now more interest in understanding Islam and and gaining better knowledge of the Qur’an.
  8. There is a growing enthusiasm by workers about reaching out to difficult fields through creative access to Muslim countries which were traditionally closed.

The motivation and intentions are generally good. Many have been drawn to the movement innocently because they have been taught that it is the only approach that works. The Insider approach also provides many good and innovative ideas that rightly challenge some traditional methods. However, it is extremely important for donors, pastors, Christian leaders, and mission directors to be aware of the pitfalls of this movement. We need to examine it in light of the scriptures in obedience to the warning: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

 

Drawbacks

Despite its positive contributions, the Insider Movement has many downsides. The message of the gospel has been polluted and muddied by syncretism. Echoing postmodern sentiment, Christian workers became enamored with cultural diversity and innovative methodology. Rather than being bold, workers have become secretive in the name of cultural sensitivity. The result is that the transformational power of the gospel is surrendered to cheap grace and a gospel that costs as little as possible.

Traditional missionary approaches have been mocked and set aside in favor of “missiologically correct” methods. Statistics about “insider movements” are commonly exaggerated. Claims of hundreds, even millions, of followers have been reported. When asked where these people are, the answer is often, “We cannot tell you because of security concerns.”

The movement has been controversial to say the least. Much confusion and division has arisen in the missionary community and, more importantly, among national believers. Although each method claims a large following, some leaders have admitted that the numbers are much less than originally thought. Numbers and statistics can be large or small depending on whether they are referring to seekers, converts, or members. Since these groups remain within the Muslim community, it is impossible to quantify the results, so most of the reported statistics are sheer speculation. Surveys have been done to investigate the actual beliefs of the members and indigenous leaders of these groups, with disturbing results.

Mission to Islam

It is no secret that reaching Muslims is among the most difficult tasks of the modern church. Missionaries began to discover that there were many barriers that needed to be surmounted and that communicating the gospel to Muslims was extremely challenging. Until recently, the missionary movement has been unsuccessful in most Muslim lands. Churches were small and weak and tended to draw membership from historical churches rather than from Muslim communities. The lack of fruit in drawing Muslims to Christianity was attributed to many factors including closed doors, resistance by Muslims, negative effects of colonialism, and the association between the message of the gospel and westernization.

God is drawing Muslims to his Kingdom

While many missionaries are consumed with finding new approaches and writing them down, there is a band of faithful workers preaching the gospel unashamedly. The church is growing in the Muslim world. The major work is being done by the national church in the midst of suffering and persecution and despite its poverty and limited resources. There is also a body of missionaries who have adhered to the old fashioned preaching of the gospel. Many of these work quietly and prefer not to publicize their results. Some are just too busy doing ministry to stop and address the emerging trends. As a result, Insiders have been largely unchallenged in missiological arenas until recently.

The excessive use and abuse of contextualization has finally alerted some theologians, missions leaders and church leaders to this problem and a number of them have risen to the challenge of addressing this movement.

Problems with the Insider Movement:

If you hear Insiders speak, it is admittedly hard to judge them. They are well meaning, compassionate, zealous and sacrificial. However, good intentions are not enough. God can use any method. The question is: Should we settle for any method or are we to test the spirits and make sure we are biblically correct?

Here is a summary of the main problems with this movement:

1. Wrong diagnosis

In the medical field a wrong diagnosis can be fatal. Contextualization was theorized based on the wrong diagnosis of why “missionary work among Muslims has failed in the last fourteen centuries.” Failure was blamed on closed doors, persecution, wrong methods and cultural insensitivity of western missionary practices. Although there is some merit to all of these problems, the foundational problem is much simpler: “The harvest is plentiful and workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37, Luke 10:2) Since the mid seventies the traditional methods were rejected without being tried. When asked if he has tried to use the Bible directly to share the gospel, a leader in the Insider Movement replied, “Well, I was not interested in reaching Muslims until I learned of this method.” He had not led a soul to Christ, yet suddenly he was a purported expert on the how to use the Qur’an as a bridge. Many alternative methods have been suggested without first trying the “traditional” method of proclaiming the good news of God’s love and forgiveness. The reality is that wherever the gospel has been preached, Muslims have responded. What is needed is more people preaching the clear and simple, yet powerful gospel. Significant numbers of Muslims are hungry and waiting. Jesus already warned: “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

2. Wrong Paradigm

The various approaches within the Insider Movement base their philosophy of ministry on a paradigm designed by John Travis (Pseudonym), namely, the C1-C6 Scale. It is a scale that claims to describe the various types of churches that supposedly exist or should exist in the Muslim world. Here is a summary of the scale:

C1 Model: (Traditional church using non-indigenous language.)

  • Christian churches in Muslim countries that exist as islands, removed from the culture. Christians exist as an ethnic/religious minority.

C2 Model: (Traditional church using indigenous language.)

  • Church uses indigenous language, but all its cultural forms are far removed from the broader Islamic culture.

C3 Model: (Contextualized Christ-centered communities using Muslim’s language and non-religiously indigenous cultural forms.)

  • Style of worship, dress, etc., are loosely from the indigenous culture.
  • Local rituals and traditions, if used, are purged of religious elements.
  • A conscious attempt is made to break from all visible elements of Islam–such as observing Ramadan, dietary laws, association with the mosque and so forth.
  • Believers may meet in a church or more religiously neutral locations, such as homes.
  • C3 amounts to an “extraction” strategy.
  • The majority of congregations are of Muslim background and call themselves Christians.

C4 Model: (Contextualized Christ-centered communities using Muslim’s language and biblically permissible cultural and Islamic forms.)

  • Similar to C3, except believers’ worship looks like Muslim worship, in that they keep the fast, avoid pork and alcohol, and use Islamic terms and dress.
  • The community is almost entirely of Muslim background.
  • Though highly contextualized, believers are not seen as Muslims by the Muslim community.
  • They do not consider themselves as Muslims, although they may not accept the term “Christian” either. Believers call themselves “followers of Isa Al Masih,” (Jesus the Messiah).

 

C5 Model: (Christ-centered communities of “Messianic Muslims” who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.)

  • Believers remain legally and socially within the Islamic community.
  • They do not view themselves as “Christians,” since in context that refers to traitors against the community.
  • Some aspects of Islam that are incompatible with the Bible are rejected or if possible reinterpreted, while others are not.
  • Believers may remain active in the mosque, commonly pray traditional Muslim prayers, fast, and do all the things their Islamic neighbors do.
  • Unsaved Muslims may view C5 believers as deviant and masquerading as Muslims and may expel them from the Islamic community.
  • If sufficient numbers permit, a C5 “Messianic mosque” may be established.

C6 Model: (Small Christ-centered communities of secret/underground believers.)

  • Isolated by extreme hostility, usually these are individual believers but sometimes they meet together in small groups. Believers typically do not attempt to share their faith, but some suffer imprisonment or martyrdom.

This paradigm is man-made and is designed to direct the reader to the C5 level by using terminology that biases the reader against C1-C3 and language that speaks favorably toward C4 and C5. For C1 and C2 we read: “Christian churches exist.. as islands removed from the culture.” For C3 we read: “C3 amounts to an extraction strategy.” C4 seems to be more accepted, but certainly C5 is described as the best. Insiders usually are associated with the C5 level.

A more biblical paradigm promotes transformation of the community rather than conformity to the culture.

 

3. Wrong view of Islam
Many insiders view Islam as an improvement on the pagan idolatry of pre-Islamic Arabia. One of the major architects of contextualization, Charles Kraft equated Muhammad with the Apostle Paul,writing, What Paul did by interpreting Hebrew Christianity to the Greeks, Muhammad did for the Arabs. Nabeel Jabbour, a Navigator leader, believes that Islam as a religion started down the right track but jumped off the rails. (Said to me personally during a three hour meeting in my office.) He mentioned several Muslim reformers whom he admires. These, and many others who have bought into the Insider mentality believe that Islam needs to be reformed, not abandoned.

4. Wrong View of the Qur’an

Insiders hold that the gospel message is contained in the Qur’an. References to Jesus in the Qur’an are given new meanings by interpreting them from a Christian perspective. Insider leaders read into the Qur’an to conjure up a nonexistent Christian soteriology (way of salvation) that contradicts the true meaning of the text. They often say that one reason the Qur’an is a word of God is that it points to Jesus.

“A careful study of the Qur’an reveals that most of the elements of salvation, Jesus, the gospel, are indeed laying there ready to be used and exploited… A reinterpreted Qur’an can carry Christians a long way.” (A veteran missionary working with a Reformed mission in
West Africa, in response to a comment on a bibmiss.wpengine.com)

 

Fouad Accad writes in his book Building Bridges: “After 30 years of studying the Qur’an I find it overwhelmingly pro-Christ, pro-Bible and pro-Christian.” While some verses in the Qur’an may contain a positive view of Jesus as a prophet, the Qur’an denies Christ’s deity and his redemptive work on the cross. The Muslim understanding of Jesus as Messiah, the “word of God”, and the “spirit of God” is totally different from the Christian interpretation. It is dishonest to reinterpret the Qur’an as if it encourages faith in Christ for salvation. It is likely that Muslims will discover the true Islamic interpretation later on and renounce faith in Jesus because it was founded on misinterpretations. We as Christians do not accept Islamic reinterpretations of the Bible, such as Muslim efforts to claim that the Bible prophecies about Muhammad. Anyone with a working knowledge of the Bible can easily dismiss these claims as propaganda. However, Insider reinterpretations of the Qur’an go to far greater lengths than their Muslim counterparts, creating a shameful image of Christians as deceivers and twisters of the truth. It is not wrong to quote the Qur’an the way Paul quotes the Greek poets, as a discussion point to introduce biblical truth. But it is problematic when the Qur’an is given sacred value along with the Bible. To authenticate the Bible’s message through the Qur’an is to give the Qur’an preeminence over the Bible.

5. Wrong Use of the Qur’an

In his speech to the areopagus in Acts 17, Paul made reference to the “altar of the unknown God” and quoted a short line from Greek poetry. However, he did not use Greek thought or literature as the basis of his message. He concentrated on the scriptures. No doubt had he lived in our times, Paul would have quoted the Qur’an too. But he would not have quoted it excessively, built his theology on it, or hint that the Qur’an may be “a word from God”. Paul used a couple references to Greek thought to introduce a biblical message that clearly contradicted Greek philosophy and religion. IM, however, uses the Qur’an as the basis of their message, which they claim is consistent with a true understanding of Islam.

One tract produced by the Camel Method to give to Muslims is called “Ruhullah.” The tract explains the message of salvation based on numerous texts from the Qur’an, supplemented by three Bible verses (John 8:32, 14:5, 15:13) . At the end of the tract, a verse from the Bible is quoted. When the Bible is quoted at the very end, by that time the reader is deeply entrenched in the Qur’an. A reference or two to the Bible does not wipe out the mental and spiritual impact of the Qur’an on the readers. Then at the end of the tract comes a fully contextualized sinner’s prayer. The prayer basically asks Muslims to acknowledge that God sent the prophet Isa as a sacrifice to save them. The tract promises that this prayer will guarantee them forgiveness of sins and an eternal life. The prayer lacks the most critical components of the gospel. There is not recognition of sin and rebellion against God, no plea for repentance, no call to surrender their lives to Jesus as Lord and give up everything for the sake of winning Christ. The entire tract does not speak of being born again by the Spirit of God, or say that Jesus is the Son of God. The sonship and lordship of Christ have been sacrificed to ease the acceptance of free salvation, reducing Jesus to a mere scapegoat. There is no call to holiness, or any call to action besides praying the prayer at the end, after which it says, “You can now live your life in peace knowing that after death you can go directly to be with Allah.”

From beginning to end, the tract is designed to be viewed by readers as a Muslim message with some references to the Bible.

It is one thing to quote the Qur’an in the context of a biblical message and another to use the Qur’an to delude people into thinking that it too is a word of God that contains the truth about Christ.

 

6. Weak Hermeneutics

In addition to their creative Qur’anic reinterpretations, the Insider Movement has misinterpreted and twisted biblical texts to justify its methods. The Insider Movement violates solid principles of hermeneutics. They often fish for meanings in a text that contradict the context. They do this in interpreting both the Bible and the Qur’an. Paul’s speech on Mars Hill in Acts 17 is often used as an example of a contextualist who quotes Greek poets to deliver his message. A closer look at Paul’s speech reveals that Paul proclaimed Jesus, spoke about God’s judgement, and invited the pagans to repent and believe in the resurrected Jesus. His audience recognized that he was bringing in new teaching about “new gods” and they mocked his teaching on the resurrection. The result of his speech was some rejected others accepted his message. Acts records these significant words: “those who believed joined Paul…” Acts 17:4, 34. He did not join them (inside paganism), but they joined him.

Muslim scholars will not accept any interpretation of the Qur’an if it tries to make the Qur’an say what it does not say. Insiders are guilty of violating Islamic hermeneutics as well. Muslims who have been taught by Insiders what the “real” interpretation of the Qur’an is often get angry and reject the message Insiders have taught them when they discover that the Qur’an does not carry those meanings. Ultimately they begin to learn the true Islamic meanings and they realize they have been deceived by the missionary.

7. Diluted Gospel

In order to gain a hearing, the IM makes the gospel message more palatable and less offensive. Insiders seem to be satisfied when a Muslim recognizes Jesus as more than a prophet. They convince Muslims that the Qur’an holds him with higher honor and calls him “Word of God” and “Spirit of God”. A Muslim cannot argue with what the Qur’an says, but that does not mean he or she has understood the incarnation of the Logos of God (John 1:1). There are millions of nominal Christians who cognitively believe that Jesus died, but that does not make them born again by the Spirit of God. The assumption that all we need to do is to get Muslims to accept Christian claims is a major problem with the method. When the message is contaminated by the Qur’an and other competing truth claims the hearer is confused. Though he or she may go along and pray the sinner’s prayer, the spark of the Spirit of God is missing. God wants us to present the pure message in context of His revealed word, not from any book that acknowledges Jesus or seems to revere him.

 

8. Confusion between Culture and Religion

Many books on contextualization emerged in the mid seventies, declaring culture to be the most important aspect of a Muslim’s life. We read that Islam is an indivisible mixture of religion and culture,and that it is futile to try to separate the two. IM proponents confuse Islam as a religion with the culture of Muslims. There are 56 countries with a Muslim majority and each has many subcultures and/or ethnic groups. In Northern Iraq there are Muslim, Yazidi, and Christian Kurds. They are united in Kurdish identity and culture but separated by religion. Similarly Berbers, Tatars, Albanians, and  hundreds of other ethnic groups do not have to give up their ethnic identity when they convert but they surely have to give up their religion. It is naive to lump all Muslims into one cultural category, even though Muslims themselves dream of being united as such, under the Islamic umma (community or kingdom). It is unfortunate that the IM actually buys into this fictitious concept of a unified umma that is propagated by Islamic groups. However, praying in a mosque rather than a church is not a cultural act. It is religious. Denying that Jesus is the Son of God is not cultural, but theological. If culture is the sum total of a group’s lifestyle, values and beliefs, can we as Christians endorse the whole package? Let us celebrate cultural diversity, but not at the expense of the truth.

9. Weak Christology

Perhaps the most critical problem with the IM is its view of Christ. If you read the literature and the way Insiders present Christ, you will discover that they have surrendered the biblical image of Jesus to the Jesus of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is the enemy’s tool to deceive Muslims into thinking that they believe in Jesus. The Jesus of the Qur’an is a different Jesus, one who may be a great prophet, but not the only Son of the Living God. In the Qur’an, Jesus is not the savior of the world and God’s only mediator between God and man. It is unbelievable that Bible translators in the languages of Muslims are removing the phrase “Son of God” and the fatherhood of God from their translations. They explain this action by claiming that “Son” is not literal anyway, so doing away with it does not change the message. This demonstrates their weak Christology. If Jesus is not the Son of God, then he is just another prophet. In this and many other ways, Insiders are giving in to Islamic theology. The gospel message must include the fact that God in his great love came down in human form to rescue us. John 3:16 states that God so loved the world that he sacrificed his one and only Son. If Jesus is not the Son of God, there John 3:16 is meaningless.  Paul stressed: “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” I Corinthians 1:22-23. IMers need to rise to the challenge of preaching a message that may offend Muslims. It seems that they are not willing to do that.

10. Succumbs to Violation of Human rights

Muslim nations have persecuted Christians for centuries. Their laws against Ridda (leaving Islam) violate the God-given rights of free choice and expression. The Insider approach denies Muslims their inalienable right to choose their religion and enjoy full benefits like all other citizens. The Insider approach does not contribute to the fight for the human rights of these people as their conversion is not brought to light and therefore they are tacitly succumbing to human rights abuses in Muslim nations.

How long shall we continue to accept Islam’s intimidation of minorities and their abuse of power? The blood of the martyrs trickling down from Calvary to Saudi Arabia has been the seed of the church throughout history. Insiders need to join the cause of freedom by encouraging people to fight for their freedom. Courageous people in Malaysia, Iran, Egypt among others have caused political shakeups in those countries. Now authorities have to think twice before they execute one more convert to Christianity. The Church in Malaysia, Algeria, Kosova and numerous other places have won many rights that they could not have been attained without sacrifice. Insiders are promoting a gospel that costs little. The gospel cost Jesus everything, and we all need to count the cost of the salvation that Jesus won for us on the cross.

11. Low view of the Universal Church

By keeping “followers of Isa” inside Islam, Insiders are in effect promoting the Muslim Umma and by the same token undermining the One Holy Universal Church. Jesus stressed, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” Here Jesus wants to combine the various communities into one body. (John 10:16.) “that they may be one as we are one (John 17:22.) Ekklesia, the Greek for church is the called out ones from the main stream of any community to the : “One holy nation.”  (I Peter 2:9). The Muslim Umma has a political agenda of world dominance. What will happen to the Insider followers of Isa when the umma imposes Sharia law on them? To encourage converts to stay separate from the rest of the church is to push them into the kingdom of darkness without the support they need from the children of light (Ephesians 5:8).

12. Undermines the New Identity in Christ

Insiders want followers of Isa to retain their Muslim identity. They argue that “Christian” is a bad term because of connotations of immorality or association with the West. They prefer to be known as “Followers Of Isa.” There are many problems with this:

a) Muslims who hear the phrase “Follower Of Isa” have to figure out whether you are a Christian or a convert to Islam. If you continue to deny that you are a Christian then you are practically admitting that you have converted to Islam.

b) The concept of following a prophet is foreign to a Muslim. Islam is about submission to Allah and not following Muhammad. So while Insiders are trying to contextualize they have only brought confusion.

c) It is harder to explain what is meant by “follower of Isa” than to dispel misperceptions about the meaning of a true Christian?

d) To give a follower of Jesus a Muslim identity is an affront to the cross and a blatant denial of his name. Peter was emphatic when he said: “if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:16.) This verse alone is enough to defeat the argument that the name Christian is not in the Bible or that it was a derogatory name. Peter says even so, do not be ashamed but rather praise God. The designations: “Muslim Background Believer”, “Muslim follower of Jesus”, or “Completed Pakka Muslim’  do not reflect the shift in allegiance nor help the convert in the “newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) In fact it encourages converts to hide their identity. Until converts gain a new identity they remain in the claws of the old and over time they abandon their cognitive convictions and return to the old ways. “If anyone is in Christ…” refers to belonging to a new community identified with Christ. Notice also in these among many other verses that the name of Jesus is our identity. “They will treat you this way because of my name…” (John 15:21) and “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16)

13. Undermines the Spiritual Warfare

The Bible is clear about the nature of the spiritual battle. (Ephesians 6:12; II Corinthians 10:4). There is a Satan out there. There are demons. There is false teaching and there are false prophets. Insiders are bold in infiltrating the battle zone and exposing themselves to Satan’s tactics. Already there are rumors that some of them have officially converted to Islam. Many of them dress like Muslims and live the Muslim lifestyle including attending the mosque, fasting during Ramadan and participating in Islamic rituals at every level. Some have no problem praying the shahada (confession) that Muhammad is a prophet from God. This not only exposes them but also their converts to false teaching by Muslim imams and teachers.

 

14. Undermines Fellowship of the Saints

Insiders deny converts the opportunity to fully participate in open Christian fellowship. Insider converts tend to marry non-believing Muslims and often do not even tell their spouses they are any different than the rest of the Muslim community. How long can their fervent faith last in an oppressive environment. How long will the light shine under a bushel? Christian Fellowship is paramount for spiritual growth. Without it many fervent Christians have lost their faith. To cause this by design is appalling. Converts do not understand Christian fellowship unless they see it modeled. It takes a Muslim years to know how to relate to other Christians. The fruit of the Spirit must be encouraged and lived out in a loving community. One of the biggest struggles of Muslims is learning how to to forgive. Only when they have to battle this with other Christians will they be able to fully grasp God’s Grace and forgiveness. Insiders deny converts these opportunities that are only possible within the fellowship of the saints.

15. Legalism Vs. Grace

Islam is a legalistic system that gives Muslims the impression that when they perform certain religious rites and duties, they have done all they can and God will have to add his mercy for them to have any hope in eternal life. Remaining within Islam and practicing the rituals denies them the understanding of God’s grace and the truth that we are not saved by works but by faith based on God’s love and grace which is a gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9) When Muslims perform the prayer rituals, they are not communicating with God. They have memorized certain verses from the Qur’an. Most of them don’t even understand what they are saying. Yet what matters to them is that they are performing their duties as required by the Sharia. How is the Insider able to demonstrate not only in words but in actions the richness of God’s grace against the futility of human effort to please God? The answer is: It is not possible to practice legalism and believe otherwise. “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules…” (Colossians 2:20-23)

 

16. Truth in Advertising or Deception?

The tactic of appearing as Muslims and accepting the Qur’an and Muhammad without revealing the full truth that Islam is an evil system is deceptive. As soon as the truth comes out, the new “followers” are likely to feel cheated and and reject the “fake” truths they were exposed to. Muslims will feel manipulated to go through a process without knowing where this will lead them.

17. Avoids Extraction and Persecution

One of the major motivating factors behind the Insider Movement is the desire to help converts avoid persecution that is a result of extraction. When a Muslim becomes a Christian in the traditional way, they are exposed to persecution and in some cases execution by their family or by the authorities. The problem with this is that persecution is part and parcel of the calling of God on our lives to exchange earthly life for the eternal life. Jesus was clear in his call that when we come to him we abandon everything including family and possessions. (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26) He also warned us that we will be persecuted, “…they will lay hands on you and persecute you… all on account of my name.” (Luke 21:12) And “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”(John 15:20) The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

Of course missionaries should not expose converts to persecution. The fact in the Muslim world is that most converts are never persecuted. Many experience no more than a scolding, argument, or some level of conflict with their families that doesn’t last very long. Often this lasts for a short time, days, weeks and in some rare cases a few months. It is not uncommon for other family members to begin following in the steps of the “defector” within a year of two. If converts needs to be extracted physically from a potentially violent situation, the church should be ready to find them a safe haven until the threat subsides, which it does in most cases. However, unless a Muslim is willing to give up his life, he has not understood the nature of the new life in Christ. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)

18. Downplays the Role of the Holy Spirit

Conversion is not a cultural, social or psychological phenomenon. True conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. “…no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44) Paul was quick to tell the churches he planted:

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (I Corinthians 2:13) And “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power…” (I Corinthians 2:1-4)

Insider tactics are conceived behind desks and at seminary libraries, not in the thicket of darkness proclaiming the light of Christ. It is an academic approach theorized by professors who have had little or no success on the mission field and little or no experience in the Muslim world. No strategy, no matter how well thought through, can save even one soul, though any strategy when the Holy Spirit is present has the potential of convicting the lost of “…sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8)

19. Promotes a Cheap Gospel

When Christ called his disciples he expected them to leave everything and follow him. (Luke 5:11). Abraham was called to “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go…” (Genesis 12:1) In the excellent book by Ronald Sider “The scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, we read: When Christians today reduce the gospel to forgiveness of sins, they are offering a one-sided heretical message that is flatly unfaithful to Jesus….” This is basically what Insiders are offering Muslims. Jesus sacrificed (Qurban) to guarantee you forgiveness of sins. This renders Jesus as a sacrificed scapegoat, not a risen Lord. See the “Ruhullah” tract on the Camel Method website (camelmethod.com/tracks.htm).

Handling the Word of God Correctly

All false teaching boils down to misinterpretations of the Bible. Individuals and groups often interpret the Bible in a manner that supports their presuppositions and personal inclinations. The Apostle Paul was well aware of this danger when he exhorted Timothy to “handle the word of truth correctly” (2 Tim 2:15)  And he added: “… we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.” (II Corinthians 4:2)

Affirming biblical authority is not about quoting scriptures to support our positions. Rather it is discovering God’s mind and heart concerning all aspects of life and ministry. There are right and wrong ways to interpret the Bible. Heresy and false teachings are endemic in the missiological community. Today, in a post modern worldview many pastors and theologians are hesitant to judge other people’s interpretations. Though this may show compassion, it gives the wrong impression that any interpretation is as good as any other, thus allowing heresy to go unchallenged.

Final Word:

As people entrusted with the gospel, we need to make every effort to protect its purity and expose false teaching. Although the Insider Movement has some positive elements, it is generally contrary to the word of God and needs to humbly re-evaluate its approach. We who try to uphold the gospel need to not be distracted by false teaching but rather be motivated to preach the unadulterated truth of the gospel and expect it to transform all those who come in touch with it.


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About Author

Georges Houssney was raised in the predominantly Muslim city of Tripoli, Lebanon. He came to faith in Jesus Christ as a teenager. Soon God grew a deep love for Muslims in his heart, and he began to sense God's call for full-time service among them. Well-known for his work supervising the translation and publication of the Bible into clear modern Arabic, Georges and his family moved from the Middle East to the United States in 1982 to minister to international students. Georges is passionate about reaching internationals here and abroad with the great news of salvation. He writes and lectures internationally about ministry to Muslims, and he strives to awaken a new generation who will proclaim the gospel boldly. Georges is founder and director of Horizons International and does Muslim evangelism training through his training Engaging Islam.

36 Comments

  1. Pingback: PCA General Assembly Overture 9 declares “Insider Movement” translations unfaithful

  2. Pingback: a resource library for the fame of His Name | How Does FAI View the Common Ground/Insider Movement?

  3. bob-granholm on

    It is good to see some old friends here. I would consider myself sympathetic to C5 up to a point. The Quran is not inspired of God, Mohammed is not a prophet of God. In fact, my daily prayer is that the Quran would be repudiated across the Muslim world.

    But the forms of Islam are usable in outreach. The forms of prayer and shahadah are borrowed forms from Judaism, the form of fasting is iffy, and the Hajj is out. The model for this , at least in rural non-arab areas, is in my mind Rafique Uddin and Bangladesh. There are a lot of reasons why that model is not totally transferable, but the idea of using these forms ought to be considered on a case by people group case. Rafique in fact pretty much ignores the Quran after asking the Quranic question (unanswerable in the Quran) of ‘who will pray for us on the day of judgement?’ These answers are found in the Injil, and the Quran is left behind.

    I don’t see the question of the God of the Bible as being the same as the God of the Quran as the point of Carl. Allah is a legitimate, and fully usable, name for God however.

    I don’t see a problem with having two strands of community, as long as they understand and accept each other. Many MBB’s have been persecuted for their stand for Christ, and that is a mark of courage and dignity. But far more harm than good is done by persecution. A whole national church was wiped out in short order by the Persian leadership after Constantine’s conversion. How much different might things be had that church survived? The world is replete with examples of the church destroyed by persecution- so let us not make what is sometimes a necessity into a virtue.

    In our search for the perfect solution, we sometimes eschew what is working. Every model is in transition, yet fruit, by which I mean results, are an important indicator of God’s actions in our endeavours.

    On a different topic, I left the Canadian Directorship of Frontiers to join the military and serve in Afghanistan and elsewhere. I continue to believe that despotic social structures are as infused with evil as are religious ones, and that freedom and democracy are the most fertile of soils for the good seed of the Gospel. May it be so in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in these days.

  4. Pierre Houssney on

    Picad,

    Sorry that my dad has not had time to respond- he’s quite busy. I feel that I can clarify his intent for you.

    You said “I do however find your definitive approach a bit unsettling especially considering the lack of evidence you provide (too many generalizations).” As the title of the article indicates, this is a position paper. It’s not intended to be a detailed description of what exactly is being practiced, or by whom, although it is based on extensive first hand experience of the practices of several individuals and groups, generally referred to as a part of the Insider Movement. In other words, this paper is not about presenting a case with evidence, but about stating positions on various concepts and practices.

    That said, the fact that he has stated his positions on these issues in no way suggests that he or Horizons is ” the authority on global Muslim ministry in contrast to a competing organization such as Common Ground”. This is about taking a stand on the issues, not about personalities or organizations. And my dad is certainly not attempting to assert global dominance, as if he wanted to be some kind of missiological pope… Does that answer your questions?

  5. George – Thanks for the article. As I daily seek to share Jesus with my Muslim friends and neighbors, I find your article thought provoking. I do however find your definitive approach a bit unsettling especially considering the lack of evidence you provide (too many generalizations). Are you seeking dialogue and clarity for/from people like myself or are you setting your own ministry/business (Horizons) as the authority on global Muslim ministry in contrast to a competing organization such as Common Ground? Thanks in advance for clarifying your intent! – Picad

  6. Thanks for the comment Peter. I believe this is referring to how Christian Missionaries not from a Muslim background describe themselves. Thus creating confusion. Perhaps to us we can rationalize it is a dynamic equivalence but to a Muslim it is confusing as Muslims believe in an ISA as well.

  7. Peter Searcher on

    Just a comment on this paragraph:

    a) Muslims who hear the phrase “Follower Of Isa” have to figure out whether you are a Christian or a convert to Islam. If you continue to deny that you are a Christian then you are practically admitting that you have converted to Islam.

    People who start to follow Jesus from a Muslim background are already within Muslim culture. The issue is not about converting to Islam – A convert can never truly become imersed in the Muslim culture anyway. The issue is how people who follow Christ within Muslim Culture discribe themselves. I understand the term ‘Follower of Jesus’ to carry the same dynamic equivilance as the word ‘Christian’ but without the negative bagage.

  8. Thank you Georges for a very helpful analysis of the Insider Movement. The more I read about IM the more I am convinced that it springs out of a “natural theology.” Your article hit the nail on the head in that department. I would refer your readers to a seminal article called, “Is Natural Theology Biblical?” by Stephen R.. Spencer, Grace Theological Journal, 9 Spr 1988, p 59-72. This article would show that the quote from Nabeel Jabbour is totally based on natural theology and totally…

  9. The Camel method does this as well – it begins where the lost are and brings them to Jesus in whom alone there is salvation. This is why it is incorrect to call the Camel method an insider movement – it is a bridge-building tool, one that does not stop until its Muslim hearers are bridged from Islam to Jesus Christ. Once Muslims come to faith in Christ, it is our experience that they have not been able to remain within the Islamic religion – and for that we are praising God!
    As Camel practitioners often say, “The Camel is only a bridge. You don’t build your house on a bridge. You cross over to the other side.”
    I hope this is helpful.

    What a heresy! So camel and other human methods have become the bridge to Christ? What are you talking about? So, you humans became bridges between people and Christ? How interesting! I thought Gospel is the source and tool, and Christ is the Way and Truth.
    The fruits of IM: One of the Insider muslim believer (aka secret agent, he thinks he is) said that apostle Peter’s message is less important than the words of Jesus. He is saying that one part of New Testament is less important than the other part. This is how he justifies IM. These young people who converted 15-20 years ago dont read the Scriptures. They say they have already read it and they know their purpose (purpose driven generation). They have their projects, strategies, techniques, tools but they miss one – The Word.
    On the Day God will condemn you my brothers for your fornication with the worldly philosophy. And your deeds will burn like a straw. Its better for a christian to be martyred than deny Christ hiding behind other religions. You see you are calling those converts to stay within the pagan religion in order to save their lives from the persecution. It means that apostles and all other early christians who were martyred were foolish. Oh, if only they knew those techniques! Oh, if only they were the mission specialists, experts! Oh, if only they graduated from seminaries! Paul and Peter, silly men openly preached the Gospel.
    34Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.

  10. On Jabeel’s Facebook account theres zero reference or whatsoever to Bible (except one where he associates David with opportunities), not a single verse, not a single relation to Jesus since July 2008. Instead he admires Nelson Mandela and reads lots of books of worldly writers. So many young people follow him. He is a mentor to so many of them. I am reading now 1Cor where Paul speaks about the foundation he built and about others who is gonna build on that foundation, and there will be time the building will be tested by fire. Make sure your deeds wont burn.

  11. Here Nabeel’s interview within Navigators where he is not keen to reveal which place of the Scripture inspires him, instead he goes on promoting his own book.

    http://www

    There are so many so called christians who work for their own glory. so sad.

  12. (Comment 3/3) The funny part of this is that it was Christian missionaries who brought Islam to us. To be honest I was introduced to the basic information of Islam after I have received Christ and was ready to go with it and was expecting persecutions from non-believers not necessarily from muslims. You see we are a former post soviet asian countries where there was not much of islam at all. We were rather atheist communists. A few of us (mainly elderly people) were folk muslims who never followed a pure form of Islam. So how many mistakes do we need and how long do we have to justify our mistakes?

  13. (Comment 2/3) You folks have no idea how much Im hurt, how much I feel deceived and betrayed for so long I stayed away from the Living Word of God that is holy and nutricious. This I can thank to missionaries and their wrong attitude and false teachings. You think that mixing Truth with false will make evangelisation stronger and better? May God forgive you all, you missionaries. I suffer a great deal and I cant sleep because I have friends there still being deceived and deceiving others. Seek truth in Bible only, solely there, not in nature not in the wisdom of this world. Those who teach otherwise, remember, the judgement is upon you. My tears will be added as a burden at the Lords Day to you. I pray to God to remove flase teachers from the mission fields, they have already done big spiritual destruction.

  14. (Comment 1/3) This article reflects the truth on IM movement. I was in this movement for years. Navigators were my spititual mentors. They were very secretive and there were suggestions to become secretive as them, to hide your christian identity because you will be rejected by muslims in Central Asia. thus we all are secretive agents of Christ and mastered deception. Welcome to a big secretive christian society. at the end everyone will enter the heaven, we just keep building bridges between religions. God needs help, God needs specialists, experts, advisers, secret agents to build His kingdom here on earth. so therefore, stop using Bible, write and read books from specialists, admire them. All in all its us who save the souls not God.

  15. How can I contact the author of this article? Please contact me as soon as possible.

  16. A few comments.

    1. It is interesting that whenever someone criticizes the Insider Movement (IM) idea, he or she is immediately told that he or she creates a caricature. This shows that all people who criticizes IM are dumb, or that the supporters of IM do not want to admit their problem, or that IM is such a confuzing movement that no one knows what it is about, or all three options.

    2. I find it also interesting that those supporting IM, often mention how Christianity has been distorted (so let us not call ourselves Christians) while they focus on Islam’s best sides (so let us call ourselves Muslims!?). How sad.

  17. Thank you for your comments, Brother John. You wrote: “David, Jesus began not with our religious sensibilities….”

    The Bible gives us many instances of God beginning with ‘our religious sensibilities’ even when they are wrong, in order to bring us where we need to be. You and I agree on where we need to be IN CHRIST ALONE! We may disagree on how far into the lost world we should go to retrieve the lost. The most important point is to not stop until we bring the lost to Jesus.

    Matthew’s gospel begins with God reaching out to Zoroastrian astrologers and using their own flawed religious sensibilities (the star of Bethlehem, Mt. 2:2) to bring them to the feet of Jesus. John’s gospel begins by associating Jesus with the Greek philosophico-religious image of the Logos (Jn. 1:1), because were the religious sensibilities of John’s Greek readers, but it does not stop there — it brings them to Jesus. Paul met the idolatrous Athenians with a bridge from their ‘statue to the unknown god (Acts 17:23)’ but did not stop until he had brought them from their religious sensibilities to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The Camel method does this as well — it begins where the lost are and brings them to Jesus in whom alone there is salvation. This is why it is incorrect to call the Camel method an insider movement — it is a bridge-building tool, one that does not stop until its Muslim hearers are bridged from Islam to Jesus Christ. Once Muslims come to faith in Christ, it is our experience that they have not been able to remain within the Islamic religion — and for that we are praising God!

    As Camel practitioners often say, “The Camel is only a bridge. You don’t build your house on a bridge. You cross over to the other side.”

    I hope this is helpful.

  18. Thank you Georges for a very helpful analysis of the Insider Movement. The more I read about IM the more I am convinced that it springs out of a “natural theology.” Your article hit the nail on the head in that department. I would refer your readers to a seminal article called, “Is Natural Theology Biblical?” by Stephen R.. Spencer, Grace Theological Journal, 9 Spr 1988, p 59-72. This article would show that the quote from Nabeel Jabbour is totally based on natural theology and totally disregards Proverbs 15:8
    “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.”
    Keep up the good work.

  19. Pingback: Interview: Carl Medearis author of Muslims, Christians and Jesus « Biblical Missiology

  20. It is interesting that whatever we write that is critical of the Insider Movement idea, we are almost ALWAYS told that we do not understand, we get it wrong, we have not grasped, we misrepresent.

    What a paternalist attitude. Is this a manner for Insider Movement supporters to put us in the ‘you are stupid’ corner? Speaking about being fair…

    I guess that Insider Movement supporters have not been used to a level playing field. They have too long assumed that their views would have the upper hand among evangelical missiologists. They have dictated the agendas. No longer, I hope.

    What the Insider Movement is teaching (i know, surely a caricature, nit true, no-one has ever met such person) is that Islam is not so anti-christian after all, that the churches in the Muslim world are not doing mission right, and, obviously, we giants of mind and heart and theology, we know best, as we are from the West.

    In the Arab World, there are hundreds of thousands of converts from Islam. 99.9% completely reject this Western Insider Movement idea. They have decided to be Christians, they use that word!, and they pay the high price for doing so. For them, the idea alone to stay in the mosque, is preposterous. They became followers of Christ because they love Him and because they want to leave the mosque and all it entails, as far behind as possible.

  21. Carl, you wrote the following: “1. Muhammad is not the final messenger as Muslims believe. However, it is no great step for us to say that he may have pointed people towards the one true God. And that, like many O.T. Prophets, he failed.”

    Your words imply that today Muhammad points people toward the one true God just as today the words of Jeremiah do. Muhammad wrote the following: “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not ‘Trinity’ : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son” (4.171).

    “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah…” Is this an example of isolated bad theology that nonetheless points people toward “the one true God” (your words)? This is not simply bad theology; this is antichrist (1 John 2.22)! According to the qur’anic verse it is excessive to ascribe membership of the godhead to Jesus. You write as if monotheism is in and of itself meritorious but this monotheism, declared as the truth by one you compare to true prophets of the LORD (“like many O.T. Prophets, he failed”), is blasphemous! From what you have written one may legitimately infer that the greater context of this verse has no relevance to that specific verse? Is a counterfeit $100 bill legal tender because it mostly is like the genuine? I would not attempt to use it for I would understand that it is not the genuine article and its purpose is one of deception. The Qur’an is not simply literature like Dickens. It embodies lie after lie about the One true God. It is a bastardization of the truth of Scripture to which you lend credence in the minds of some.

  22. Carl,
    Thanks for your thoughts! Yes, it helps some. I understand what you are saying.

    1. “Christianity is a religious system also. Religious systems don’t save; only Jesus does.”
    True, but once one comes to know Christ, there str some “religious” disciplines and duties and structures in the bare minimum means of grace – church, baptism, Lord’s supper, etc. – Elders/ pastors/ overseers and deacons that are not necessarily completely bad “religious things” – because they are Scriptural. The Emerging/Emergent church paradigm has over-reacted to be negative against all churches and denominations and structures and religious practices and that is wrong also. James even talks about “true and undefiled religion in the sight of God” James 1:26-27 and Paul talks about “great is the mystery of godliness (or religion)” I Tim. 3:16
    Muslims have mis-perceptions about Christianity because of the bad things done in the name of Christianity – true, yes; we know; – the Crusades, Inquisition, some who had slaves, treatment of American Indians, etc. That is no reason to “chunk” the whole thing, all of Christianity. But it was also Evangelical Christianity that got rid of the slave trade. (William Wilberforce) And the Crusades, as bad as they were; were at bottom good motives to help the Byzantines and defend Constantinople and stop the Muslims from taking Europe. The Muslims attacked first! The Roman Catholic pilgrimage – penance -indulgences motivational theology was very bad, for sure; but some of it was just “self-defense” and a “just war” motivation in the same way that the USA went to defeat the Nazis and Japanese in World War II.

    You are right to emphasize and focus on Jesus and that only Jesus saves, not Christianity or a system of rituals or works, nor going to church; but the emphasis in a lot of these IM / Common Ground / Emerging/ Emergent church type of thought – goes to the other extreme and wants to do away with the doctrine of the Trinity, and completely redefine and transform church into an “Umma” or “Jama’at” . Will they have baptism? Lord’s supper? Elders/Overseers/pastors and Deacons? There is no Biblical church without these kinds of minimal things. Biblical truth is not just “me and Jesus” saving me personally and alone and being “in Christ”. It includes that, and starts with that, but it also is community and has structures and has some practices and even rituals (!) Baptism and Lord’s supper, and singing worship songs are some kind of bare minimum “religious” practice, that gives discipline and structure to meetings. True Christianity is good and biblical; and the name Christian is not all bad. ( I Peter 4:16)

    2. On “western either/or thinking” —
    Jesus and the apostles were sometimes very black and white and either/or –

    John 8:31-59 – Jesus called the sincere Pharisees, they had good intentions, they wanted to obey God’s law; they were zealous for monotheism – but Jesus called them children of the devil.

    John 5:28-29 – on judgment day, there is either those who go to hell or those who go to eternal life, good or evil; there is no in-between.

    I John 2:20-28; 4:1-3; 2 John 7 – either receive Christ as the Incarnated Son of God; believing in the Father and the Son; or be “the spirit of the anti-Christ”.

    John 8:24 – must believe that Christ is “I am” – the Deity of Christ – or “you will die in your sins.”

    James 4:4 – friendship with the world is hostility toward God. Seems pretty black and white and either/or to me. These are just off the top of my head.

    3. You comment on 80 % of the Qur’an as good is only true if the Muslim accepts the presuppositions and Christian assumptions that you are bringing with them. I don’t think your number of 80% is scientific; but just your guess. Monotheism is good; but monotheism is not enough to save. ( James 2:19)

    For example, “Kalimat’allah” (The word of God) is a good thing to use, because it points to John 1:1-5 and 1:14; and Muhammad probably got it from the nominal and orthodox Christians in Syria/Palestine. However, the Muslim history and interpretation of that and also “Ruh min Allah” ( a spirit from Allah) are neither one ever understood in the way you and I use them with Muslims in pre-evangelism, friendship, and evangelism. If we don’t like them playing Ahmad Deedat-style argumentation on our Scriptures, then we have no right to re-interpret theirs against their own scholars.

    4. I don’t think we who are criticizing the IM / C-5 / CG methods are “demonizing” Muhammad. Some people do; for sure.
    5. He got the wrong impression of what Christianity is because of the lack of evangelism and sound outreach to the Arabs.
    6. Just as seems to you that some conservatives and western Christians “demonize” Muhammad out of anger; it also seems that the IM / CG / C-5 and Emerging and Emergent Church philosophy ( Brian McLaren, a real heretic) are “demonizing” all churches and structures and all conservative Christianity because of anger over some of the wrongs that have been done in the name of Christianity. Seems like a “self-hatred” of our own western culture and church history in order to get the Muslims to like us.
    7. Eventually, we can do language learning and good biblical contextualization; and overcome all the stereotypes; and we should, but at the end of the day; it still takes the grace of God to awaken the sinner; to make the dead sinner come alive from the dead (Ephesians 2:1-5); to give him or her a new heart(Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:1-8). The greatest barrier is the spiritual / theological one; not the cultural and social ones. The cultural/social barriers are greater in number; and they are the greater barriers in the sense that exist at the beginning of a relationship to try and talk to Muslims. But once we overcome those human barriers; the great barrier that is still there is the spiritual one, that all humans are dead in sin and it takes the Spirit of God to come and change the heart so that it receives the gospel. Acts 16:14 – “The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the things that Paul was speaking.”

  23. I’ve never been to a CG conference. So let me simply speak for myself. I’ve never thought or taught that Muhammad was an inspired, real or true Prophet of God.

    Neither do a believe that the Qur’an is inspired by God.

    And I do not believe that Islam is a wonderful, good or helpful religion.

    The problem I have, is that it seems that the only other thing left is to demonize the above three. So let’ me explain what I believe this way:

    1. Muhammad is not the final messenger as Muslims believe. However, it is no great step for us to say that he may have pointed people towards the one true God. And that, like many O.T. Prophets, he failed. Was a sinful man like David or Solomon and yet had (some) good intentions. Why can’t we “give him” that? I think some have a hard time saying this because they’re simply angry and do want to give “the other side” any credit whatsoever.

    So I can believe he’s not the final prophet (or any prophet at all, for that matter) and yet still NOT demonize him.

    2. Same thing with the Qur’an. I think of it like a book written by Shakespeare or Dickens. Some good literature with some good stuff in it. In fact, maybe 80% good stuff. So we get to choose – do we focus on the (fairly obvious) bad theology in the Qur’an – i.e. start with that? Or can we choose to spend some time on the 80% common theology and move on from there. I choose the latter. But it doesn’t mean I think it’s inspired.

    Too much of the Western black and white, either/or thinking here. It doesn’t have to be either fully inspired like the Bible OR from the devil.

    3. Islam is a religious system. So is Christianity. I’m not a fan of any religious system. They don’t save us – Christ does.

    So I’ll agree that Islam is “evil” as a religion, if you’ll agree that the systems of Christendom over it’s 2000 years has consistently done some of the most heinous things known to man in the name of its religion.

    But….rather than going there, why not just change the game and quit arguing about which religion is better. It’s an exercise in missing the point. No religious system is right. There are redeemable things in any system and there are corrupt things in any system. But Jesus came to free us all from that debate.

    In the end, I don’t encourage the Muslims we’ve seen come to Christ to even call themselves MBB’s or Muslims who Follow Jesus. Again, it misses the point as much as it does for some to insist we be called “Christians.” I want to be found “in Christ.” And I want my friends who come to know Jesus personally, to be believers/lovers and follower of Jesus Christ. Period. Not Muslims who do that…. Their background and previous allengiances are all but irrelevant to me.

    Does that help a little?
    carl

  24. You are welcome, Georges!
    I hope Carl M. comes back and reads my comments.

  25. Ken,
    Thanks for this excellent and much needed report. We need more eye witnesses who have the discernment you have to expose the truth about the IMers. I encourage anyone who has observed, heard or read anything that need to be shared to please come out of the closet and report it. We need quotes to show insiders that we are watching and that we will not stop exposing them.

  26. “The only reason Kevin starts with the Qur’an, Roger, is because that’s where you find Muslims.”

    David, Jesus began not with our religious sensibilities but with his proclamation: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1.15; cf. Mt. 4.17). Jesus the King finds rebellious humanity in need of repentance not empathy. The incarnate One, through His humanity and the fulfillment of time, already has entered the Muslim context and He calls them at the outset to repent. Jesus contextualized the beginning of his ministry with his call to repent. You seem to advocate an approach backwards to that of the Lord, an approach that prioritizes innovated methodology over Jesus’ example. Can you explain how I’m wrong?

  27. Another thing that really shocked me at the CG seminar – I met an Iranian there at the Common Ground seminar and he was very shocked at what he was hearing; so he questioned the expert on Arabic during one of the breaks – the Iranian brother told me it took the main teacher (Arabic expert) almost an hour to finally admit that the Qur’an was not an inspired book!

    Why the hesitancy?

    What does that say about this person’s theology and commitment to Christ and Biblical truth?

    Mobilization has responsibility to teach sound doctrine and proper exegesis also – equip the saints in the “once for all faith that was delivered to the saints. The Trinity, Deity of Christ, justification by faith alone, grace alone; church (ecclesiology), the atonement.

    The method seems to be to throw controversial suggestions and implications out there without clarity, to get people to soften up and not be afraid to reach out to Muslims by not attacking Islam point blank. Good motivations, wrong methods.

    This will not equip Christians to persevere long term in reaching out to Muslims.

    A positive thing of the CG/IM / C-5 is that more and more people are reaching out and becoming friends with Muslims and at least meeting them and getting opportunities to be with them. But it does not equip them to use the New Testament (Injeel) with them in a doctrinal, sound, apostolic way.

    Some of them take too long to even get to the Bible, and stay in the Qur’an too long. When they start emphasizing the Bible texts, the Muslims start accusing the Christians of deception – “you didn’t tell me that at the beginning!” “You deceived me! Christianity does not allow you to lie – most Muslims know this and they throw back at us when they find out we are deceiving.

  28. Georges – thanks for this. Good summary.

    The other article below this one – An interview with Kevin Greeson and the CAMEL method; and Phil Parshall’s letter make it clear that the CAMEL method is more of a C-4 level contextualized method.

    Carl – I was at a 4-5 day seminar of the Common Ground Seminar (Insiders Movement) recently, so I could hear it all for myself.

    Georges’ summary is spot on – that is what they promoted. The lack of clarity is confusing to young zealous College aged Christians who want to serve God oversees or reach Muslims and yet are not theologicals nor have been to Bible college/seminary.

    The Common Ground teachers implied and suggested that Muhammad is a prophet and 2nd part of Shehada is ok to keep saying;and ok to keep doing all the Islamic rituals and stay in the Mosque forever; etc. and that the Qur’an is an inspired book; and that Muhammad had the NT gift of prophesy! (and then referring to passages in I Cor. 12 and Romans 12 and Ephesians 4:11-12) – but then when questioned point blank; they would back off and say, “I am only suggesting that it was possible” and “maybe”, and “it could be”. This kind of language and trickery is dangerous for mobilization. Mobilization of young people in many circles is completely baptized in “The Emerging Church” paradigm, Brian McClaren, who is a heretic; and Evangelicals should not be afraid to separate from these false teachings and heresies and not be afraid to clearly define syncretism and call it what it is. C-4 is the highest level of Biblical and legitimate contextualization. Even then, it depends on the context. Among Iranians, the word “Christian” is a good word now (it was not during the Shah’s time) and I Peter 4:16, which Georges quoted, is proof that we cannot completely “diss” using the word at all for forever, although I understand avoiding the word at the beginning stages of evangelistic outreach.

    Phil Parshall and Timothy Tennett and John Piper are right in their critiques of the C-5 / insiders/ common ground (and Yale response to common word) methods and presuppositions.

    Young people need to be mobilized with Biblical truth and love for Muslims, not compromise and slick methods and tricky words and using a kind of “Christian Taqqiye”. We need both “apologetics (Bible truth, sound theology, sound exegesis) and Agape Love (language and culture learning, hospitality, and spending time with sinners, patience” – I Peter 3:15, Jude 3, Jude 21; 2 Cor. 5:14-15.

    Don’t be afraid to teach the doctrine of the Trinity and explain to the young MBBs sound theology.

    The Common Ground seminar told and showed the new Bibles without Son of God and with out Father in it. Ridiculous!

    We need to explain to Muslims and young believers “Son of God” is not physical, like Mormons believe. Use that opportunity to expose Mormonism as a cult and heresy.

    Trust the Holy Spirit to work through His Word, the Bible. God is more powerful than methods.

    Learn language and culture, yes, but Islam is clearly a false religion and Muhammad was not a prophet at all in any sense.

    All the good that Muhammad and the Qur’an got right about Jesus – Al Masih, Virgin Born, Kalimat’allah, “Ruh min Allah” (a spirit from Allah), did miracles, son of Mary, sinless ( Surah 19:19) and some aspect of substitutionary sacrifice based on Abraham and his son from Genesis 22( Quran 37:107) and that the Qur’an never actually says the text of the Injeel has been corrupted ( 5:46-48; 10:94) – these – Muhuammad got all of these truths from the Christians, the previous Scriptures, – from Christians – nominal, heretical, and orthodox, spread throughout the Byzantine Empire, Mesopotamia, and N. Africa, whether Nestorians, Monophysites, Orthodox Chalcedonians, and Gnostics and Arians in the desert.

    Both the emerging Church and the IM/C-5/common ground needs to repent of this unbiblical stuff.

  29. David, I found this quote that is from the Christian Post website that is attributed to you: “And we contrast that with Jesus who says, ‘Don’t be afraid. If you believe in God also believe in me. In my father’s household there are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you.'” How do you respond to a Muslim who who replies by quoting the Qur’an and says, “It is not befitting to Allah that He should beget a son” (Qur’an 19.35). What would you say or what have you said to Muslims when the filial relationship between Jesus and the Father becomes relevant to a conversation you’re having with them?

  30. I think Carl is right in that we need to make it clear that the Insider Movement (IM) is a spectrum of beliefs, the most extreme as Georges pointed out, but also some don’t follow all of those exactly or to that point. That however, doesn’t make them biblical.

    I have met people who do these things, so they do exist.

    I think the larger share of people fall in the zone that still is unbiblical, perhaps anti-biblical and insider, but falls short of directly believing in the Koran/Muhammad’s divine connection.

    For examples, terminologies are played with to the point that the terms “Muslim” & “Christian” becomes confusing. Confusing these terms often lead to insider tendencies, that a “Believer in Jesus,” can easily call themselves a Muslim (by some insider definitions: Submitter to God). While the person calling themselves that may understand the difference between a Muslim (Submitter to God) and a Muslim (Adherent to Islam, Koran & Muhammad’s message), the outside world can’t, and syncretism can easily begin if it hasn’t already.

    The same goes for “believers” praying the Islamic Ritual Prayer in a Mosque, but secretly thinking of Jesus. 2 Corinthians goes into this issue, where worship (in this instance sacrifice) in a temple context is discussed. Paul says, simply, have nothing to do with it. It’s not a culture issue, it’s an association with idol worship/false gods issue, and drawing others into it. Not everything cultural a Muslim does is Islamic, but yes, many things a Muslim does is Islamic, ritualistic, and tied to idolatry.

    This brings us to a point I know Carl will disagree on. Is the god of Islam and God of the Bible the same? The answer is no. No more than the god of the Baalites, or Zeus, or the Mormon god is the God of the Bible. They are deceptions, false gods, and idols. Now is there anything right in their perception? Certainly! But much like sin, it only takes one deception to ruin it all. Zeus could take on human form. But Zeus is a false god. The Islamic god has many attributes similar to the biblical God, but he is not only lacking, but is deceptive, and leads many to perdition. When we say that the God of the Bible and the god of the Koran are the same, we diminish God the Father, Son & Spirit, deceive, and have entered a slippery slope that all the rest of our theology will be affected by.

    So there are many things that Georges didn’t mention that are insider, that are unbiblical, if not anti-biblical.

    As for you quoting Philippians 1:18, that’s not how the passage is used. We do not believe the Insiders are sharing the gospel to cause us problems, or out of spite. We would glorify in that! No, instead we question as to whether or not the insiders are spreading the biblical gospel at all. It is a gospel for sure, but not the gospel that we get from the Word of God.

    We must be careful of the warning and potential curse Paul gave in Galations 1:8. It is for all of us, and I include myself in that. It is serious. Every word that comes from our mouths, and every thought we entertain in our heads need to be filtered and backed up by the whole Word of God. Not just a verse that has been twisted, but the whole Word.

    Can God use any method? Absolutely! Should we use any method? Absolutely not! We must measure everything by the Word of God. And that is why this website is here. Not to demonize people. Not to laud people either. We are here to answer some seriously tough questions on how the Word of God applies to missiology. This is not about our motivations. But about the purity of the message, exactly as Philippians 1:18 shows.

    This is what I live by, the Word of God determines my Missiology. Not vice versa….

  31. Thank you, Roger, for your thoughtful feedback. You really need to look at the 2007 version of Kevin Greeson’s Camel, though, rather than the earlier one that Kevin produced in 2004 — I think you’ll be pleased with the improvements!

    Kevin’s 2007 Camel book only focuses on 4 passages in the Quran: 1) one which points to the uniqueness of Jesus, his virgin birth, righteous life, and miraculous power, and how we should read the Bible to learn more about him (3:42-55); 2) two which say the Bible can never be changed (so Muslims should quit dismissing it and start reading it – 6:115 and 10:94), 3) one which points out that Muhammad doesn’t know where he or his followers will go when they die (46:9); which Kevin then contrasts with Jesus’ words in John 14:1-6 pointing out that He not only knows where He is going, but He is preparing a place for us, and He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
    The only reason Kevin starts with the Qur’an, Roger, is because that’s where you find Muslims. The goal is to bring them to the Bible where salvation in Jesus is found! Thousands of born again Muslim-background believers indicate that God is using it. I’m praying that we will learn something from these MBB brothers and sisters.

  32. Andre Houssney on

    Carl,

    If you really don’t know anyone who has a “positive view of Islam” either you have not gotten out much, or you are not asking the right questions.

    I have personally heard a missions leaders declare “Mohammed experienced a New Testament-type prophetic revelation.” And others have said what amounts to the same thing.

    But even if that, most extreme, point does not apply to everyone, surely there are many points made here that you can understand.

    I have personally heard you, Carl, argue that you cannot call yourself a Christian since “Christian” is a bad term because of connotations of immorality or association with the West.” Points 12 and 14 of this article (and perhaps some others) deal with you.

    You claim that a straw man is being burnt, but you’re the one getting hot. Maybe it’s because this article hits a lot closer to home than you would like to admit. Perhaps this is why are you so touchy in your response.

    I don’t see any caricature or demonizing in this article, rather I see an argument built on quotations and supported with scripture.

    Your comment on the other hand seems like a personal attack.
    Why not rather address the issues brought up in this article?

    Finally, when Paul said “whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” He was talking about those who preached the gospel for personal gain and out of selfish ambition, he was not talking about those who distort the gospel, he had other words for them in Galatians 1.

    Carl, is your argument that position papers are useless because we should all support one another? Then you should withdraw your critical comment and start practicing what you preach. Or is it only that those who criticize your approach should be silent?

  33. roger dixon on

    Wow! Georges has hit a lot of points in this article.
    While Carl Medearis may be right in criticizing Georges for being too general in some of his criticisms, I don’t think he is right in saying that he is demonizing the “IM” people. As David Garrison points out, maybe Georges has over generalized who IM people are but he defined it in the article. Whatever they call themselves- Common Ground, C5, Jesus in the Qur’an, etc., there are examples out there that Georges mentions. The fact that Carl does not know anyone who thinks that “Muhammad was a true prophet from God” isn’t the point. There are many who are teaching or implying that he is. Using the Qur’an to teach spiritual truth is implying that it is a book from God and what else could its presenter be?
    What Georges points out is the convoluted way that IM (& other related practitioners whatever you choose to call them) have trapped themselves in a maze of non-biblical confusion.

    David, your depiction of Georges as criticizing “any innovative outreach to Muslims is an ‘Insider Movement'” is not accurate. He doesn’t attack “innovative movements” in general. He specifies the various approaches he means. Some innovative movements are biblical. Perhaps a weakness of the article is that it does not rank the various approaches in terms of their error. I don’t think the Camel Method is in the same category with a lot of the approaches but it does need to be revised particularly to eliminate the impression that in evangelism to Muslims a lot of knowledge of the Qur’an is more important than knowledge of the Bible. Qur’anic references seem to take the primary role in Greeson’s book although he has a lot of Scripture in it as well. It bogs down and wanders from its stated purpose ” to draw out a person of peace” [p.51 (2004 edition)].

    Blessings guys, the Church has to deal with the points Georges’ raises.

  34. Whom do we present? The One revealed:

    “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5.4, f.)

    Most essentially it is not belief but in whom we believe that matters. May the Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on purveyors of mere belief.

  35. Sadly, my friend Georges makes the mistake of so many in these debates – he paints a caricature of an “Insider” that I have never seen (and I’m often in those circles). It’s unfortunate that the debate cannot have the integrity it deserves rather than demonizing the other side and using straw man arguments like these above.

    I don’t know anyone who thinks Muhammad was a true Prophet from God. Or that the Qur’an is partially inspired. Or has a “positive view of Islam.” Maybe some do think those things, but I’ve never met them personally.

    Why doesn’t Georges (and others) feel free to say what Paul did: whether this motive or that, that Christ be preached….

  36. Dear Brother George, the foundational definition of your article: “Insider Movement is a fairly recent term used to describe a variety of approaches such as Common Ground, Common Word, Camel Method, and the C1-C6 scale of contextualization,” is way too broad. In fact, it grossly caricatures many legitimate, biblical models in order to fit your presupposition that any innovative outreach to Muslims is an “Insider Movement.” Please be more accurate. I agree that Insider Movements may be difficult to define, but they are not ‘that’ difficult, To tar the whole spectrum from Common Ground to Camel to the use of C1-C6 as being “Insider Movements” is inaccurate, irresponsible and unfairly attacks many of the biblically orthodox laborers in the harvest field that you claim to support. The Camel, for example, does not hold a positive view of either Muhammad or the Qur’an . Nor could anyone following a C1-C4 view of contextualization be viewed as “insiders”. As Kevin Greeson explained in a recent posting on Biblical Missiology, the Camel Method does not subscribe to or follow the methods of the Insider Movement; nor would any of the C1-C4 approaches. Be fair and accurate, George.

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