We will begin this final article with a review. So far we have looked briefly at six of ten characteristics of the Insider Movement methodology promoted among some missions groups today. This movement exists with intent to reach Muslims and other unreached people groups with the gospel. Most commonly, those outside the movement call this methodology “Insider.”
Its drive and purpose is to contextualize those teachings of the Christian faith that are the most offensive to a Muslim audience, so that more individuals lost in Islam can overcome barriers of offense that Christianity presents to the Muslim. A fairly common Insider belief is that Muslims can remain firmly within Islamic belief and practice, yet become Muslim “followers of Isa” (“Isa” is the Qur’anic name for Jesus). The dangers of this movement are evident upon examination. One danger is hyper-contextualization: how far can we contextualize the message of the gospel for a Muslim audience before we lose the very message of the gospel? In an attempt to make the Christian faith more relevant and acceptable, are Insiders proclaiming a “different” gospel to their audience?
The six characteristics of Insider methodology we have looked at in previous articles are:
- The Kingdom Supersedes Church
- Remain Culturally Muslim
- Allah and Isa Are God and Jesus
- Islamized Bible Translations
- Mohammed Was a Prophet of God
- Promoting A False Identity
We must remember that not every Insider uses all these characteristics in their methodology. These articles are a collection of observed characteristics that I have gathered in my study of IM.
Our final article covers the seventh through tenth of the IM characteristics studied in this series: A Contextualized Gospel, The Homogenous Unit Principle, Churchless Christianity and the Third Reformation, and The C-Spectrum.
A Contextualized Gospel
In his book “The Camel: How Muslims Are Coming to Faith in Christ!” author Kevin Greeson uses the word ‘CAMEL’ as an acrostic tool to help evangelists introduce Muslims to the gospel message:
C – Chosen (Maryam was chosen by Allah for a special purpose.)
A – Announced by Angels (Angels announced the birth of the Messiah to Maryam.)
M – Miracles (Jesus’ power is revealed in His miracles.)
E L – Eternal Life (Jesus knows the way and is the way to heaven.) This acrostic tool is based upon a passage in the Qur’an: Surah al-Imran 3:42-55. 1
It is important to understand that the CAMEL method is not the gospel presentation. It is simply a conversation tool Mr. Greeson saw demonstrated through Muslim background believers sharing their faith in Christ with others. Its purpose is to lead a Muslim to have further discussions with a field worker or evangelist. The gospel is then presented using Greeson’s method, which he calls the Korbani Plan of Salvation. This method is presented in tract form, or in a conversational presentation. Korban means “sacrifice” in the Islamic faith. Every year Muslims around the world sacrifice an animal (usually a goat) to provide payment for sin.
The Korbani method uses a few verses from the Qur’an as a starting point to speak to Muslims about Isa (Jesus), as well as using four verses from the gospel of John (8:32,14:5,15; 13). The four points of the Korbani gospel presentation are the following:
- The First Great Korban – Adam’s nakedness and sin was covered by sacrifice
- The Second Great Korban – The ram was sacrificed for Abraham’s Son
- Allah’s Korban for Us – Jesus on the cross and resurrection
- Receive Allah’s Korban for You – Your decision
At the end of the tract is a contextualized Sinner’s Prayer to acknowledge that God sent the prophet “Isa” as a sacrifice to save them.
Although the Korbani gospel presentation looks sound and biblical in its initial presentation here, the more I studied it, the more I found it to be biblically weak and lacking essential content of the gospel message.
Specifically, the Korbani method focuses on Jesus as that all-inclusive sacrifice Allah accepts for the sin of mankind. The problem with it is this: it does not specifically reference the clear identity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Georges Houssney comments on this contextualized gospel presentation when he writes;
One tract produced by the Camel Method to give to Muslims is called ‘Ruhullah’ (Korbani). 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)…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. 2
While some Insiders state that understanding and accepting the identity of Jesus as Lord is not a part of the gospel, nor is it a necessity for salvation, I believe the testimony of Scripture teaches otherwise. In fact, what was the very first message Paul preached in the in the synagogues after his conversion! Acts 9:20 tell us: “And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
Was that a contextualized message? Paul did not hold back the truth. Was his message confrontational to the target audience? Yes it was.
You see, the truth of who Jesus really is cannot be compromised in our presentation of the gospel. We must never hide or shade the truth of our Lord’s identity, and what He has done for us on the cross, in order to gain a receptive audience.
In fact, 1 John 4:14-15 tells us that the reality of the “sonship” of Jesus is a non-negotiable part of the good news that cannot be left out: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
The Homogeneous Unit Principle
Dr. Donald McGavran was one of founders of the missions studies program at Fuller Theological Seminary. Along with Drs. Winter and Kraft, he has been one of the predominant voices that set the parameters of the Insider movement. I believe the foundation of IM methodology is based on something McGavran called the “Homogeneous Unit Principle” (HUP). This anthropological principle is best described in his written record to the Lausanne Movement in the “Pasadena Consultation: Homogeneous Unit Principle.” He offers the following description of a homogeneous unit:
…a section of society in which all members have some characteristic in common. 3
McGavran’s premise was that the missionary must focus on those common points (common ground) that would act as a bridge for the gospel to enter the person’s life. Once the gospel did enter and affect a life, that individual should remain in the cultural context, redeeming that culture (both good and bad aspects of it) and create a “Jesus sub-culture” within that given context. He believed that people and culture would be redeemed when Christ made contact in both of them. In this paradigm, when individuals in the target audience become believers in Christ, the drive of the field worker is to establish a worship context that is not contrary to the culture that they grew up in.
We then see the HUP model exemplified in many writings of IM proponents, including this example from Harley Talman in his IJFM article “Comprehensive Contextualization.” He writes,
Look within a culture for its dominant values, ideals, sources of identity, maladies, ways of behavior, “codes of conduct,” and sources of power, and especially those cultural features that relate to the three theological concepts of creation, redemption and community. 4
He then continues in the article to explain how to utilize these homogeneous units of culture to introduce Isa (Jesus) and His redemptive work in order for those people to be redeemed. IM views HUP as a fundamental and indispensable tool that must be utilized to effectively reach Muslims with the gospel.
The problem, however, is that Islam has a culture that is inseparable from the religion itself. Islam has its authority and impact in every part of that believer’s life. In fact, Mohammed was all-inclusive in His desire to present himself as Islam’s prophet, and king in a sense, with religious authority and control over every part of life within the context of that culture.
IM’s approach to evangelism and church planting, with its adherence to the HUP principle, is subject to the observations and dictates of anthropology, rather than the truths of Scripture.
While it is true that people do tend to join groups that are a better fit to their culture and preferences, is that the value the church is to commanded to reflect? What was Paul’s admonition in the book of Ephesians? Are we not called to join as one body from every ethnic background as one body in Christ? Were the Jewish believers called to separate themselves from their Gentile brothers and sisters?
While it is true that the early church had it’s problems “mixing cultures” (cf. Acts 10, Peter and Cornelius), it is God’s will that His bride breaks down the walls division because of the sinful practices in our culture that are not consistent with his truth.
Churchless Christianity and the Third Reformation
Earlier in these articles I presented how IM teaches that the Kingdom Of God supersedes the church in authority today. In fact, “the church” and “Christianity” (as presented in some IM thought) are not essential in bringing anyone to Christ.
This principle of IM takes a final step toward the removal of the church in any role of reaching the unreached, which will bring about what Ralph Winter called the “Third Reformation.”
Apparently, our real challenge is no longer to extend the boundaries of Christianity but to acknowledge that biblical, Christian faith has already extensively flowed beyond Christianity as a cultural movement, just as it has historically flowed beyond Judaism and Roman Catholicism. Our task may well be to allow and encourage Muslims and Hindus and Chinese to follow Christ without identifying themselves with a foreign religion. The Third Reformation is here! 5
I suppose you could say that Christianity is a “foreign” religion, in that the message of the gospel comes from the throne of God and its message is “foreign” to the lost and depraved who need a Savior. But that’s not what Dr. Winter meant. He meant that the church was a foreign “Western” institution that was not needed in the areas where the gospel message had not yet been heard.
According to Winter and other IM proponents, we are on the brink of a new reformation with the advent of a “Christian faith” that is not bound by cultural confines of the established church. Winter did not originate the phrase “Churchless Christianity,” but he refers to it numerous times in his writings to describe what is needed in this Third Reformation to reach the world for Christ.
Who originated the term “churchless Christianity”? It actually is the title of a book printed by the William Carey Library, a ministry under Dr. Winter’s oversight at the Mission Venture headquarters. Churchless Christianity was written and released in print in the year 2000 by Herbert Hoefer, a Lutheran missionary who used IM while serving in India. Mr. Hoefer states in the book:
We do not want to change the culture or the religious genius of India. We simply want to bring Christ and His gospel into the center of it. The real move toward an indigenous Christian faith (in India) can never come from the Christian community. It must grow out of the “Churchless Christianity”, with the help of the Church. 6
Did you notice the inconsistency in Hoefer’s statement? We need the church’s help to reach India, but reaching India will never come from the Christian community.
So what’s the answer? Is the church of Jesus Christ irrelevant to reaching unreached Muslims with the gospel? Is “churchless Christianity” a real movement of God? Absolutely not! Jesus told us in Mathew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!” I close this section with a quote from David Garner, who addresses the Third Reformation and Churchless Christianity issues in his work “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel.” He writes:
That the Spirit of God can and does work in unexpected ways is without question (see John 3). That he works without consideration for Christ’s church as biblically defined is, well, simply unbiblical. After all, scripture makes abundantly clear that Christ’s headship is linked directly to his church (see, e.g., Eph. 1:22–23; 5:23), and the Holy Spirit works in absolute solidarity with the will of the Father and the Son (John 14:15–17, 25–31; 16:4–15; Rom. 8:9–11). Moreover, the teaching given through the apostles, which underscores the centrality of the Church over which Jesus is Lord, also reveals unique, non-negotiable characteristics of that church, including biblical organization (Titus 1:5); regular assembly (Heb. 10:24–25); baptism (Matt, 28:18–20; Acts 2:38–39); the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11:17–32); and preaching, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:42; 2 Tim 4:1–2)…To be sure, these inventive methods have generated virulent responses, not only from alerted westerners but even more so from Muslims who have trusted Christ. Muslim convert and pastor Edward Ayub of Bangladesh anguishes over IM practices in his homeland: “Not only do some of these people counsel people to remain Muslim rather than confess Christ openly, they counsel those who have left Islam, having become Christians, to convert back and join mosques.” 7
The New Testament church is meant by God to be cross-cultural! We must never reject God’s church to bring the gospel to every culture on planet earth. We can also be confident that as God’s truth goes global through His obedient church, it will transform the very culture it is planted in.
The C Spectrum
It is difficult, if not impossible, to speak about IM and not utilize the C1-6 spectrum developed by a field worker to clarify what IM is.
The C-spectrum was developed and explained first by John Travis (a pseudonym), an IM proponent who has been involved in reaching Muslims with the gospel in Indonesia for the past 25 years. 8
Greg Strand explains the C1-6 spectrum from an Insider perspective:
The C1 – C6 Spectrum compares and contrasts types of “Christ-centered communities” (groups of believers in Christ) found in the Muslim world. The six types in the spectrum are differentiated by language, culture, worship forms, degree of freedom to worship with others, and religious identity. All worship Jesus as Lord and core elements of the gospel are the same from group to group. The spectrum attempts to address the enormous diversity which exists throughout the Muslim world in terms of ethnicity, history, traditions, language, culture, and, in some cases, theology. The purpose of the spectrum is to assist church planters and Muslim background believers to ascertain which type of Christ-centered communities may draw the most people from the target group to Christ and best fit in a given context. All of these six types are presently found in some part of the Muslim world:
- C1: The traditional church using non-indigenous language.
- C2: Traditional church using indigenous language.
- C3: Contextualized Christ-centered communities using Muslim terms and cultural forms that are not “religious” in context.
- C4: Contextualized Christ-centered communities that use indigenous Islamic terminology and biblically permissible cultural and Islamic forms in worship.
- C5: Christ-centered communities of “Messianic Muslims” who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.
- C6: Small Christ-centered communities of secret/underground believers. 9
Mr. Strand makes numerous assumptions in his presentation of the C-spectrum. He first calls all levels “Christ centered communities”, and “believers in Christ.”
But is that true? Roger Dixon, who has served in ministry among Muslim people groups for the last 35 years in Asia, has written a critique of the C spectrum in the book Chrislam, in the chapter “Moving On from the C1-C6 Spectrum.” He states:
While the C1-C6 Spectrum has some diagnostic use, it is important for all workers to see it in perspective. It may have a limited use, but the understanding of true contextual models goes light years beyond it. The Spectrum promotes changing traditional Christian missions. By fostering a model of faith that includes both Islamic and Christian worldviews in the same structure, we slide into a liminal category where a traditional understanding of Christian and Muslim is changed. In this special state it is possible that a person would belong to a new faith tradition not recognized by its larger society. Neither Christians nor Muslims accept the C5 category. C1-C6 proponents claim this is contextual, but if the society at large does not recognize it as contextual we should not claim it is. 10
I agree with Mr. Dixon. Once mission agencies move the C spectrum from a descriptive role to a prescription of how effective missions ministry to Muslim works, it becomes another western “system” that is bankrupt in spiritual power.
In summary, the “Insider Movement” and its characteristics outlined in this article series present serious implications for the global growth of the Body of Christ. If left unchecked and unaccountable to the Body of Faith found in God’s Word, it will be destructive to God’s global, redemptive work.
“May God’s church be found faithful to uphold the clear Gospel truth until we see Jesus face to face. And on the day we will be with the redeemed from every tribe, tongue and nation, singing ‘worthy is the Lamb who was slain!’” —Revelation 5:9
- Kevin Greeson, “The Camel: How Muslims Are Coming to Faith in Christ! (Monument: WIGTake Resources, 2014), Kindle e-book. ↩
- Georges Houssney, “What Is Wrong with the Insider Movement?” Biblical Missiology (January 7, 2010), http://biblicalmissiology.org/2010/01/07/what-is-wrong-with-the-insider-movement (accessed May 20, 2015). ↩
- Donald McGavran, “The Pasadena Consultation, The Homogeneous Unit Principle,” Lausanne Movement (June 2, 1977), http://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-1 (accessed October 1, 2015). ↩
- Harvey Talman. “Islam, Once a Hopeless Frontier, Now? Comprehensive Contextualization.” International Journal of Foreign Missiology 21, no. 4 (Spring 2004): pg5. http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/21_1_PDFs/06_12_Harley3.pdf (accessed April 3, 2015). ↩
- Winter, Ralph. Twelve Frontier Perspectives. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2005. ↩
- Herbert Hoefer, Churchless Christianity (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001), 262. ↩
- David Garner,“High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel,” Themelios 37:2 (July 2012): 249-74; http://legacy.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/high_stakes_insider_movement_hermeneutics_and_the_gospel. ↩
- John Travis, “Must All Muslims Leave Islam to Follow Jesus?” Evangelical Missions Quarterly Volume 34 (1998): 411-415. https://www.emqonline.com/Must_all_Muslims_leave (accessed June 4, 2015) ↩
- Greg Strand, “The C1 to C6 Spectrum: A Practical Tool for Defining Six Types of ‘Christ-Centered Communities’ (‘C’) Found in the Muslim Context,” Strands of Thought (January 28, 2013), http://strands.blogs.efca.org/2013/01/28/the-c1-to-c6-spectrum-a-practical-tool-for-defining-six-types-of-christ-centered-communities-c-found-in-the-muslim-context/ (accessed February 2, 2015). ↩
- Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton, Bill Nikides, ed. Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel. Garden Grove: i2 Ministries Publishing, 2011. Also Kindle e-book.89-90. ↩