Insider-Outsider, what do these words really mean? Everyone is an insider. The Insider Movement naively views Islam as culturally monolithic. There are numerous subcultures in the 56 Muslim nations. Shites do not mix well with Sunnis and mosques are segregated. Kurds and Arabs may have some common cultural customs but they also have their own distinct ones. Islam is not a culture as much as Christianity is not a culture. So what are we really talking about? Islam is a religio-political system. Culture and ethnicity are somehow related to Islam for groups that happen to belong to both the ethnic group and the religion of the majority of that group. Berbers in N. Africa speak Arabic and mix with Arabs a lot. Most are muslims. But go to their villages and you will discover that their cultural lifestyle is quite different than the Arabs. Cultures vary within each Muslim country.

In Iraq I worked closely with Kurds and Assyrians. Initially the first church we planted was mixed. Later on due to the clear distinctive cultural traits of each we agreed to separate the groups so they feel more “insiders” to their own ethnic group. Language was a major factor in this decision. Kurdish youth did not understand Arabic as much as their parents. I never expected a Kurd to renounce his Kurdish identity nor the Assyrian his. They kept their cultural identities but renounced their religious identity. One was Muslim the other Nestorian. They gained a new identity in Christ and his people within the nation and worldwide.

It was a sad decision to segregate the two groups. So I met with the leaders of both and agreed that the leaders and those who were interested from both churches would get together once a week to pray and share and have communion together. This is the image of the true church that Jesus died for, a multiethnic church united in Christ. This is what the Greek word Ekkelsia implies: A gathering of those called out of the kingdom of darkness into the bright light of the kingdom of Christ. (col 1:12-13) Do not confuse Islam with the subcultures of Muslim nations.

1 Comment

  1. This situation gets ludicrous at times. In West Java, some missionaries who promote insider/outsider have been saying that indigenous pastors and evangelists who use the local language, local music and arts, and local customs are not insiders because they do not also follow the Islamic customs; whereas non indigenous believers from a different culture who imitate the local people and follow Muslim customs are insiders.
    The Insider Movement people get so confused and they confuse others.

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