This FAQ deals with a missionary methodology popular in the evangelical world called “insider movements.” It is also known as C5 contextualization among other terms. This response to it was compiled by national church leaders, including those from Muslim backgrounds and concerned, seasoned missionaries with many decades of experience in the Muslim world, some of whom left insider-friendly organizations due to their concerns. It is, in that sense, not a “Western” product but, rather, a statement of the global church voicing its objections to what it believes is an always unbiblical, sometimes heretical approach to missions. Some people are claiming that insider movements are dying and not worth considering. Consider carefully that some of these people, in fact, belong to missions organizations including denominational agencies that send their people to work with insider groups in other mission agencies. Take nothing for granted. Read the following and ask yourself, “Is the Insider Movement dying?” In our opinion, it is not and it needs your attention now.
What is the Insider Movement?
- Insider Movements (IM) are rooted in Western cultural relativism, convincing those professing faith in Christ to remain within their original birth religions, such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Native American religion. Non-Western proponents typically retain connections or employment with Western organizations.
- The insider movements we are describing here are a modern invention. While blurring religious identities has been around since the Fall and can be clearly seen as Israelites worshipped the Baal and Yahweh, we are referring to ideas and methods that developed in the 1950s-1970s that were largely implemented in the 1980s and following. It does build, however, on centuries-old syncretistic practices known as Crypto-Christianity or Crypto-Islam. Insider advocates typically attempt to favorably compare biblical faith to syncretistic mystic Islam rather than compare the Bible to the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of Muslims that completely oppose Christianity. In that sense, modern day IM is a syncretistic key for a syncretistic lock.
- The insider claim that Jesus, Peter, Paul or any other biblical figure were “insiders” is a mistake based on very poor biblical exegesis.
- Insider movements are the fruit of the Dynamic Equivalent approaches to language championed by Eugene Nida, that spread to missiology through Nida to anthropologically-driven forerunners such as Charles Kraft, Fouad Accad, Ralph Winter, Dudley Woodberry, Greg Livingstone, Phil Parshall (pioneered theologically controversial approaches in Bangladesh that led to IM in that and other countries but never practiced IM personally) and missionary advocates such as Nabeel Jabbour, John Travis (pseudonym), Rick Brown, Rebecca Lewis, Kevin Higgins, Joshua Massey (pseudonym), H.L. Richard (pseudonym) and others.
- Insider advocates do not admit to being insiders. They will attempt to deflect criticism by denying the applicability of the word “insider” to them. Do not be fooled by their denials. Discerning churches and individuals can determine the truth by paying attention to what these people teach and do, not how they label themselves. If one advocates remaining within Islam as a Muslim, regardless of stated nuance, one is an insider. Advocates make it sound complicated. It is not. It is quite simple. Biblical faith has always been understood to mean leaving one’s former religion and joining the visible, historical church, professing faith in the One true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Insider movements are not spontaneous movements of the Holy Spirit that exist, but deliberate efforts by Western missions organizations to create massive movements “to Christ” through what should be seen as syncretism. Some reported movements are complete fabrications designed to solicit money from donors. Others are real, but vastly exaggerated. none should be taken at face value.
- Insider movements are not simply about whether or not someone may contextualize. All humans contextualize when they communicate to others. Insider movements are about keeping followers of Christ within false religions.
What are Insider Bibles?
- Insider movements grow by creating Bible versions that remove “offensive” language such as “Son,” “Son of God,” and “Father” from the biblical text.
- There are no satisfactory “equivalents” for “Son,” “Son of God,” and “Father” regardless of what missionary “experts” assert.
- Insider movement Bible versions ignore the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome human barriers to understanding Scripture. They also ignore the fact that the understanding of the Bible also comes with the Spirit-filled preaching of the Word.
- Insider movement Bible translations employ words that create false theology. A “prince” and a “guardian” are not equivalent to “Son” and “Father” and they create understanding about God closer to a person’s birth religion than they do biblical Christianity.
- Not all insider groups use insider Bibles but many seek to minimize the full biblical meaning of “Father” and “Son.”
How Do Insider Believers Relate to Islam?
- Insider movements promote followers of Christ affirming the prophethood of Muhammad.
- There is disagreement, for instance among IM advocates if the prophethood of Muhammad is on equal level with Biblical prophets. Some say yes. Some say maybe. Some say no. The bottom line, however, is that a survey of IM literature demonstrates that most IM advocates fall into the Sharia (Islamic law) compliant stance of “say no evil about Muhammad.”
- Insider movements promote Muslim practices such as animal sacrifice, reciting Muslim prayers, going on pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca etc.
- Insider advocates promote this because they mistakenly view Islamic practices as harmless forms that can be filled with biblical meaning.
How Do Insider Movements Relate to Christianity?
- Insiders are not Christians. Their identity is found within the mosque or temple.
- Insiders cannot associate openly with any part of the visible body of Christ.
- Insider movements have no place either for the visible church, unity among Christians, or any theology of suffering. The lack of these drives an enormous wedge between Western churches promoting IM (knowingly or not) and non-Western suffering churches of Muslim or Hindu converts.
- Insider movements have little if any place for formal Christian doctrine. Identification of insiders as believers is made almost exclusively on the basis of their religious experience.
- Anecdotal evidence of experience communicated through missionaries should not be considered as proof of IM’s legitimacy or success.
- Insiders believe that, since all religions are inadequate without Christ, including Christianity, all can be fulfilled when their members follow Christ.
- Insider movements teach that mosques and temples are indispensable future potential homes for Christ but churches are disposable. The visible, historic church is not necessary.
How Do Insider Movements Relate to Non-Biblical Religions?
- Insider movements teach that the God of Islam is the God of the Bible.
- Insider missionaries cannot believe that religions such as Islam or Hinduism are essentially false since they encourage converts to remain within them. These are considered to contain biblical truth. Therefore, followers of Christ can remain within them, as “yeast in the dough”, reforming non-biblical religions from the inside.
- Insider movements affirm by their practices that God is working in and through other religions.
- Insider movements believe that there is on-going revelation outside the canon of Scripture (i.e. the Bible).
- Insider movements are rejected by Muslim Background Christians.
What are the Ethics of Insider Movements?
- Many missionaries raise money to promote insider movements by spreading false reports of miraculous movements to Christ.
- Some missionaries promoting insider movements, to include within the PCA and other evangelical denominations, use pseudonyms when teaching or publishing papers in support of Insider methods making it difficult for their supporters, who know them only by their real name, to connect them with the unbiblical approach they support. At home they appear to be orthodox Christians but in the missions field they often promote a missiology that would be rejected by those who sent them.
- Some missionaries have ruined reputations of national Christian leaders in order to protect their own insider movement ministries.
- Insider movements are not dying out or in decline. They continue to grow with Western money. Some missions agencies are suggesting the decline perhaps because they do not want churches and Christians to see what the agencies are actually doing with regard to supporting IM.
- Missionaries that promote insider movements are primarily professing evangelical Christians, often embracing ideals associated with the emergent church. They obtain support for their work by approaching potential donors as conservative Christians with compassion.
- Insider proponents seek support by attempting to show that opponents either lack compassion or experience. Opponents lack neither. Most are engaged in evangelizing the Muslim world, either as Muslim background converts, national Christians or missionaries. In other words, most of the informed world opposes insider movements.
- Missionary organizations raise funds and promote IM by establishing “dummy” organizations so that they avoid the charge that they are involved directly in IM.