A Response to Some of the Insider-Movement Leaning Articles in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th ed. Textbook 

Part IV of IV

  • Part I 
    • Introduction
    • Some Background on 20th Century Cultural Anthropology and Contextualization
    • Charles Kraft’s Notion of Culture: “Culture, Worldview and Contextualization”
  • Part II
    • Phil Parshall’s Warning to Insider Movements: “Going Too Far?” (in light of his 1980 book, New Paths in Muslim Evangelism)
  • Part III
    • John Travis’ Response (to Parshall’s article): “Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus?”
    • Ralph Winter’s Response to Parshall’s “Going to Far?”  
    • Rebecca Lewis, “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community”
    • Some Elaborations
  • Part IV
    • Lewis’ Notion of “Pre-Existing Communities” Becoming The “Church” and C5 Believers’ Retention of Their Socio-Religious Identity
    • Harley Talman, “Become Like, Remain Like”: The Identity Question Revisited
    • Summary and Final Thoughts


IX. Lewis Notion of Pre-Existing Communities Becoming The Church and C5 Believers Retention of Their Socio-Religious Identity 1

Having critiqued Kingdom Circles theology, which Rebecca Lewis strongly advocates, I’ll return to examining her justification of followers of Jesus (C5 believers) to remain in their own socio-religious communities and attending local mosques. To review, Lewis says that there are two essential dynamics of an Insider Movement:

(1) “Continued community: The gospel takes root within pre-existing communities or social networks in such a way that no new social structures are needed, invented or introduced. Believers are not gathered from diverse social networks to create a ‘church.’ Instead, believers in the pre-existing community become the main expression of ‘church’ in that context.”

(2) “Retained identity: Believers retain their identity as members of their socio-religious community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible (p. 673).” 2

Lewis characterizes the church planting approach as an unnecessary, disruptive extraction process in “community-based societies,” such that “…the affected families usually perceive the new group as having ‘stolen’ their family member” (p. 673). Lewis concedes that this pattern of ‘aggregate church’ planting approach can work well enough in individualistic Western societies…” (p. 673). But my question is, Why do we see a similar pattern of the blending of ethnicities and social classes in the N.T. churches and a removal from a synagogue, usually forcibly through persecution, as normal in the Book of Acts? Why does Paul tell the Corinthian Church not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” if the surrounding socio-religious culture was to define the identity of these new believers (II Cor. 6:14-7:1)? Again, Paul is not advocating isolationism; notice that when he tells the believers in Corinth “not to associate with sexually immoral people,” he is referring to those within the church (“anyone who bears the name of brother”), not outside the Christian community; otherwise, he says, they “would need to go out of the world” (I Cor. 5:9-13). 3 The elephant in the room in IM proponents reasoning is the fact that the apostles and other inspired N.T. writers never encouraged the new Christians to continue going to the pagan temples to worship God! 4 5

Lewis attaches great importance to the preservation of “pre-existing communities” (most especially extended families and clans) for four reasons (pp. 673-74):

  1. Compared to traditional church planting, “the gospel takes root” more naturally within a pre-existing community (thus “implant[ing]” an insider movement). Lewis then says, “No longer does a newly formed church group try to become like a family.”

COMMENT: Statements such as these do not take into account the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in building God’s spiritual family, the local Body of Christ (see Eph. 2:19-22; 3:14-15). If it takes natural blood ties to facilitate the receptivity of the Gospel, where does the work of God’s Spirit come in? I’m not trying to sound super-spiritual by any means. But the N.T. gives ample evidence of natural enemies (in particular, Jew vs. Gentile) being reconciled and becoming one in Christ through the power of the cross and the work of God’s Spirit (see Paul’s extended discussion in Eph. 2:11-22).


  1. “Some have seen the redemption of pre-existing communities as a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that in his descendants all the families would be blessed (Gen. 12:3; 28:14).”

COMMENT: Paul’s comment on Gen. 12:1-3 is this: “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:7-9). 6 Paul is not talking about “pre-existing communities,” but about the fact that God’s blessing, culminating in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is made available to all the nations by faith—the same kind of faith that Abraham exhibited when God originally called him to leave his homeland and to make a great nation from his descendants (see a more elaborate description in Romans 4). 7 The universality of the Gospel hinges on God’s love and grace to all the nations, irrespective of how they organize their societies: “For God so loved the world….” (John3:16).


While it is indeed wonderful when whole families come to faith in Christ together, such is not usually the case in Muslim majority countries. In fact, Jesus predicted more than once that families would be divided because of His Gospel, the response to which consists in the exclusive commitment to and love for Christ as Lord and Savior (or rejection of Him). 8 Though Jesus placed great emphasis on the cost of discipleship (including severance of family ties), these IM proponents dont discuss the topic. 9


  1. Lewis states that families coming to Christ form “the relational core” of churches, even as exemplified in the Book of Acts (p. 674).

COMMENT: In the N.T., the “relational core” is not a bonding of natural blood ties, but the very life of the resurrected Christ within them (Col. 1:27, 3:1-4, etc.). See also Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 and note His repeated promise that those believing in Him will become one with Him and with the Father (especially 17: 20-26). That God is calling people from all the nations to become the Body of Christ 10 is the full realization of God’s Covenant with Abraham (see Gal. 3:13-14; Eph. 3:4-6): the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, concerning which we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper!


  1. Finally, Lewis states, “The strong relational bonds already exist; what is new is their commitment to Jesus Christ” (p. 674).

COMMENT: To me, such a statement depreciates the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus in making spiritually dead people alive in Him, being joined together as members of the Body of Christ, both universally (I Cor. 12:12-13) and locally (I Cor. 12:27). It doesn’t matter how close two or more people are naturally; once they find new life in Christ in His redeemed community, there is a qualitatively different relationship that could not have existed before (see I Peter 2:9-10). 11


Like Travis, Lewis insists that followers of Jesus “retain their socio-religious identity” and need not “have to go through Christianity to enter God’s family.” 12 She uses Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) as evidence that the Christ-followers from Gentile backgrounds (including the racially mixed Samaritans) during the N.T. period did not have to go through their respective “religions.” Let’s look at each case.

John 4:1-42: Lewis says that the Samaritan woman initially refuses Jesus’ offer of living water (eternal life) because she couldn’t go to the temple or become a Jew. Yet, after all that transpired with the woman and many in her town believing in Jesus as “the Savior of the world” (4:42), Lewis concludes: “…it is very likely that these new followers retained their Samaritan community and identity” (p. 674). Historically, the Samaritans believed that the Messiah (their “Taheb,” the Greater Prophet after Moses) would come. 13 But since this woman and her village people now believed that this rabbi Jesus was the Messiah and asked Him to stay two more days to teach them, then it is highly doubtful that these villagers would have kept their religion as it had been. Most likely, during His two-day stay, He revealed Himself as the promised Messiah in the whole the O.T., not only in the Pentateuch.

D.A. Carson 14 brings up further issues in this account relevant to the question of the change of the Samaritans’ religion (at least for those of that region): First, the Samaritans disagreed with the Jews over the location that Moses indicated would be the LORD’s dwelling (the Tabernacle) because the Samaritans did not recognize the rest of the Hebrew Bible (beyond the Pentateuch). For them, that place would be Mt. Gerizim, not Jerusalem. The woman raised this contentious point between Jews and Samaritans with Jesus, perhaps expecting an ensuing debate (John 4:20). But in one magnificent statement, Jesus dissolves the potential debate by unveiling the essence of God’s New Covenant that He, the Messiah, had come to bring to all the peoples of the earth: the new locus and character of worship of the Father would be “in spirit and truth” because “God is spirit” (John 4:24; cf. Eph. 2:17-22). 15

Secondly, while the woman returns to her town to tell her neighbors, Jesus gives the disciples a lesson about spiritual sowing and reaping of a harvest (namely that place in Samaria, which the Jews would normally shun for its impurity). What Jesus did there in two days was sow the seed for not only the immediate harvest described in John 4 but, perhaps, even the harvest that Phillip would reap in Acts 8. 16 Moreover, when He gave His Great Commission with the promise of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), the disciples were reminded of what Jesus said in Sychar—this Gospel was not only for the Jews but also for all their natural enemies!

Thirdly, Carson points out that Jesus’ statement to the woman, “You [pl.; i.e., all Samaritans] worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22):

Jesus is not saying that the Samaritans hold to a view of God that makes him utterly unknowable, still less that they worship what they do not believe—as if he were attacking their sincerity. Rather, he is saying that the object of their worship is in fact unknown to them. They stand outside the stream of God’s revelation, so that what they worship cannot possibly be characterized by truth and knowledge. By contrast, Jesus says…whatever else was wrong with Jewish worship, at least it could be said that the object of their worship was known to them. The Jews stand within the stream of God’s saving revelation; they know the one they worship, for salvationis from the Jews. 17

Far from being just another “religion,” Biblical Judaism consisted in God’s Covenants with His children, pointing to the New Covenant of His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, as the promised Messiah for all the nations of the world (Gen. 12:1-3, etc.). Of course, the Hebrew Scripture (in its Greek translation, the Septuagint) was the Bible of the first Christians. The flow of all of Scripture, God’s progressive revelation, culminates in the Person of His Son (Heb. 1:1-3; John 7:37-39). What the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees got wrong was their refusal to listen to the testimony of their own Scriptures about the Messiah—both the Suffering Servant to accomplish Redemption (Isa. 42, 53) and the Reigning King over all the nations (Ps. 2 and 72).

Both Tim and Rebecca Lewis, in their follow-up case study, 18 elaborate on the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, concluding that “Jesus did not try to get them [the Samaritan believers from the woman’s village]to come out of their community to join with Jewish or Samaritan believers from elsewhere.” True, the Samaritan believers in Jesus the Messiah did not have to go up to Jerusalem to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem, but neither did they have to return to Mt. Gerizim to worship God. 19

As to the second passage, Acts 15, Rebecca Lewis, like other IM proponents, sees the Jerusalem Council as evidence that followers of Jesus need not become “Christians” to join God’s family, just as the Gentile believers in the 1st Century didn’t have to become “Jews” to be accepted by God.

The actual controversy that precipitated the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 concerned whether Gentile believers had to be circumcised (as Jewish proselytes had to) in order to be saved and then keep the Mosaic Law (15:1, 5). For the party of the Pharisees, it was doubtless an ethnic/cultural issue of wanting to judaize the Gentile believers (see Paul’s rebuke of Peter in Gal. 2:11-14). However, for the apostles and elders in Jerusalem as well as the apostle Paul and Barnabas, it was a theological issue. At stake, was the very foundation of God’s plan of salvation for the Jews and Gentiles: through faith in the sacrificial death of Christ. Peter said it in that gathering, recalling the work of God in saving and filling Cornelius’ and his family’s hearts with the Holy Spirit (just as God had done with the Jewish believers in Acts 2):

And he made no distinction between us [Jewish believers] and them [the first Gentile believers, recorded in Acts 10], having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will. (Acts 15:9-11)


Agreeing with Peter, James states that the Gentile believers did not need to be burdened with keeping Jewish ceremonial laws, including circumcision, but that they observe four commands:

(a) forbidding the partaking of food offered to (polluted by) idols (spiritual contamination stemming from idolatry), 21)

(b) sexual immorality,

(c) eating meat with the blood still in the animal, as well as

(d) drinking blood itself.

The latter two commands stem from God’s law in creation, “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and, consequently, that He had required the shedding of blood of the sacrificial animals to make atonement for their sins (Lev. 17:10-12). In addition to the moral and spiritual nature of these commands, their observance impacted the Christian community of Jewish and Gentile believers living and worshipping together (e.g., see I Cor. 8). In sum, the apostles and elders saw that the issue wasn’t a mere matter of making cultural Jews out of the believing Gentiles, but one that concerned the very core of the Gospel—what Christ’s death and resurrection really accomplished. One cannot be accepted by God through the works of the law (Gal. 2:15-16), whether Jew or Gentile. 22 23

So, what happens when people—no matter their ethnicity, culture, linguistic, or religious background—put their trust in Christ for salvation?   All that identifies them as individuals before God remains the same, but spiritually, they have been transformed inwardly by the glorious power of God in Christ through His Holy Spirit (II Cor. 5:17; 3:17-18). Being in Christ defines their new identity before God. Paul makes it very clear: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27-28; cf. Col. 3:11). 24

God does not ignore the diversity of mankind; in fact, Paul explicitly states to the Athenians: “And he [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place….” (Acts 17:26). Note that John in the Book of Revelation identifies four characteristics of those who have been redeemed, singing the praises of the Lamb who was worthy to open the seals of the scroll (Rev. 5:9), of those standing before the Throne, singing the praises of the God and the Lamb (Rev. 7:9), and of those who will be evangelized at the end of the age (Rev. 14: 6): 25

1. nation (Gk: ethnos); 2. people (Gk. laos); 3. tribe (Gk. phulēs); 4. language (Gk. glōssa)

This diversity is according to God’s physical creation. There is also a spiritual level of diversity, related to the functioning of each member of the Body of Christ, as described in I Corinthians 12: each member is given a different spiritual gift for his/her particular functioning in the local body. Why? So that

(a) each member will be able to use his/her spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit to build up the whole body (12:4-11);

(b) each will know his/her unique place in the local body (12:14-20); and

(c) each one will receive honor/encouragement from the other members in carrying out his/her particular service to Christ, the Head, for the edification of all (12:21-26). 26

Again, we see God’s design of unity and diversity within the Christian community, and, at the same time, God’s solution to this age-old problem. Without God, who is one God in three Persons, there is no solution because unity and diversity originate in the Godhead. 27 God the Father’s eternal purpose concerning His Son 28 is that He be preeminent over all creation, both old (as the Creator and Sustainer of everything) and new (as Head of the Body, the Church) (Col. 1:15-18). I think it’s a fair question to ask: How does this N.T. theology fit into the theology of C5 believers, with the IM emphasis on following Jesus as Messiah while retaining the beliefs and practices of Islam?

The N.T. Epistles were mostly written to churches in various locations in the Roman Empire. 29  The “practical” sections deal with how believers from different ethnic and religious backgrounds can live out in the truth of who they are in Christ so as to be transformed into the Image of Christ (II Cor.3:18; Eph. 4:20-24; Col.3:9-11). 30 Thus, one of Paul’s major themes is that there is no division between Jew and Gentile because the dividing wall separating these two antagonistic ethnic groups was broken down through the cross, thus making them one in Christ and creating peace (Eph. 2:11-18). Paul declares that both groups are being built together to become a temple of the Holy Spirit—God’s spiritual House/Household 31 (2:19-22). Peter says the same: the believers were “living stones…being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” (I Peter 2:4-5). It is obvious, then, that both apostles were basing their descriptions on the O.T. Tabernacle in the wilderness and on Solomon’s Temple, showing that they were types of a greater truth: sworn enemies in the natural being reconciled first to a holy God and to one another because of the triumph of Christ, to become a spiritual dwelling for God by His Spirit (Eph. 2:21-22). So my next question for IM proponents is this: How can an Insider Movement demonstrate this glorious truth when C5 believers are not even in contact with Christians of other backgrounds, the visible church? To be sure, there are many obstacles to overcome, including fears, suspicions, prejudices, etc., but God’s Word leaves no option for God’s redeemed children to neglect meeting together, identifying with the visible church as a testimony of God’s glory in Christ Jesus (see Heb. 10:24-25 and Eph. 3:10-11). Only the love of God working within His people can keep together those who would be natural enemies (Col. 3:12-17). 32

Talman uses two passages of Scripture from I Corinthians to discuss the need for messengers to “become like” (9:19-22) and for Muslims believing in Christ to “remain like” (7:17-20).

A. “Become Like”

Talman briefly describes how his personal choices to “become like” the Muslims in the country he went to many years ago were motivated by Paul’s practices described in I Corinthians 9:19-22. 33 I have dealt with some of these issues in discussing Parshall’s statement, “…the closer we can relate to Muslim form, the more positive will be the response of our message….” in Part II.

What is interesting in Talman’s quotation of these verses is his omission of the following: {ref] I’m not saying these are intentional omissions, but they are instructive:

(a) Paul’s context—that he was discussing his voluntary surrender of his rights as an apostle, especially his right to receive financial support among those he ministered to (9:3-18); this section on his flexibility in identifying with these different audiences on nonessentials falls within his eliminating any objections to his preaching of the Gospel as a servant of Jesus Christ, exercising self-control (9:24-27);

(b) Paul’s expression of

(i) The phrase “though I myself am not under the law” following “To those under the law I became like one under the law….” (9:20); and

(ii) The phrase “though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ” following “To those free from the law I became like one free from the law….” (9:21) 34

Unfortunately, most English translations make these two phrases parenthetical stylistically, but doing so appears to diminish their importance because each one qualifies the apostle’s two statements and shed much light on Paul’s freedom to relate to both Jewish and Gentile audiences in his preaching. So among Jews, Paul, still holding to his Jewish heritage, could make ceremonial vows to the Lord (Acts 18:18; 21:17-26), 35 or circumcise his younger co-worker Timothy (whose father was Greek) at the beginning of his missionary service with Paul (Acts 16:1-3), so as to remove any potential objections raised in the synagogues that Paul typically went to first. Note, however, when he went back to Jerusalem on one occasion with his younger co-worker Titus, a Greek, Paul resolutely refused to baptize him when pressured by “false brothers” whose purpose was to “spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery” (Gal. 2:4). Thus, for one Paul circumcised to gain a better hearing for the Gospel; for the other, he refused on principled grounds because doing so would have put him, his co-workers, and the churches he founded under the legalistic bondage that Christ’s death broke (Gal. 5:1-5; Eph. 2:14-16). That is what the first phrase entails (“though I myself am not under the law”). Paul could “become like” his audience so long as he did not subject himself to any legalistic bondage that Christ had set him free from.

Secondly, in ministering to those without/outside the law, 36 (probably Gentiles), Paul adds the qualification “though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ.” Being under the law of Christ is functioning through Christ’s sacrificial love within us: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal. 5:13-14).

Therefore, these are the boundaries, both purchased for us on the cross: freedom in Christ to worship and serve Him without the bondage of fear, and yet living this new life under His royal law of love, allowing us to embrace the people we serve but not the belief system that would keep them from coming to and being transformed by Christ within them.

B. “Remain Like”

More problematic is Talman’s use of I Corinthians 7:17-20 to counsel Muslims “after they come to faith in Christ” to “remain like” Muslims (p. 146). Like the previous writers discussed in previous sections, Talman speaks disparagingly of foreign missionaries making “Christian converts” of Muslims (p. 147). And, like the others, he states that the cause of the inevitable persecution and expulsion of such individuals is “…not necessarily for following Christ, but for bringing shame upon their family, rejecting their culture and betraying their community” (p. 147). As I’ve argued above, didn’t Jesus and the apostles predict that those who followed Christ would experience persecution? Does Talman think that true followers of Christ who confess His Lordship will not be viewed as betraying their religion and culture and bringing shame on their families? No, because he says that such persecution is “often unnecessary and unscriptural” (p. 147).

First Corinthians 7:17-20 is often used by IM proponents to justify C5 believers remaining in their religious community and attending the mosque for prayers, etc. As I discussed in Part II, Parshall’s observation is not overstated: “The mosque is pregnant with Islamic theology” (p. 666). What I’ll focus on here is the misuse of this Scripture to justify this IM approach. First, Paul’s instruction, “Let each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called” (7:20), is given in the context of marital status, as Talman indicates (p. 147). But then Talman makes the assumption that “this principle applies to religious, social and cultural identity” (p. 147) because Paul also mentions circumcision (not to change the physical condition, 7:18). Talman’s interpretation concerning circumcision (in Acts 15) is beset with the same problems that Lewis’ was (see above). Paul’s point is that “…neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (7:19).

What is really troubling is Talman’s hermeneutical method here: he takes a principle given in a particular context and applies it more generally to another context in which other Scriptures specifically deal with differently; i.e., his extension/application is in direct conflict with other relevant Scriptures. The net result is constructing an unbiblical principle that new believers in Christ should remain in their native religion. A little further on, Talman makes another unwarranted extension of Paul’s statements in this chapter. Applying the point of a believing partner “sanctifying” the marriage (and the couple’s children) 37), he states (p. 147):

God assigned the Muslim follower of Christ to the Muslim community. His association with Muslims who do not believe and live like him does not defile him; rather his presence ‘sanctifies’ the community for God’s purposes. Most importantly, by remaining among them, the gospel of salvation can move through the believer’s entire network of relationships, making possible a movement to Christ.

In conclusion, there is a real problem with IM proponents’ not only reinterpreting the Qur’an to minimize the real contrasts between the Bible and the Qur’an 38 but also misinterpreting Scripture to support their IM approaches. The latter violates a fundamental principle of sound Biblical hermeneutics: Don’t make an interpretation or application that contradicts other clearly stated principles (see the Scriptures given at the end of Part I).


XI. Summary and Final Thoughts

We’ve looked at the slide of strong contextualization that can have unintended consequences in ministry to Muslims. The question of syncretism is a real one, not to be dismissed by general complaints about older methods not working or of deliberate “extraction” of Muslims professing Christ from their communities. Although there are a lot of recorded testimonies, we don’t know how many have tried to remain in their families, witnessing to them as they could, etc., and yet were rejected, expelled, imprisoned and tortured, with some escaping while others were martyred. These are not cases of “extraction.” The rise of militant Islam has had an immeasurable effect on the Church in Muslim-majority countries and districts of countries. The level of persecution continues to rise by the day. Nevertheless, the church planting activities of dedicated servants of Christ from other countries as well as indigenous missionaries continue unabated, unstoppable by persecution, to the glory of God! How we need to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, who plead for us to do so!

In these several Perspective articles (by Parshall, Travis, Lewis, Winter, Kraft, and Talman), we have seen some of the influence of radical contextualization on both the missiological methods as well as the theology of Insider Movements (the C5 level), and, to a lesser extent, of the C4 level, which Parshall advocates. Based on how missiologists have dealt with cultural relativism, extreme contextualization methods have resulted in C5 (and perhaps C4) believers not identifying with local churches. So the question arises as to how much these believers will grow in their Biblical knowledge, e.g., of the nature of the Triune God and of their place within the Body of Christ, God’s New Covenant people. On these primary issues, there are legitimate concerns of syncretism in what proponents of IM advocate, especially when they discount “Christianity” as being of any import. Practitioners who introduce new methodologies that downplay these doctrines of the faith need to openly discuss with their sponsoring churches how they are truly avoiding syncretism. 39

I have shown how proponents of IM use events recorded in Scripture to support the view that followers of Jesus don’t have to “go through” Christianity, but their interpretations are highly dubious in light of the didactic portions of Scripture. (Much more discussion of this issue is warranted, but I’ve mainly dealt with the sample analyses in the articles in Perspectives.)

I’ve discussed at length the issue of what constitutes religious knowledge vs. personal knowledge of Christ as well as the intertwining of culture and religion, especially in Islam. One cannot easily separate these constructs, and statements that one can believe in Jesus without getting involved in Christianity are rather naïve in my view.

Finally, the several articles in Perspectives I’ve reviewed in this paper warrant the concern I discussed at the beginning of this paper: Insider Movements are presented without a true balance of other Biblically supported contextual approaches that do not compromise the truth of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Articles that take a more critical look at IM philosophy and practice need to be included in the next edition, as do articles written by Christians from Muslim backgrounds who testify of the ways in which God is still working in their “closed” countries, calling out a people for the glory of His Name (Acts 15:15; Rev. 5:9-10). 40


  1. Rebecca Lewis. “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community” in Perspectives, pages.673-76.
  2. This dual-pronged IM approach to missions is different from the principles of indigenization that evangelical mission boards and agencies have generally subscribed to and whose realization they have aimed for: mission work entails the planting of Biblically-based churches, which, while native to the local soil, are witnessing communities of redeemed people.Thus, new converts (perhaps from varying religious, socio-economic backgrounds) are brought into and discipled by the local body that evangelized them. Yes, families are reached as well as individuals whose families reject them. (I won’t go into other, more particular issues related to mission board policies, specific church-planting principles and procedures, and the like; obviously, there are many “on-the-ground” issues that are beyond the scope of this paper. For an example of the indigenization of a church in a Muslim majority country, see Roger Dixon’s website www.sunda.org on the Sundanese Church in Indonesia.
  3. I.e., we are to be in the world but not of it.
  4. Thanks to Dr. Peter Esser (personal communication) for this insight.
  5. In dealing with the problem of believers eating meat offered to idols, Paul indicates that a person with a “weak” conscience would stumble in seeing a fellow believer “eating in an idol’s temple.” (I Cor. 8:10) As the ESV Study Bible comments on ch. 8 f., these temples also provided eating areas (“banqueting halls”). Hence, Paul is not referring to believers being there to worship.
  6. Note the number of times Paul uses “faith” in those few statements.
  7. Abraham’s progeny extends beyond the natural lineage to all “who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25).
  8. In Matthew 10 Jesus describes at length the persecution His disciples will experience, including in their own households (see vv.21-22, 34-39). See also His responses to three half-hearted people whose claimed allegiance to their families kept them from following Him (Luke 9:57-62). Consider His word to Peter, who said “we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28-30). See also Khalil Ullah’s “The Insider Movement: A Brief Overview and Analysis” (especially “Insider Movement Premise” #1):   http://bibmiss.wpengine.com/2011/03/20/the-insider-movement-a-brief-overview-and-analysis/.
  9. Note how much reference to believers’ persecution is made in Acts and the Epistles.
  10. In the Book of Revelation, history culminates in the wedding feast of the Bride of the Lamb (e.g., Rev. 19:6-8); Paul sees in the design of marriage the greater mystery of Christ and His Bride (Eph. 5:22-33).
  11. Jesus Himself said it; when His earthly mother and brothers went to see Him while He was teaching: “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matt. 12:46-50).
  12. Lewis poses this as a question and later answers it in the negative (pp. 674-75).
  13. See F.F. Bruce’s description of the Samaritan religion, with its version of the Mosaic Pentateuch (their “Bible”). F.F. Bruce. The Gospel and Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983), pages. 107-11.
  14. D.A. Carson. The Gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), pages. 214-33.
  15. Note what Stephan says to the Sanhedrin, “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet [Isaiah (66:1-2)] says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord…?” (Acts7:48-50).
  16. Carson, The Gospel according to John, pages. 232-33.
  17. Carson, p. 223; italics his.
  18. Tim and Rebecca Lewis, “Planting Churches: Learning the Hard Way” in Perspectives, pp. 690-93.
  19. As well, the N.T. churches scattered around the eastern Mediterranean lands didn’t need to go to Jerusalem to worship the Lord—He was in their midst (Mt. 18:20; I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:19-22).
  20. Of course, in Galatians and later in Romans, Paul develops this theme of justification by faith in the atoning work of Christ alone. In Galatians, which was likely written before the Jerusalem Council, Paul declared that those teaching the necessity of circumcision and observance of the law for salvation were beguiling these believers, robbing them of their freedom in Christ because they would be in bondage to keep the whole law, which no one could do (see Gal. 3 and 5:1-12). Paul, therefore, called this teaching “a different gospel” and pronounced a curse (Gk. anathema) on those teaching this false message: “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 1:6-9; 2:21).
  21. Paul, in his discussion of foods offered to idols in I Cor. 8, adds a cautionary statement that behind the idols are demonic powers (I Cor. 10:20). Hence, for two reasons Paul urges believers not to eat food offered to idols: (1) not causing a weaker brother or sister to stumble (8:7-13), and (2) not unwittingly participating in demon worship (10:18-22).
  22. In his letter, James does not contradict himself when he says that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24) because in that discussion (2:14-26), James is dealing with nominal faith (“faith apart from works is dead”), i.e., true faith entails obedience to the Word of God, just as Paul expresses it, “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5).
  23. Again, Nikides’ discussion of this issue is very illuminating; “Lost in Translation: Insider Movements and Biblical Interpretation” in Chrislam, pages.44-61.
  24. David Garner has written a very insightful article on the problem of the spiritual identity of those in the IM movement: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/07/22/insider-movements-why-should-i-care/
  25. Given in different permutations:
  26. The design of our physical bodies illustrates Paul’s exposition of the functioning of the local church.
  27. I’m grateful for first hearing this truth from Francis Schaeffer, Lectures at L’Abri Fellowship, Huemoz, Switzerland, Summer, 1966.
  28. The Agent of both the first creation (who spoke all things into creation as the Eternal Word; Gen. 1:1-3 f.; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-16) and the new creation (the Redeemer, being the Perfect High Priest offering Himself as the Perfect Sacrifice for sin; Heb. 9:14)
  29. And the few that were written to individuals deal with issues within churches, such as the pastoral ones.
  30. We know that these N.T. churches were multi-ethnic (Jewish and Gentile believers) because of the problems specifically addressed.
  31. His oikos (Greek), which IM proponents make much of in other publications related to C5 believers retaining their identity within their religio-cultural family.
  32. This is not to condemn the existence of ethnic churches in certain urban areas; lack of competence in the dominant language can often be a barrier. But the motivation for such churches should be based on practical considerations, not principled ones that underlie segregation—of which the world has seen enough!.


    X. Harley Talman, “Become Like, Remain Like”: The Identity Question Revisited 41Harley Talman, “Become Like, Remain Life,” in Perspectives, pages.146-148.

  33. See some related points in Georges Houssney’s “Would Paul Become a Muslim to Muslims?” in Chrislam, pages. 62-76.
  34. Both these phrases (b and c) are quoted from the NET Bible (www.bible.org) because Talman uses the NET translation.
  35. Not to attempt to gain righteousness or favor with God, but to show thankfulness (possibly a temporary Nazirite vow.
  36. NET Bible “…free from the law….”
  37. Perhaps meaning that the children are “set apart” to allow God’s Spirit to bring them to salvation eventually.
  38. Talman does allude to an reinterpretation in this brief article; I’m referring to IM proponents generally, as discussed in Part II.
  39. I have hardly mentioned the problems of newer translations called “Religious Idiom Translations,” including “Muslim Idiom Translations” (“MITs”), that do, in fact, substitute questionable language for the familial names of the Triune God—Father, Son, Son of God—that are denied in the Qur’an. This approach to translation is influenced by the methodological assumptions of functional equivalence that I mentioned in Part II. Certainly, more needs to be said about this issue.
  40. See Bassam Madany, “Learning from the ‘New” Maghrebi Christians” for an indigenous movement in North Africa: http://bibmiss.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/LearningfromtheNewMaghrebiChristians-January2010.pdf


  1. Pingback: Part I: A Response to Some of the Insider-Movement Leaning Articles in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th ed. Textbook

  2. Pingback: Biblical Missiology | Part II: A Response to Some of the Insider-Movement Leaning Articles in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th ed. Textbook

  3. Don,

    Thanks for your work in writing this article. The references are of course, very helpful.

    Your call for more balanced articles with regard to IM in the next edition of Perspectives (assuming that there will be one), while it would be helpful considering its influence, I think is unlikely, especially considering that USCWM, the parent organization of Perspectives, has arguably been the greatest promoter of Insider Movements, not only in English, but in Korean, Spanish, and other languages.

    Because it is new, I would like to direct people to a 10-week course designed to help Christians present the Gospel to Muslims, called Engage. The website is: http://www.engagecourse.org .


Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: