Insider Approach to Muslim Ministry
I appreciate EMQ running an “Insider Approach to Muslim Ministry a Latino Perspective” by Carlos Diaz (July 2010).
Insider Approach to Muslim Ministry
I appreciate EMQ running an “Insider Approach to Muslim Ministry a Latino Perspective” by Carlos Diaz (July 2010). I also appreciate the author’s recognition of the value of sensitive approaches to Muslims and the desire expressed to listen to Latino voices in the process. The article, however, has a few errors of information, as well as differing interpretations of culture.
First, throughout the article, Diaz uses the phrase “insider movement.” While this singular usage has appeared elsewhere, it would be more accurate to use the word “movements.” There is not one, monolithic, insider movement, but many separate movements in different people groups, each following Jesus as Lord and Savior within their own context. There are very significant differences in the way insider believers live out their faith within the Muslim context (and the Buddhist and Hindu expressions as well).
In fact, many of these believers are neither fully “inside” nor fully “movements,” and some of the missiologists involved in observing them have questioned this phrase itself. Those following Jesus within their culture are nevertheless seen by their peers as unusual (e.g., a Hindu worshiping one God through Jesus Christ), but they are generally accepted. Faith in Jesus often starts within one family and then grows into a faith movement among friends and relatives. Some missiologists have suggested these believers be called “followers of Jesus within their birth culture,” and while this phrase is cumbersome, it may be more accurate.
Second, the terms “insider movement” and “Jesus movement” have been used by missiologists and others to describe what they are seeing, not to prescribe a strategy. While some have assumed that this is a Western-driven strategy “developed and practiced by North Americans and Europeans,” that claim is inaccurate. It would be far more accurate to say that these approaches have developed within each cultural context with minimal direction from outsiders and in the face of resistance from many missionaries. Perhaps it looks like it is coming from the West because some Western missiologists have investigated what God seems to be doing and sought to explain it to others.
To the degree that westerners are involved, they tend to be ones who prioritize the Kingdom of God and the truth of Christ and are wary of the cultural baggage of westernized Christianity. Their focus, therefore, has been unequivocally on the Bible rather than religious tradition, with the expectation that the gospel can permeate the culture from within like yeast in a lump of dough.
Third, Diaz’ parallels with a Latin American Roman Catholicism (often a syncretized Christo-Paganism) seems to be an unfair comparison to Jesus movements within Islam. Muslim followers of Jesus study the scriptures more than most Christians do and have a biblical faith, while the Christo-pagans are largely ignorant of scripture and have many objects of worship. A better analogy to Jesus movements among Muslims would be the Jesus movements among Catholics in Poland and Malta.
Fourth, no missiologist known to me has voiced approval of insider believers continuing to believe or practice anything that is “unbiblical.” But it is the responsibility of the believers themselves, not outsiders to their culture, to decide what is unbiblical in light of the biblical testimony and the witness of the Holy Spirit. Among the insiders I’ve met and heard about, there is a clear focus on faith in Christ as Lord and in complying with the Bible. As the scriptures become more understood, the followers in that culture make changes in their beliefs, values, and practices as they believe God and his word are leading them, rather than merely following the example of a westerner.
Finally, differing Muslim cultures view the Qur’an and Muhammad in different ways, as do individual Muslims. Some want to get away from Islam. Others want to remain within their Muslim community rather than leaving it to join a Christian society. As these insider believers learn more about the scriptures and Jesus, the Holy Spirit leads them progressively into a clearer recognition of the truths of God. Some may nevertheless continue doing things that we feel uncomfortable with. In these cases, I would encourage all workers to carefully reconsider what the Bible actually says about these things. Otherwise, we may find we are demanding unnecessary additions to faith in Christ alone, even as we worry if they are adding something.
—Greg H Parsons, global director, U.S. Center for World Mission
Response by Carlos Diaz
I want to thank Greg for his response to my article. By doing so, he has brought those of us from the Global South into a discussion and debate. In Greg’s response, he argues that it would be more correct to use the term “movements” instead of “insider movement.” I must agree with him wholeheartedly. As we continue to collect more information and experience of what God is doing throughout these nations, we cannot single out one unique movement, even within a specific C-spectrum. There are a number of variations that we are seeing, especially within the C4 and C5 spectrum. Even now within these specific spectrums, we see changes occurring as new followers of Christ grow and change by the transformation of the Holy Spirit.
I used the term “movement” because that is what leading Global North missiologists and mission leaders are using. Those who advocate for, and those who debate against, the insider approach constantly interchange the singular and plural forms of the word. You only need to Google “insider movement” or “insider movements” to find both terms used equally.
Is this an issue solely driven by westerners? While practitioners from many countries and cultures work through these issues, the leading advocates have been from the West. Participating in various consultations and working on committees researching best practices in church planting, I have seen that it has been those from Western Christian institutes and leading mission leaders who have been the main promoters of an insider approach. Even beyond these arenas, an insider approach is also now a focus of training taught by westerners. I recently attended a Common Ground seminar, organized and taught by North Americans even though it was held outside the Global North. When an institute that trains Latino missionaries asked a leading Western mission organization to give a course on multicultural teams, we found the lectures veering off to the topic of the insider approach instead.
We all need to be cautious in making broad definitions and generalizations of groups within what we may define “Christian” or even “followers of Jesus.” Greg’s statements and assumptions that followers of Jesus study the scriptures more or do not practice anything “unbiblical” is one of these broad strokes we like to take to prove our points. I am guilty of this as well.
My concern is not in the definitions or general assumptions, but in the realities of the history of the Church and Christian missions. It would be naïve for us to think that new followers of Christ will not have the same challenges and pitfalls other believers have had concerning interpreting scripture and following acceptable practices.
Jesus commanded all followers to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that he commanded (Matt. 28:19-20). Paul instructed his student, Timothy, to pass on the teachings to faithful men who would, in turn, teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). My experience has been that new followers want to be taught and benefit from teaching that is culturally sensitive, but also that which allows the Spirit to be the One who convicts, not we, the teachers.
We want to learn from our past mistakes in contextual issues. May we Latinos not repeat the same mistakes early Catholic missions made in our lands. May we also note the errors made by Protestant missionaries in more recent years.
Women in Missions
I read with interest the two articles on “Women in Missions” in the April 2010 EMQ. As a surgeon, I have worked with and under a number of capable women leaders, and as a missionary, I have seem women make tremendous advances for the kingdom. Leanne Dzubinski’s article, “Innovation in Mission: Women Workers in the Harvest Force,” is timely and raises needed issues concerning cultural obstacles (both host and home) to women using their spiritual gifts in ministry. Unfortunately, her presentation lacked a key perspective: while she included many specific historical examples to make her case, a biblical perspective was wanting.
Biblically, the article only addressed that women need to heed Paul’s advice for male leaders to think of themselves soberly (Rom. 12:3), to not neglect their spiritual gifts (1 Tim. 4:4), and to not allow themselves to be despised (Titus 2:15). Dzubinski correctly asserts that scripture must be the basis for our evaluation of cultural roles. Yet she gives no scriptural support for her view that gender roles are cultural and not scriptural. This missive is not intended to defend or oppose the ideas presented in the article. However, I do make the plea that our discussions be based on scripture. This article should minimally have addressed such texts as 2 Timothy 2:12-13 (uses the order of creation and not culture to support gender roles in ministry) and 1 Corinthians 11:15 (gives a culturally acceptable method for women to pray and prophecy in ministry). Although we may be enlightened by history, geography, psychology, and sociology, our primary guide must be the light of scripture.
—Gordon Reed Phillips III MD, FACS, Amazon Baptist Hospital, ABWE Intl.
Response by Leanne Dzubinski
In his letter to the editor, Dr. Phillips critiques my article for not dealing with certain Bible verses. The point of the article was not to present a biblical or exegetical defense of women in ministry. Readers who want to study that issue can consult Phillip B. Payne’s thorough exegetical study of Paul’s letters, Man and Woman, One in Christ. Or they can read Discovering Biblical Equality for a holistic approach to the questions surrounding women’s involvement in ministry.
ABWE, Dr. Phillips’ sending agency, was itself founded by a woman, Lucy Waterbury Peabody, in 1927. At that time, she had been a tireless leader in the women’s sending movement for nearly thirty years. She had served as president of The Federation of Women’s Boards of Foreign Missions and was behind all the inter-denominational projects carried out by missionary women (Robert 1997, 309). She had led a successful campaign to raise funds for Christian women’s colleges in Asia, funding seven schools in three countries. Yet only seven years after founding the agency, she was forced to resign because some in her own organization objected to a woman leader (1997, 310).
In Luke 6, Jesus tells us that just as we can distinguish a tree by its fruit, so can we tell a good person by the fruit of his or her life. Dr. Phillips and his ABWE colleagues are fruit of the diligent work and faithful labor of Lucy Peabody. The purpose of my article is to show a lasting legacy of good fruit from many faithful women missionaries of the last century or more, and to plead that women be supported, not hindered, as they continue to employ their gifts for the cause of God’s kingdom.
Robert, D. L. 1997. American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press.
EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 4-7. Copyright © 2011 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.