Measures and/or Goals for “Insider Movements”

June 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Christ alone? More Christ-like? Able to grow? Continue their witness? Reproducing?

Yes to C5 as a starting point, but with a focus of moving down the scale to C4 within a time (Responses to Tennent 2006, 125)

Invest in people as a group, tell people they do not have to join a Christian people group, coming to God through Christianity is not in line with the truth of the Gospel, encourage believers to remain within their God-given communities (Lewis 26:1, 19)

Prayer, Apostles teaching and fellowship, Breaking bread and the prayers, Remaining in “the Temple” and meeting “from house to house”, Developing structures that keep key leadership focused on the spread of the word and prayer, Relational Discipleship (Higgins 21:4)

Missionaries among peoples of other religions can and should approach their work with the same expectations Paul had. Higgins 21:4


Tensions of “Insider Movements”

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Reading through the articles in the IJFM collection you can sense a number of tensions that need further understanding in order to determine whether the phenomenon of insider movements becomes a strength or weakness in the Great Commission. The tensions I propose from the readings regard the phenomenon, identity, practice and worship. The is complicated because at least three levels of analysis are involved at the individual, family and community levels. The first tension regards the phenomenon of “insider movement” itself and is the description vs. prescription tension (Richard 26:4, 176). The tension revolves around whether this phenomenon is something that we are only describing, occurring out in the world or whether this phenomenon is something we should seek to understand so that we can prescribe and strategically initiate these movements.

The second tension operates at the individual level and is the the tension between the old vs. new identity, spiritually. One side concerns the question of new identity as a follower of Jesus, including the relationship of this new identity to the “church.” The second is the question of maintaining one’s old identity as Muslim (Higgins 23:3). Higgins proposes a dual identity thesis that one can maintain dual identity and be a fully biblical disciple of Jesus (Higgins 23:3).

The third tension operates across the individual and community levels and is the tension between spiritual vs. social identity and involves whether identity can exist of many facets such as spiritually, culturally, ethnically, politically and socially (Richard 26:4, 177). Questions being asked are whether disciples of Christ should assume a new community identity or retain the identity of their birth community (Richard 24:4, 188)? At the group level the question becomes whether the church should form as a new social group vs. pre-existing community, church plant vs. church implant, using an attractional model vs. transformational model (Lewis 26:1, 17), whether new insider believers should be anti-communal vs. aggressively communal (Richard 24:4, 188).

The fourth tension that comes out in the readings is the tension between orthopraxis (right practice) vs. orthodoxy (right worship) (Responses to Tennent 2006, 126). This tension operates at the individual level and also across levels from individual in relation to the group. This tension is described in the biblical mandate to honor your mother and father vs. Jesus’ challenge to leave mother and father for his sake (Richard 26:4, 178). The hope that idols change into art in subjective versus objective judgments of meaning and beauty such as the example given of a family heirloom or valuable piece of art vs. an idol of worship (Gill 26:4, 186). This tension also comes out in the tension of true faith (Gospel) vs. religious affiliation (religion), such as identifying Christianity as a religion, what does it mean to follow Jesus (Lewis 26:1, 17; Richard 26:4, 180). The question arises whether a simple gospel equals immature disciples? Paul taught that the Holy Spirit will accomplish in the life of a believer something no religious tradition or institution can ever accomplish (Lewis 27:1).

Weaknesses of “Insider Movements”

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

One weakness of understanding insider movements is that there are not enough case studies to show one approach is always better (Responses to Tennent 2006, 124). Another weakness is that the most conservative approach is to be interventionist or irreparable mistakes may be made (Gill 26:4, 184). There is also a great deal of dissension within the ranks of the evangelical community and an attacking attitude is troubling (Richard 26:4, 180). Criticisms have been written solely based on what others have written, theoretical, conceptual and not any firsthand experience (Responses to Tennent 2006, 124).

Another weakness is that even though Lewis (27:1) argues no one should consider one religious form of faith in Christ to be superior to another, ethnocentrism is still a huge problem (Richard 26:4, 180). Another weakness is the opportunity to use insider movements as part of a strategy to develop a separatist church (Richard 26:4, 178). Another weakness involves funding which introduce many complications such as church buildings that cannot be indigenously reproduced, and Western patterns of church (Richard 26:4, 178; Garrison 21:4).

Another weakness is the potential for changing scripture and losing control of how the gospel is to be perceived (Gill 26:4, 184; Richard 26:4, 178). Another weakness is the necessity to define what is error and what is syncretism, with syncretism having two commitments, such as having a relationship with Christ and Buddha (Richard 26:4, 75; Gill 26:4, 184) Another weakness is the issue of authority such as determining who makes the decisions whose hermeneutic will determine the validity of the interpretation of other religious Holy Books (Richard 26:4, 178; Higgins 21:4 )? Disagreement on what is tradition and biblical exegesis (hermeneutics) allows for a potential weakness of succumbing to a dominant personality to make all the decisions (Richard 26:4, 178). These challenges can lead to weaknesses in leadership that is non-participative and high attrition rates (Garrison 21:4).

Another weakness is that the insider movement can not have links to traditional Christian mission (Richard 26:4, 179). There is uncertainty regarding the necessity to identify with the historic church (Richard 26:4, 180)? Newbigin argued that a Hindu who has died and been born again in Christ cannot be content to remain without any visible solidarity with is fellow believers (Richard 24:4, 188). Even though in the Hindu world, the insider movement is not associated with the historical church setting up completely contextualized but new structures does not necessarily lead to acceptance (Messianic Jews) (Richard 26:4, 180; Responses to Tennent 2006, 126).

Another potential weakness comes from an argument that Lewis (26:1, 19) makes, “Because believers retain their birth identity, insider movements honor God-given identity.” I think that this is a potential danger of the insider movement in that even if successful at some point there will most likely be a break between those in power and the “insiders”. Examples were given of Messianic Jews, the work of Martin Luther, the ministry of Paul, and charismatic movement (Responses to Tennent 2006, 125). Particularly with Martin Luther his initial hope was to reform the Catholic church, but at some point in these social movements a break occurs between the old and new organizational form due to resistance by those in power not in favor of change.

Strengths of “Insider Movements”

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A strength of insider movements is that they develop as the gospel flows into neighboring relational networks and it is these relationships that offer an avenue for persuasion (Lewis 26:1, 17; Richard 26:4, 178). A strength of individuals, families and communities claiming to know and submit to Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but refusing to identify themselves as “Christians” is that new spiritual identity is not combined with a change of social-political-religious identity. A biblical example is that Samaritan believers remained in their own communities and retained their Samaritan identity (Lewis 26:1, 17).

Another strength of insider movements is that the nature and integrity of the gospel matters most (Lewis 27:1). The two necessary facets of the gospel being both the message and its ability to save people in all culture and contexts (Lewis 27:1). Another strength would be the ability to use the scriptures and the Holy Spirit to avoid theological and ethical compromise and to address the areas that must be transformed by biblical truth so that, “theology incompatible with the Bible is rejected” (Responses to Tennent 2006, 125; Higgins 21:4; Richard 26:4,176). Another strength is that an insider approach can freely use religious and secular aspects of the culture to communicate biblical truth (Higgins 21:4). Even though sociologically, many practices are just traditional, not religious, “insider” Hindus will abstain from participating in activities that are religious ((Richard 26:4, 177; Responses to Tennent 2006, 126).

Another strength of insider movements is that a main goal is to produce strong disciples who can discern the Bible (through inductive study) in their own situations and culture to come up with their own answers – allowing them to work it all out in love (Richard 26:4, 179,180; Responses to Tennent 2006, 125). Missionaries will remain critical in the process of discipleship and discernment by providing more biblical information, walking with them as they grapple with the scripture, and teaching how to live righteously in unrighteous places (Gill 26:4, 184). An example was told of giving a poetic paraphrase of the Gospel story that had been prepared, using familiar and acceptable language (Brown 24:1).

Another strength of insider movements is that saying ‘yes’ to C-5 does not require a ‘no’ to church. One’s identity as a born again member of the Body can and does overlap with one’s identity in other spheres of life, including one’s religious life (Higgins 23:3). All three levels of contextualization C3-C5 correlate with the formation of churches, but higher degrees of contextualization appear more conducive to the development of movements (Travis 26:1, 22). Another strength of insider movements in Islam which function outside of the official structures is that they develop their own leadership and membership “forms” and whose members have a dual identity (Higgins 23:3).

If we are to keep up with the movement of the Spirit it will become even more necessary to keep looking and learning, not reacting (Responses to Tennent 2006, 126; Gill 26:4, 186). As insider movements shed the control of Westerners, because we are not leading any insider movements, decisions will be made by the insiders (Gill 26:4, 186; Richard 26:4, 180). This non-conformity to established rules and structures will require radical questions to be asked regarding the form of the Church and we must critique prior patterns if we are going to rethink new ones (Responses to Tennent 2006, 126); Richard 24:4, 188; Gill 26:4, 184).

Definitions of “Insider Movements”

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Most definitions of “insider movement” start with an “insider identity” where the believers are not identified primarily as “Christians”, retaining identity as members of their socio-religious community (Richard 26:4,176; Lewis 26:1, 16). “Insider movements are movements of obedient faith in Christ that remain integrated with or inside their natural community (Lewis 26:1, 16).” The Gospel takes root within the pre-existing families, and social groupings develop into fellowship of believers as they become followers of Christ; so the pre-existing community becomes the church, rather than a new social group being created or “planted” as a church. The believing families in insider movements retain their given birth identity while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible (Lewis 24:1). “Insider movements” do not attempt to form neo-communities of “believers-only” that compete with the family network; instead, “insider movements” consist of believers remaining in and transforming their own social structures, minimally disrupting their families and communities (Lewis 24:1).

In Tamil Nadu, Hoefer made the discovery that up to half of the Tamil Christians there had never been in a church and had no intention of associating themselves with a church. It was an insider movement that was an autonomous, independent, somewhat atomized movement of millions of individuals who pledged exclusive faith in Jesus Christ without any formal denominational association (Garrison 21:4). Most Tamilian “churchless” Christians are not polytheistic, but exclusive devotees of Jesus Christ that have come to this allegiance outside the church and feel little attraction for churches around them (Garrison 21:4). Garrison (21:4) defines insider movement as a growing number of families, individuals, clans, and/or friendship-webs becoming faithful disciples of Jesus within the culture of their people group, including their religious culture. This faithful discipleship will express itself in culturally appropriate communities of believers who will also continue to live within as much of their culture, including the religious life of the culture, as is biblically faithful. The Holy Spirit, through the Word and through His people will also begin to transform His people and their culture, religious life, and worldview.

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