Resource on Human Trafficking Prevention: The FBI

I've just spent a bit of time exploring the FBI's Human Trafficking page.  It is a great resource to educate and begin to become engaged in helping to stop modern-day slavery.  If you've never visited the site, I think you should do so.

Among other things, the FBI offers the following tips for identifying trafficking victims:

That’s where you come in. Please keep your eyes out for the following indicators that suggest the possibility of human trafficking:
  • Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts, or cash;
  • Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used;
  • Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions;
  • People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time;
  • Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants; and
  • Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease.
Bear in mind: human trafficking victims can be found in many job locations and industries—including factories, restaurants, elder care facilities, hotels, housekeeping, child-rearing, agriculture, construction and landscaping, food processing, meat-packing, cleaning services…as well as the commercial sex industry.


Fast from Violence this Lent

Image By LINUZ90
I deeply love this initiative being started by my friend, Rev. Gregory Livingston.

In response to the growing violence in Chicagoland (and in the world for that matter), Pastor Greg is calling especially upon followers of Christ to give up violence for Lent.  There are seven steps to this:

7 Point Anti-Violence Plan - LENT 2013 (February 13 - March 30)

1. Avoid: Alcohol, Cigarettes & Bad Food Choices.
2. Negative Media
3. Develop your Inner-Self through Prayer, Meditation & Centering
4. Replace Acts of Violence with Acts of Charity
5. Read Positive, Proactive & Redemptive Literature
6. Volunteer at your Local School, After School Program and/or Community Center
7. Have your Place of Worship sponsor a Youth Group/Activity

So, grab the flyer here for your church and get started today.


The World is Our Neighborhood

I've recently come across a very cool blog that I immediately subscribed to.  It is called "The World is Our Neighborhood" and is a very diaspora missions-focused blog written by Nathan and Rachel Harper who live and serve in the global mega city of Atlanta.  Anyway, I love what I'm seeing at the Harpers' blog and would especially direct your attention to some of the most recent posts.

1. Winter Links -- Here are 25 links to get you through the rest of the cold winter, grouped together by topic:  Diaspora Missions & Global Cities [1-8]; Books (reading list for GFM's disciple-making apprentices) [9-15];Family Discipleship Resources [16-18]; Missionary Blogs [19-21]; Recent Posts (from this blog) [22-25]; plus a few bonus links (sorry, can't help myself).

2. Bullet Points: Buddhism -- this is a great, short summary on Buddhism with missiological applications

Needless to say, I am very excited to see future posts by the Harpers.  I hope you will check out their blog today and become a subscriber.  By the way, I have included them in the "Diaspora Mission Twitter List" which you should also subscribe to.


In Memory of Richard Twiss

I did not know Richard Twiss personally.

I had been around him a few times during the past several years, but doubt very seriously that he would have known who I was.  We were both a part of the United States delegation at Cape Town for the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. I remember Twiss then begin associated with some other world Christian leaders who were striving to hold the Lausanne leadership's feet to the fire on diversity issues.  My impression of Twiss was that he was ever a prophetic voice to the Church, seeking to ensure that ethnic minorities and majority world voices were not silenced by those who are used to being in charge.

I also have a faint recollection of Twiss leading a too-brief time of prayer and worship at an American Society of Missiology gathering several years ago.  As I said, it was far too brief and the context was extremely limiting.  However I remember feeling like this was a man who was a friend to the kinds of things that were only just beginning to stir in my heart regarding indigenous art forms, contextualizaiton, and the like.

What stands out most in my mind, strangely enough, is that I've thought for some time that Richard Twiss made more sense than anyone else on the issue of syncretism.  I believe firmly that a definition that Twiss wrote back in 2005 deserves to be the standard definition of the term in all missiological conversation on the matter.  In fact, I've been using as such for a while now.  Wrote Twiss:

“Syncretism can be described as a way of thinking that says by performing or participating in a particular religious ceremony or practice, you can alter the essential human spiritual condition in the same way that Jesus does, through His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection from the dead, because they are parallel truths.”

So, my thinking in writing today is that this was a man who made a positive impact on my life for Christ's sake.  It is up to those who knew him well to truly eulogize him.  [Red Letter Christians has a couple great examples here and here.]. For my part, I simply wanted to say that while I'm certain Twiss and I wouldn't have seen eye-to-eye on every issue, I nevertheless feel blessed to have encountered him.  I rejoice that he leaves behind a legacy of writings that I can continue to work through.  And I am sad that he has died.  I heard first from Dr. Soong-Chan Rah and had no hesitation in retweeting something that I couldn't help agreeing with:

RT @profrah: Christianity lost a spiritual giant today. Please pray for the family of Richard Twiss.

Farewell, Richard Twiss.  You are someone that I had hoped to get the chance to know and interact with more in-depth.  Lord willing, I will get some coffee with you one day when I also get home.


Send me to Manila: Annual Meeting of the Global Diaspora Network

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Greetings friends, family and ministry supporters! 

I’m excited to let you know that God has provided an opportunity for me to make some cool trips this year.  The first one is coming up in March (18-23).  I’ll be heading to Manila, Philippines for the Global Diaspora Network advisory board meeting.  Many of you know that I’ve been serving with the GDN since its beginning (  The GDN is now focused on two major projects.  The first is planning a major international forum to be held in Manila in 2015.  The second is the creation of a compendium on diaspora mission which we intend to launch soon after the forum.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to play a key role in both in an effort to mobilize more and more Christians to engage in mission to, through, and beyond the scattered people of the world. 
Will you help me to make this upcoming trip to the Philippines? Unlike many of my colleagues in the GDN, I do not work for a major organization that is able to provide a travel budget.  So, I am dependent on your support to be able to travel to other nations to serve the Lord.  If you are willing to pray for and support this upcoming trip, please make a gift by visiting this link:

and selecting “Global Diaspora Network Meeting”.  The preset amount is for a gift of $25 but you can easily increase the amount by simply increasing the “quantity” on the order form.  As always, your gift is entirely secure and fully tax-deductible.  For your information, we estimate the total cost of the trip to be about $1800.


The Silly Things we Find Profound: Over-Contextualization and the Power of the Gospel

Photo by By Express Monorail

I didn't realize that there was a Desiring God / Passion Conference going on. I see it getting all hashtagged on Twitter and a couple quotes are getting a bit annoying.  In particular:

"The power is not in contextualization; it's in the Gospel" (being attributed to Jason Meyer)


"Do you fear over-contextualization or under-contextualization? This is the missionary tension you will always be in." (being attributed to Darrin Patrick)

I find both of these statements to be kind of silly. As for the first, is Meyer suggesting that there are people who believe that the power of salvation is actually located in contextualization?  And, if so, what the heck would that actually mean?  For contextualization to exist as a process, it must have an object.  One cannot contextualize nothing.  That is, when speaking of contextualization, one must inquire as to what exactly is being contextualized.  In this case, we’re talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The gospel, any Christian must confess, is the power of God unto salvation for anyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).  But this gospel, in order for it to be proclaimed, heard and then believed, must be contextualized.  Always!  This is simply not avoidable.  Even something as simple as telling the story of Jesus in English is a form of contextualization (good contextualization if the hearer understands English, bad if he/she does not).  Show me a person who thinks they can share the gospel without contextualization and I’ll show you a person who doesn’t understand what in the world they are talking about.

Which brings us to the second statement, attributed to Patrick, about this idea of something he calls “over- contextualization.”  I know that Patrick likes to talk about this “tension” and has done so before.  But again, this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about the concept of contextualization.  What Patrick is talking about is actually called accommodation, which is an older missiological concept based on the question, “How much can we accommodate the prevailing culture without compromising the integrity of our faith and the gospel message?”  This is a fine question, to be sure.  Indeed, it is the question that a lot of people should be wrestling with.  But, it isn’t contextualization.  Contextualization is a later concept that asks rather, “How can we bring the person and message of the Lord Jesus Christ fully to bear inside a given cultural context?”  Contextualization, from a Christian standpoint, is rooted in the Incarnation and is aimed at enfleshing the risen Son of God among every people, nation, tribe and tongue through the witness of His Church.  Thus, faithful contextualization is as insider as Jesus the Jew and as prophetic as Jesus the Messiah.  When Patrick suggests the dangers of “over-contextualization” he implies that too much of it is sometimes done.  Does he actually think that too much of the gospel is being brought to bear on a given context?  Well, surely this isn’t what he means.  I think what Patrick is saying is actually that too little of the gospel is being brought to bear – i.e. under-contextualization and over-accommodation. 

Anyway, the terminology is critical because those of us who intentionally pursue contextualization and adopt an insider trajectory are not usually doing so because we want to be people-pleasers who don’t ruffle feathers.  And these little potent conference quotables too often become little sticks for the uniformed and unreflective to pummel us with.  I can personally testify that great harm and hindrance can be the result.  What the Church ought to be saying is, “We affirm the heart and soul behind insider movement trajectory and contextualization! May we bring the Lord Jesus fully to bear within every cultural context that exists!”  And then, once that is settled, we should have a million prayerful conversations about a million specific forms, rituals, cultural expressions, language and more. 


Young, Restless and Uninformed: Responding to Kevin DeYoung on Insider Movements

Insider Movements: Concerns Abound but Mission Does Not

Kevin DeYoung
It is odd to me that the subject of contextualization in cross-cultural missions – particularly that amongst Muslims and (to lesser extent) Hindus – has become something of a hot topic among evangelical leaders.  It seems now that everyone who is anyone is required to have an opinion about the so-called “insider movements” and that, by and large, their opinion is supposed to be negative.  We are told again and again to beware of the dangers of The Insider Movement lest we all become swept away in this sinister wave of missionary heresy.

Sadly, all this talk seems to be doing very little to actually mobilize Christians to become engaged in cross-cultural evangelism or even simply to develop a cross-cultural friendships.  Prominent Christian pastors, seminary presidents, authors and opinion leaders are “concerned”, we hear of something called “over-contextualization” or of “going too far”, and, of course, they are entitled to express such concerns.  What puzzles me, however, is how so many of the North American Christian masses have suddenly also become “concerned” about insider movements without ever having previously been even the slightest bit concerned for the millions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others who have never heard the message of Christ, have never met one of His followers, or have never yet had even one verse of Scripture translated into their languages.  In a global Church that actually embezzles more money from donors than it gives to cross-cultural missions, much of the armchair missiology being spewed forth seems a bit out-of-place.  But I digress.

Recent Contributions to the Controversy over Insider Movements

Last year, much of the controversy surrounding insider movements was being fueled by an anti-insider documentary entitled “Half-Devil, Half Child” [check out our review here] which pulled no punches in its opposition to contextualization efforts among Muslims.  In recent weeks, the debate has been stirred up again by the January 2013 issue of Christianity Today, especially with its much-tweeted and poorly titled cover article, “Worship in the Mosque”.  The article is a fantastic read for many reasons, not the least of which is the interviewee’s obvious passion for bringing the good news of the Lord Jesus to Muslim peoples - perhaps the most seldom expressed sentiment in all this insider v. outsider movement flap.  

The article has, of course, received its share of criticism.  Among those raising their concerns is KevinDeYoung, a pastor and author who holds considerable influence over the young, restless and reformed crowd (of which I’m basically a part, though the “young” part is becoming less and less true).  DeYoung, blogging over at the popular Gospel Coalition website, responded to the CT article with three questions and three concerns.  And since, I've been watching people “like” and “tweet” his article around since it went live, I’m guessing his thoughts have found some significant resonance among many of the young, restless and (in this case) uninformed reformed. 

So, that in mind [while fully aware that the odds of DeYoung reading this post are slim to none], I wanted to take a stab at responding to his questions.  As I do, I acknowledge that DeYoung is no missiologist.  So, I want to extend some degree of grace, similar to my response to John Piper on the same issue, recognizing that this debate is a fundamentally missiological one and thus a bit outside DeYoung’s wheelhouse.

The Questions of Kevin DeYoung

Pastor DeYoung’s post raises three questions regarding insider movements in general and the CT article in particular.  Let’s take a look at them one by one:

1.       What is the role of the church?

While DeYoung acknowledges that insider movement believers oftentimes see themselves as belonging to the universal Church, he is still concerned about their essential ecclesiology.  But let me say this once again -- something I've said again and again. Pastor DeYoung, there is no Insider Movement!  Whenever  I hear someone use the phrase "The Insider Movement", I fully expect a sucker punch.  It is the chief tactic of Outsider Movement proponents to attempt to portray insider movements as a single, monolithic and dangerous movement sharing common beliefs, practices and values.  The strategy is to essentially paint all pursuers of contextualization with the same brush and then to highlight the "worst" elements of particular insider movements, claiming that such beliefs or practices are shared by everyone who is a "part of the Insider movement".  Of course, this is ridiculous.  The Insider Movement does not exist as a single, unified thing with secret handshakes and membership cards. One cannot be for it or against it because IT doesn't exist.  In actual fact, there are many, many different insider movements among many different people groups.  We do not all share a common set of values or agreed upon practices and (to address DeYoung's specific question) certainly do not have a common ecclesiology.  

Indeed if you ask a bunch of insider Christ-followers about the “role of the church” I would guess you’d find nearly as much variety of opinion as you would at any large, American evangelical gathering.  My point is that when DeYoung asks, “What about church officers, weekly preaching, the administration of the sacraments, membership and church discipline?” he seems to be suggesting that these are pretty much settled issues for all non-insider movement Christians.  I think we all know better than that.

Now, are these important issues?  Absolutely.  Are insider movement Christ-followers working through these issues in their context?  Yes.  Is there a degree of uncertainty and disagreement about these things among the wide variety of insider movements in the world?  Of course.  Is this struggle at all unique to insider movements?  Not on your life!  Now, I certainly don’t begrudge DeYoung the right to espouse his own Reformed Church of America ecclesiology and even to be passionate enough to teach and advocate for it in the broader body of Christ.  But I think he fails to see that being a part of an insider movement doesn’t make one any more likely to disagree with him on those things than does being a Southern Baptist, a charismatic, or and Anglican.  The bottom line is that most insider movements consist of local bodies of Christ-followers who are a part of the larger body of Christ and who take a variety of approaches to the sacraments, leadership, discipleship, and worship.  You know, just like every other church and denomination on the planet.

2.       Why not try to form a more culturally sensitive expression of the Christian church?

Pastor DeYoung's second question is difficult for me to understand and my hope is that he will do us a favor and explain exactly what he means by this.  According to my reading of the CT article, the particular insider movement in focus (i.e. “The People of the Gospel”), did exactly what DeYoung's question seems to imply that they didn't do.  Indeed that seems to be the driving point of the article.  I’m not sure in what sense the group in question is, in DeYoung’s view, not a church.  Unless, DeYoung is saying that contextualization efforts should consist solely of adapting already existing churches.  If that is the case, DeYoung should simply give this a bit more consideration.  I’m sure he can attest from his own experiences that this is easier said than done.  By and large, I observe that precisely what insider movements do is create “church” (i.e. Christ-centered bodies of disciples) within a given context.  I suppose it could be the case that DeYoung feels it is necessary to use the actual English word “church” in every context.  I hope he doesn’t mean that, because that would be kind of silly.  Slightly less silly would be for DeYoung to advocate that all new churches always use the word for “church” (translated, of course) that the majority of Christians use in that region.  But this would wrongly assume that the most popularly used word is the best translation of the New Testament concept of a church.  In many cases, it isn't the best word at all.  DeYoung says that he would encourage insider movement leaders to “dream of a church that embraces some familiar cultural styles without jettisoning the idea of church altogether”.  In my view, the CT article featured a man who did exactly that.  So, I don’t really understand the problem here.

3.       Shouldn’t some things be strange when we are called out of darkness into light?

Of course this is a very popular notion among outsider movement advocates.  Again and again we are told that the Bible calls us to be a peculiar people, to be separate, to shine brightly in contrast to a dark world.  But this is mostly empty rhetoric used to justify the clear separatist mentality so common among outsider movement advocates.  In actual fact, such scriptures have nothing to do with language, clothing styles, music, art, liturgical forms, and the like. DeYoung, who is a gifted Bible teacher, certainly knows this to be true.  Indeed to use these Biblical concepts in this way actually undermines the high calling of holiness we've received.  These scriptures speak of the kind of holy character and transformed hearts that followers of Christ should manifest in the world.  DeYoung asks if the rituals and vocabulary and general feel of the church should be strange to new believers.  The answer is a resounding “NO!”.  These should be absolutely as familiar as possible and not foreign.  The extent to which we fail to fully contextualize worship, evangelism and discipleship is the extent to which we inadvertently communicate that the locus of transformation for the new creation in Christ is somewhere other than in that person’s new heart, new mind, new life, and new Lord.  The most powerful contrast is the disciple of Jesus who seems in every way to be fully a member of the Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist community and yet exhibits an unmistakable divine life within his or herself.  Such a person shines so powerfully and so mysteriously that onlookers cannot help but to ask as to the meaning of that light – “You are clearly one of us, and yet . . .” (think, Incarnation).  But for the extracted new believer, almost no degree of character change can overcome the non-believer’s assumption that all evident changes are due to that forsaking of the person’s birth community and culture and are therefore necessarily bad.

The Concerns of and for Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung ends his article by raising three concerns about insider movements.  In particular:

-  There seems to be a naïve view of culture.
-  There seems to be an overly casual attitude toward theological truth.
-  There seems to be an implicit understanding that the Holy Spirit will do what human teachers don’t.

Personally, I don’t believe the CT article provides enough information for us to make any particular judgments about these issues as they relate to the particular insider movement in question.  Having personally been working among insider movement believers, leaders, and cross-cultural missionaries for a number of years I can’t say that I've noticed any dangerous trends related to the concerns DeYoung offers.  On the contrary, I find that insiders tend to have a fairly advanced understanding of culture which easily surpasses the typical, in-the-pew Christian.  Beyond that, I have found that attitudes toward theological truth and the Holy Spirit's activity exhibit the same level of diversity that one finds in the broader Church.  So, it isn’t that DeYoung raises unimportant concerns, it is just that they don’t seem to have anything in particular to do with contextualization or insider movements.  It is a fallacy to assume that because a particular insider movement exhibits a certain problem or weakness that all insider movements should therefore be characterized as being prone to the same.

Before leaving off, I think it is important to raise a very important concern about Pastor DeYoung's post -- namely, that he says nothing at all about how critical it is to reach Muslims with the gospel.  Does DeYoung assume that his readers will already believe this?  This is, of course, where I began today's post.  I'm concerned about the fact that we have all these concerned people stating their concerns about the methods employed in reaching the least-reached peoples in the world and yet so few of them seem concerned that we actually obey the Great Commission among them.  Now that's something to be concerned about, Pastor DeYoung! 


People Group Mapping: Religious Centers in Chicagoland

Here at TIBM we are partnering with the International Mission Board, Send Chicago, and others to engage in a major research project seeking to identify all the people groups of Chicagoland.  Our hope is to ultimately provide the Church information about all the diaspora peoples in the metro area through an online database called (scheduled to be re-launched).  I think that a bunch of mission thinkers are becoming increasingly convicted by the fact that the North American church is still suffering from severe "people blindness".

Currently, we are in the beginning phase of our research.  During this time we are collecting what we refer to as "people group indicators".  These essentially are signs which point to the presence of people groups.  One piece of this is to aim at discovering all religious centers in the Chicago area which have a high probability of being associated with diasporas.

We've published the results of our work in a simple, interactive map that you can view on the main TIBM website.

If you are interested in becoming a part of the larger project to map the top 100 MSAs in the United States, please visit to find out more.


Entirely Unbalanced: A Review of "Half Devil, Half Child" (Pt. 3 of 3)

Photo By Sailing "Footprints: Real to Reel" (Ronn ashore)
Today we reach the end of our three-part review and response to the controversial film Half Devil, Half Child. If you are just joining us, don't forget to check out part 1 and part 2. Our special guest blogger, John Raines, has been providing us with some very helpful missiological reflections on a film that doesn't often wade very deep into such waters.  As John put it in part on, the film tries to accomplish its goal of attacking insider movements by cacophony rather than by clarity.

In today's post, we move on to some important "takeaways". These are issues that the film raises as a way of discrediting insider movements without providing much in the way of constructive solutions to the underlying problems to which they point.  I have very often dealt with the same kind of attitude in working among Hindus.  Outsider Movement Christians will frequently point fingers (or worse) at things that people like me are doing wrong.  They will label it Satanic and heretical and call me nasty names.  What they don't do is acknowledge that genuine cultural boundaries and difficulties exist which should be carefully considered and constructively approached.  It seems that such problems are solved easily enough via a process of community extraction -- i.e. a gospel which says, "Leave your community, join ours and follow our rules and you shall be saved" (which I've written more about here). 

If you are engaged in ministry and life among Muslims, I hope you will carefully consider the following takeaways.  If your responses to the issues are little more than a list of "thou shalt nots" then you really aren't contributing anything of value to a very real and important discussion of how to bring the good news of Jesus the Messiah all peoples.


Take-away Talking Points

So if our main goal should be to think and pray about the particulars of the "insider" debate, what are some things that this film brought up that we should give some serious thought to? There are a few issues that I'm not going to discuss at length because I'm not sure they deserve it. One would be the reference to Paul's letters as something less than the word of God, and more like "Hadith". It's complicated – I've heard some things like this before – and we could hash out what's really going on there, but at the end of the day, if whoever made that claim really means that Paul's writing is less than the word of God, then we don't have a lot to talk about. I do wish they could have actually interviewed someone who advocates for that, simply so we could have a better understanding of what exactly is being said. But they did not, so we will move on to more central debates. My goal, as I have said before, is to address these issues as if they are real problems. Therefore a part of my goal in writing is that a reader will recognize that these controversial missiological practices, even when they have strayed into error, were initiated as a response to problems that we still need to solve.

1. Bible Translations that remove "Son of God"
The first thing that needs to be discussed is Bible translation, particularly those Bible translations which replace the term "Son of God" with other things like "Messiah" or "Anointed King" or something else. Translation is a significant interest of mine, and I find this debate fascinatingly complex. I do not think that we should replace the term "son of God" with a different title, but the linguistic debate is not a cut and dry one. Here's what I mean: We want our Bible translators to have a thorough grasp of the language of Scripture – in this case, a dialect of Greek spoken by many and influenced by 2nd Temple Judaism's religious language. When Scripture uses the term "Son of God" to describe Jesus, Christians hear a very clear declaration of the doctrines of the Nicene Creed, that Jesus is of one being with the Father, begotten but not made. If you're wondering where I'm going with this, let me assure you: we are right about all those things. But when the Holy Spirit inspired writers to use the term "Son of God", he was doing something far more subtle than you or I quite have the ears for any longer. To Jewish people and other non-Christians who read the Old Testament in the 1st century, the language "Son of God" was a Messianic title. In the ancient world, it was a way of referring to a king, in the case of the Jews, the perfect King – promised descendant of David. For Christians and readers of the Old Testament, it was also a way of referring to Adam (Luke 3:38), and thereby thinking of Jesus as a second Adam. Christians did not learn that Jesus was God from the phrase "Son of God." They learned it by listening to Jesus' teachings and watching his actions (which we have recorded in the Gospels), by studying the Old Testament prophecies, by praying in the Spirit, and by meditating reverently upon Him. Then, because they already knew that Jesus was God, they understood that "Son of God" had always also meant "God the Son." Many translators who replace the term know this history. They also know that the term "Son of God" is understood among Muslims to mean that God took Mary as his wife by having sex with her. In a desire to avoid this miscommunication, they have opted for the meaning that first century Jews and God-fearers would have understood by the phrase "Son of God" by replacing that term with something like "Annointed One". I think this is an unfortunate decision, though, and that despite the term's capacity for miscommunication, we are inviting people to misunderstand Jesus just as badly by omitting it. Especially once those people become disciples. 

2. Jesus-followers who don't need the Church?
Another topic that theologians and missionaries need to discuss is ecclesiology, and that's going to be a difficult talk because ecclesiology is fairly up in the air for a lot of evangelicals. In fact, the ecclesiological situation within established Christianity is so dire that I'm not sure we even have a sensible picture of what it would mean for Muslim-background believers to embrace the Church. But it is not less important simply because we are quite bad at it, too. Christ called us into his Kingdom. He literally called people to redefine family loyalties in such a way that believers were fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters to each other before anything else. We should not run ahead of ourselves to apply this principle hastily, without proper reflection on the different ways that this can be lived out. But it does seem to say that you cannot be a member of the body of Christ without actually needing the whole body; you cannot truly love Christ and desert his bride. 

The need for the body of Christ is most concretely seen in the life of the believer in three ways: The need for discipleship, the need for the Sacraments, and the need for the Spiritual gifts of other believers. Discipleship means learning to read Scripture and worship God according to the rule of faith, in the same way that all Christians have always known God and worshipped Him. The need for the Sacraments is simply the need that all believers have to be baptized and receive the Lord's Supper together regularly, out of obedience to Christ and the calling of the Spirit to center our lives around these holy things. The need for the Spiritual gifts of other believers is the need that every Christian has to be built into something larger than him- or herself by Spirit-filled diversity-in-unity. Can Jesus-followers who remain in the mosque have fellowship with the body of Christ in these ways? Or, more hopefully, how can they do so?

3. Using the name "Christian"
Photo By Edge of Space
Is choosing not to use the name "Christian" to describe oneself the same thing as rejecting the body? I think it may be for some, but it does not have to be, and so I would say that it is different from rejecting the body, and oftentimes it is actually appropriate for a Muslim who comes to Christ to avoid the term "Christian". The reason for this is that the term is not prescribed by Scripture, but simply described, and furthermore, the word "Christian" has gained a lot of baggage for Muslims since the Crusades. The two are heard as if synonymous by many, and for those Muslims to leave Islam to become a "Christian" feels like choosing to side with the invading army that is currently pillaging your countryside and killing your fathers and brothers and sons. Many Muslims, when they come to Christ, choose instead to call themselves "Jesus-followers". Some also choose to keep the name "Muslim" but simply add the "Jesus-follower" on. This is, of course, controversial. Is it tantamount with refusing to repent? This depends on how the word Muslim is understood. The core meaning of the word Islam means "submission [to God]." The core meaning of the word Muslim means "one who has submitted [to God]." However, it varies from place to place and person to person as to how many other meanings have been added to this idea. Regardless of where you go, if you were to invite someone to, "turn away from Islam?", you run the very real risk of literally saying, "would you like to stop submitting to God?" It is difficult to know what to do with the title "Muslim", but whatever is done, we should avoid presenting our faith as something which stops people from submitting to God.

4. Understanding the Trinity and Spiritual Formation
One statement from the film that made me think was that if someone, "does not understand the Trinity, it is impossible for him to understand the gospel. So how can he develop as a true Trinitarian Christian in a mosque that denies the very Trinitarian notion?" First things first, I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is of first-order importance for the Christian, and that the affirmation of it is one of the first tests of orthodoxy. But let's be clear as to what is being said in the above quote: Dr. Jones (the speaker) is not saying that evangelism should begin with a formulaic explanation of the Trinity. He is asking how a person who has professed faith in Christ can develop as a Trinitarian Christian if he or she continues to attend a mosque. I believe strongly in the role of the body of Christ in the spiritual formation of individuals, so this question is a good one, I think. But if someone is attending the mosque, does it necessarily follow that they don't have any contact with other believers or that they don't read the Bible? For some people, this may be true, and for others it may not. This is one of the big problems with the way the debate is framed: it assumes that there is some standard playbook that says things like "'Insiders' will form no contact with other believers for spiritual formation." What if you go to mosque, but you also meet with other believers for prayer, teaching, and Sacraments? Why can't that be an option in this debate? 


And well, there you have it.  Of course, there is much more to be said and much more that is being said.  Let me mention here again that the recent Christianity Today article "Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque" is a very good read on this issue -- an interview with an actual insider movement disciple of Jesus.  To be sure, the title of the article is bad and misleading (seeing as the interviewee does not worship Jesus in a mosque), but I understand that was an editorial decision and not that of the author or interviewee.  

In summary, I believe that the opponents of insider movements generate much more heat than light.  I even saw a recent tweet that said that "The Insider Movement is in league with the Liberals".  I mean, that's an awesome tweet on so many levels, but it's hardly helpful.  Of course there are plenty of nicer people that warn against contextualization.  They often raise important concerns, but I feel nearly always fail to grasp the complexities of the issues and moreover so often fail to grasp the most essential foundational principles.  Perhaps a good starting point for any further debate on insider movements and contextualization should be the following question:

Do you agree with what Donald McGavran wrote about cross-cultural evangelism waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1955 (Bridges of God): "The first thing NOT to do is snatch individuals out of their people into a different society"?

[Entirely Unbalanced: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]