In our series on “Missions, Culture and Being Biblical,” we have noted some of the problems with the missions method known as the Insider Movement. We have pointed out their faulty theology of religion and faulty theology of culture. Here we also want to focus on the Insider Movement’s faulty ecclesiology. We will be examining two “case studies” that is found in the fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement : A Reader.
These two articles are:
Lewis, Tim and Rebecca. 2009. “Planting Churches: Learning the Hardway” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 690-693.
Guzman, Andres and Angelica. 2009. “Ourselves as Servants: Latin American Workers in the Middle East.” Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 700-702.
The reason why I want to focus on these case studies is because of the fact that it is one thing to see theoretical disucssions about how to do missions in missiological journals but it’s another thing to see reports of what is actually being done. In the end, we don’t want merely “what works,” lest we fall into pragmatism but we must test all things and see if they are Scriptural.
I also picked the first article because Rebecca Lewis is one of the leaders of the Insider Movement.
Both articles are written by couples who work among Muslims.
After describing their missionary efforts, Andres and Angelica Guzman reported the fruit of their effort to reach Muslims in the Middle East:
Through all of this, several of our friends decided to become followers of Jesus. Some (not encouraged by us) decided to follow him as Christians and some (through their own choice) decided to follow Jesus while remaining religiously Muslim. Most decided to say outside established of religious institutions, simply calling themselves ‘believers.’ (Guzman, 701).
What is unfortunate to read here is that some of these “followers of Jesus” “decided to follow Jesus while remaining religiously Muslim.” Even more discouraging is how both missionaries didn’t see any concern with this. Sadly “most decided to stay outside established religious institutions, simply calling themselves ‘believers.'” Is it alright as believers “to stay outside established of religious institutions” and just call themselves believers?
An important institution that God set up for true followers of Jesus Christ is the church.
In the first New Testament reference to the church, Jesus promised that the church will be something He will build and will last: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
Every believer ought to be part of the church, which is also known as the body of Christ. As Paul told the believers in 1 Corinthians,
- “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)
- “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Given that the church is something that Hades will not prevail over, and is something every believer ought to be a part of, Andres and Angelica Guzman’s method and practices in the missions field fall short of Biblical standard.
The problem with the Insider Movement understanding of the church seem to go deeper than that when we read the report by Rebecca and Tim Lewis. In writing about their missions effort they wrote:
A church was born within a natural community without creating a new group just for fellowship. It reminded us of something Ralph Winter had said: ‘The ‘church’ (in the sense of being a committed community) is already there, they just don’t know Jesus yet!'” (Lewis, 693).
Both Tim and Rebecca ought to be commended for their strategic effort in reaching out to people in the context of their community. However, when it comes to what the church is, their agreement with Ralph Winter is problematic. First off, to see the church as merely a committed community is biblically unsatisfactory. By definition, the church must be committed to it’s head Jesus Christ. Church is not merely a community. Secondly, the concept of “church” as a community that have yet to know Jesus is lacking in Biblical precedence. Sure, there are God’s elect who have not come to faith yet but no where do we see the Bible describe them as already part of the church before their knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I believe if advocates of the Insider Movement would see more of what the Bible has to say about the church there might be less of this direction of believers still being able to retain their previous religion and attend their previous religious institution.
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