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Archive for the ‘Rebecca Lewis’ Category

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.

Perspective on the Worldwide Christian Movement

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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identity

Can genuine followers of Christ (those Born Again) retain their previous “socio-religious identity”?  What are we to make of those who argue that a Born Again follower of Christ can retain their “socio-religious identity”?

The following is an interaction with an essay that was printed in Perspective on the World Christian Movement by Rebecca Lewis titled “Insider Movements: Retaining Identity and Preserving Community:”

My Thoughts

I can appreciate Lewis’ spirit of trying not to set our own obstacles against people coming to a salvific knowledge of Jesus Christ.  One thing I think that we can learn from her article is the fact that our church plant effort should take advantage of natural relations and association that already exist before our Gospel effort, rather than ignore them or worst, unnecessarily undermine them.

But I do have more problems with Lewis’ article and the Insider movement that overshadow what is helpful.

First is with Lewis’ talks about the difference between planting churches and implanting churches; the former she describe as bringing strangers together to become a new family of God in the church while the latter instead incorporates believers within their pre-existing family or community network that provide the spiritual fellowship for each other (Lewis, 674).  I have a hard time seeing that strong of a distinction between the two and don’t find as strong of a distinction between planting and implanting a church: I think Lewis here would be naïve to think that church plants are not trying to utilize pre-existing relationship for building a community of faith with those that are already part of one’s network such as family members, co-workers, friends, etc.  Moreover I believe she fail to take into account Jesus’ own teaching that the reality is that sometime those within one’s own family would reject the Gospel for Jesus Himself said “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:53, NIV). It seems that when rubber meets the road even implanting a church would face the same difficulty as planting a church.

 

Secondly, she leaves the term “socio-religious identity” vague; and more importantly she does not define “religion.”  It is important for her to define her term especially when she says things such as the “insider movements affirm that people do not have to go through the religion of Christianity” while also saying “they only need to go through Jesus Christ to enter God’s family” (Lewis, 675).  Another example is her statement that “Paul warned that to add religious conversion to following Christ would nullify the Gospel” (Lewis, 675).  She believes “religion” is pit against the Gospel when she cited Ephesians 3:6 but the verse does not contrast Gospel with “religion.” (And remember since she didn’t define it, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint how exactly this verse is against “religion.”).

 

Thirdly, while she does try to give a theological argument to justify that we do not need to make people accept the “Christian religion,” I think her argument fail to account for unique instances of redemptive history.  Lewis raised the question “Does one have to go through Christianity to enter God’s family?  The New Testament addresses a nearly identifical question: ‘Do all believers in Jesus Christ have to go through Judaism in order to enter God’s family?’” (Lewis, 674).  But I think the parallel with whether one has to be a “Christian” and that of going through “Judaism” breaks down because biblically the Gospel message that we often describe with the term “Christianity” is God’s way of allowing people (specifically non-Jews, the Gentiles) to enter God’s family.  I also believe there is a leap in logic when she merely assumed that Christianity parallel Judaism as a religion that one can ignore as a passing relic of the pass because God is doing a new thing; I think it is question-begging.

 

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