Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Contextualization Page 2 of 3

What do we call ourselves?

What label do we use to identify our religious commitment? What label should a convert adopt? These are common questions in Muslim ministry contexts. Many other ministry contexts also grapple with this issue. An internet search for ‘”Christian” or “Jesus-follower” as a label produced over 2,400,000 results (no, I didn’t read them all!). Should we call ourselves “Christians,” “Jesus-followers,” “Christ-followers,” “Born-again Christians,” or some other label?

The problem with labels is that they carry different meanings in different contexts, even within the same culture. In this post we will discuss the labels “Christian” and “Jesus-follower.” Both of these labels are subject to diverse understandings.

Can Jesus followers still call themselves Muslim?

Can followers of Jesus from a Muslim background continue to call themselves Muslims? This post will explore whether one’s Muslim identity as a Christ follower is an ongoing permanent identity or is simply a transitional phase as the believer matures.  Many Insider Movement advocates see the retention of one’s socio-religious identity as permanent (see Rebecca Lewis’s article, “Insider Movements: Honoring God-given Identity and Community,” in Understanding Insider Movements). In fact, retention of one’s socio-religious identity is one of the distinctive elements of Insider Movements. I question whether this is possible without redefining Islam or Christianity or both.

Who defines whether one is a Muslim?

Fred Farrokh is “a Muslim-background Christian who has been involved in ministry to Muslims for over 30 years” (see his article, “Indigenous Perspectives on Muslim Identity and Insider Movements.”) In the last month, Farrokh has written a very helpful seven-part series on “Identity Development and Transformation in Christ” and it can be found on BiblicalMissiology.org.

Can we call Muhammad a Prophet?

Insider movement advocates discuss the appropriateness of converts saying the Shahada which identifies Muhammad as God’s prophet. There is not a consensus on this point. Yet saying the Shahada is part of Muslim identity.  Is there any way that we can refer to Muhammad as God’s prophet without compromising the authority of the Bible?

In 2014 the International Journal of Frontier Missiology published an article by Harley Talman entitled, “Is Muhammad Also Among the Prophets?” (vol.31:4 Winter 2014). Subsequent issues contain responses and counter responses with Ayman Ibrahim (vol. 32:4 Winter 2015; 33:3 Fall 2016) and John Azumah (vol. 33:3 Fall 2016). I am not going to detail their discussion. You can read their whole dialogue in the archives section of the IJFM website.

Review of Paul Hiebert’s Transforming Worldviews

Cover Art

Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change is variously described as “the capstone of Paul Hiebert’s work”, “Hiebert at his best!”, and “mission anthropology at its best.” (from the back cover). A. Scott Moreau writes, “For the first time, all of his major missiological insights – from set theory in church growth to the flaw of the excluded middle to critical contextualization – are integrated into a single volume.” (back cover).

Hiebert’s central focus is that the transformation of worldviews must accompany change in behavior and beliefs. Without the transformation of worldviews, change in belief and behavior remain on the surface level. He writes:

The Kingdom of God paradigm and Insider Movements

In our ongoing discussion of Insider Movements, we turn now to the question of what implications an understanding of the Kingdom of God might have for insider movements. In chapter 20 of Understanding Insider Movements, Anthony Taylor prefers the “Kingdom of God” paradigm over the “conflict of religions” paradigm. He writes:

An alternative to the ‘conflict of religions’ paradigm is the paradigm of the kingdom of God. This paradigm assumes that what is most important is the quality of one’s relationship to Christ and to a community of believers, and that such communities can have different practices and emphases, whether novel or traditional, foreign or indigenous, as long as they are compatible with the Bible.  (UIM, kindle loc. 4293)

What is the Biblical Support for Insider Movements?

Part 3 of Understanding Insider Movements begins:

Are insider movements biblical? Or are they merely a missiological strategy with scant theological legitimacy, as some critics assert? (Kindle loc. 4234)

This part of UIM contains a dozen biblical and theological studies that advocates of insider movements believe form the biblical foundation for insider movements.

Photo by Junhan Foong on Unsplash

Insider Movements: Other Religions

The term ‘religion’ is a hot topic of debate in the literature on Insider Movements. Some even question whether it is a meaningful concept. In this post we will explore three questions: “What is religion?”, “What is the source of non-Christian religions?” and “Is God at work in non-Christian religions?”

What is “religion”?

In Understanding Insider Movements, one writer states, “One of the most instructive definitions of religion is provided by Clifford Geertz. He defines it as a ‘cultural system’ or ‘worldview'” (UIM, Kindle loc.  8297)

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