We've examined the C-Scale as proposed by John Travis. Let's now think through C2-C5 on the scale.
It is quite likely that many of us are aiming for a church community in our own situations that is around the C3-C4 style, but what about the C5 category? That is where this debate becomes more heated. The Insider Movement is the general heading to describe all that is going on under [mostly] the C5 heading: people remain “inside” their existing religious community but believe in Jesus.
Rebecca Lewis provides the following definition of the Insider Movement - “An ‘insider movement’ is any movement to faith in Christ where (a) the gospel flows through pre-existing communities and social networks, and where (b) believing families, as valid expressions of the Body of Christ, remain inside their socio-religious communities, retaining their identity as members of that community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.”
The issues orbit around the extent to which a person can be described as “living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible” if they remain as a Muslim with the mosque as the centre of their community life, accepting the Quran as having religious authority and Muhammad as a prophet. Can this be acceptable as a temporary stage on the way to the formation of a more Biblical church community or could a person or a group of people remain in a C5 situation as a valid expression of the church? Is C5 nothing more than a stage of enquiry about the LORD Jesus Christ or could it be genuinely described as “a Jesus-centred community”?
John Travis, in the original article, acknowledged that the C5 position may only ever be a transitional form, but since then there are plenty who argue that it is a valid form of church and that it is a way that Islam itself could be ‘reformed’ from within! Yes, it is a very large vision... but is it built on an unstable foundation?
To cut to the chase: could we see the Quran as a perhaps partially revealed word from God or that Muhammad is in some sense a prophet sent from God? Is it possible to hold to the gospel without holding to the deity of Jesus? These are fairly ideas that are heard within the Insider Movement which create genuine concern for the wider church.
For this reason not everyone is happy about the C5 situation and on BiblicalMissiology.com Georges Houssney has provided a lengthy analysis of some of the problems - Note especially the long and fascinating discussion forum at the conclusion of his paper.
The Biblical Missiology website has many resources and discussions that point out problems and criticisms with the Insider Movement approach to mission.
“The writings and practices of Insiders demonstrate a number of presuppositions that they seem to agree on. Generally, Insiders tend to have a positive view of Islam, Muhammad and the Qur’an. Many believe that Muhammad is some sort of prophet from God, that the Qur’an is at least a partially inspired word from God that points to Jesus, and that Islamic culture is not contradictory to the biblical message. Therefore, they do not invite Muslims out of Islam (they would call this “extraction”). Rather, they ask Muslims to follow Jesus while remaining Muslim and participating in Islamic religious practices such as prayer in mosques, reading the Qur’an, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.” [Georges Houssney].
Bill Nikides argues that the problems come from Western mission agencies trying to make C5 seem to be a legitimate expression of church when it simply is not. We can all understand and work for C3 and C4 style churches that are culturally connected to the local culture and work carefully not to confuse the truth of Christ with specific cultural forms, BUT in a desire to deal with the perceived cultural difficulties that Islam has with ‘Christianity’ the attempt to see C5 as a valid form of church is unsustainable. “The rationale for adopting C5 (cultural barriers) would also suggest C3- C4, a move that removes the threat of a slide into syncretism. Insisting on C5 when C3- C4 are plausible alternatives indicates theological deficiency. Whatever C3-C4 possibly surrender in terms of community acceptance is more than made up for by greater biblical and theological soundness.”
Perhaps the most positive conclusion Bill provides is to see C5 as a movement of Muslims who are beginning to seek for and develop a real hunger for the Living LORD Jesus - “Messianic Islam might in fact best be seen as a seeker movement. Classified as such, we can see C5 communities as an excellent springboard for biblical C3-C4 movements.”
Rev. Bassam M. Madany rejoices in the incredible awakening to Jesus that is happening across North Africa, but is very concerned about the whole concept of the ‘Insider Movement’ as it is promoted by Western mission agencies. [NOTE: this website has many articles from the Arabic Christians who are committed to witnessing in dangerous situations using far more traditional models of outreach and church planting.]
For what it is worth, my own view is closer to Bill Nikides, but whatever view we take of this, it is vital that we think about how we can genuinely support the local churches around the Islamic world. Mission is not an academic subject but the simple fact of the life of the local church. When we try to disconnect mission from the local church then we do tend to fall into serious problems.
In the final post we will consider some final thoughts and further reading...