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On Saturday a friend told me he could never be much of a witness in the workplace because... (notice where his thinking begins)... if he entered into debate, he'd only end up losing the arguments.  I, on the other hand, would (he imagined) wipe the floor with their non-Christian reasoning and establish the unassailable right-ness of Christian truth.  And... (at this point the details became hazy)... somehow his work colleagues would then bow to the superior intellectual credibility of the gospel, and... I dunno... become Christians?

Yeah, at that point the fantasy goes completely bonkers.  But the opening assumptions are powerful.  And they shape the way we think about evangelism.  Essentially "being a witness" at work means - in the popular Christian imagination - being able to "hold your own" in discussions of stem-cell research and providing a Christian response to Euro-zone debt.  Or at least it means being able to bridge seamlessly from discussions of popular culture to gospel truths.  And, frankly, few people are up to that.  I'm not really up to that and I'm paid to be.

But here are some things I told my friend...

What if the goal is not to win the arguments in the workplace?  What if the goal is to be the kind of work colleague who others would open up to in a crisis?  Because, let's face it, the person who's good at winning arguments aint always the person you'd confide in when your life's falling apart. In fact, scratch that.  They almost never are!

I think that's a vital and fundamental change that needs to happen in our thinking.  The key characteristic of "a good witness" needs to be someone who hurting people can confide in.  Once we're thinking in those categories, evangelism in the workplace becomes a different beast.

Now the aim is to be a person who's known as a Christian, who seems to have something different about them, who loves people, who has an integrity, an openness, a pastoral heart and who has something different to say.  Note - it's not that they have to be contrary, nor that they have to be "right", nor that they have to be heard, just that when they do speak, they seem to come from a different angle than the 'wisdom of the world.'  In other words - our aim in being a witness in the workplace is... wait for it... to be a Christian.

This is not to make being a witness easy.  It's not (because being a Christian isn't easy).  But hopefully it simplifies our aims.  And now, if you want some strategies for offering distinctive speech as a Christian, how about sitting down and thinking about how you'd finish these introductory sentences...

"Yeah, that's what I love about Jesus.  He's constantly..."

"To be honest, that's why I'm a Christian.  What really appealed was..."

"We thought about that at my church last Sunday.  There's this story in the bible where..."

"Actually my church is really different like that.  When such and such happened, they responded..."

"When I suffered X, the one thing that got me through was..."

If you can't finish off those sentences, the issue is not that you're a bad evangelist.  If you can't finish those sentences it's because you've forgotten what you have in Jesus.  And together with a Christian friend or two, perhaps you need to remind one another.  Being able to finish those sentences will do your Christian life the world of good.  And, by the by, it will also help your witness.

The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matthew 12:34)

 

 

Ok, so Christians and evangelism.  Is everyone supposed to look like this guy?

Or do we send those few nut-jobs out on the street so that we can get on with the the kumbaya's, the marshmallows, and "building the kingdom" (insert meaning here).

Well let's see if Trinitarian theology can help.  Worth a shot eh?

The Ultimate community-on-mission is God who is a multi-Personal union moving outwards.  Two things are important here.  First, mission is not just one of the things God does.  His ek-centric (outgoing) life is His very way of being.  Second, the Three do not take on identical roles but Each depends on the Others in order to corporately perform the work.

So now, we are swept up into mission as the Spirit unites us to the One Sent from the Father.  "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." (John 20:21)  We will also share these two characteristics.

First, mission is not just one of the things the church does.  We are sent ones commissioned by the Sent One.  We are created by mission and for mission.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  (1 Pet 2:9)

It's not that church, from time to time, decides to act in a missionary way.  It is missionary, that is its nature.  So when we became Christians we joined an evangelistic organisation.  If we're in the body we need to know that the body is heading somewhere.  It's always going to the nations to disciple them.  You cannot 'buy into' Christ without 'buying into' evangelism.  The Christian's life and being is now oriented towards this mission.  There is not 'love' or 'unity' as well as 'mission.'  But rather there is love and unity in mission.

You can put this truth two ways - and they both need emphasis: The church is missionary when it's being itself.  And the church is being itself when it's being missionary.  There are acts to be embarked upon, that's true.  But first we need to understand our being.  Being comes first.

But as we contemplate our missionary being we need to consider the importance of roles.

Later in Peter's letter he speaks about two broad categories of gifting - speakers and servers (1 Pet 4:10ff).  And he implores them to get on with their particular giftings.

And that's great.  It's so unfortunate when people think of 'evangelism' simply in terms of the guy in the picture!  And it's tragic when  giftings aren't recognized and encouraged.  We want diversity and we certainly don't want to cram people into the same moulds.  So Peter speaks of different giftings - 'speakers' and 'servers'.  But let's not imagine that he has thereby set forth completely different spheres of operation!  That wouldn't be a very good model of the Trinity.

No, think of the diakonos kind of serving spoken of here (which most basically means table-serving, ie hospitality gifts).  And think of combining this with the speaking gifts?  What if the differently gifted church members collaborated in the missionary task - good food and hospitality and those good with words are liberally sprinkled around the place - what a powerful gospel work!

At such evangelistic dinner parties it is very true that some are performing quite different functions to others.  But they are all being thoroughly missionary.  It's a unified diversity and it's going somewhere - to the nations!

If we get our trinitarian styled mission communities wrong...

The Tritheist church will have the speakers heading off by themselves and the servers serving a quite different agenda.  Some churches will be missionary, others not.  Some parachurch organisations will do evangelism for the church, some will do social outreach for the church, etc, etc, but there'll be no unity on mission.

The Arian church will laud the noble few who do the real missionary work  (i.e. street preaching etc...)  Everyone will feel inferior to the gifted few.  (But perhaps also grateful that it's not them).

The Modalist church will forget giftings altogether and fit everyone into the same mould.  Mostly, servers will feel inferior to speakers and bring them up to speed will involve making everyone stand on a soap-box.

How do you get a healthily Athanasian church?  I dunno.  Keep teaching 1 Peter?  But what will happen when we speak and believe the gospel is that the properly trinitarian church will allow particular giftings to flourish in the service of our one missionary being.

This is an edited re-post from two years ago.  It was prompted by this and this.  And I wrote some more about this back here.

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I wrote this two years ago in response to the views of an influential minister who I respect greatly.  I haven't kept up with the minister's views on this subject and he might be saying different things now so I've removed reference to him specifically.  But I think the issue is still very much out there in the evangelical ether, so I'll address the issue more generally...

I long for church communities that are Christ-centred, grace-filled, all-of-life and intentionally missional.  I love ministers and ministries that emphasize these things.  But let me raise one caution.  It's common in such circles to affirm church as an on-going family life and to deny that church is an event.

I can understand, to some extent, why language of "event" grates on people.  It can seem like an ungodly waste of resources to turn Sunday morning into a grand performance.  So true.  I've heard people speak in hushed tones about some gold standard of sermon preparation - an hour in the study for every minute in the pulpit.  Yowsers!  If that's the cost of gathering around word and sacrament then I can well understand the desire to re-balance the expenditure of resources.

But there's something deeper to discuss than the re-allocation of resources or the degree of formality to our meetings.  What I want to establish is the absolute necessity of the event for the life of church.  Church is not just family, it is also an event and irreducibly so.  I'll say it that starkly because I know how popular it is to speak of church as ongoing-missional-community in opposition to chuch as event.

Church has its being in becoming.  It ever becomes what it is as it hears God's word.  In this way church is the community called out (ekklesia) to listen to its risen Lord in the proclamation of word and sacrament.  This is the centre of the life of the community.

Let me just take one Scriptural example from Paul.  We are one body because we all share in the one bread (1 Cor 10:17). That is pretty stunning language – and it’s very ‘eventist’.  Here is a consummation of one-body-ness in which we become what we are. The event and the on-going life of the body are inter-dependent.

Think of marriage.  The covenant reality is that husband and wife are one flesh.  But there is an event in which they become one flesh (if you were Presbyterian you might even call it covenant renewal!).

It’s commanded in Scripture (cf 1 Cor 7) and it takes time and effort and a measure of ritual and it’s irreducibly an event.  Of course the degree of ritual and cost and time-expenditure will vary according to many factors.  But to imagine I can think of an ongoing covenant life without also thinking about the one-flesh event is a big danger in marriage.

And, by parallel, church life needs to be maintained by consciously enjoyed, anticipated and ritualised “events” in our church life together.  We can't do without them.  And however much it's necessary to speak of day-in, day-out community life we dare not lose language of event either.  The old reformed ecclesiologies speak of gathering around word and sacrament.  They didn't forget that we were family, but they did highlight that there were foundational "events" at the centre of church life.

So we say Yes to shared life, Yes to Christ-centred community.  But the way in which our community is “centred” around Christ takes a certain form.  The centre is an actual, concrete centre around which we orient ourselves.  As Christ's community therefore we order ourselves around the place where Christ is given to us. And He is given to us supremely in word and sacrament.

Therefore we must maintain language of "event".  As we do so we are upholding two related concerns:

1) We are communities of grace.

Christians keen to ditch "event" language are usually big on "grace."  They commonly reject rituals in the name of gospel grace.  But I would urge caution here.  If we want to be communities of grace we need to orient ourselves around where Christ is given to us, not primarily around what Christ would have us do.  To be a community of grace requires us to centre on events.

2) We are communities of proclamation.

Where we honour the “event” of Church, we honour “proclamation”.  While our community life preaches to the world (John 13:35; 17:21) I'd want to co-ordinate this to a centre of verbal proclamation that constitutes and re-constitutes the community.

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I'm well aware that many who reject the word "event" bang a big and important drum for "grace" and "proclamation".  But I want to say, "grace" and "proclamation" requires "events."  We must never lose our centre.

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Ron Frost – The Freedom of a Christian
Click here to listen (and here to download).
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Glen Scrivener – Mission: Medieval and Modern
Click here to listen (and here to download).
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Peter Mead – Glorious Gospel Ground Zero
Click here to listen (and here to download).

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Other Cor Deo Resources including Galatians Sermon Series and Last Year's Conference...
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When Jesus came, stooped, served, suffered, was shamed, bled and died - that was not a departure from His divine glory.  He wasn’t taking a holiday from being God.  That was the expression of His glory. The cross is the most God-life thing imaginable.  Because God’s life is a life of outgoing, outpouring, sacrificial, life-giving love.

Think of the cross.  Bring to mind that bloodied corpse with His arms outstretched to the world:  This is what is looks like to be God.  What is the highest heights of Godness, the deepest depths of deity?  Look to the Cross.  Look to the God who pours Himself out. His own life-blood is flowing from His veins.  And He does it for you.

The real God bleeds for His enemies.  The real God gives His life even to death.  The real God loves us more than His own life.  And when Jesus dies on the cross THEREFORE, God the Father exalts Him and says “THAT!!!  Look at the crucified One.  That's what it means to be God."

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Sermon audio

Sermon text

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"God's Cause" from the Valley of Vision:

SOVEREIGN Father,

Your cause, not my own, engages my heart,
and I appeal to you with greatest freedom
to set up your kingdom in every place where Satan reigns;
Glorify your Son and I shall rejoice,
for to bring honour to His name is my sole desire.
I adore you that He is God,
and long that others should know Him, feel him and rejoice in Him
that all men might love and praise him,
that he might have all glory from the intelligent world!
Let sinners be brought to Jesus for your dear name sake!

To our eye everything respecting the conversion of others
is as dark as midnight,
But you can accomplish great things;
the cause is yours,
and it is to your glory that men should be saved.
Lord, use me as you would,
do with me what you would;
but promote your cause,
let your kingdom come,
let your blessed interest be advanced in this world!
Oh that great numbers might be brought to Jesus!
let me see that glorious day,
and give me to grasp for multitudes of souls;
let me be willing to die to that end;
and while I live let me labour for you
to the utmost of my strength,
spending time profitably in this work,
both in health and in weakness.
It is your cause and kingdom I long for, not my own.

Sovereign Father, answer my request!
In Jesus Name
AMEN

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A friend of mine is very supportive of my ministry but is passionately opposed to parachurch organisations.  He makes many different arguments, but here's an argument that might persuade me (though I haven't heard him make it)...

If a local church rented advertising space on the side of a bus, what slogans do you think it would run with?

Anything like "Not Gay, Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud.  Get over it"?

I'm not saying they're wrong. I think the reification of 'sexuality' as an unchanging marker of personal identity deeply undermines our humanity.  I think the elimination of choice (such that one in unable to be ex-anything) is akin to Islam's apostasy laws!  I think the ad's censorship betrays the deep intolerance of many so-called liberals.

But, but, but, when those behind the ads say that the controversy was a God-send, I have to wonder whether they're mission lines up with mine (which I hope is Christ's!).

INTERVIEWER: You couldn't buy this level of publicity, now that it's been banned...

REV LYNDA ROSE: We couldn't, one has to wonder whether God is not perhaps active in this. It wasn't our intention to provoke this situation... The publicity is obviously good.  (From Channel 4 News)

Lynda, maybe the publicity's good for you.  Speaking as an evangelist, let me tell you it aint so good from where I'm sitting!

And it just  makes me wonder, who gets to be a spokesperson for Christianity in the world?  The church, right?  But when does the church lose it's voice and get drowned out by interest groups?  Certainly the media can't tell these things apart - and I can't blame them for it.

It seems to me that our public face needs to be a lot more aligned to both Head and body!  Otherwise local churches (and parachurch evangelists!) are going to have to pick up the pieces.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was placarded as crucified. (Galatians 3:1)

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Part one

Part two

Part three

Final Thoughts

If we are going to read the vast amount of material around this debate (some initial suggestions below), could I make a small plea for love and patience?  I find myself all too easily irritated by some who talk as if everybody in the ‘Western’ church is mesmerised by rampant individualism or when people dismiss the 19th century missionaries as colonial cronies who were mindlessly imposing Western culture as if it were essential to the gospel.  Conversely, I get irritated by those who assume that their own cultural expression of the church is ‘clearly’ the one that everybody should convert to as soon as they turn to Jesus.  I mention these things because there is no point in any of us getting lost in these side-issues of style [as I too often have done] but rather it is vital for us to get to the real substantive issues of how the global church family of the LORD Jesus Christ can enjoy fellowship together in His Name, supporting one another in genuine love and generosity.  How can we bring our Muslim friends to the liberating power and family of the LORD Jesus in the local church?

Another little plea... Throughout this debate there are many attempts to cite the examples of Jesus and the apostles with respect to the temple/synagogue in the New Testament.  We can’t really go into all of these references in this article, but it might be worth exercising care, caution and consideration about these references.  In these debates diametrically opposed conclusions are drawn from the exact same incidents!  Perhaps it is worth remembering that the temple was not a ‘pagan religion’ but the God-given but temporary centre of the Church community for 1500 years.  It was the centre of the system of law that was designed to prepare the church for the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the LORD Jesus Christ, prophesied by the Law and the Prophets.  In a connected way, the local synagogues were centres for studying and living out the Law and the Prophets, not only in Israel but across the surrounding nations.  Yes, as we go on through the book of Acts and then on into the 1st and 2nd century developments we see that division opening up between ‘church and ‘synagogue’ as many Jewish people rejected the Jewish Messiah and began to formulate a new religious identity in distinction from Him.

We should be careful about drawing too simplistic or hasty parallels between a 1st century synagogue and a 21st century mosque or temple.  There are surely lessons to learn, but not all connections and parallels are legitimate, in my own opinion.

Further Reading:

John Travis on the C-scale and the C5 model.

 

John & Anna Travis on the assumptions behind the C-scale

 

Rebecca Lewis explaining some of the Biblical ideas behind the Insider Movement

 

Interesting article even if some of the earlier parts are dealing with other cultural issues in America -

 

Bill Nikides paper is stimulating -   Bill argues that the whole Insider Movement is not a work of the Spirit but a product of missiological theories developed in Western mission agencies.

 

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Part one

Part two

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...

The Insider Movement 4 – Paul Blackham

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This article by Paul Blackham is continued from here.

Before we examine various approaches to church and culture, let's acknowledge a key fact: becoming a follower of Jesus is a deeply social matter.  The LORD Jesus does not save mere individuals but saves His Church.  Too often we might talk about someone making various decisions in their heart/head about Jesus, but we might forget that in the Bible the key issue is about their membership of the community of the LORD Jesus Christ, becoming members of His Body.  The forms that His Body might take in all the different contexts and cultures of the world is gloriously and marvellously diverse, so a person must never feel that they are an isolated soul.  The formation of local church communities is how evangelism happens.

One further introductory point.  Advocates of the “Insider Movement” are aware that this is not always the most helpful label as it tends to give the impression of something only for those “in the know” or something not entirely ‘above board’.  Therefore, there has been an effort to change the vocabulary to emphasise that it is all about the LORD Jesus Christ.  There has been an attempt to focus on the goal of making disciples of Jesus as the primary goal.  This is somewhat helpful, but again it is not always clear how it fits with the Biblical vision of the local church.

Let’s begin with John Travis’ seminal article as he argued for a way of understanding how Muslims were believing in Jesus but remaining as Muslims.  He provided a scale that helps to analyse different ways in which a person might join the church as they turn to Jesus.  The scale runs from C1 to C6, where C1 is a ‘Western’ style church with ‘Western’ languages and C6 describes mostly isolated people who are secretly trying to trust/follow Jesus whilst remaining entirely within their religion/culture.

The whole original article by John Travis is essential reading if we are going to really understand what this is all about.

As we go through this list, it might be helpful to think about it in terms of the church plants and emerging church situations that you might have personal experience of.  Many of the same issues that face a Jesus community in Tehran will also be relevant in Manchester.  Each of these C-ratings describes a church situation that has different levels of integration into a local culture.

C1 - A Christian church that is like an island in the local culture, where worship is in a language foreign to the local population, where the music, songs and styles within the church reflect the culture of another nation.  So we might imagine an English speaking parish church in an Arabic city, where English is spoken and English hymns, clothes and cultural styles are adopted.  I seem to remember Michael Palin coming across a church like that in his Sahara adventures.

C2 - The same as C1 but the local Church uses the language of the local population.

C3 - A Christian Church that uses the local language and culture, but is careful to reject the aspects of local culture that might have religious associations.  So, dress, music and traditions from the local church are all embraced, but if any of those things are tied into the local religions [whether Islam, Hinduism etc] then they are excluded.  In terms of Islam, a conscious attempt is made not to keep Ramadan and food rules.  In addition, the mosque is rejected as the communal centre in favour of the Church community.  In a C3 context the followers will normally call themselves ‘Christian’, but they do not necessarily meet in a distinctively ‘Christian’ building.

C4 - The church will retain those aspects of the religious tradition that fit in with or are permitted by the Bible, but these religious traditions and forms are now understood in terms of the LORD Jesus Christ and His Way.  So, for example, a Muslim background believer might be most comfortable with prostrating in prayer or using a prayer mat: that same style of praying is retained in the church, but now the prayer is to the Father through Jesus in the power of the Spirit.  The religious forms might remain, but the people no longer see themselves as “Muslim” or “Buddhist” etc.  In addition, the church might keep the food laws [rejecting pork and alcohol] and use Islamic words/phrases.  Often the people in this kind of local church might not call themselves ‘Christians’ due to the political and historical associations with this specific term and might instead use terms like “followers of Jesus”.  However, the Muslim community would recognise that this church is not a Muslim community.

[NOTE: in point of fact, some of the “religious traditions” may be more in harmony with the Bible than the supposedly ‘Christian’ forms: think of how little attention is given to body posture in some forms of Christianity, but how often it is noted in the Bible.  Speaking personally, my wife and I have been involved in planning a church plant that quite deliberately makes provision for Muslims and Muslim background believers to use prayer mats].

C5 - It is harder to think in terms of a local church community when we get to C5 because the Muslims in this category are described as following Jesus whilst remaining within the Muslim communities.  They would reject the title ‘Christian’, not only for the reasons in C4 but also because “becoming a Christian” might be seen as treason against their local religious community.  In an Islamic context, these people would continue to be legally/socially/politically within the Muslim community - [NOTE: given the intense legal/political difficulties that many Muslims have in terms of changing their religious designation, there are many obvious pressures to explain this].  Yes, those aspects of Islam that are understood to be clearly against the Bible might be rejected, but in practice this is not always the case.  They are involved in life at the mosque, continuing to pray traditional Islamic prayers and keeping the fast, along with all the other aspects of mosque life that their neighbours follow.  As other Muslims become aware that they are committed to the LORD Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, so they might be seen as no longer “true Muslims” and can then be rejected by the local Muslim community.  It is claimed that there have been examples when so many local Muslims are C5 believers in Jesus that a kind of C5 mosque is established.

C6 - This describes the situation of believers who are isolated by such extreme hostility and persecution that they remain as secret believers within their local community.  They may even have no fellowship with any other believers in Jesus, so know nothing of membership of a church family, but more often they may have limited fellowship with small groups of other secret believers.

Now, of course, there may be all kinds of initial comments to make about this analysis, not least that it doesn’t really address how Christ transforms a local culture and it is not at all clear how C5 relates to the church [understood as the fellowship of the followers of Jesus, with leaders appointed to teach the Bible and disciple the church family].   It provides only a snap-shot at a moment in time of the work of the Spirit in a given situation.  Probably all of us can see how C1 and C6 can only be stages that must develop into something more if the Church is to find a vital, Biblical expression.  Many of us pray that in 100 years time we will find culturally vibrant churches all across the Islamic world where the Way of Jesus has found expression perhaps in forms and styles that perhaps we can’t quite imagine today - in a C3-C4 range.  The churches of the LORD Jesus, all across the world, do tend to produce new and exciting cultural forms over time: think of the variety of styles of music, dress and architecture that have emerged over time in the different cultures of the world.

Surely, from a Biblical perspective, we want to be thinking more deeply about Christ transforming all cultures rather than conformity to any culture.

Speaking personally as a British person with more than a passing interest in the ancient druidic religion of northern Europe, I am very aware that Mediterranean and Asian cultural forms of worship were imposed on my ancestors together with a North African form of the doctrine of the Trinity, articulated by the Egyptian Athanasius.  Even after more than a thousand years, we are still processing and dealing with those cultural issues: how can we retain the Biblical truth in Jesus whilst transforming, rejecting or re-affirming the cultural forms and styles that have had such a massive impact on Europe.  Yet, whatever cultural issues we European barbarians have had to deal with we always think back with deep gratitude to those Mediterranean and Asian missionaries who planted local churches among us so long ago.

However, the C-scale does provide a way of thinking about this moment in the way that people are turning to Jesus in especially Muslim majority nations.  The C-scale helps us to think through what is happening in terms of religion/culture in a situation.

In the next post we'll think further about the C-scale and in particular C-5/6 - "the Insider Movement"...

The Insider Movement 3 – Paul Blackham

The Insider Movement 4 – Paul Blackham

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