“Insider Movements” have received a lot of attention in the last two decades, particularly with regards to Muslims who come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but describe that faith and walk in ways that maintain their cultural identity. To turn that around, for many people attendance at a church is as much about becoming an American as it is about being a follower of Jesus. Therefore, if they are to come to faith in Jesus they need to describe that faith in a way that is not a betrayal of their own identity and community on social or cultural terms. In Acts, the Church recognized that “Gentile” believers did not need to become “Jewish” before becoming “followers of Jesus” or “Christians”–so the argument goes that a Pakistani or Saudi individual should not need to become an American before becoming a follower of Jesus. Insider Movements attempt to express the faith in Jesus within that Pakistani or Saudi context. This has been controversial: there is a viable and valuable conversation about when is a movement truly a movement to Christ and when is it a syncretic cult within for example Islam? It turns out that the conversation began back at least in the early 20th century:
The importance of Dr. Miller’s research is that it demonstrates that the concept of the insider movement predates the language of the last twenty years since John Travis’ proposal of C1-C6 contextualization scale in the late 1990’s. (For example, see this article: http://www.stfrancismagazine.info/ja/Contextualization%20Transformational%20Dialogue%20-%20John%20Stringer(3).pdf). The earlier proposal in the Riggs Report was likewise controversial. However, a comparison of the two different proposals in two different historical and political contexts gives missiologists and others the opportunity to account for the culture of the Church and to seek language that liberates the conversation from the current politics of missions among Muslims. That freedom, I would hope, would allow proponents to better articulate the purposes and limits of insider movements–even if in the end, the opponents from two different generations are able to solidify a case against such contextualization.