Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Insider Movement Introduction

A month or so ago a good friend circulated some material (long) on Insider Movements to his extensive email list. One of his recipients is a Christian journalist, of whom many of you would be familiar. He is a deeply committed Christian and is involved with reporting on the Islamic world, missions and Christian persecution.

He didn't know what the Insider Movement was and humbly asked that someone pare it down for him. This highlighted for me two things: First, the general ignorance that Christians have to this issue and second, the need for simple explanations.

Here is the email I sent back through the list. My only real claim to being a good person to write this is that I'm pretty much a novice and so if you are too, this may help you.

[Name Omitted],

I never saw a reply to your question, so I thought I’d send a quick summary (tho I am assuredly not the person to do it). Maybe this answer will at least be simple, but probably not nuanced.

The email concerns something which is huge in the missions world, but largely unknown in the rest of Christendom, the subject of “Insider Movements.” Basically, it is the idea that people can become followers of Jesus without leaving Islam. Since the Koran mentions Jesus (as “Isa”) and since there are strains of Islam that emphasize Jesus’ return, this seems plausible to some. The thinking is that the “insiders”, who don’t leave Islam and are not baptized, are kind of like Jews in the first century that placed their faith in Jesus but kept practicing Judaism.

The theological problem is that it makes baptism and the visible church optional and tends to accept Mohammed as a prophet and the Koran as a true revelation of God. Socially, it begs the question whether these believers will be able to hold onto their odd Christiano-Islamic beliefs without being “corrected” by all of the orthodox Muslims they are spending their time with. Missionally, many conservative missiologists are claiming that the “insider movement” is actually plundering the visible church rather than converting Muslims. Denominationally, some people (more informed or misinformed than I) claim that there are people associated with the PCA who are either sympathetic to Insider Christianity or are working with people who are sympathetic to it. The idea seems to be that by passing a resolution condemning Insider Movements as unbiblical, we’d be guarding the truth in a very fragile mission field.

I’d be happy to send any interested people articles on Insider Movements written by conservative and orthodox reformed missiologists explaining these issues without all of my mistakes. I’m sorry for any misrepresentations in this email!

Grace and Peace,

Travis Hutchinson


  1. This sounds a lot like the syncretism of the Roman Catholic Church in Middle and South America, where the people became Catholics, but continued to practice spiritism simultaneously.

  2. I'd love to see the info you have collected on the topic. Haven't heard anything about it over here.


  3. This gives some good information about the Insider Movement: http://www.thepeopleofthebook.org/ObjectionsToTheInsiderApproach.html

  4. Travis
    As one who is personally familiar with insider movements, I must say that the assertions made above contain many misunderstandings or distortions. The post by "director" with the link to "thepeopleofthebook" does provide more accurate information.

    Just about all of the concerns listed are answered in a short article dealing with Frequently Asked Questions about insider movements by Travis & Woodberry,two of the leading authorities on the subject. It can be found at: http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/when-gods-kingdom-grows-like-yeast

    Christianity Today Jan 2013 issue features "Where is Christian?" The article by Gene Daniels" "Woshipping Jesus at the Mosque" is very enlightening. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-february/insider-movement-islam-wheres-jesus.html

    Finally, be sure that your list of articles by "conservative reformed missiologists" includes Harvie Conn's "The Muslim Convert and His Culture" published in "The Gospel and Islam", Don McCurry (ed.), 1978. He is sympathetic to the issues raised by insiders.
    Blessings on you.

  5. Dear "Isa Addict,"

    You have posted anonymously, claiming some sort of authority on this subject that is not verifiable. You have not engaged the discussion (neither has the "director" above), but directed me to read other material. This is a cardinal sin in blog discussions. The civil form of engagement in this medium is to make specific points regarding the discussion and sometimes then to link to fuller discussions or citations. What you have done is dismissive and lazy.

    I notice that you wish people to read material posted on MissionFrontiers, which is one of the most egregious promoters of the worst insider heresies. I would refer people to the BiblicalMissiology site which is somewhat of a collective battling the the deception and error of Wycliffe, SIL and MissionFrontiers on this issue.

    I agree with you that Gene Daniel's article is very enlightening. For the sake of any readers of this old post, I will summarize. The article is a structured interview which purports to be a discussion with a man who came to faith in Christ through a vision of multiplying macaroni and then sought out Christians.

    After several years in the church and time in Bible college, the convert left the Christian church and returned to the mosque as a believer in "Isa" (the Koranic name for Jesus). He did so because Christians rejected the Islamic forms of address and greetings as well as Koranic religious terminology. He also seems to object to the refusal in organized Middle Eastern churches to recognize that the Allah of Islam is the God of Christianity. The man believes that the rejection of all of this is not a rejection of error, but of general revelation.

    There is some irony that he uses such a term because he also rejects systematic theology and the creeds of the church. Very enlightening indeed.

    What Gene Daniels and you are promoting is evil. You are enemies of the Gospel of Jesus. Middle Eastern Christians have enough suffering from Islamic persecution without Western liberals trying to subvert the Gospel from within. Shame on you. May God grant you repentance and mercy.

    I have posted an expanded comment in my blog feed for June 8, 2013 because of the restrictions on comment length.