Sunday, January 1, 2017

Insider Jesus 2: How Does God Work in Creation and Culture? A Theological Proposal

Continuing with our tour through Insider Jesus: Theological Reflections on New Christian Movements. The first post was here: Insider Jesus 1: Intro- The Rise of Contextualization

Here are my notes on Chapter 2 How Does God Work in Creation and Culture? A Theological Proposal

God’s creative and active work in the world continues today, even after the fall. 

In the garden, Adam and Eve’s relationship to God was natural and intimate. There was no need for what we call religion, or for particular religious activity; that would not come until after the break that Adam and Eve’s disobedience caused. Living before the face of God was as normal as breathing; indeed, it was a kind of dance that involved the whole of creation. (Kindle 639-641)

Since God’s primary work was/is in creating and renewing, then in the biblical narrative we see Christ as the fulfillment of this necessary work.

The work of Christ was not simply providing forgiveness for sin, solving the human spiritual condition, though it surely did this. I would claim emphatically that something new was emerging in Christ’s work that brought the whole created order to a new place where the goods of culture (and religion) are given fresh valuation. (Kindle 678-681)

Culture is a human project- it is what we make of creation.

The question now is not how we go about placing the gospel in the culture, but rather, how do we respond, in the light of Scripture, to what God is already doing in a given culture? And how does this continuing work cast fresh light on how we are to understand and obey Scripture? (Kindle 702-704)

So it is not as though God begins to take an interest in human activity when someone begins to pray, or form and practice some religion. No, God has been intimately involved in cultural processes from the start. This means that culture making is deeply and inescapably theological. (Kindle 717-719)

All that contributes to human flourishing, indeed everything that brings delight to the human community, God too celebrates. (Kindle 747-748)

These ideas lead us to perhaps the heart of the argument of this book. And I think the most foundational aspect of Dyrness’ approach to understanding IMs:

This deep connection between faith and wisdom implies that a significant part of every culture, one might say its heart and core, involves the religious practices that have developed in that place. The perennial human search for God animates culture. Religious practices reflect the human desire to respond to the gods or the powers that humans encounter, and in this desire they are also responding to the call of the biblical God. But note the implications of this: if it is true that religious traditions reflect a response, however incomplete (or even misguided), to God’s call, they must be in some way capable of being included in God’s project of renewing and restoring the earth. (Kindle 764-769)

Israel’s religious practices in the OT were not particularly unique, but very similar to their neighbors. What was unique to Israel was the god they worshipped.

Just as the various cultures have contributed their own special gifts to the human community (no culture has a monopoly on life-giving discoveries), so religions in those places often provide life-giving perspectives to people and, indeed, have often been the impetus for human creativity and advancement… But all of this suggests that religion in and of itself is not the means of the renewing work that God intends to complete and has begun in Christ. (Kindle 783-795)

So what does this mean for insider movements? He offers four conclusions.

  1. It is clear that God is at work reordering a fallen world, and therefore all efforts that contribute to this end will elicit God’s approval. (Kindle 823-824)
  2. Just as God delights in goodness and new signs of life, so those responding to this, and all the gifts of creation, with thanks and praise must be pleasing to God. (Kindle 829-830)
  3. The biblical narrative is also clear that this ongoing work of the Spirit, and whatever cultural renewal might be evident, should finally draw people to see in Jesus Christ— and eventually in his death and resurrection— the focus and center of God’s renewing purposes. (Kindle 836-838)
  4. But here is my larger claim: if God is present and working in this or that situation by the Spirit, addressing people in what theologians have called prevenient grace or the general call, this address must be framed in the terms and logic of that culture. This means that we have to pay particular attention to both the logic and the structure of a culture, but also to the ways this logic comes to expression in the religions of that place. This means further that the renewal that God intends will be a regeneration of that logic and structure. (Kindle 842-845)

Thoughts:

  • Are there aspects to Islam that are meant (even implicitly) to be part of God’s project of renewing and restoring his creation?
  • He posits religion as something that is post-fall. Did Adam and Eve have any religion in Eden? (Tennent makes the case that culture is created by God, not something that humans make of creation.)
  • According to Dyrness, the telos of God’s mission is the flourishing of his creation unto his glory, and the gospel the center of that plan. Therefore, anything that works to that end, as long as it is (explicitly?) Christ-centered (and also biblically-based?) meets God’s approval. IMO this is lynchpin of the argument of this book… In this logic, of course a Muslim who comes to faith in Jesus can remain “in Islam” inasmuch as they are Christ-centered and are working towards the flourishing of God’s creation. The point is to see how God is working from within to express the gospel in the logic of that Muslim context.
  • Lots to discuss on this! But for now, my first reaction- just because something new is happening in a culture/religion where “Jesus” is somehow mentioned doesn’t necessarily mean that God is present and guiding the process. What then do we make of the emergence of Islam/Mormonism? How can we judge? I anticipate that he’ll answer this question later.
  • Dyrness is setting the stage for his next chapter, which is to show the function of religion in the biblical narrative.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Insider Jesus 1: Intro- The Rise of Contextualization

I would like to blog through Dyrness, William. Insider Jesus: Theological Reflections on New Christian Movements (2016). One blurb says this:

"This book is groundbreaking. Conversations have been taking place questioning the ongoing value of the contextualization movement. This is because among evangelicals contextualization has largely been a project conducted by outsiders assisting those who are insiders. This was an essential step in missions, yet the limitations of the movement are obvious. What is exciting is that in our postcolonial era new theological discourses and practices are emerging from within believing communities that seek to be faithful to Scripture and address more specifically and resonate more deeply with the worlds of these communities. Dyrness lucidly and sensitively introduces the reader to these developments and provides the reader with the theological and conceptual categories to understand and appreciate them." (Patrick Krayer, executive director, Interserve USA)

Dyrness is not primarily a missiologist but a noted theologian (who also has a long experience as a missionary), and so this book is a deep theological reflection on the postcolonial and post-Christendom phenomenon of so-called insider movements. Dyrness credits Understanding Insider Movements as a key resource.

Below is an unpolished summary and measure of the first of his six chapters. Feel free to read along with me.

Chapter 1 Introduction: The Rise of Contextualization

The intro gave me a bad first impression. His faulty attribution of Lewis' "insider movement" definition to Moreau on page 1 made me feel that he hadn't taken the missiological conversation seriously enough to make the book helpful, but I'm glad I kept reading, in any case.

The main idea of chapter 1 is that the pluralistic, globalizing, and interreligious nature of the world today offers a new challenge to mission that the contextualization paradigm has been unable to confront. Contextualization is primarily about what is done for other people, but it is unable to capture what happens from within. Accordingly…

contextualization does not adequately capture the hermeneutical and dialogical character of mission whereby various accounts of God’s presence (or that of the gods or spirits) are exchanged and evaluated. (Kindle Locations 123-124)

Here is how he argues his case:

  • The reformation was not primarily a change in beliefs but in a new way of practicing religion. Much of the reformation was good, but some good was also lost:

Instead of providing a holistic frame that determined an entire way of life, including the political and social structure, religion was on the way to becoming an inward and personal (and often an individual) affair… this view of religion seems natural to us. But for many people outside the West, this understanding of religion appears strange, even incomprehensible.  (Kindle Locations 177-180)

  • The Enlightenment furthered the idea that religion is something that one believes, not something that is done. Religion was also seen as a secular concept, something that was separate from politics, economics, philosophy, law, etc. This understanding of religion makes little sense in non-Western places today. [Especially to most Muslims.]
  • In the 80s and 90s the emphasis in missiology shifted from the messenger (and the message) to the hearers and their world. From “subject” to “object.” Bosch played a key role in this transformation to local theologies. All theology is contextual.
  • Hiebert also anticipated this need in “Metatheology: The Step Beyond Contextualization.
  • Anthropology was also advancing the idea people are not simply passive recipients of their culture/religion, but active agents able to change their contexts.
  • In missiology, it was acknowledged that that no one culture has a full understanding of the gospel, and that as the gospel spreads into new frontiers, the Church’s collective understanding of the gospel deepens and widens.
  • This then led to the development of fields such as “intercultural theology” [See for example Intercultural Theology: Intercultural Hermeneutics]:

Mission must take the form of hermeneutics. That is, Christian witness is, among other things, an interpretive process in which each side becomes open and explores the proposals of the other. (Kindle 379-380)

  • I.e., contextualization fails to realize that contextualization of the message by the messenger has already happened. So therefore what is always happening is actually recontextualization, or transculturation.
  • If we simply focus on making biblical faith understandable in a new context, we will be unable to see the possibility of something new emerging. We need to reconceptualize mission as multidirectional:

At this point many will worry that we are saying there is more than one gospel, more than one way to God. But this worry ignores the diversity that is already apparent in the New Testament itself, where the wonderful work of God in Christ is described in multiple ways.(Kindle 448-450)

  • The process of mutual learning is called intercultural theology, not contextualization. Being a rich missionary often puts people into a “teacher” role, not anticipating learning from the people he or she is going to serve.
  • Also, the historical-grammatical hermeneutic is a process of the Enlightenment and puts Scripture into rational categories:

So not only is the discovery of the “one true meaning” of a text impossible; it actually impedes the ability to listen and learn from each other. (Kindle 503-504)

Thoughts:

  • I don’t think he means to throw the historical-grammatical hermeneutic out the window, but only to show it’s limitations, as the Redford chapter shows.
  • He is setting the stage to show that we don’t need to focus on the “message” as much as we need to focus on God’s presence and activity in all places, even before a follower of Christ arrives. This is the shift in thinking from contextualization to intercultural theology.
  • At some point though, I wonder, in order to learn from the other, how involved in that faith should I be? One’s view of Islam is always tied up with his manner of witness to Muslims. I never want to leave Jesus, and I think Jesus wants sole allegiance from every person on the planet. So how can I understand better the exclusive sufficiency of Christ in light of the multidirectional learning required by intercultural theology? Am I willing to learn from Islam?
  • Chapter two: Insider Jesus 2: How Does God Work in Creation and Culture? A Theological Proposal

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Nov 17 Missio Nexus Webinar: A Fresh Perspective on the Insider Movement

I’m posting to let you know about a webinar I’ll be doing on Thursday, Nov 17, 2pm EST.

The “insider movement” has received much attention in recent years and is often portrayed in ways that are polarized or misunderstood. Instead of repeating old arguments either for or against, this webinar will present a model for understanding the different layers of “insiderness” that followers of Jesus exhibit in their contexts today. Such a model will demonstrate that the socioreligious insider/outsider binary is unsatisfactory and that the “insider movement” remains ill-defined. The aim is to gain an appreciation for the complexity of how Christ-followers in unreached peoples relate to their contexts. 

Click here to register or learn more: https://missionexus.org/events/#!event/2016/11/17/a-fresh-perspective-on-the-insider-movement

Monday, October 24, 2016

Responses to Reviews of UIM

UPDATE: Waterman Response to Talman & Travis

---

In case you missed it, L.D. Waterman had a thoughtful review (the most thorough and fair review I’ve read) of the book Understanding Insider Movements.

Talman and Travis, the editors of UIM, subsequently posted an irenic response. Both the original review and the response are worth your read. Here is one quote that stood out to me in Talman and Travis’ response (emphasis mine):

Waterman also raises the question of why we did not include some of what he sees as the more controversial ideas which some have associated with insider movements. He mentions, for instance, having a very high view of Mohammad, holding to a low Christology, placing citations of the Quran next to the Bible as a source of spiritual authority, and an overemphasis on the compatibility between Islam and Christianity.  Frankly, it never crossed our mind to include these ideas in UIM as we do not see them as core or inherent parts of understanding insider movements. Our aim throughout the book was to emphasize principles and practices that seem integral and common to most insider movements.

I appreciate the discussion this has generated and I think we all still have a lot to learn about the insider phenomenon.

See also My Response to the Gospel Coalition’s Review of “Understanding Insider Movements”

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures (IVP Academic Georges and Baker 2016)

Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures releases today.

From Amazon:

Many a Westerner has had a cross-cultural experience of honor and shame. First there are those stuttering moments in the new social landscape. Then after missed cues and social bruises comes the revelation that this culture―indeed much of the world―runs on an honor-shame operating system. When Western individualism and its introspective conscience fails to engage cultural gears, how can we shift and navigate this alternate code? And might we even learn to see and speak the gospel differently if we did? In Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures Jayson Georges and Mark Baker help us decode the cultural script of honor and shame. What's more, they assist us in reading the Bible anew through the lens of honor and shame, often with startling turns. And they offer thoughtful and practical guidance in ministry within honor-shame contexts. Apt stories, illuminating insights and ministry-tested wisdom complete this well-rounded guide to Christian ministry in honor-shame cultures.

Chapter 7 on “Relationships” can be downloaded here. Also make sure to see http://honorshame.com/book/ (Also a very helpful blog.)

Authors

Jayson Georges (MDiv, Talbot) lived in Central Asia for nine years doing church planting and micro-enterprise development. He is the author of The 3D Gospel and blogs at HonorShame.com. He serves with an evangelical organization, developing tools and training for Christians working in honor-shame contexts. More here.

Mark D. Baker
(PhD, Duke University) is professor of mission and theology at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California. He served as a missionary in Honduras for ten years and has written a number of books in English and Spanish. More at www.ProfMarkBaker.com

Endorsements

Georges and Baker have taken the seeds of previous work on honor and shame in the environment of the biblical world and in modern cultures and cultivated them into fruitful insights and guidance in the areas of theology, cross-cultural engagement and, especially, missions.

~David A. deSilva, distinguished professor, Ashland Theological Seminary

Every message bearer working in non-Western cultures needs to read and apply the insights and principles of this book if they are to avoid the typical cultural blunders too often committed by too many. Within are crucial insights for effective cross-cultural ministry.

~Marvin J. Newell, senior VP, Missio Nexus

Building responsibly on biblical and anthropological foundations for understanding honor and shame cultures, the authors offer practical reflections on how to engage honor-shame societies in the work of intercultural mission.

~Edward Smither, dean, Columbia International University

The text is full of examples that help the reader understand how differently honor-shame codes play out in the understanding of salvation and discipleship. … Sherwood and I strongly recommend this book.

~Judith Lingenfelter, professor emerita, Biola University

Contents

Contents for Honor-Shame book

Friday, August 12, 2016

Notes on Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (Nongbri 2013)

Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept

Main Premise: The concept of religion as a universal, timeless, personal, and private belief system that can be abstracted from public life resulted from the Enlightenment. Our common understanding of religion did not exist in cultures before the Protestant Reformation (including the Old Testament Israelite community, the early Christian movement, and Islam). These cultures had no way to express an abstract/universal/timeless truth that we consider “religious” belief today. We cannot project our ideas of religion on the Bible the Qur’an, because we distort the messages of those books.

About the Book: This is not a new premise. Many scholars have said the same things before. Yet Nongbri brings everything together in a sustained historical argument in a brief 150 pages. There are about 70 pages of endnotes- very extensive.

Thoughts: The ideas are so counter-intuitive and tied up with semantics that it is quite difficult (for me) to comprehend. If Islam and Christianity did not emerge as religions (in the modern sense of the term), then what were they? I feel quite disoriented from reading, yet I feel there is something significant for missiology IF these ideas are true.

Greek thrēskeía: Acts 26:5, James 1:26-27, is better translated as godly zeal, or piety, or worship, not as religion.

Arabic deen (دين): Better translated as law, not as religion. Islam was more of a civic movement than anything else- see also The Emergence of Islam: Classical Tradition in Contemporary Perspective (only 2.99 right now on Kindle!!!!). Early Christians saw Muhammad as a heretic, not a founder of a new religion.

To see these concepts expressed missiologically, see Religious Syncretism as a Syncretistic Concept: The Inadequacy of the “World Religions” Paradigm in Cross-Cultural Encounter by H. L. Richard.

In another recent article, New paradigms for religion, multiple religious belonging, and insider movements (Missiology July 2015), Richard argues (fn 17):

Particularly those who claim to support contextualization but oppose insider movements need to wrestle with how far their own modern Western context in relation to the meaning of religion is controlling their paradigm. I have written on this in an article on “Religious Syncretism as a Syncretistic Concept: The Inadequacy of the ‘World Religions’ Paradigm in Inter-Cultural Encounter”, suggesting that the true syncretists are the proponents of the “change of religion” paradigm.

Take away: As missiologists and missionaries, we need to rethink what religion is and what joining the Jesus movement was/is all about. Most scholars say religion is practically undefinable.

[Postnote: I still get annoyed when people refer to “IM” as if it were well-defined.]

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Real Theological Issue Between Christians and Muslims (Litfin, CT)

A good article at CT: The Real Theological Issue Between Christians and Muslims It's not about a different God, it's about a different Jesus, by Duane Litfin.

Some quotes:

[On the same God? issue…] One reason opinions flew in every direction is this: That question is not only unhelpful but perhaps worse than unhelpful. The question appears incapable of generating a satisfactory answer, and when well-intentioned people try to answer it anyway, as they often do, the typical result is turmoil and confusion…

Understanding what Islam and Christianity do and do not hold in common is an important task, but asking whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God will not get us there.

Litfin argues in a similar way to how we have approached this issue in the past. See Is Allah God? A Relevant Issue?

From the conclusion:

Yet it is critical to remember that this is a missiological, not a theological consideration. We must not confuse or conflate these two contexts. Points of theological similarity between Christianity and Islam can be useful in friendship or missionary settings, but citing these points as if we think they actually count for something with God apart from the gospel is a grave mistake.

Christians do their Muslim friends no favors by so emphasizing points of similarity that Christ’s ultimate verdict is never heard. The decisive question God asks of every human being is: What have you done with my Son? (John 1:10–12) If the answer is that we have refused him, nothing else we say can matter. As the rising sun overwhelms the nighttime stars, so the refusal of God’s gift of his Son renders every other claim irrelevant.

In the preface to The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis famously said, “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish, but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right, but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.” So it is with the reception of God’s Son. Until we get that fork-in-the-road decision right, all else becomes moot. “Whoever does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The W-Spectrum

Here is a pdf download of the W-Spectrum on one page:

W-Spectrum Pic

Please refer to the EMQ October 2015 article The W-Spectrum: Worker Paradigms in Muslim Contexts for more information (subscription required).

See also:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The W-Spectrum Webinar Thursday March 10

Just a reminder about the webinar on Thursday:

On March 10th 2pm EST we’ll be doing a webinar with Missio Nexus on The W-Spectrum. See info below.

http://missionexus.org/the-w-spectrum/:

March 10, 2016     2:00pm to 3:15pm Eastern time

Warrick Farah • Missiologist • International Teams

Kyle Meeker • Pastor of Discipleship • Northview Community Church

Anyone involved in missions today knows that evangelical workers have numerous and sometimes conflicting approaches to Muslim ministry. The W-Spectrum (EMQ October 2015) describes four of these approaches which correlate with the workers’ view of “Islam” (note: The W paradigms do not correlate with the C Spectrum). In order to evaluate this framework, the W-Spectrum was tested via an online survey by more than two hundred workers around the world.  By presenting the research analysis in this webinar, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the W-Spectrum and explore various paradigms of ministry among Muslims.

Register

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Michael Pocock | Review of Understanding Insider Movements

Michael Pocock reviews UIM in the new issue of IJFM. Here is the conclusion:

By the end of the book the reader will admit that insider movements involve many thousands who are discovering and being dramatically changed by Jesus, yet who have been misunderstood by many across the global church today. Let’s remember that Jonathan Edwards, who was a great preacher and exponent of the Great Awakening in America, had his detractors. In spite of the transformation in the religious landscape of the colonies, Edwards, Whitfield and the Wesleys had skeptics who questioned the validity or genuineness of their movement. Edwards had to explain and defend this awakening in two famous publications, A Treatise on Religious Affections and The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. He was still addressing this concern in his commencement address at Yale University, Sept. 10, 1741. In these works, Edwards showed that a genuine movement of God will manifest many surprising things which in themselves do not discredit the movement. If they are not of God, they will pass away. But he warned his readers and listeners not to commit the unpardonable sin of attributing this work of the Spirit to the Devil. He asked if it is not pride, or the lack of spiritual vitality, that causes the critics to assail this movement. In the same vein, any of us who are quick to criticize these emerging insider movements, or these Jesus followers in such different contexts, would do well to think on Edward’s words. And I commend this book to you in the same spirit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Missio Nexus Webinar | The W-Spectrum: Exploring Paradigms of Ministry in Islamic Contexts

webinarsOn March 10th 2pm EST I’ll be doing a webinar with Missio Nexus on The W-Spectrum. See info below.

http://missionexus.org/the-w-spectrum/:

March 10, 2016     2:00pm to 3:15pm Eastern time
Warrick Farah • Missiologist • International Teams

Anyone involved in missions today knows that evangelical workers have numerous and sometimes conflicting approaches to Muslim ministry. The W-Spectrum (EMQ October 2015) describes four of these approaches which correlate with the workers’ view of “Islam” (note: The W paradigms do not correlate with the C Spectrum). In order to evaluate this framework, the W-Spectrum was tested via an online survey by more than two hundred workers around the world.  By presenting the research analysis in this webinar, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the W-Spectrum and explore various paradigms of ministry among Muslims.

Register

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The “Same God?” Debate in Full Force after the Wheaton Controversy

EMS just put out an occasional bulletin- Wheaton and the Controversy Over Whether Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God (HT: CIU blog). The intro article by Robert Priest is excellent, “I’ve also been struck by the idea that many American evangelical missionaries and missiologists, and perhaps the Apostle Paul himself, would be in danger of dismissal if they taught at Wheaton College, since many of us arguably have been guilty of the very thing Wheaton College is sanctioning…” #burn

After scanning through the articles, I still want to insist that this is (mostly) an irrelevant issue, as I have said before here: Allah of Islam and the Father of the Biblical Lord Jesus. No one knows God soteriologically apart from Christ. Perhaps we might be more united (and fruitful) if we framed the question around this issue.

There is also an upcoming debate between Volf & Qureshi — Do Muslims & Christians Worship the Same God? on January 19. If you tune in, I would love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Encountering the World of Islam (2nd ed) now on Kindle

Encountering the World of Islam:

Discover God's Heart for Muslims: Investigate Islam through this positive and hopeful 640-page book. Encountering the World of Islam explores the Muslim world and God's plan for Muslims. Read from a collection of writings about the life of Muhammad, the history of Islamic civilization, Islamic beliefs, Muslims today, and the everyday lives of Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia. Gain insight from 80 different practitioners into diverse Muslim cultures and worldviews as well as Christian outreach toward Muslims, our response to Islam, and prayer for the Muslim world. This book is used as the textbook for the Encountering the World of Islam course.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

www.trueislam.com?

www.trueislam.com tackles extremism (HT: MA). While I think we should promote initiatives that work for peace in our world, I do find it ironic that these are Ahmadis who, by many Muslims, are not considered true Muslims.

Matthew Stone recently had a very interesting post about the ellusive “true Islam” debate Are Liberals and Conservatives Asking the Wrong Question about Islam and ISIS? Here is part of what he said:

So the two questions before us seem to be:

  1. Does ISIS represent the true violent nature of Islam?
  2. Is ISIS an aberration of the true peaceful Islam?

Actually I am being overly optimistic. Today the two sides rarely pose these two questions because to do so would assume that the issue is actually open for consideration. Those groups closed the discussion long ago and now unquestioningly declare their view as though it were fact.

I think a better approach would be to revive asking questions without assuming the answer is known, but focusing on asking helpful questions for which an answer is logically possible without simply reflecting bias, prejudice, hate, or hidden agenda. I have a question I recommend being posed to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, a question that avoids the fruitless chasing after the elusive true Islam. The question is, “Is this the Islam you want?

Consider a hypothetical responder to that question. If the person answers “yes,” then that individual is either the enemy of peace loving citizens of the world, or ideologically aligned with the enemy. Decisions then have to be made about the pragmatic and legal/ethical steps we should take to address an enemy producing ideology. If the individual is a Christian, those decisions should reflect the values of Christ.

If the person answers, “no,” whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim, then the subsequent question is, “Then what are you going to do about this?” What are you going to do about this given the realities of your life and without denying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the innocent Muslim or non-Muslim?

I wish it were as easy as just posing the question and waiting for the answer…

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Response to the Gospel Coalition’s Review of “Understanding Insider Movements”

In case you missed it, Understanding Insider Movements (William Carey 2015) was released a few months ago. For better or worse, now the term “IM” is guaranteed to stick around for a while.

Ayman Ibrahim posted a review of UIM at The Gospel Coalition blog and I responded to him in the comments. I really hope we can move beyond the political nature of the IM discussion and at least not describe it as a monolithic entity as I felt the review did (plus the review described an extreme end of the spectrum which I also felt was inaccurate and unfair). My comment ended being a bit of a book review itself. In any case, I hope not to be drawn into a fruitless blog debate about the merits of IM. :–)

UIM is an important and impressive book. By my count, about 75% of it was previously published. But the sheer volume of the book (64 articles + appendix) is a testimony to the fact that evangelical missiology has made some positive steps forward in the last couple decades. You don’t have agree with everything in UIM (I don’t) to benefit from it. But you can read more of my thoughts here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

CT Book of the Year for Missions/Global Church

From Christianity Today’s 2015 book awards:

Christian. Muslim. Friend. Twelve Paths to Real Relationship

David W. Shenk (Herald Press)

"At a time when relations between Christians and Muslims are more complex than ever, Shenk has given us a wonderfully thoughtful account of how to build real relationships. Without giving formulas or reducing Muslims to a single type, Shenk draws on his vast experience in many parts of the world to provide an encouraging way forward for anyone seeking to share the hope of the gospel with their Muslim neighbors." —Brian Howell, professor of anthropology, Wheaton College

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary

Here is an interesting story on CNN: Could this Quran curb extremism? about the new book, The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. From Amazon:

An accessible and accurate translation of the Quran that offers a rigorous analysis of its theological, metaphysical, historical, and geographical teachings and backgrounds, and includes extensive study notes, special introductions by experts in the field, and is edited by a top modern Islamic scholar, respected in both the West and the Islamic world.

Drawn from a wide range of traditional Islamic commentaries, including Sunni and Shia sources, and from legal, theological, and mystical texts, The Study Quran conveys the enduring spiritual power of the Quran and offers a thorough scholarly understanding of this holy text.

Beautifully packaged with a rich, attractive two-color layout, this magnificent volume includes essays by 15 contributors, maps, useful notes and annotations in an easy-to-read two-column format, a timeline of historical events, and helpful indices. With The Study Quran, both scholars and lay readers can explore the deeper spiritual meaning of the Quran, examine the grammar of difficult sections, and explore legal and ritual teachings, ethics, theology, sacred history, and the importance of various passages in Muslim life.

With an introduction by its general editor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, here is a nearly 2,000-page, continuous discussion of the entire Quran that provides a comprehensive picture of how this sacred work has been read by Muslims for over 1,400 years.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Deepening Our Understanding of Honor/Shame



Because we Evangelicals are so stepped in a guilt/innocence paradigm it is hard for many to accept addressing honor/shame as an authentic part of the gospel.  It is not difficult for us to see honor/shame as an important cultural framework, but if that is all it is, then we view it as supplementary to the gospel rather than a fundamental part of redemption. 

This is unfortunately where much of the literature on honor/shame leave the reader. I’m sure this is not intentional, nevertheless, the honor/shame paradigm often comes across as a descriptor of culture rather than an intrinsic part of the gospel. 

This is where Roland Muller’s book “The Messenger, the Message & the Community” stands out. The book’s first edition came out almost 10 years ago (2006), which was before honor/shame became a major missiological topic, therefore I fear many people have missed this important volume. Although there is much to like in Muller’s work, in particular I was fascinated by the strong, coherent argument he makes that shame is a fundamental part of sin, therefore the restoration of honor is an essential part of of in Christ.
 
It seems to me the core of our Evangelical misunderstanding about honor/shame is that we think of guilt as man’s objective state before God, but shame as only a subjective feeling before  man. So I found it particularly helpful that Muller grounds his argument in the garden of Eden:

“… unfortunately many Christians and some Christian theology stop at guilt, or rather, get so wrapped up with ‘guilt-based theology’ that they fail to notice the other results of sin… When Adam and Eve realized they had sinned, they immediately hid themselves (v. 8).  Adam and Eve were ashamed. Shame had come upon Adam and Eve, but their shame was not for them alone. Shame, like guilt, passed upon all of mankind from that point on. As a result, man is not only guilty from this point on, but man is also in a position of shame before God” (pp 141-142).

Since what happened in the garden forms a backdrop to the narrative of sin that is almost universally accepted, grounding shame there establishes it alongside guilt as a fundamental part of sin’s impact on the human race. Just like guilt, shame haunted man even when he stood before an audience of One, thus it is an objective part of his standing before God.

For this reason and others, Muller’s book is must reading for those trying to fully integrate the honor/shame paradigm into their missiology.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Steve Smith | 4 Stages of a Movement

Here is a brief and helpful article from Steve Smith at Mission Frontiers: 4 Stages of a Movement. For me, it quickly helps explain some of the major tensions/issues that arise when a Kingdom movement breaks out in an unreached people group (UPG) who are near-culture to a institutional church. Well meaning institutional church leaders often use their own paradigms of training for equipping emerging leaders in the movement phase (stage 2) which may actually threaten the movement.

Unfortunately, these same emerging leaders often quickly try to mimic an institutional church which is inappropriate and unsustainable at that time. Similarly, new believers in UPGs who have been taken out of their contexts for short-term training often feel they need to aim for the institutional church far too soon.

In all honesty, “we have to ask whether it is fair to expect a movement to survive only as a movement. Either the movement disintegrates or it becomes an institution, this is simply a sociological law. Every religious group that started out as a movement and managed to survive, did so because it was gradually institutionalized” (Bosch 1991, 52). Yet I believe this truism is partially why we need to continually reimagine afresh what the church looks like in each generation of every people and place. For instance, as is our reality today, the sheer numbers of Muslim refugees who are coming to faith in many places where an institutional church exists should compel the church to rethink her very nature as the body of Christ. (There are other issues (or cans of worms) like the “homogeneous unit principle” to discuss as well – but more on that later.)

Here are some highlights the the article:

Throughout history, most movements have gone through four phases or stages (and sometimes back again through grass-roots movements) [unreached – movement – formalizing – institutional]. Failure to understand these can create unreal expectations that are inappropriate for a given stage of a movement…

[Stage 3 – Formalizing] The result is that normal disciples can be intimidated from doing the work of the ministry. They do not have the abilities or specialized training/credentials of the professional leaders. Therefore, the concept of the priesthood of the believer (in terms of “every member a minister”) wanes. A smaller percentage of disciples continues in ministering to others. No one intends for this to occur, and many pastors will do their best in stages three and four to build up their church members as ministers and leaders, but the “clergy/laity” divide becomes more profound…

[Stage Four – Institutional] The upshot is that the concept of priesthood of the believer wanes drastically. Believers bring their lost friends to church rather then lead them to faith themselves…

[Stage Four Workers in Stage One] The early church does not appear to have entered this final stage until the Fourth Century A.D. Most movements progress through these stages. The difficulty comes when we lack this historical perspective and try to make sense of movements at earlier stages. What happens when a missionary leaves a stage four church and tries to do evangelism and church planting in stage one? Inadvertently he tries to plant stage four disciples and churches because that is all he knows…

[Stage Two Workers in Stage Four] What happens with believers from stage one or two who visit leaders and churches in stage four? A not-uncommon consequence is death of the movement phase and immediately entering the formalizing and institutional phase.

[Stage Four Leaders Watching a Stage Two Movement] When our whole frame of reference is stage four, it is easy to criticize what we see in stage two. We can easily label the house churches as “not real churches.” Or, we can require that leaders meet certain credentialing requirements before they can perform the ordinances. Or, as we feel compassion for pastors that are bi-vocational, we may dedicate money to fund them full-time, thereby creating a benchmark that is no longer reproducible. In all, we can kill a movement when we implement extra-biblical requirements that are a yoke too heavy into these early stages…

The challenge is to keep a movement at the movement stage as long as possible and to not let the formalizing impede the progress of the kingdom. But when it does begin to slow down, going back to simple biblical processes and methods of earlier stages can spark a new movement.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Towards a Missiology of Disciple Making Movements

In very recent church history, church planting movements or disciple making movements (DMMs) have been observed in several different contexts which are characterized by rapid reproduction within a social network (usually in collectivist societies) of groups of seekers or new believers who study the Bible together and seek to obey its teachings.

In one sense, the DMM “strategy” is not actually a prescriptive methodology but a descriptive account of such movements. Yet books such as Contagious Disciple Making portray DMM as indeed a well-defined methodology. This is because the method of DMM has been reverse-engineered from the phenomenon itself

All new religious/social movements have a mechanism that drives their propagation into society, and DMMs are no exception. According to my friend Christopher Johnson, all DMMs have in common 1) a standard, transferrable liturgy for each meeting, 2) a specific set of easily reproducible Bible lessons, and 3) accountability for evangelism (others would also add extraordinary prayer to this as well). DMMs are not an organic or spontaneous movement of reproducing house churches (HT: NVH). They are a highly organized movement with a clear mechanism (DBS and immediate accountability) for multiplication and diffusion into a social network.

I would therefor argue that the DMM methodology is not biblical per se, but neither is it unbiblical. It is a synthesized strategy that explains why and how new Jesus movements are spreading today (especially in collective cultures). I don’t find examples of the DMM strategy in Scripture, and yet I don’t see anything in Scripture that would contradict the approach, generally speaking.

However, it does seems to me that the DMM strategy needs to be embraced fully- it is not something that one can choose certain elements from and discard others (like inductive Bible study).  Like a car engine, if one piece of the mechanism fails then the vehicle may break down.

Both those who are pro-DMM and those who are cautious of the approach would do well to recognize the nature of DMMs. If there is wisdom in the method then it deserves our serious attention! But at the same time, it doesn’t need to be presented as the biblical approach for engaging lostness.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

C-Spectrum After 15 Years and the W-Spectrum EMQ Podcast

From EMQ #002:

Oct 22, 2015

Keith Peters interviews John Jay Travis on "C1-C6 Spectrum after 15 Years"; Warrick Farah and Kyle Meeker on "W-Spectrum: Worker Paradigms in Muslim Contexts". Both articles were published in the October 2015 issue of EMQ.

Read more at http://emqonline.libsyn.com/2015/10#6qWVZvOi5keQKz1A.99

Friday, October 2, 2015

Introducing “The W-Spectrum: Worker Paradigms in Muslim Contexts” (EMQ 2015)

On behalf of Dr. Kyle Meeker, it’s my pleasure to introduce The W-Spectrum: Worker Paradigms in Muslim Contexts which is on the cover of the new issue of EMQ (Oct 2015). The article is appropriately paired with Travis’ reflections on 15 years of the C-Spectrum. As you may know, the C-Spectrum is probably the most popular article in the 50+ year history of EMQ.

The idea for the W-Spectrum began in 2006 while I was living among an unreached Muslim people group and interacting extensively with other workers who had an incredibly wide variety of approaches to reaching Muslims. One night I started to write an article I titled “Stuck at C3” which was basically my own reflections as to why some workers were unable (IMO) to get to C4. I created a table to compare the differences between C3 and C4 from the viewpoint of the worker, not the Christ centered community. (Note: a “worker” is any follower of Jesus who has an intentional witness among unbelievers.) However, at a conference a few months later, I shared this idea with some colleagues. One of them, my boss at the time, told me that the C-Spectrum was never meant to describe worker views or practices, only to describe indigenous fellowships. This prevented me from writing an article I would have deeply regretted!

With this insight, I then went and expanded my categories, renamed them from C3 to W3, etc., and reworked the table based on how I would observe workers in diverse contexts explain the reason for their approaches. This process took several years of informal research and listening on my part.

I initially toyed with the idea of having 6 paradigms, but I felt it too was complicated, and then 5 paradigms, but I was nervous people would commit the “middle ground” fallacy and thus be uncritically drawn to the moderate approach. Thus, I ended up at 4 worker paradigms, the W1-4 Spectrum (which do NOT correlate with the C-Spectrum):

  1. Triumph Model- “Christianity triumphs over Islam”
  2. Replacement Model- “Christianity replaces Islam”
  3. Transformation Model- ““Biblical faith transforms Muslims”
  4. Completion Model- “Biblical faith completes Muslims”

While the W-Spectrum was still in draft form, I told Dr. Meeker about it. We are actually cousins (biologically speaking!) and I owe him a whole lot more credit than just for giving me chicken pox when I was five years old. Kyle is basically better than me than everything except fantasy football and ping-pong. He was further able to fine tune the W Spectrum and offer many invaluable improvements.

That being said, while this is all good and nice, the W-Spectrum was still just an unscientific guess at this point in 2011: it needed validation. Meeker then took this on as a missiological project to test as part of his doctoral thesis (“Meeker, Kyle. 2014. Worker Praxis in Muslim Contexts: Discovering and Assessing Paradigms in Kingdom Witness, Talbot School of Theology, Biola.) Basically, we wanted to disprove the W-Spectrum as a tool for helping a worker discover their paradigm of witness among Muslims. Over 200 people responded to an online survey.  But when Dr. Meeker evaluated the data using quantitative statistical analysis, we found that the opposite was true. Hence the birth of the W-Spectrum. (Even if it was “disproved” though, it still would have been interesting to see why.)

Last summer we condensed Dr. Meeker’s dissertation into this EMQ article. I’m glad it took so long and that we had so much input from other workers and missiologists during the process. As you read the article, you’ll notice that we spend more time discussing the nature, usefulness, and limitations of the W-Spectrum than we do actually explaining the paradigms within the W-Spectrum itself. This is partly because we are so concerned of the potential it has to be misused, as was/is often the case with the C-Spectrum. EMQ also has a very low 3,000 word limit.

As a side note for full disclosure- that is a picture of me on the cover. The man next to me was one of the first Muslims that I ever had the privilege to walk with on his journey to following Jesus. My teammate took the picture when we attended a wedding in his village. I rarely dressed like that and only for special ceremonies/occasions (like every other local would), but sometimes also when someone would come to my house to study the Bible.

In any case, the final result of this 9 year process is the W-Spectrum. Scott Moreau says in the editorial of this issue of EMQ:

While the C-Spectrum describes the fellowships that Travis observed (and continues to observe) in Muslim settings, no one has proposed a parallel spectrum of the roles that missionaries take on in Muslim settings. Warrick Farah and Kyle Meeker propose a W-Spectrum to explore this facet.

Read the entire W-Spectrum article. (Subscription required. I’m checking with EMQ regarding what exactly I can share on this blog from the article.)

It is my hope and prayer that the W-Spectrum and the model within The Complexity of Insiderness (which is very different than the C Spectrum) will help advance our missiological discussions into the nature of ministry among Muslims.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dualsider

Not insider, not outsider, but dualsider.

I.e. someone who is both an insider and outsider, or someone who is neither inside nor outside, but dualside.

Predicting the next missiological buzzword. Remember, you heard it here first. ;-)