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The Journal

of the International Society for

Frontier Missiology

Int’l Journal of Frontier Missiology

Debating Insiderness
59 From the Editor’s Desk  Brad Gill
Not Inside, Not Outside

61 Articles
CITO: A Bridging Conversation
61 The Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider (CITO): A Conversation with Abu Jaz
Sense the crucible of integrating gospel and culture.
69 Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation
on Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities  Fred Farrokh
Do the streets of New York City exhibit the reflexes of a globalized Islam?
     82 God’s Kingdom Advance is Stronger than Human Veto:
A Response to Fred Farrokh  L. D. Waterman
     83 A Response to L. D. Waterman  Fred Farrokh

85 The Complexity of Insiderness  Warrick Farah

A model can make the multifaceted more manageable.

Recasting Evangelization: ISFM 2014

93 Why Cultures Matter  Miriam Adeney
Don’t quit doing anthropology, just do it better.
    98 A Response to Miriam Adeney  Gene Daniels

100 Book Reviews

100 Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants

102 In Others’ Words

102 Is the Term “Unengaged Peoples” Just a Mobilization Gimmick? Crowdsourcing Bible Translations The Impact of

the Explosion of Christianity in Nigeria Update on the Disappearance of Christianity in the MIddle East Geopolitical
Risk Predictions
April–June 2015

Understanding Insider Movements

Disciples of Jesus within Diverse
Religious Communities
ISBN: 978-0-87808-041-0
Harley Talman, John Jay Travis (Editors)
WCL | Pages 719 | Paperback 2015
List Price: $39.95

For the first time in history, large

numbers of people from the world’s major
non-Christian religions are following Jesus as
Lord. Surprisingly for many Western Christians,
they are choosing to do so within the religious
communities of their birth and outside of
institutional Christianity. How does this work, and
how should we respond to these movements?

This long-awaited anthology brings together

some of the best writings on the topic of
insider movements. Diverse voices explore
this phenomenon from the perspectives of
Scripture, history, theology, missiology, and the
experience and identity of insider believers.
Those who are unfamiliar with the subject will
find this book a crucial guide to a complex
conversation. Students and instructors of
mission will find it useful as a reader and
reference volume. Field workers and agencies
will discover in these chapters welcome
starting points for dialogue and clearer

William C
Willi Carey Lib
Not Inside, Not Outside April–June 2015 Volume 32:2

well remember that moment when Abu Jaz stood and introduced his per-
spective on the debate surrounding “insider movements.” This East African Brad Gill
was one of a global cohort representing MBBs from various Muslim con- Editor-at-Large
Rory Clark
texts, and it was his turn to explain how his “Jesus movement” handled contextu-
Consulting Editors
alization. Questions from the floor tried to pin him down on where he stood on Rick Brown, Gavriel Gefen, Herbert Hoefer,
the debate over remaining inside a Muslim religious culture. “We are not inside,” Rebecca Lewis, H. L. Richard, Steve Saint
he said, “and we are not outside.” The silence in the room was noticeable and awk- Copy Editing and Layout
ward. His refusal to surrender to an over-simplified polarity was unorthodox, but Elizabeth Gill, Marjorie Clark

it launched our forum into more insightful exchange that afternoon. Secretary
Lois Carey
Ever since he was interviewed by Christianity Today in 2013, Abu Jaz has looked
for an opportunity to further explain to others his identity in his own Muslim com- Fronter Ventures (formerly the US Center
for World Mission)
munity. IJFM interviewed him a few months ago and made sure he got the space
2015 ISFM Executive Committee
he needed (p. 61). His particular perspective on contextualization is only part of Greg Parsons, Brad Gill, Rory Clark,  
“bridging” a much broader divide with multiple controversies still festering, and the Darrell Dorr
succeeding articles and responses (Farrokh, Waterman and Farah) are a sample of
Web Site
the range of complexity and possibilities of “insiderness” for Muslims who choose
to follow Christ. For more of the very latest insider perspectives, readers will need
to order the new 700-page Understanding Insider Movements (see ad p. 58), which Editorial Correspondence
1605 E. Elizabeth Street
clarifies the emerging realities among these movements across the world. Pasadena, CA 91104
(734) 765-0368,
Much of the CITO discussion surrounds what it means to be “culturally inside,”
and just how this plays out socially and religiously (e.g., CITO, SITO—the swash- Subscriptions
buckling acronyms). In her ISFM 2014 address, “Why Culture Matters,” Miriam One year (four issues) $18.00
Two years (eight issues) $34.00
Adeney reflects on the development of anthropological theory over forty years, from
Three years (twelve issues) $48.00
its role in “recasting evangelization” at Lausanne ’74, to its new application in an age of Single copies $5.00, multiple copies $4.00
globalization. Her presentation and Gene Daniels’ response (p. 93) together provide Payment must be enclosed with orders.
the cultural backdrop for how we might frame this CITO conversation. Anyone close Please supply us with current address and
change of address when necessary.
to the controversy over insiderness knows that it can create a stultifying dichotomy. Send all subscription correspondence to:
The use of new anthropological models, however, should help us make sense of the IJFM
kaleidoscope of cultural realities that any mission theory (like CITO) faces today. 1605 E. Elizabeth Street
Pasadena, CA 91104
Religion also matters, no matter how you cut it. Street-savvy anthropology must Tel: (330) 626-3361
Fax: (626) 398-2263
be alert to religious consciousness. Fred Farrokh’s research in New York City Email:
(p. 69) indicates that a global “House of Islam” (umma) has its boundaries and
sensibilities when it comes to the “theological outsiders” of a CITO movement. IJFM (ISSN #2161-3354) was established
in 1984 by the International Student
Editorial continued on p. 60 Leaders Coalition for Frontier Missions,, an
outgrowth of the student-level meeting of
Edinburgh ‘80.
The views expressed in IJFM are those of the various authors and not necessarily those
COPYRIGHT ©2015 International Student
of the journal’s editors, the International Society for Frontier Missiology or the society’s Leaders Coalition for Frontier Missions.
executive committee.
60 From the Editor’s Desk, Who We Are

The IJFM felt it was important to life, making religious constraints any- Society’s national meeting in Dallas on
let Farrokh raise this issue of Islamic thing but uniform. “Controversies in Christian Mission”
sovereignty, for it shadows each setting (September 18-20). As president
But there is also a new umma aris-
where Muslims are turning to Christ. of this year’s ISFM, I am excited to
ing.2 The un-orchestrated cacophony
“Insider,” CITO or Disciple-Making interact more on this subject with
of a “globalized Islam” is eroding and
Movements (DMM) each must EMS members. Both editors of
transforming old authority, and a
negotiate the theological tolerance of Understanding Insider Movements,
traditional umma is feeling the torque
their own particular context, whether John Jay Travis and Harley Talman,
of modern civilization. New Islamic
family, clan, tribe, community or state. will be handling sessions in Dallas.
voices gain power on the internet.
This sovereignty is one of the reasons Fred Farrokh will be present, as will
Reactionary violence pops up all across
we can’t publish openly all the statis- Miriam Adeney. Leadership of the
the Islamic frontier, but paradoxically,
tics and field research on these Jesus “Bridging the Divide” forum will be
Western secularization is creating
movements: there is a religious power, handling our plenary session, so this
more personal self-styled formulations promises to be an informative and
a sense of the umma, that referees
of Islamic identity. We cannot assume interactive experience. And we’ll make
each and every Muslim context.
a stasis to this umma. It’s moving. It’s sure that some of these sessions get
One doesn’t need to surrender to an
essentialist view of Islam to admit that reactive. Any veto power of the umma into print in future issues of the IJFM.
some sense of the umma operates in indicated by Farrokh is actually riding
the roller coaster of globalization, but In Him,
and around Muslims who are turning
to Christ. So we welcome Farrokh’s it remains formidable and real for
assertion of its veto power. brothers like Abu Jaz who must con-
struct their local identity and philoso- Brad Gill
Waterman’s response to Farrokh makes
phy of ministry. Senior Editor, IJFM
it clear, however, that we need to inter-
pret these matters locally and contex- ISFM 2015 hopes to continue this
tually (p. 82). The Islamic umma is not discussion of insiderness. This IJFM 1
monolithic, and any sound anthropol- issue will be ready for those meetings, ct/2013/january-february/insider-move-
ogy of religion should sensitize us to and Warrick Farah’s model of insider- 2
See Oliver Roy, Globalized Islam: The
the local nuances of religious authority. ness (p. 85) would be a great place Search for a New Ummah (Columbia Univ.
The force of religious consciousness to start the discussion. We’ve joined Press, 2004).
can vary, as can its scope across daily with the Evangelical Missiological

The IJFM is published in the name of the International Student Leaders Coalition for Frontier Missions, a fellowship of younger leaders committed to
the purposes of the twin consultations of Edinburgh 1980: The World Consultation on Frontier Missions and the International Student Consultation
on Frontier Missions. As an expression of the ongoing concerns of Edinburgh 1980, the IJFM seeks to:

 promote intergenerational dialogue between senior and junior mission leaders;

 cultivate an international fraternity of thought in the development of frontier missiology;
 highlight the need to maintain, renew, and create mission agencies as vehicles for frontier missions;
 encourage multidimensional and interdisciplinary studies;
 foster spiritual devotion as well as intellectual growth; and
 advocate “A Church for Every People.”

Mission frontiers, like other frontiers, represent boundaries or barriers beyond which we must go yet beyond which we may not be able to see
clearly and boundaries which may even be disputed or denied. Their study involves the discovery and evaluation of the unknown or even the
reevaluation of the known. But unlike other frontiers, mission frontiers is a subject specifically concerned to explore and exposit areas and ideas and
insights related to the glorification of God in all the nations (peoples) of the world, “to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and
from the power of Satan to God.” (Acts 26:18)

Subscribers and other readers of the IJFM (due to ongoing promotion) come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Mission professors, field mission-
aries, young adult mission mobilizers, college librarians, mission executives, and mission researchers all look to the IJFM for the latest thinking in
frontier missiology.

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

CITO: A Bridging Conversation
The Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider (CITO)
A Conversation with Abu Jaz

A few months ago the IJFM sat down with Abu Jaz on the matter of his (and his
group’s) identity as Muslim-background believers (MBB). In 2013, Abu Jaz was
interviewed in Christianity Today 1 and since then he has looked for an opportunity
to bring greater clarity to his philosophy of ministry — how he distinguishes the
social, cultural and religious aspects of his group’s Muslim context.

IJFM: A few years ago, at the Bridging the Divide consultation, you
distinguished the identity of your MBB movement as “cultural insider, but
theological outsider,” and coined the term “CITO.” This was your way of
contextualizing your faith in a Muslim religious setting. What led you to this
expression of your group identity?

t all started about twenty years ago when Jesus came to me in a miraculous
way, and I started to attend an evangelical church. I have my own Muslim
cultural heritage from my childhood, which is distinct from the greater
portion of our national ethnic group, so when I joined the church I encountered
a real challenge. As I reflect on that experience, I see it both as a theological
challenge, and a cultural challenge. An example of the theological challenge is
that right from the beginning I couldn’t find the name of Allah in the evangeli-
cal churches. The problem was that I didn’t experience a continuity of terminol-
ogy for referencing God even though I was with people from my own language
group. Their Christian heritage had given them their own term for God. I was
the only one from a Muslim background in the salvation class. Though we were
not Arabs, in our context our Muslim identity was a combination of the national,
ethnic culture and language, and our heritage is one that mixes Arabic terms into
my national language, which had become our mother tongue. So it was natural
for me to use the name Allah to address the Creator God. I remember my pastor
saying to me, “Abu, you are not to use the name of Allah anymore, because that
is the name of an idol. Allah is not the Father of Jesus!” The pastor thought he
was helping me to disconnect from Islam, but unfortunately at the same time he
was disconnecting me from my own knowledge of the general revelation of the
Abu Jaz is a Muslim-background concept of God—Allah, which I knew as the word for Creator God. So you see,
believer who is presently giving at that time when I joined the church, I experienced a discontinuity with the way
leadership to evangelical churches in
his region of East Africa by encourag- I previously knew and addressed God.
ing con­textualization of the gospel
This was a real theological challenge, but it also influenced me socially, for
in church planting and discipleship
among Muslim people. example in the way I would greet people. This was a cultural challenge, too,

International Journal of Frontier Missiology 32:2 Summer 2015•61

62 The Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider (CITO)

as I see it. When my pastor would disconnect me from Islam, but he was continue with my cultural background.
ask me, “How are you?” I would say, also disconnecting me from the theol- Since that time, some sixteen years
“Alhamdulillah” (Praise be to God). ogy of general revelation. ago, I have been working to assist the
But then he would say to me: “Abu Jaz, churches to contextualize their witness
Let me say at this point that I thank
now you are a Christian, and do not among Muslims, and this has borne
God for this church, which was filled
use the Islamic name for God any- fruit. And as I myself have continued
with such caring, kind and wonder-
more!” The next day when he greeted to witness to my family, my parents, my
ful people. I will never forget the love
me I wanted to respond the natural relatives, and my village, I found that
they showed me and my wife. I often
way, with “Alhamdulillah.” Although they were happy to hear and were more
wanted to pull away because of the
I wanted to be polite and correct ac- responsive to the message of the gospel
tension inside me, but because of their
cording to his advice, I couldn’t use his with contextualized terminology.
love I was able to remain. The chal-
way of greeting if I had to eliminate
lenge was that inside the church, I IJFM: Where did this lead you?
Allah. So instead I would greet him
didn’t find a single word, not even a
in a neutral and secular way saying, “I Through our work, we found a grow-
am fine.” For thirty-three years I had single letter, that reflected my Islamic
ing need for a Bible translation, not
never spoken this “Christian” way and cultural background. I can’t express the
a “Muslim-friendly” translation, but
it was so difficult for me, that I could degree of tension that existed within
one which considers those terms that
not do it. Now I see that dropping Al- me over those first few years. I was so
carry the theologies of general revela-
lah from my speech actually made my hungry to understand and learn more
tion. These would be terms from our
speech more secular. He told me to use about my newfound faith, that when
mother tongue. The mother tongue of
the new name for God, which was the our people group is a combination of
local tribal language name for God. local words with certain Arabic terms,
This was introducing me to a new which we learn from early child-
name and a new concept for God. It
would have been better if I could have
Our heritage mixes hood. When I was born, Allah and
other Arabic terms were already in my
used the old name for God, but with Arabic terms into the language, because they are part of our
a new biblical understanding, just like
other people groups around the world national language, mother tongue. Using this indigenous
terminology with biblical meanings is
continue to use their old name for
God but with a new meaning when
becoming our mother a more useful way to witness and teach
Muslims about the new life in Jesus.
they become believers in Jesus. tongue.
Another example was my baptism. I
IJFM: What were the theological was the only one from a Muslim back-
implications as you reflect on that ground in salvation class. They used
experience? “Christian culture” terms, and because
At this early point in my walk with the opportunity came, I grabbed at the I couldn’t understand what they were
Jesus, although he didn’t realize it, the chance to attend a Bible College. teaching, my baptism was postponed
pastor was disconnecting me from It was there that I started to pursue three times. At the end of the class they
a general revelation of God. Like I these questions more thoroughly, and asked, “Do you understand everything?”
said, his intention was good in trying discovered that throughout history and I said “No.” I refused to be baptized
to disconnect me from the Islamic there was continuity in the term used simply because I didn’t understand the
religion, but practically he was also for God before and after a people come terms. But after some time, by God’s
disconnecting me from a knowledge to faith. And many of those terms for grace, I finally was baptized. This was
of general revelation. Because when I God had been tied to idols. I’m very very difficult for me, and I didn’t want
said “Allah,” I acknowledged that the thankful to the teachers at the Bible anyone else from my community to
supreme God is my Creator, sustainer, College, and the many authors of have the same (difficult) experience.
provider and the final judge. The term books I read who helped me in this
Allah doesn’t only reflect my identity process. My question all those years,
IJFM: How did this lead to cultural
with Islam, but within me he was and “Why couldn’t I continue to use the insider and theological outsider (CITO)?
is the creator God. So, the term Allah name Allah?” was answered and it When we began successfully witness-
carries both the ideas of the Islamic became clear to me. I discovered that ing, discipling and church planting
religion and that of general revela- it was a problem of tradition, that with a contextualized worship style,
tion. When the pastor said “Don’t use those believers did not want me to people from the outside would come
Allah,” he was thinking that he could and say with excitement, “Oh, this is

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Abu Jaz 63

an insider movement.” Even though I
didn’t know exactly what the term “IM”
n urging me to drop the word “Allah” from my
represented, I started using it because I speech, he was disconnecting me from the general
thought it fit us since we were a move-
ment within our community. It seemed
revelation of the Creator God.
for me like a practical and simple way Are we really insiders?” I knew we did “culturally insider,” I mean we continue
to explain what we were doing. I even not fit the existing mission approach to use the terms and names for God
became a promoter of the term. But toward Muslims either, which argues according to our mother tongue. For
then I started to be rejected by those that Muslims who begin to follow example, we use the name Allah, and
who had a better understanding of the Jesus should disconnect culturally, that identifies us as an insider. But
IM concept. Finally I understood the socially, and religiously. I call them the when we come to the attributes and
philosophy behind some of these IM Outsider Movement (OMV), because nature of Allah, we do not view Allah
representatives and I could not agree they demand that Muslims who turn as before. We call Allah Father, Son
with it. For example, we do not confess to Jesus come out or leave their culture and Holy Spirit, He is the father of Isa
the “shahada” as the one, profound and religion at the same time, and only al-Masih ( Jesus the Messiah), which
Islamic creed. We do not omit the accommodate to their new “Christian” makes us religiously outsiders. In the
filial term for the Son of God and the culture and religion. case of Jesus Christ, we call him Isa
fatherhood of God as is done in certain al-Masih because we are used to ad-
“Muslim-friendly” Bible translations. I had to really think this through. If
dressing him like that, and it makes us
Muslims must actually leave their reli-
insiders. But we believe Isa is the Lord,
IJFM: So, you had contextualized gious beliefs and practices—and it was
the Son of Allah, and we believe he
certain terms and forms, but your group clear to me that they should—should
died for our sins, was raised from the
didn’t fit what others called “insider”? they also leave their Muslim culture?
dead, ascended to heaven and will come
Yes, our movement didn’t fit with IM. Of course not, because their cultural
again to judge the living and the dead,
I realized it first when I had a chance context is part of their identity and it
which makes us religiously outsiders.
to attend an international conference is the best point of contact to be a wit-
with people from around the world, ness and to help them to grow in faith. IJFM: How did this develop into a
focusing on working with Muslims. It was a critical time to figure out my philosophy of ministry for you?
Most of the participants were promot- own and our group’s identity. Thanks When I studied the Scriptures, par-
ing insider movements. I was there be to God that I had this time to think ticularly the book of Acts, I could see
and for the first time I heard someone deeply about all these issues, and fi- the distinction of cultural insider and
stand up and say, “I was a ‘Christian,’ nally I was able to determine that ours theological outsider. Also in church
but now I have become a ‘Muslim.’” was a movement of “Cultural Insiders, history I found that whenever you find
I was shocked that a Christian would but Theological Outsiders,” which led true disciples of Christ, you also find
confess the Islamic creed, the shahada, to the abbreviation “CITO.” the same distinction. It’s actually a part
for the sake of evangelism. That was of the church’s cultural and theological
the first time I heard anything like IJFM: Stepping back from this foundation. In the case of expressions
that and it’s then I discovered our encounter you were able to put this like worship in the forms of dancing,
group does not fit with this represen- CITO together? music, clothing, eating, the “do’s and
tation of IM. Yes, this is the background. I was don’ts,” or the term we use for God, we
trying to deal with both the existing should reflect the receptive culture as
During that week, I was asked to speak,
approach which I call OMV, which an insider, but we should interpret God
and I told them very clearly that, “in
says “leave your culture, your mother and customs in a biblical way, which
our movement we are not saying the
tongue, your lifestyle and become makes us an outsider. This CITO
shahada.” My statement brought me
culturally like us” and on the other distinction will force us to examine the
challenges and some hard exchanges
hand, the IM approach, which says parameters of contextualization in our
over these matters. There I heard a lot
remain as you are—culturally, socially philosophy and strategy of ministry.
of clear testimonies from IM people
and religiously.
arguing that Muslims who start to I like the way Dr. Rick Love catego-
follow Jesus should remain culturally, Our movement found a different path rized contextualization in the three as-
socially, and religiously “inside.” I knew when we coined CITO—that is being pects of the messenger, the message and
we did not fit this philosophy and culturally and socially insiders and at the church. Let me put it in my own
it forced me to ask, “Who am I and the same time fully theologically and words. When I say that the messenger
who are the people of our movement? religiously outsiders. When I say we are has to contextualize himself, it means

32:2 Summer 2015

64 The Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider (CITO)

that he must look for opportunities in reason they give is that the back- concept of God. People have religion
the context where he is witnessing. The ground of African traditional religions and start worshiping because they
greatest opportunity in every religious is nature. They knew God from nature, know there is a God deserving wor-
group is the testimony of general but when it comes to Muslims, they do ship. For both people from the tradi-
revelation, which means that the idea not know God from nature, but know tion of a holy book and people from an
of the creator God resides in all human Allah from their revealed book. The oral tradition follow their knowledge
beings, because they are created in the source of knowledge is different. They of God.
image of God. And as I said before, the say that if the source of knowledge is
People will often ask me if there is
messenger recognizes that Muslims nature, you can use that, but when it
already a local/tribal name for God,
understand “Allah” as the bearer of comes to Muslims their reference is a
and if so, why does the Muslim in that
general revelation. He cannot ignore book. But I offer a challenge to that
particular people group not use that
this because he has the responsibility type of thinking. First of all, it is good
existing tribal name. They wonder why
to find a starting point, that testimony to remember that all people are cre-
Muslims prefer to use the name Allah
of general revelation. In addition, there ated in the image of God so that they
from the Arabic language. You can see
are also other opportunities for starting know him as their Creator.
from their question that their refer-
points besides general revelation to be
Both the African traditionalist and ence is language, the Arabic language.
found in the Muslims’ theology.
the Muslims have a preexistent belief My point is that it is not a linguistic
This is the very teaching that Muslims in the existence of God, for both are issue, but it is theology! Most people
have taken from us and given it their created in the image of God. When who use Allah to refer to God do
own image and meaning; but, just not know it comes from the Arabic,
because Muslims use common terms since it’s the first and only word they
such as Allah does not mean that we know to refer to God in their mother
should ignore them. Yes, it is interwoven tongue. When you ask them a ques-
with the theology of Islam, but these are I see these tion that is related to the theology of
the basis of biblical theology of general
revelation. Wherever you go, the name
Islamic terms as useful general revelation, like who created
heaven and earth, or who sustains the
of God will carry two theologies: the and an appro­priate universe, or who provides for the needs
theology of general revelation and the of the people, they will automatically
theology of their respective religion. This starting point for respond with passion, “That is Allah!”
duality is all over, in Hinduism, in Afri- a conversation. Please understand that this general
can traditional religions, and even with revelation is not sufficient for salva-
Paul among the Greeks. Paul saw both tion, but it is sufficient for judgment
these aspects as he faced an opportunity (Rom. 1:18, 2:12).
in Athens and he said, “When I am with
you, I found the unknown god.” Paul the people are created in the image of IJFM: Doesn’t the concern seem to be
messenger was using the opportunity God, they receive general revelation, that the terms like Allah carry other
granted him by general revelation, and he and this produces a search for God. meanings?
knew and understood that every person Acts 17:27 explains that they will Yes, our usual concern is first the
is created in the image of God and has search for Him that they might find concept of general revelation. Not
a concept, a general revelation, of God. Him, and when people think they only this, but also there are other
Muslims are created in the image of God find him, there you have religion. So opportunities in Islamic teaching.
and they have a concept of God, Allah, as religion is their answer in their search Muslims have taken Christian
their Creator God, the giver and bearer for God. This is the knowledge of God teaching and given it Islamic meaning.
of general revelation, but at the same from general revelation which is prior But even if they misuse it, at least a
time he is the god of their Islamic reli- to the giving of special revelation. portion bears a certain truth. Some
gion and bearer of Qur’anic revelation. Whether they have a book or no book, of their theologies are not originally
God judges them by their religious Islamic. For example, they believe
IJFM: But do some want to practice. Both move away from God, that Allah created heaven and earth,
distinguish between the general for where there is no book there are and created Adam and Eve (Hawa)
revelation of God within African oral traditions that carry a lot of wrong and that he gave them the command
traditional religion and that of Islam? theology about God. This forms the not to eat the fruit. And parts of the
Some say that with Islam this doesn’t God of their African traditional reli- stories of Noah (Nuh), Abraham
apply. You ask them, “Why?” and the gion, the bearer of their oral tradition’s (Ibrahim), Joseph (Yusuf ), Moses

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Abu Jaz 65

(Musa), David (Daud), and John the
Baptist (Yahya) are taken from the
nother thing really opened my eyes: the vital
Bible and are helpful if we use and importance of acceptance. The evangelical
handle them properly. This is especially
true of the story of Jesus Christ (Isa
community said, “We accept you as brothers.”
al-Masih) in the Qur’an, who was day, and that he will kill the Antichrist must also relate to the larger body of
born without an earthly father, of and be the final ruler and judge of the Christ, to the rest of global believers,
the virgin Mary, is sinless, a miracle whole world. to Christianity, and not just to its local
worker, is coming again a second time, context. This raised for us the impor-
will kill the Antichrist, and will rule as So, as a rule I have found that an
tant question of how our church could
judge over the world. This is a biblical emphasis on sin is more easily accept-
contextualize locally and yet identify
teaching, but sometimes they give it able after I tell them that Jesus is the
itself globally. And, again, this is where
proper meaning and in some cases sign of the Day of Judgment. When
the concept of CITO is helpful to us.
they don’t. Some aspects are correct, I preach Jesus as Ruler and Judge, the
but others have been given their own one who will kill the Antichrist (Ma- IJFM: Can you give us an example of
Islamic meaning, like that Isa did not sih ad-Dajjal), it allows the Spirit to how you find your way with these two
die on the cross for our sin, or that he convict Muslims of judgment, because dimensions of the global church and
is not the son of Allah. But I would they are so afraid of the Day of Judg- the local Muslim context?
see these Islamic terms and concepts, ment. They more readily accept Jesus
as their Savior from judgment than I’d like to answer this with a case study
although all is not really biblical, as
their Savior from sin. They accept the of how we chose to proceed with a new
another opportunity to share truth.
judgment part, and I find the convic- Bible translation for Muslims among
IJFM: It seems you are talking more tion of sin follows automatically when our people. I am presently in charge of
about contextualizing the message they have accepted Him as a savior on Christian and Muslim relations for the
than the actual messenger? the day of judgment, and the sense of umbrella organization of the evangeli-
righteousness as well. This is the bibli- cal churches in our country. We felt
I would see the contextualization
cal basis for expecting contextualiza- a need for a new Bible translation,
of the salvation message as going
tion by the Spirit in different contexts. which used the terminology I have
beyond this choice of terminology. I
been advocating here, but the transla-
like to point out that in John 16:9-
12 Jesus speaks of the benefits of the IJFM: Please speak to how all this forms tion had to relate to this organization.
Holy Spirit coming and that He will the church in a Muslim community. I initiated the new translation because
convict the world of three things: sin, This is where we need to reflect the Muslims were coming to Christ who
righteousness and judgment. About CITO approach. All that I have needed their own Bible. Those who
sin “because people do not believe in been saying about these terms, about come to the Lord through this con-
me,” and about righteousness, “because general revelation, and about these op- textualized approach need their own
you will not see me for I am going to portunities, should not be taken simply translation so the Bible will be clear
the Father.” But for Muslims, I like to as a transitional bridge, but should be and useful to them. When a Muslim
point out that the Spirit will convict permanent in the church. The heav- turns to Christ and goes to the existing
us of judgment, “because the ruler of enly nature of the church has not been evangelical church there is a tension
the world has been judged.” When we changed or adapted when we use these and a struggle. I pointed out how I
do mission we expect the Holy Spirit terms, but the earthly nature of the had this struggle to find anything
to convict in these three ways, but church allows us to adapt terminolo- that reflects our Muslim background
which one of the three do we expect gies according to cultural values for and culture in the existing evangelical
to be more vital? Often with Muslims local use. Truth must be expressed churches. A Muslim will struggle to
if I begin by saying that their sins will contextually. When a group gathers translate himself into the culture of the
be washed by the blood of Jesus, they they come with Allah, with Alhamdu- evangelical churches. So, as this Bible
might think I am foolish, because of lillah, with Isa al-Masih, with familiar translation project was proceeding very
the theology of atonement of sin that food, with their cultural issues, and well, there came a request to stop it by
they hold. From both Jesus’ teaching their own way of social interaction. some in the evangelical community,
and our own experience with Muslims This means the church becomes indig- because it was creating some problems.
we have found that they will listen enous, it’s from the land of the people, We agreed to stop the translation, and
attentively when we start by present- and it should reflect the cultural values to make a long story short, we are now
ing Jesus’ role on the Day of Judgment, of that people; otherwise, it will be working together with a national com-
that he will return as the sign of that foreign. At the same time, the church mittee on contextualization.

32:2 Summer 2015

66 The Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider (CITO)

IJFM: That must have been very from the national language, and not (prohibitions). These will keep them
difficult. the term “Allah,” while we use the term socially attached to their communities.
Yes. Here I was in the process of trying Allah with them, they think it is cheat-
IJFM: So they are still culturally and
to restore my own cultural identity as a ing. They think our use of Allah is some
socially part of the community?
MBB, and helping other MBBs so that kind of fake. So, this booklet helps to
answer this immediate concern. Another Let me clarify that when I use the term
a translation would be more natural for “culturally inside” I also mean “socially
them, and this happened. Because of function of the booklet is these believers
will have a chance to get biblical teach- inside.” I use them synonymously. But
misrepresentation, I really felt rejected, I don’t want to indicate that by being
and I wept, but God knew my reason- ing in their own indigenous terminolo-
gies from their mother tongues. “inside” that everything is acceptable
ing behind it all, that my motivation to the unbelieving Muslim community
was to reach my people. I really want to There are so many questions like this because they are not identical in every
thank all those who wept and prayed that arise at this early point in the dis- aspect or activity. What makes them an
for me and gave encouragement and cipleship . . . so many, many questions. insider is that they reflect and represent
comfort. And God really helped me and the culture they are from. That reflection
things became clear. Two things actually IJFM: So the picture we have is that should be seen in the CITO gathering
happened with this decision to stop the you have brokered Muslims coming of believers. It does not mean that they
translation. First, a national committee to faith with the evangelical churches. bring all their former culture into their
was formed among the evangelicals to Doesn’t this cut them off socially from new life in Christ. They develop their
pursue contextualization. And it was this your community of birth? own CITO identity with their new social
committee that took the step to develop network. At the same time they may
a booklet that speaks to Muslims of or may not preserve their old collective
the story of God from Creation to the social network. The CITO churches will
second coming of Christ, using their try to respect and maintain the social
own terminology and cultural concepts
in a contextualized manner. Another When I use the term interaction with the Muslim commu-
nity. To do this, they need to preserve
thing that happened really opened my
eyes: the vital importance of acceptance,
“culturally inside” the traditions that do not relate to their
salvation. Though they have a social
and it’s what lies behind this booklet. I also mean connection with the larger, unbelieving
It’s the evangelical community saying,
“we accept you as brothers and sisters . . .
“socially inside.” community, like the Jews in the early
church, they are not identical with their
we trust what God is doing among culture. They are similar in customs, they
you.” This approval creates a spirit of are indigenous, but in the religious issues
unity, something that comes automati- they are distinctly different. In CITO a
cally with acceptance. If the booklet was cultural bridge is maintained for others
wrong theologically, they would not offer Actually, as I mentioned above, when who wish to come into the fellowship of
this booklet with their official logo on it. we say we are socially inside, we are the believers, the church.
It tells us that behind the booklet there is not total insiders; rather, we are both
theological acceptance. It’s like that point socially inside and socially outside. I IJFM: So they maintain a social
in Acts 15 where the council in Jerusa- am speaking here of the interaction connection even though they are
lem, the Jewish brothers in the church, between people, and the effort to theological outsiders?
sent a letter to the Gentile brothers and maintain their social network. This Yes. But we do not do contextualization
sisters to affirm their faith and establish a would be their family, their friends just to avoid being kicked out of the
sense of acceptance. I thank God and our and their significant groups in the community. Actually, we see this [get-
evangelical leaders for their wise decision. community. There are some values ting “kicked out”] as a normal part of
and Islamic norms that they should the life in Christ. This effort at contex-
IJFM: How does the booklet replace respect, even if those issues are not tualization is primarily for the believer
the function of a Bible translation? necessarily fundamental to their to sense and understand his true and
When Muslims have spiritually ac- new belief in Jesus. For the sake of biblical identity in Christ, and by do-
cepted Jesus, certain issues come up belonging to the community they ing so we also provide an indigenous
immediately, like the issue of identity— should maintain some customs of way for Muslims who wish to come to
who are we in relation to other Chris- dress, of interaction, in attending Christ to hear the salvation message.
tians? When we disciple them with a funerals and public events, in That is a culturally comfortable and
Bible that uses the other term for God respecting what is hallal and haram receptive context for Muslims. They

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Abu Jaz 67

find a sense of home with familiar termi-
nologies as they take on a new faith iden-
hen persecution comes, they have that solid,
tity. They can maintain a cultural manner biblical identity in their own collective mother
of thinking, or the way they socially greet,
and can maintain the religious terminol-
tongue—this allows them to stand strong.
ogy from their non-believing Muslim ground will want to maintain certain bring them any special spiritual bless-
community. When persecution comes, cultural values and customs, but due to ing, because it’s just culture. The woman
they have that solid and biblical identity an overall freedom of expression, not who is comfortable wearing certain dress
in their own collective mother tongue, all who come to faith will choose the is free to do so, but it might not carry
and this allows them to stand strong same way regarding Islamic customs. A the same religious meaning. This type of
and to continue with the CITO form of freedom allows for diversity and a healthy
percentage will want to join the existing
church and their new identity in Christ. unity across the many Muslims coming
evangelical churches, and this may hin-
der or stop their social interaction with to faith. It is what God is granting us
IJFM: Speaking of those coming to
their [unbelieving Muslim] network. in these days as we see a movement of
Christ, are these MBBs expressing
For us it is very important to consis- Muslims now turning to Christ. IJFM
themselves culturally in similar fashion?
There is a wonderful unity and diver- tently maintain indigenous terminolo-
sity in our country across those who gies because they are part of our mother Endnotes
are coming to faith from the Muslim tongue, and their usage maintains 1
Gene Daniels, “Worshiping Jesus in
community. There is a freedom for those continuity with new biblical meaning. If the Mosque: What it’s like to follow Christ
they choose to continue to dress or look embedded in Muslim Culture. An Interview
who are ministering among Muslims in
with a Muslim Follower of Isa,” Christianity
how they are witnessing, doing church like Muslims, to a certain extent it will
Today, January 14, 2013, http://www.chris-
planting and discipleship. We certainly not hinder or stop their social interac-
do not want to bring another form of tion with their [unbelieving Muslim] insider-movement-islam-wheres-jesus.
bondage. Some from a Muslim back- network, but they must know it will not html?start=3.



Find out more about church planting among the unreached in
New York—and other North American cities—in the “Multiply”
video series at

32:2 Summer 2015

William Carey Library

he word “ethics” carries an aura of countervailing views, overlapping claims,
on and Syncretism Navigating Cultural Currents
CoNtExtualizatioN aND SyNCREtiSM

uncertain footing, and seductive attractions. Some issues are as clear as the
horizontal versus vertical axes in Sawai Chinnawong’s striking painting,
n Christianity is easier to discern in retrospect than in Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, that graces the cover of this book. At the same time—

and Syncretism SERVING

r guide, one thing is sure: This age will be as syncretistic because we are involved, because our interests, our inclinations, our plans and
Israel frequently syncretized the worship of God with relationships are at stake—the issues that engage missionary practitioners can be

dern, “enlightenment” philosophies focused on the frustratingly labyrinthine, curling endlessly back on themselves.
d the spiritual. How is the gospel being contextualized Evangelical missionaries and mission agencies are concerned about personal
orld? To what degree are these new contextualizations
attempts to answer these questions by defining and Navigating Cultural Currents morality—and rightly so. But as the chapters in this volume attest, evangelical
mission’s ethical engagement extends far beyond simply avoiding compromising


ation and syncretism. sexual situations and not absconding with the finances. How should we talk about

Gailyn Van Rheenen others’ beliefs and practices to ourselves? To them? How should we represent ourselves
—from the Foreword to others? What role does tolerance for ambiguity play in missionaries’ mental
most involved in missions bear at lest some responsibility preparation? How should accountability be structured in intercultural partnerships?
ism; and, if so, what can we do to help remedy the Are there ways to enable organizational justice to flourish in mission institutions?
ualization presents us with some “sticky wickets” when What might integrity in short-term mission outreach look like? How does care for ethics and accountability in mission
The word “contextualization” is susceptible to differing creation relate to mission? What role can a code of ethics for missionary practice play?
and objectives. And these differences relate as much to Limited and fallible and marred by the fall, we need both guidance and
tise and interests of contextualizers as to anything else. admonition—and deep reflection on the conduct of evangelical mission such as is
provided in this volume—so that we may serve Jesus with true integrity. editors Dwight P. Baker and Douglas Hayward
David J. Hesselgrave
—from Chapter 4 ____________________________________________________________________

as a church-planting missionary among Kipsigis people of Dwight P. Baker is Associate Director of the Overseas
missions and evangelism at Abilene Christian University for 17 Ministries Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut, and
ector of Mission Alive, a ministry which is equipping missional
h Christ-formed churches across urban North America (www.
Gailyn Van Rheenen Associate Editor of the International Bulletin of Missionary
ks include Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Editor Research. Previously he was director of the World Christian
Foundations study program at the U.S. Center for World
and Communicating Christ in Animistic Contexts (William

Missionary Methods:
also authored with others Evaluating the Church Growth
Mission, Pasadena, California.
Gailyn Van Rheenen

nd The Changing Face of World Missions (Baker).

Douglas Hayward is Associate Dean and Professor of
CoNtRibutoRS Anthropology and Intercultural Studies in the Cook School of
eth Lee Cockerill, Michael T. Cooper, David J. Hesselgrave, Intercultural Studies at Biola University, La Mirada, California,
uang Chua, J. Nelson Jennings, Eric Moeller, Scott Moreau, R e s e a R c h, R e f l e cti o where
n s, hea has
n dtaught
R e for
a lover
e s years. Before coming to
Tansell, Steve Strauss, Cynthia A. and David K. Strong, Biola he served for twenty years with CrossWorld in West
Van Rheenen, and J. Dudley Woodberry Evangelical Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) as a church planter and discipler
Missiological among the Western Dani.
Number 13
CRAIG OTT and J.D. PAYNE ed ito Rs

EMS18_Cover.indd 1 10-08-25 8:26 AM

Contextualization and Missionary Methods (EMS21) Serving Jesus with Integrity

Syncretism (EMS 13) Research, Reflections, and Realities (EMS 18)
Navigating Cultural Currents Craig Ott, J. D. Payne (Editors) Ethics and Accountability in Mission
Gailyn Van Rheenen (Editor) Dwight Baker, Doug Hayward (Editors)

“Culture’s influence upon Christianity is easier One hundred years ago, Roland Allen authored The word “ethics” carries an aura of

to discern in retrospect than in prospect. If his landmark study Missionary Methods: St. countervailing views, overlapping claims,

history is our guide, one thing is sure: This Paul’s or Ours? The 2012 annual conference uncertain footing, and seductive attractions.

age will be as syncretistic as any other . . . How of the Evangelical Missiological Society Some issues are as clear as the horizontal

is the gospel being contextualized in the celebrated this centennial by addressing this versus vertical axes in Sawai Chinnawong’s

contemporary world? To what degree are ever relevant topic. The present volume brings striking painting, Joseph and Potiphar’s

these new contextualizations syncretistic? to readers insights from that conference Wife, which grace the cover of this book.

This book attempts to answer these questions examining the theological foundations, At the same time—because we are involved,

by defining and analyzing contextualization historical precedence, and practical because our interests, our inclinations, our

and syncretism.” — Gailyn Van Rheenen challenges regarding missionary methods. plans and relationships are at stake—the

Missiologists, missionary practitioners, and issues that engage missionary practitioners

strategic leaders alike will benefit from these can be frustratingly labyrinthine, curling

essays, which give fresh perspective on endlessly back on themselves.

methods for fulfilling the Great Commission in

Limited and fallible and marred by the fall,
our day.
we need both guidance and admonition—and

deep reflection on the conduct of evangelical

mission such as is provided in this volume—

so that we may serve Jesus with true integrity.

List Price: $14.99 • Our Price $11.99 List Price $14.99 • Our Price $11.99 List Price $14.99 • Our Price $11.99

ISBN 978-0-87808-387-9 ISBN 978-0-87808-043-4 ISBN 978-0-87808-023-6

Gailyn Van Rheenen (Editor) Craig Ott, J. D. Payne (Editors) Dwight Baker, Doug Hayward (Editors)
WCL | Pages 360 | Paperback 2006 WCL | Pages 256 | Paperback 2013 WCL | Pages 438| Paperback 2010

CITO: A Bridging Conversation
Will the Umma Veto SITO?
Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on
Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities
by Fred Farrokh

Editor’s note: SITO stands for Social Insider/Theological Outsider and represents the
author’s modification of the original acronym CITO.

n the last few years, identity has emerged as a key facet of the missiologi-
cal discourse regarding contextualization, insider movements, and inter-
faith relations in Muslim contexts. This article addresses the identity of
Muslims who have come to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In particular,
I will take a look at missiological discussions regarding the important concept
of “CITO,” which is an acronym for believers in Christ from a Muslim back-
ground who are “cultural insiders but theological outsiders.”

Three different authors have gone into print either suggesting this CITO
model or critiquing it. I will be examining proposals by all three. Gene
Daniels and co-author L. D. Waterman tackled this issue in their Summer
2013 piece in the International Journal of Frontier Missiology (Daniels and
Waterman 2013). The authors suggested that a reasonable outcome would be
for these new believers to remain “culturally inside and theologically outside”
(2013, 62). They attributed the term to “Abu Jaz,” a sub-Saharan African
church leader from a Muslim background, whom Daniels interviewed in 2013
for a Christianity Today article (see Daniels, 2013).

Daniels writes: “Thus in order to avoid syncretism, followers of Christ will

be ‘outside’ generally accepted Islamic theology” (2013, 63). Daniels suggests
that CITO believers may in fact deviate from “Islamic understandings of
Fred Farrokh is a Muslim-background God, salvation, Jesus, etc.” (2013, 66). Waterman adds, “I agree that CITO
Christian. He is a missionary ordained seems to be the best way forward (at least among options we’re aware of at
by Elim Fellowship who currently
serves as an International Trainer present” (2013, 63). A third author, Ben Naja, who researched East African
with Global Initiative: Reaching movements, used similar terminology when he stated that participants in
Muslim Peoples. He received a PhD
in Intercultural Studies from the As- those movements pursue “a dual identity: social and cultural insider, spiritual
semblies of God Theological Seminary outsider” (2013b, 156). The term CITO, therefore, appears to be fairly recent
in 2014, with a dissertation on the
topic of Muslim Identity. Previously, in missiological discussion.
Fred served with Jesus For Muslims
Network, in Metro New York, as well
But is CITO a viable concept? Will the umma (Muslim community) continue
as with SAT-7 in the Middle East. to extend cultural/social insider status to those who have become theological

International Journal of Frontier Missiology 32:2 Summer 2015•69

70 Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities

outsiders? And what does it mean to J. H. Prenger before offering any con- in the community (umma) imputing
be a theological outsider? A Turkish clusions and future considerations shame upon them, rendering them so-
writer, Ziya Meral, himself a Muslim- cial outsiders. Neither term should be
background Christian, describes the confused with the technical term de-
plight of many Muslim-background
Abu Jaz was, to my knowledge, the first scribing “insider movement” believers
TOs (theological outsiders), upon who “remain inside their socioreligious
to coin the term “CITO”: he described
whom apostate status has been con- communities, retaining their identity
the East African movement (of which
ferred by their communities: as members of those communities”
he is a part) as made up of believers
Apostates are subject to wide- who are “culturally inside, theologically (Lewis, IJFM, 2007, 24:2, 75).
ranging human rights abuses includ- outside.” In the 2013 IJFM article, Furthermore, as anyone can attest
ing extra-judicial killings by state- Gene Daniels wisely introduces into who has lived in another country, it
related agents or mobs; honour kill- the discussion yet a different term, the is exceedingly difficult as a foreigner
ings by family members; detention, “social insider” which is a concept I
imprisonment, torture, physical and to become a cultural insider. Very few
think could prove helpful (Daniels and foreigners ever learn to speak a target
psychological intimidation by security
Waterman 2013, 62). However, he then language with the fluency and accent
forces; the denial of access to judicial
links “social insider” to “cultural insider” of someone indigenous to that culture.
services and social services; the denial
of equal employment or education in a way that makes the terms seem It is virtually impossible for an outsider
opportunities; social pressure result- almost synonymous. to convincingly reproduce the idioms,
ing in loss of housing and employ- facial expressions, gestures, thought
ment; and day-to-day discrimination processes, and mastery of spatial rela-
and ostracism in education, finance tions such that he might “pass” as in-
and social activities. (2008, 6)
digenous. Beyond this are the external
For these reasons Meral is more than a appearances that could likely expose
little skeptical that Muslims who have I want to someone as non-indigenous—even if
become theological outsiders can in distinguish between he or she were to perfectly mimic all
actuality remain social insiders. of the other elements of communica-
This missiological tension is real and
the terms tion which God allowed every child
poses valid questions that need an- “cultural insider” and raised in that culture to master with no
apparent effort. Cross-cultural workers
swers. Those answers require more data
and research, and I wish to introduce “social insider.” who have become—at least margin-
my own research as a contribution to ally—cultural insiders have earned my
this important discussion. I am writing admiration and respect!
from the perspective of a Muslim- Likewise, in the same way that non-
background believer in Christ. I appre- indigenous persons rarely acquire cul-
I wish to make, what I believe, is
ciate the efforts of all those who have tural insider status in another ethno-
an important distinction between a
set out to communicate the Gospel to linguistic group, so too, do indigenous
cultural insider (CITO) and a social
Muslims, and I believe a closer exami- persons rarely lose it. It would take
insider. Cultural insider status centers
nation of this CITO identity is a great draconian efforts to bring this about,
on communication issues, whereas
way to begin. such as: a refusal to speak one’s mother
social insider status centers on honor-
In all the encouraging uptick of re- shame issues. A cultural insider is able tongue for years; or the cultural
search on Muslim identity, I first of all to communicate effectively in a given disconnect from living for decades in
want to distinguish between the terms context, understanding at a deep level a foreign land without visits home; or
“cultural insider” and “social insider.” I what is going on around him or her, long stretches of time without much
then want to outline how my research and responding accordingly. A social contact with compatriots. In a Muslim
focused on certain variables which I insider is a person whom the commu- community, disowning one’s culture
believe are central to this multi-study nity is honored to call one of its own. could take the form of eating pork
analysis of identity: Christology, For Muslims coming to Christ, the is- products in public, or of completely
Muhammad, self-identity, mosque at- sue is not whether they will be cultural flaunting accepted dress mores. Short
tendance, and community perceptions outsiders; they are indigenous people of these extreme measures, an indig-
of identity. I then will compare these and will remain cultural insiders. enous person will most likely continue
variables from my own research with Rather, the question is whether their to be a cultural insider in the culture in
new field research by Ben Naja and newfound faith in Christ will result which he or she was born and raised.

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Fred Farrokh 71

I believe what Abu Jaz is really pointing
to (as referenced by Ben Naja and with
t is very possible that cultural insiders might still
clarification from Daniels) is the pros- be socially ostracized and no longer accepted as
pect of a person being a social insider,
as compared to one who is SITO (a members in good standing.
social insider, but theological outsider). germane to the viability of SITO.1 I bona fide prophet (and therefore the
By social insider, I mean a person who understand that space limitations make Qur’an as a book of divine origin)?
is accepted by and in good standing it impossible for researchers to present • Self-identity: Do the new believers
within the mainstream of that society. all the information they may glean on continue to identify themselves as
Missionaries obviously would not want the field, and so I naturally welcome Muslims, in the present tense?
to unnecessarily precipitate situations additional evaluations of these new • Mosque Attendance: Do the new
in which indigenous persons become sources of missiological data. believers continue to attend the
marginalized as social outsiders. Nev- Islamic mosque?
ertheless, it is very possible that cultural Prior to this windfall of recent studies, • Community Perceptions of Identity:
insiders might still be socially ostracized the only published field research on Does their Muslim community
and no longer accepted as members in Muslim insider movements was that continue to view the new believers
good standing and this might lead to presented by Phil Parshall regarding “Is- as Muslims?
the formation of their own sub-culture. lampur” (see Parshall 1998). This study
of 72 Insider Muslim leaders indicated Naja’s Research among East African
that “96 percent say that there are four Believers
New Field Research on Muslim heavenly books, ie, Torah, Zabur, Injil Ben Naja undertook field research
Identity and Qur’an (this is standard Muslim in an East African Muslim context
In order to help shed some light on these belief )” and “66 percent say that the beginning December 2011. Naja and
important questions, I will take a look at Qur’an is the greatest of the four books” his team conducted
three recent field research studies done in (Parshall 1998, 406). Regarding mosque
Muslim contexts. The first was conducted 322 interviews with believers from a
attendance, “50 per cent go to the tra-
Muslim background from 64 differ-
by Ben Naja and published in IJFM in ditional mosque on Friday,” and “31 per ent villages and ekklesias (fellowship
two parts: one in 2013 and the second cent go to the mosque more than once a groups) in several districts. (2013a, 28)
in 2014 (although officially backdated to day” (Parshall 1998, 406).
the latter part of 2013). Naja conducted Here are some of his results as they
his study in an East African country in I also understand that new research pertain to my five topics.
December 2011 and features a control may have been published very recently
or in the lag time from the writing of Christology: Naja reports that among
group and a primary group. The second his primary research group at least 95%
study of field research data I will evaluate this article (late 2014) to its eventual
publication.2 I apologize for overlook- of those who were interviewed believe
was collected by J. H. Prenger, who pub- that Jesus died on the Cross, that Jesus
lished his PhD dissertation in April 2014 ing any meritorious works in these
categories. No doubt they can be ad- is the Son of God, and that they are
on “Muslim Insider Christ Followers.” forgiven through Jesus’ atoning death
Prenger did his field research in seven dressed later as this important missio-
(2013a, 28). Based on this data, the
(unnamed) countries within four regions logical conversation continues.
East Africans interviewed by Naja ap-
of the Muslim world. Lastly, I myself pear to be Christologically orthodox.
conducted field research on indigenous Scope of the Study
perspectives of Muslim identity as a part The issue of identity is reflexive—how Muhammad: The majority of the 322
of my own July 2014 PhD dissertation. people, individually and collectively, view East African interviewees are TOs
For my field research in late 2013, I themselves and how they are viewed (theological outsiders, from an Is-
interviewed forty people, all Muslims by by others. I will review the three field lamic perspective) in that they reject
birth, who currently reside in Metropoli- the prophethood of Muhammad. Naja
research projects through five ques-
tan New York City, and who hail from reports that only 34% of his primary
tions. The first two deal more with the
eighteen different birth countries. Half of research group consider Muhammad a
theological spectrum of SITO, while the
prophet (2013b, 156). Naja also inter-
the interviewees were Muslims, including final three focus on the social dynamic:
viewed an additional 68 East African
five Islamic scholars, and the other twenty
• Christology: What do believers in the Muslim-background believers as a
were Muslim-background Christians.
movement believe about Jesus Christ? comparison group, and only 3% of this
I will highlight these studies in depth • Muhammad: Do the new believers group affirmed the prophethood of
in particular because they ask questions continue to esteem Muhammad as a Muhammad (2013b, 156).

32:2 Summer 2015

72 Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities

Self-identity: Regarding self-identity, (2013b, 158). Nevertheless, 47% of the Asia, and Africa. His research is the
Naja states: primary research group and 52% of the most expansive to date regarding the
comparison group have experienced direct beliefs and practices of followers
When asked, most would maintain
that they are Muslims, but in a quali- suffering for their faith in Christ of Jesus who are part of insider move-
fied sense, namely, a Muslim who (2013b, 157). ments. Dr. Prenger is to be commended
follows Isa al-Masih. Still, 93% do for providing many direct quotes from
To summarize my understanding
identify themselves as “Muslim” in the Muslim insider movement leaders.
of Naja’s findings, the groups in his
some sense of the word. . . . A smaller
recent field work in East Africa, Christology: The majority of the insider
number, 41%, actually “feel” they are
still part of the Muslim community. as described, can be characterized movement leaders interviewed by Prenger
(2013a, 29) as biblically orthodox and Islamic are orthodox in terms of Christology.
theological outsiders. They aspire to be Prenger states: “18 interviewees see Isa
Interestingly, the groups are referred social insiders, and 93% continue to al Massih as divine” (2014, 113). Prenger
to as ekklesia, which is the Koine self-identify as Muslims in some sense, provides direct quotes supporting their
Greek New Testament term for yet about half are being persecuted by views of the divinity of Jesus. For example
church. Though Naja mentions that the Muslim community. In terms of “Zach” (pseudonyms used throughout)
this movement aspires to social insider the question posed in the title of this from SE Asia states regarding Jesus:
status, it seems that only a minority article, “Will the umma veto SITO?”
(41%) of respondents feel they cur- Some of the earlier prophets often
more time is needed to evaluate whe-
rently enjoy it. spoke of the coming Messiah. He begins
ther the wider Muslim community to take a shape in a human form. From
Mosque Attendance: Regarding atten- one angle he is seen as fully man. But we
dance at the Islamic mosque, Naja notes, also see in the theophanies and other
revelations of God in the Old Testament
Nearly 60% of the research group
and more than 40% of the compari-
The majority of that this figure is also seen as divine. He
is 100% divine within the oneness of
son group in these two movements
never go to the mosque. (2013b, 157)
the insider movement God. Like two faces of one coin, these

It would be interesting to know if those

leaders interviewed are inseparable. This gives us a lot of dif-
ficulty in our context here. (2014, 114)
who attend the mosque are those who by Prenger Their orthodoxy, however, is not
remain free from the persecutions
mentioned below. Similarly, it would are orthodox in unanimous and Prenger indicates this.
be illuminating to know if those who
do attend the mosque attend it daily,
Christology. Five members of insider movements
see the relationship between Allah
weekly, or only during annual holi- and Isa al Massih in a way that reflects
days. Another question that would be a low Christology. Table 28 shows
how each one of them says in their
helpful would be to probe further into will continue to confer social insider own words that Jesus is not God.
the views and rationales of the appar- status on these believers or whether
ent cross-section of believers who still the umma will ultimately withdraw it. An example is “Axel” from South Asia:
attend the mosque yet say they reject I do not believe that Isa and Allah are
the prophethood of Muhammad (since Prenger’s Multi-National Study of the same. The Isa that came to earth
Muhammad is affirmed as a prophet “Muslim Insider Christ Followers” is not Allah. That is shirk [idolatry].
during the call to corporate prayer in J. H. Prenger recently published a He was human and you cannot say
the mosque.) However, this information doctoral dissertation (in 2014) fea- that a human is Allah. (2014, 119)
did not emerge from a study that other- turing a multi-national research that
In terms of the SITO/SITI discussion,
wise was chock-full of information. surveyed twenty-six “Muslim Insider
the minority who do not affirm the
Christ Followers” and five “alongsider”
Community Perceptions of Identity: divinity of Christ are much more likely
expatriate mentors. (I will focus solely
The next question is how the wider to be viewed by the wider Muslim
on the indigenous respondents.) In his
Muslim community views these new community as theological insiders
study, the indigenous interviewees are
believers. Since the movements are than those who affirm Christ’s divinity.
identified as members of “insider move-
new, it is possible many Muslims are
ments.” Prenger’s study was conducted Muhammad: Regarding their perceptions
not aware of their existence. Indeed,
in seven different countries within four of prophets, Prenger states that “Andy”
Naja notes, “These informal ekkle-
separate regions of the Muslim world—
sia are ‘invisible,’ in that they do not was the only one who explicitly said in re-
South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast
actively seek public recognition…” sponse to the question about prophets

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Fred Farrokh 73

in general that he believes that Mo-
hammed was not a prophet. (2014, 85)
hese Muslim insider Christ followers who attend
However, the direct quote attributed the mosque have their own reasons and rationales
to South Asian Muslim Insider leader for doing so, which are highly instructive.
“Howard” seems to indicate he also
rejects the prophethood of Muham- Mosque attendance: Regarding atten- as a Muslim insider, with a beard. He
mad, which would perhaps make dance of the mosque, Prenger again attends the mosque and prays with his
two such indigenous leaders. Prenger provides insightful quotes which friends there. Axel said that he actu-
provides helpful verbatim quotes on indicate a significant number of these ally prefers praying like that over the
what these leaders feel about prophets, Muslim Insider Christ Followers con- way they pray in churches. (2014, 209)
Muhammad, and the compatibility of tinue to attend the mosque. They have Prenger notes a certain freedom
the Qur’an and the Bible. For example, their own reasons and rationales for among some Insider Movement
a Southeast Asian leader “Drew” con- doing so, which are highly instructive. leaders to operate freely within the
veyed his beliefs through an analogy: mosque setting:
Several of the Insider Movement
I am a university student now and Je- leaders adapt something akin to Paul’s “Angus” [of South Asia] reiterated
sus is my professor, but when I was in marriage instructions in 1 Corinthians that with the identity they have they
elementary school Mohammed was
7 in continuing mosque attendance. can talk about Jesus with anyone.
my teacher, yet I don’t find any of his
Prenger notes: “People see us as a sect within Islam
teaching contradicting the teachings
that observes all holy books and waits
of Jesus. Jesus explains more about [African IM leader] “Brad” explained for the judgment day when Jesus is
what Mohammed is talking about their strategy in regard to the coming back,” he said. They follow the
but they’re not contradicting. There’s mosque system as continuing what month of Ramadan and other events
nothing wrong with believing in Mo- you did before. If insiders attended on the Islamic calendar. “Arthur” [also
hammed because it does not affect the mosque before they came to of South Asia] is in somewhat of a dif-
your salvation. (2014, 88) faith in Isa, they encourage them to ferent situation in that he is still very
Self-identity: My own research (below) continue going. (2014, 213) much part of the Mosque system and
indicates that the umma considers af- Prenger affirms that one of the South its leadership. He preaches from the
firmation of the prophethood of Mu- Asian Insider Movement leaders pulpits in the mosques. (2014, 210)
hammad as the indispensable variable adheres to the same principle: In the case of one leader in South Asia
for retaining Muslim identity. There-
Regarding mosque attendance, Region D, the believers have with-
fore, the Insider Movement leaders
drawn from the regular mosque and
interviewed by Prenger not only claim “Mitch” supports the idea that some-
have started their own mosque:
Muslim identity through the descrip- one should not change their atten-
tor “Muslim Insider Christ Followers,” dance habits after coming to faith in “Angus” referred to himself and other
but many continue to embrace Muslim Isa. “He can worship in the mosque in insiders as sheep among wolves. Their
identity through affirmation of the the name of Jesus.” (2014, 209) strategy regarding the mosque system
prophetic office of Muhammad. It appears there is community pressure is to be a Sufi-style group separate from
the regular mosques, within which the
The data presented indicate the to attend the mosque in “Homer’s”
scrutiny is high and the tolerance is low
Muslim Insider Christ Followers see context, as he states: “Sometimes oth-
towards variations. 2014, 210)
themselves as Muslims. In fact, at ers would come to my house saying,
least two of the South Asian groups ‘You did not come to the mosque.’ So Community perceptions of identity:
identify themselves as “Completed you have to go” (2014, 104). For the most part, the umma sees the
Muslims” and urge their Muslims respective Muslim insiders as Muslims.
A number of the Insider Movement “Homer,” an Insider Movement leader
friends to likewise find the fulfillment leaders seem eager to promote their
of their Islamic faith in Christ. “Andy” in Africa, reports: “We worship together
movements from within mosques. in the mosque but other Muslims are
of South Asia Region A states: “I can “Monty” of Southeast Asia boldly states:
challenge the Muslims by saying that not aware that there is something special
they are not complete Muslims if they We want to build a believer commu- with us” (2014, 430). Prenger’s research
don’t believe in Jesus” (2014, 208). nity inside the mosque. We want to portrays the Muslim Insider Christ
Similarly, in South Asia Region D, build a Bible college within the Islam- Followers as individuals who are seen by
Prenger reports that “the chosen iden- ic boarding house. (2014, 301) their communities in most cases as social,
tity of insiders are Pro-Christ Muslims “Axel” [of South Asia] has since left cultural and theological insiders. He
or completed Muslims” (2014, 210). his Christian group and now operates summarizes:

32:2 Summer 2015

74 Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities

Most insiders and even leaders from to their stances regarding Muhammad, perspective. The main theoretical ques-
the second generation down are the Qur’an, mosque attendance, and tion is whether Muslims hold the term
unaware of a Christian connection. retention of Muslim self-identity. Muslim flexibly enough to include a
Use of the Qur’an and mosque atten- person who has come to believe in
dance is normal and insiders seek to My Own Research: Indigenous the biblical narrative regarding the
be socially active, meeting real needs Perspectives on Muslim Identity Lord Jesus Christ. In Rebecca Lewis’
in their communities. (2014, 263) I, too, have waded into the deep waters terms (2007, 75), my research sought
Regarding persecution, some of the of this controversial topic with my to understand whether Muslims felt
Muslim Insider Christ Followers have own recent PhD dissertation (Far- an individual could retain Muslim
been persecuted by Muslims. “Tyler” rokh 2014). My research, like that of identity if he or she came to believe in
of Southeast Asia even reports “many Naja and Prenger, also assesses these the lordship of Christ and the author-
deaths” in his region at the hands of five topics: Christology, Muhammad, ity of the Bible. The second aspect of
Muslims (2014, 219). Prenger notes, self-identity, mosque attendance, and the research elicited from people who
community perceptions of identity. were born Muslim just how they felt
Insiders face the challenge from Islam
of being heretical. They have learned Like Naja and Prenger, I, too, am others in various Muslim countries
to respond to these challenges by involved in ministry to Muslims and would respond to faith deviations by
starting from the Qur’an and the Ha- cannot claim the pure neutrality that a Muslim—deviations that included
dith. (2014, 219) a non-participant might bring to a coming to faith in the biblical Jesus.
research project. The research instrument and interviewee
Nevertheless, Prenger considers the
church to be a bigger, though perhaps pool: To implement my research, I
not lethal, threat to the Muslim Insiders: asked forty people who had been born
into Muslim homes and who hailed
The main ethical consideration in
this study is the vulnerability of the
The main ethical from eighteen different nations, to
respond to a vignette set in their home
insiders to negative exposure by tra- consideration is the countries. I narrated a story to these
ditional Christians in the same region.
(2014, 46) vulnerability of the interviewees in which a hypothetical
Muslim strayed from the Islamic faith
It is interesting to see that many insiders to negative and came to believe in the biblical
IM leaders mention the traditional
church as the main challenge to IM exposure by Christians. Jesus. Eventually that straying Muslim
began to fellowship with other like-
and insiders. (2014, 227)
(Prenger) minded believers. The individual was
In summary, the Muslim Insiders introduced to the gospel through
interviewed by Prenger most closely the internet; no direct missionary
match with those that fit the SITI involvement was suggested.
description (both social and theologi- My research features several distinctives.
cal insiders). For the most part, they Twenty of the interviewees were Mus-
It is the first missiological doctoral proj- lims, including five Islamic scholars, of
attend the mosque, they do not reject ect I am aware of which also interviewed whom three were prominent imams.
the prophethood of Muhammad, and Muslims (i.e., those who might be One had represented his country in
they identify as Muslims. Therefore, considered traditional Muslims) regard- the international Qur’an recitation
the umma naturally views them as ing the possible retention of Muslim competition in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
theological insiders who are also social identity among Christ-worshippers. I The average age of the Muslim inter-
insiders (SITI). In several cases, where also was able to capture the sentiments viewees was forty years, with a mean of
their heterodoxy to Islamic doctrine of non-participant interviewees, whom I twelve years having been spent in the
was revealed, persecution ensued from met by chance; thirty percent of my in- USA. Nineteen identified themselves
the Muslim camp. In other cases, the terviews were conducted among women, as Sunni Muslim, and one as a Sufi.
Muslim Insiders presented themselves which appears to be unique; and lastly,
as “completed Muslims” who by infer- to my knowledge, this was the first PhD The other twenty interviewees were
ence would be the best of Muslims. Muslim-background Christians.
dissertation on Muslim identity, contex-
Existing Christians, as might be ex- Seventeen came from a Sunni back-
tualization, and insider movements by a
pected, were generally non-accepting ground; three had a Shi’ite back-
Muslim-background Christian.
of the Muslim Insiders, since they, in ground. The average age of this cohort
turn, felt they were theological outsid- My research considers the issue of was forty-eight years, having served
ers (from the biblical perspective) due Muslim identity from an indigenous Christ an average of nineteen years,

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Fred Farrokh 75

and having lived in the USA an aver-
age of twenty-five years.
he interviewees overwhelmingly felt a biblical
Thirty-five of the forty interviewees were
Christology would violate tawhid and shahada,
foreign-born; all of the US-born inter- and trigger the revocation of Muslim identity.
viewees had lived in or had visited their
respective ancestral homelands as adults. interviewee were a man, or Fatimeh if Christians felt such a person would
It is likely, therefore, that such a sample it were a woman) no longer be a Muslim. The reasons
of Muslims and Muslim-background provided by these thirty-eight were all
came to believe the Bible was true
Christians would respond accurately and that God visited the earth in the theological in nature, with an emphasis
to a situation occurring in their home form of Jesus, who died on the cross on biblical Christology being incom-
countries. All interviewees signed a con- and rose from the dead. patible with Islam. An imam from
sent form, signaling their understanding Sierra Leone offered a representative
I then asked the respondents if they comment,
that I was a Christian seminarian doing considered this to be the same Jesus
research on Muslim identity. that Ahmed/Fatimeh had been raised Anyone whose beliefs contradict the
to believe in. Ninety percent of the Qur’an and hadith is not a Muslim.
Since I have lived and ministered in (2014, 162)
metro New York, I previously had Muslim interviewees felt this was a
met the majority of the Muslim- different Jesus—and all provided theo- A Turkish believing man replied,
background Christians who comprised logical reasoning for their opposition.
What does it mean to be a Muslim? It
the interview pool. None of them had Ten of the twenty respondents (50%) means [to be] submitted to Muham-
prior information about the nature of objected to the essence of the biblical mad and Islam. (2014, 189)
the interview. (I knew that one of the Jesus—God visiting the earth in the
form of Christ. Eight of the twenty The interviewees overwhelmingly felt
interviewees had strong sentiments
interviewees (40%) objected to the that the adoption of a biblical Chris-
against insider movements; I refrained
acts of Jesus—his dying on the cross tology would be a violation of tawhid
from interviewing a second who shared
and his rising from the dead. Likewise, and shahada, and thus would trigger
those sentiments.) As for the Muslim
all twenty (100%) of the Muslim- the revocation of Muslim identity.
interviewees, I had met none of them
prior to their respective interviews, and background Christian interviewees felt Mosque attendance: Having established
fourteen of the twenty were inter- the Ahmed/Fatimeh character now that the lead character had come to be-
viewed through chance contact on the believed in a different Jesus than he or lieve God visited the earth in the form
streets of Muslim neighborhoods. None she had believed in previously. of Jesus, who died on the cross and rose
of the Muslim interviewees indicated Muhammad: I asked the twenty from the dead, my research vignette
that they were aware of the Chris- Muslim respondents one additional continued with the following question:
tian missiological debate regarding open-ended question regarding what a Is it right for a person who believes
Muslim identity. The Uzbek scholar I
person must do to become a Muslim. what Ahmed/Fatimeh believes to
interviewed surmised that my research continue attending the mosque?
Fourteen of the twenty specifically re-
was related to Christian missiology. Why or why not?
sponded, with either English or Arabic
Exasperated, he stated to me, “Jehovah’s
wording, that declaring the shahada The Muslim responses varied widely. A
Witnesses are coming into my coun-
was what a person needed to do to younger Bangladeshi man stated,
try, and trying to convert everyone to
become a Muslim. Their responses in-
Christianity” (2014, 175). No. People will not let him in the
dicate that the umma feels affirmation
mosque. (2014, 167)
The self-reported birth countries of of the prophethood of Muhammad
the forty interviewees are: Bangladesh to be a litmus test for obtaining and A Sufi Punjabi man from Pakistan
(3), Burkina Faso (3), Egypt (2), Guy- retaining Muslim identity. took the opposite position:
ana (1), Iran (2), India (1), Kazakhstan It’s OK. If he wants to go to the
Self-identity: As the interview vignette
(1), Jordan (2), Lebanon (1) Morocco mosque, he can do whatever he
unfolded, I asked all forty respondents
(2), Palestine (3), Pakistan (4), Sierra wants. (2014, 167)
whether they felt a person who had
Leone (1), Saudi Arabia(1) Trinidad
come to believe what the Ahmed/ Many of the Muslim interviewees felt
(2), Turkey (4), United States (5), and
Fatimeh character had come to believe that the wayward Muslim might find
Uzbekistan (2).
would still be a Muslim. Eighteen of guidance back to Islam in the mosque.
Christology: In the vignette I nar- the twenty Muslim interviewees, and A young Saudi woman of Indian
rated, the lead character (Ahmed if the all twenty of the Muslim-background ethnicity stated,

32:2 Summer 2015

76 Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities

Yes. She can go there to pray that An Iranian woman stated, I would encourage him to develop
Allah will guide her to the correct an exit strategy. He should transition
No. She has to choose to honor the
knowledge. (2014, 167) out. If he has an intentional missional
Lord and not deny Him by going to
mindset, I could understand him stay-
A Moroccan Berber man replied, the mosque. You cannot serve the
ing in the mosque as a covert witness.
devil and serve God. (2014, 195)
If he goes to mosque, he may learn But witnessing in the mosque brings up
that there is only one God and that A Pakistani man gave his theological a lot of grey areas. When the people in
Jesus is not God. (2014, 168) rationale in this way: the mosque ask him about Jesus, he
would have to make sure he was not
A Palestinian hafiz (someone who has No. He should no longer be worship- being deceptive. I don’t think there is
memorized the entire Qur’an) stated, ping a god he no longer believes in. something inherently wrong with do-
(2014, 196) ing prostrations, as long as he is pray-
He should continue attending the
mosque to get the right informa- Finally, a Turkish man said, ing to Jesus and praying for the people
tion. But if he prays to Jesus, his salat around him. But this is the exception to
No. This person (Ahmed) will never the rule. Normally he should transition
(ritual prayers) will not be accepted
grow in the faith! In the mosque, out of the mosque. (2014, 196)
by God. (2014, 168)
the imam reads a small portion of
Others were less tolerant. A Jordanian [the] Qur’an, then [of the] Sura This range of responses indicates the
man replied, Fatiha. Then he declares the shaha- crucible Muslims go through when they
da, and the people all say “Ameen” come to faith in the biblical Jesus. These
No. Maybe he is confused, but it would [amen]. Ahmed cannot say ameen new believers certainly need our prayers.
also be confusing to people in the
masjid [mosque]. You’re talking about Community Perceptions of Identity: My
a very confused person. (2014, 168) research format looked at this ques-
Another Palestinian man rebuffed the tion from two vantage points. First,
idea: This range of the vignette described the Ahmed/Fa-
timeh character as coming to faith in
No. He doesn’t believe God. Why should responses indicates the Lord Jesus Christ. As stated above,
he pray? He is a hypocrite. My Qur’an
says Jesus is not God. (2014, 168)
the crucible Muslims go thirty-eight of the forty Muslim-born
interviewees felt such a person was no
In summary, some of the Muslim through when they longer a Muslim. I then followed up
respondents were hopeful that atten-
dance at the mosque might provide
come to faith in the with this question:

the Islamic re-education necessary biblical Jesus. Though he or she has come to be-
lieve in Jesus Christ as Lord, God and
to bring the straying person back to Savior, Ahmed/Fatimeh continues to
Islam. Others felt that the straying state that he or she is a Muslim—tell-
person was a hypocrite or deceiver for ing people he or she is submitted to
continuing to attend the mosque. to Muhammad and ameen to Jesus. God through Jesus Christ . . . Do you
(2014, 196) think Ahmed/Fatimeh is right to con-
The Muslim-background Christian in- tinue identifying himself or herself as
terviewees cautioned the lead character Several of the respondents articulated a Muslim? Why or why not?
from continuing to attend the mosque. the travail facing a Muslim who comes
None of them condoned the practice. to believe in the biblical Jesus. A Ban- This was effectively a nuanced form of
They also stated that continued mosque gladeshi American woman stated, the previous question as to whether the
attendance would constitute spiritual protagonist was indeed still a Muslim.
She might spare her life in doing that,
compromise. One West African said especially if she has no other options, Only two of the respondents felt that
that “Ahmed” would not have a choice like another place to go, if she breaks the Ahmed/Fatimeh figure was justi-
about mosque attendance if he were with Islam. However, at some point fied in continuing to self-identify as a
young. (The story I related mentioned there are going to be some contradic- Muslim. One of the imams, an Indian,
that the person was in his early twen- tions she is just going to have to face explained the reasoning of the majority:
ties.) A Lebanese woman, in answer to a by staying in the mosque. I can un-
question about mosque attendance, said, derstand her being consciously silent. We consider him not a Muslim in the
I wouldn’t judge her. It might be her technical sense of the word, even
No. She is going on a new way. The only way of surviving. (2014, 195) though he may consider himself a Mus-
old ways have to change. Even the lim in the general sense of the word.
Muslims will tell her, “Get out of here; A Pakistani-American man suggested that However, he would not have the same
it’s not your place.”(2014, 195) Ahmed take the following course of action: privileges as a Muslim. He would get

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Fred Farrokh 77

no inheritance from Muslim relatives,
while a Muslim would. He will not have
he Muslims were slightly more optimistic that a
a Muslim funeral. (2014, 164) theological out­sider could retain social insider (SITO)
A leading Palestinian imam gave status than were the Muslim-background Christians.
a linguistic explanation as to why
Ahmed would no longer be considered said if you are a Muslim you have to others who have the same beliefs he
a Muslim: believe in Muhammad. If you do not or she has come to hold. (Note: the
believe in Muhammad, then you are terms church, Christians and Christi-
Anybody can say he is a Muslim not a Muslim. (2014, 192) anity were not used.) Once more, each
through Christianity or a Muslim
through Judaism. If I am an English Nineteen of the twenty Muslim- interviewee was asked to project the
speaker, then anyone will have to background Christians felt the lead reactions of his friends and family.
say that they are submitted to God. character was making a mistake by I then classified the responses into fif-
However, words like Allah and Mus- continuing to identify as a Muslim. A teen types, before grouping them into
lim are not translatable . . . I think the young Pakistani believer explained it three major categories. (See Figure 1,
problem is with translation. In English this way: page 78)
you say the word Muslim and then
say it means submitted. In Arabic the This is about semantics. He thinks he
In terms of the SITO/SITI/SOTO dis-
word submitted is coming from the is a Muslim by his own interpretation.
I would not agree with him doing
cussion, Non-Negative responses seem
same word for Muslim. (2014, 165) to present hope that an individual (and
this because he’s disguising himself as
Others questioned the purpose behind a Muslim. He does not want to deal his or her group) could retain social in-
the protagonist claiming to still be with the repercussions the Muslims sider status after being discovered to be
a Muslim. A Bangladeshi Muslim are going to give him. He is trying to a theological outsider. The Shepherding
woman sat up in her chair, pointed her maintain allegiance to two different responses were attempts by the Muslim
finger, and warned: Gods. Fundamentally, the God of the family members and friends to bring the
Bible and the God of the Qur’an are straying protagonist back into the fold
I will catch her! She is not honest. not the same. (2014, 193) of Islam without permanently severing
She is trying to manufacture the Bible
The second vantage point of my the relationship. In actual practice, this
and our Muslim stuff into one thing.
(2014, 164) research was the indigenous perspec- meant that the umma would downgrade
tives (specifically solicited) on how the offender’s social insider status to that
Her compatriot, a Bangladeshi Mus- various Muslim communities deal of “threatened,” and then completely
lim man, added: with faith deviation. As noted above, withdraw social insider status if the
No. He is not pure. He is holding out I asked each interviewee to envision a offender were to continue unrepentant.
one thing, and believing another hypothetical situation taking place in In the case of the Punitive/Expulsive re-
thing. That is never the sign of a his or her home country. The vignette sponses, the protagonist would become
good man. (2014, 164) began with the lead character becom- a social outsider immediately.
A Moroccan Muslim man responded: ing interested in the Bible and Jesus Because of space limitations in this ar-
through the internet. No missionary or ticle, I must simply summarize the dis-
We have mu’minin [believers] and non- indigenous church activity was men-
mu’minin [non-believers] who are not sertation results below. I have excluded
tioned. At that point I asked how the
strong in their hearts. But they are still responses when the lead character was
friends, and then family, of the lead
Muslims. Ahmed is not a Muslim. He is merely researching biblical web sites,
character would respond. Supposing
a munafiq [hypocrite]. I don’t know since these merely reflected interest in
the friends and family had not found
what you call it in English. He mixes reli- the gospel rather than changes in be-
out, the interview progressed with the
gions . . . He has lost his way. (2014, 164) liefs or actions. The responses in Figure
lead character coming to believe God
Some of the Muslim-background 2 (page 79) capture the stages when
had visited the earth in the form of
Christians had gone through a similar the lead character comes to believe the
Jesus who died on the cross and rose
situation as the protagonist. A young biblical narrative regarding Jesus and
from the dead. Again, I asked how the
Malenke woman spoke about her then fellowships with others who hold
friends and family would respond if
conversion in Burkina Faso: those beliefs.
they found out at this point. Finally,
I was doing this for three or four the vignette progresses (again with Worth noting in this comparison is
years–telling people I’m a Muslim the assumption the friends and fam- that the Muslim respondents were
who believes in Jesus, not Muham- ily have not found out) to the lead slightly more optimistic that a theolog-
mad. They said I was crazy. They character now fellowshipping with ical outsider could retain social insider

32:2 Summer 2015

78 Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities

Figure 1. Responses to the Social Acceptability of Theological Deviation

Categories of Response Type of Response Description

“Non-Negative” Responses Friends/family promote or encourage the
(Positive or Neutral) protagonist’s actions

Claim Islam allows Muslims to explore other

Condoning Exploration

Statements that the friends/family won’t care,

Indifferent or they will respond indifferently, to what the
protagonist is doing or believing

Don’t know/Unsure Self-explanatory

“Shepherding” Responses Friends or family question the protagonist about

Critical Questioning
(Negative and Concerned) his/her notions in a non-affirming way

Friends or family members present Islamic

Islamic Re-education: Formal doctrines/teachings in an attempt to bring back
the straying protagonist
Insistence by the friends/family on Islamic
Islamic Re-education: Formal counseling by an Islamic teacher, or recognized
sheikh (elder)

The use of ultimatums or severe argumentation

Verbal Warnings & Threats
to bring the protagonist back into the fold

Disallowing the protagonist to leave the home,

Limiting Access to the Forbidden
go to meetings, access the computer, etc.

Friends/family ridiculing or laughing at

the protagonist

“Punitive/Explusive” Responses Marrying off an apostate woman to a staunch

Arrange Punitive Marriage
(Negative and Destructive) Muslim man

Marginalizing and excluding the protagonist from

the social circles of family and/or friends

Physical attacks Beatings or other physical abuse

Expulsion from the family or the umma.

Expel/Excommunicate/Disown In the latter case, this is known as takfir
(imputation of infidel status)

Killing the apostate Self-explanatory

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Fred Farrokh 79

Figure 2. Comparison of Muslim and Muslim-background Christian (MBC) Responses (“Belief” and “Fellowship” Stages)

Category of Response Muslim Responses MBC Responses

Non-Negative 28 26% 14 12%

Shepherding 58 54% 46 38%

Expulsive 22 20% 61 50%

Totals 108 100% 121 100%

(SITO) status in Muslim contexts than he smoked a cigarette and thought- Eastern, collectivist variety in which
were the Muslim-background Chris- fully responded to my questions. He there is no separation of church, state,
tians. Indeed, one in four responses fall broadened the scope of his response and society. Therefore, while attain-
in this Non-Negative category for the beyond Palestine: ing SITO status is a commendable
Muslim respondents, while only one in missiological goal, it remains to be
It varies from people to people and
eight responses fall in this category for from town to town. But they will seen if the expulsive nature of Is-
the Muslim-background Christians. beat him up real good; he might die. lam will allow Muslim-background
Two factors may explain this discrepan- In Saudi they will kill him right away. theological outsiders to maintain their
cy. First, the Muslims knew they were In Egypt, the [Muslim] Brotherhood prior social insider status.
talking to a researcher from a Christian would kill him. (2014, 158)
Gracious behavior, a discreet and tact-
seminary, and it is possible they wanted My research confirms Ziya Meral’s as- ful witness, and an exhibition of a life
to portray a more tolerant face of Islam, sessment that a Muslim who comes to transformed by Christ may help delay
especially since the interviews were believe the biblical narrative will likely the expulsion that often awaits apos-
done in a diaspora setting. Second, all be viewed by the umma as a theologi- tates from Islam. Nevertheless, these
of the Muslim-background Christians cal outsider, and, as such, will have a actions may not ultimately enable the
had gone through some version of the difficult time retaining social insider aspiring SITO to remain permanently
hypothetical vignette, and therefore (SITO) status. In summary, 18 of the as a social insider. It is difficult for a
could answer based on first-hand ex- 20 Muslim interviewees stated that a person who has experienced the dis-
periences, while many of the Muslims Muslim who comes to believe that Je- crimination and ostracism that Meral
were shocked that a Muslim could even sus Christ is Lord, God and Savior is describes to be a social insider—at
come to believe the biblical narrative no longer a Muslim. Several expressed least one with whom others would
regarding Jesus Christ. Also, there were indignation that such a person would want to associate.
no significant differences based on ge- continue to claim Muslim identity. As
ography when I controlled for Islamic for the Muslim-background Chris-
“heartland” versus “non-heartland.”3 tians, a Turkish woman seemed to
Conclusions and Future
sum up the cohort’s views of a person Considerations
In summary, a small minority of Daniels and Waterman indicate that
claiming simultaneously to be a Mus-
responses—forty-two of 229 (18%)— the SITO paradigm (socially inside,
lim and a believer in the Lord Jesus
lend viability to the SITO paradigm. theologically outside) may be preferable
Christ: “You can’t have it both ways”
To the contrary, eight of the forty to other paradigms, such as the SITI
(2014, 192).
respondents (20%) predicted that paradigm (socially inside, theologi-
the lead character would be killed for cally inside). Nevertheless, in light of
his or her beliefs and actions. These Assessing the Viability of SITO the research above, it appears unlikely
responses came from eight different in the Muslim Context that the umma at large will tolerate, let
interviewees, who envisioned such a Based on the data above, the imple- alone embrace, believers in Christ as
killing happening in Jordan (2 inter- mentation of SITO should not be social insiders. It is therefore likely, at
viewees), Pakistan (2 interviewees), considered simple or seamless in most least in the near future, that Muslim-
Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Muslim contexts. The problem stems background believers in Christ will
and Yemen. A Palestinian Muslim in- from the point of view of Muslims continue to endure some forms of
terviewee invited me to sit in his SUV themselves—and specifically how they social ostracism. In the parlance of this
for the interview, perhaps to make sure treat theological outsiders. Further- article, they would be considered by the
others would not hear his answers, as more, most Muslim contexts are of the umma as SOTO (social outsiders and

32:2 Summer 2015

80 Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on Social Acceptability in Muslim Communities

theological outsiders). This is based on Muslim-background believers in Egypt Naja, Ben

the Islamic Law of Apostasy, which and Lebanon. Kraft’s 2012 book Search- 2013a “A Jesus Movement among
ing for Heaven in the Real World is also Muslims: Research from Eastern
has influenced most Muslim countries Africa.” International Journal
recommended reading. Finally, David Gar-
and communities—even those which of Frontier Missiology, 30, no. 1
rison has contributed a popular survey on
are not technically under shari’a law. happenings in nine “windows” or regions of (Spring): 27–29.
Prayers should continually be made that the Muslim world with his recent A Wind ———
God would provide these new believers in the House of Islam (Garrison 2014). 2013b “Sixteen Features of Belief and
with spiritual strength and courage. 3 Practice in Two Movements
By Islamic “heartland” I am referring among Muslims in East Africa:
to the Arabic-speaking countries of the What Do the Data Say?” Interna-
Another ray of hope is beaming into the Middle East proper, not including North tional Journal of Frontier Missiol-
Muslim world in the form of a collec- Africa nor East Africa. ogy, 30, no. 4 (Winter): 155–160.
tive rejection of the prophethood of Parshall, Phil
Muhammad. Each Muslim who receives
and confesses the biblical Savior Jesus
References 1998 “Danger! New Directions in
Contextualization.” Evangeli-
Daniels, Gene
simultaneously weakens the grip of cal Missions Quarterly 34, no. 4
2014 “Worshipping Jesus in the
(October): 404–17.
Muhammad over a community. From a Mosque.” Christianity Today
( January 2014), http://www.chris- Prenger, J. H.
wider perspective, some Muslim com- 2014 “Muslim Insider Christ Follow-
munities, such as Iran, are collectively ers.” PhD diss., Biola University,
beginning to reject the role of Muham- lam-wheres-jesus.html?paging=off Los Angeles, CA.
mad as life’s ultimate guide. (If so, they (accessed July 18, 2014).
could begin to be evaluated as possibly Daniels, Gene and L. D. Waterman
post-Islamic.) This may open a different 2013 “Coming to Terms: Bridging the
door for those who become theological ‘Socio-Religious’ Divide.” Interna-
tional Journal of Frontier Missiol-
outsiders to remain social insiders. In ogy, 30, no. 2 (Summer): 59–66.
other Muslim communities, there is a Farrokh, Fred
polarization happening as some people 2014 “Perceptions of Muslim Identity:
react negatively to the actions of Salafi A Case-Study among Muslim-
and Jihadi practitioners who vow they born Persons in Metro New York.”
PhD diss., Assemblies of God
are literally fulfilling Muhammad’s Theological Seminary, Spring-
commands. This dynamic might create field, MO. http://gradworks.umi.
disaffection with the Islamic theologi- com/36/30/3630231.html.
cal position regarding Jesus Christ, and Garrison, David
might open up more people to becom- 2014 A Wind In The House Of Islam:
How God Is Drawing Muslims
ing theological outsiders. Prayer and
Around The World To Faith In
patience are continually needed as these Jesus Christ. Monument, CO:
trends continue to develop. IJFM WigTake Resources.
Green, Tim
2012 “Identity Issues for Ex-Muslim
Endnotes Christians, with Particular Refer-
I want to alert readers that there are ence to Marriage.” St. Francis
several other recent research projects which Magazine. (August) 8:4, 435–481.
may be of interest to them. As cited above, http://www.stfrancismagazine.
a Turkish Christian of Muslim background, info/ja/images/stories/SFMAu-
Ziya Meral, has written on the topic of gust2012-3.pdf (accessed July
apostasy from Islam in an important 2008 11, 2013).
piece titled, No Place to Call Home. In this Lewis, Rebecca
short book, Meral focuses on the Islamic 2007 “Promoting Movements to Christ
theological underpinnings of current apos- within Natural Communities.”
International Journal of Frontier
tasy laws, and how this impacts those who
Missiology 24, no. 2 (Summer):
have left Islam. 75–76.
Tim Green recently wrote an article Meral, Ziya
on how Muslim-background believers in 2008 No Place to Call Home: Experiences
Christ have navigated marriage issues (see of Apostates from Islam, Failures
Green 2012). Green then applied that of the International Community.
research to the identity issue. Kathryn Kraft New Malden, Surrey, UK:
recently completed her own PhD disser- Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
tation on identity issues by interviewing

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

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82 Response

R e s p o n s e
the same will be true in other locations. Jerry Trousdale
cites as one of “Jesus’ Counterintuitive Disciple-Making
Strategies,” that we can “Expect the hardest places to yield
the greatest results.”3 So rather than joining Farrokh’s
skepticism based on the limited samples in his research, I’m
more inclined to praise God that what might not work in
God’s Kingdom Advance is Stronger than Human some places is already bearing great fruit in some others.
Veto: A Response to Fred Farrokh’s “Will the CITO might not be viable in some places, but praise God
Umma Veto SITO?” that it’s already happening in others.
by L. D. Waterman
Individual Converts Versus Movements: A Vital Difference

Farrokh cites a number of similarities and differences
want to thank Fred Farrokh for his significant contri-
between his research and that of Naja and Prenger. One
bution to our understanding of the identity of Muslims
vital difference he does not mention is that Naja’s and
who come to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It
Prenger’s research focused on movements to Christ con-
seems clear God is moving in our day in unprecedented
sisting of significant numbers of people, whereas his own
ways to bring Muslims to saving faith in Christ. The
research was framed entirely in terms of the scenario of a
better we understand what is happening in various parts
single individual going through a journey to faith in Christ
of the world, the better equipped we can be to encour-
all by himself. David Garrison’s research4 also explicitly
age, strengthen and catalyze additional movements in a
focused on movements as did that of Jerry Trousdale
Christward direction. I appreciate the fresh and helpful
contribution to the discussion from brothers and sisters
(Miraculous Movements) and the ministry of Abu Jaz, for
which CITO was first coined as a descriptor. This difference
from a Muslim background as well as from some who are
does not nullify all the concerns found in Farrokh’s research,
still Muslims.
but we do well to highlight the vital difference between an
Diversity in the Muslim World: One Size Never Fits All isolated individual coming to Christ in a hostile Islamic
I would like to underline one point that Farrokh mentioned context and a group making that journey of faith together.
in passing, in a quote from only one interviewee: “It varies All the sources cited above (with the exception of Farrokh,
from people to people and from town to town.” With this who doesn’t mention it) identify the group dynamic as a
very brief quote, the article seems to sidestep the huge issue significant factor God is using to advance the gospel among
of context. Soon after this quote, Farrokh concludes: “The the unreached in our day. This fits with the dynamics we
implementation of SITO should not be considered simple can observe in the book of Acts, where the vast majority of
or seamless in most Muslim contexts,” implying that results conversions recorded (about ten times as many) are groups
from his study with diaspora Muslims in New York is rather than isolated individuals. I would posit that Western
comparable to those done in, for example, East Africa. My individualism has been one of the factors limiting Kingdom
co-author,1 Gene Daniels, notes that advance among Muslims in years past—a hindrance the
While it is completely valid to compare and contrast findings Lord is now correcting in the reaching of families and
from different study populations, it is poor academic practice groups in various parts of the Muslim world. Farrokh’s
to use them in a critique. This points toward what seems to be research gives us valuable insights, but by limiting its scope
a philosophical weakness in Farrokh’s paper: the presupposi- to the case of an isolated new believer he also limited its
tion that Islam is a singular, unified entity; therefore a sample ability to compare well with the dynamics being described
from any segment is a valid sample for the whole. by others in movements of great numbers to faith in Christ.
While the debate over the essential unity of Islam is a much
Describing, not Prescribing
larger topic, in the Bridging the Divide forum we have been
Farrokh seems to have misunderstood our goal in “Bridging
hearing numerous case studies from around the world and
the ‘Socio-Religious’ Divide,”5 when he writes: “The authors
have come to “recognize that each local Muslim context car-
suggest a reasonable outcome is for these new believers
ries a unique configuration of Muslim political, cultural and
to remain “culturally inside and theologically outside.”
religious authority.”2 It seems almost any attempt to make a
We were not trying to propose a particular “outcome” (a
global generalization about Islamic faith, practice, values or
strategic ministry goal). We were aiming to identify helpful
reactions can be contradicted through citation of counter-
terminology to describe what is already happening in some
examples where that generalization would be untrue.
movements of Muslims coming to faith in Christ in various
The fact that a certain ministry approach or identity stance parts of the world. It seems Farrokh’s critique (examin-
is viable or impossible in one location does not guarantee ing “the viability of CITO”) can be summed up as “CITO

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

L. D. Waterman, Fred Farrokh 83

probably won’t work very well.” We were citing it as a way or any portion of it may reach about movements to Christ,
to describe what is already happening in at least one place I think it’s healthy for those coming to Christ out of Islam
(and I would say many other places as well, though others to aim to remain socially connected with their context as
have not used that terminology). I do feel very favorably much as possible, even while growing in biblical faith and
about movements that are CITO, and I hope they will practice. Using CITO as a descriptor for that effort doesn’t
continue to proliferate. However, our presentation of CITO solve all the questions or problems, but I don’t yet see a
was not “Here’s a great idea that you should try,” but rather, better alternative.
“Here’s a potentially useful way to describe an indigenous
movement that’s well under way.” L. D. Waterman (pseudonym) is an encourager of church planting
movements among unreached groups, serving with Act Beyond
Not Persecution-Proofing among Muslims in Southeast Asia and beyond. He holds an
Farrokh concludes: MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. After 10 years
It appears unlikely that the umma at large will embrace believ- of pastoral ministry in the US he moved to Southeast Asia, where
ers in Christ as social insiders. It is therefore likely, at least in the he has served since 1993. He has also been a key facilitator of the
near future, that Muslim-background believers in Christ will con- Bridging the Divide consultation on Muslim contextualization
tinue to endure some forms of social ostracism and persecution. since its inception in 2011.

I would offer two rejoinders to this. Endnotes

In the article by Gene Daniels and L. D. Waterman, “Bridging the
First, I don’t see CITO making an appeal to “the umma at ‘Socio-Religious’ Divide: A Conversation Between Two Missiologists,”
large.” CITO is happening in some locations and cultural International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 30, no. 2 (Summer 2013).
contexts, and I hope and expect it may happen in some 2
Item 7 of Bridging the Divide 2014 Summary Report,
others. However, I don’t expect Islam as a whole to be available at
transformed into a Jesus-following majority any more than Bridging-the-Divide-2014-Summary-Report.pdf.
(and likely less than) first-century Judaism was trans- Jerry Trousdale, Miraculous Movements, Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson (2012), Chapter 2.
formed. The book of Acts portrays a wide variety of Jewish 4
David Garrison, A Wind in the House of Islam, Monument,
responses to the gospel, by various groups and cities. As the
CO: Wigtake Resources (2014)
gospel spread in diverse ways at that time, I’m encouraged 5
Daniels and Waterman, “Bridging the ‘Socio-Religious’ Divide.”
to see and expect it to spread in diverse ways now as well, in
the Islamic world.
Second, I agree entirely with the second sentence, concern- A Response to L. D. Waterman
ing persecution. Neither Abu Jaz nor we have claimed that
CITO is a form of persecution-proofing. Both 2 Timothy by Fred Farrokh
3:12 and the book of Acts (not to mention recent reports

such as Miraculous Movements and A Wind in the House of thank L. D. Waterman for his response to my article “Will
Islam) make it clear that great Kingdom advance in hostile the Umma Veto SITO?” In large part we are in agreement
religious environments will almost certainly be accompanied that we do not ultimately expect the Muslim community,
by some form of persecution. But again I would note the or umma, to embrace CITO, or my preferred term, SITO. That
difference between the dynamics and results of persecution is, Muslims in general will not continue to confer social insider
toward an isolated individual vs. persecution of a larger group. (SI) status on those who have become theological outsiders
(TO) through their adoption of belief in the Divine Savior
Farrokh’s title asks, “Will the Umma Veto SITO?” I would
Jesus Christ. I concur with his statement that “it’s healthy for
personally expect the final answer to be “yes.” First-century
those coming to Christ out of Islam to aim to remain socially
Judaism ultimately vetoed the gospel as “theologically out-
connected with their context as much as possible.” I also share his
sider,” and Gentile predominance led to the church becom-
final assessment: “I see this time of great ferment in the Islamic
ing culturally outsider as well. But what glorious Kingdom
world as a golden opportunity for the gospel to advance.”
advance was made during the messy decades while the
question was still being argued! The cultural sensitivity I also appreciate the opportunity by the IJFM editorial board
encouraged by early church leadership (e.g. in texts such as for this brief response. Hopefully I can clarify some issues artic-
Acts 15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10) certainly helped maximize ulated by L. D., and his original co-author Gene Daniels, in
reception of the gospel in a variety of first-century cultures. their response, in case other IJFM readers share those concerns.
In a similar way, I see this time of great ferment in the First, I do not suggest that the Muslim umma can veto or
Islamic world as a golden opportunity for the gospel to completely stop what God is doing in the Muslim world,
advance. Regardless of what verdict the umma as a whole as the title of L. D.’s piece seems to indicate. I simply imply

32:2 Summer 2015

84 Response

fear that in our chasing of movements, we may find ourselves skipping some
steps in the slow, patient, and prayerful process of adequately discipling and
pastoring converts from Islam.
that Muslim communities do have the power to determine occurred, and how this single (extra-biblical) term has taken
upon whom they will confer social insider status. Christ’s on such luminary importance in missiology. I fear in our
Kingdom is indeed advancing today, even as it did in New chasing of movements, we may find ourselves skipping some
Testament times. We can rejoice that God is now touch- steps in the slow, patient, and prayerful process of adequately
ing and reaching Muslims in greater numbers and in more discipling and pastoring converts from Islam. Jesus’ Great
diverse places than we have ever seen. Commission was to preach the Gospel and make disciples of
all nations. I fear the new emphasis on creating fast-growing
Second, regarding diversity, I realize the Muslim world
movements may reduce missions to McMissions.
is amazingly diverse and that Muslim contexts differ sig-
nificantly. I have traveled and ministered widely in the Finally, I summarize why I believe SITO is not a preferred
Muslim world. In my article, I was not proposing a one- model in Muslim contexts. The Muslim community has
size-fits-all approach to ministry to Muslims. Rather, I was decided, and has the right to decide, who is a Muslim and
merely reviewing recent field research in Muslim contexts. who is not. For 1,400 years the global umma has consid-
Nevertheless, since L. D. brings up the missiological “debate ered the affirmation of the prophethood of Muhammad
over the essential unity of Islam,” it is important to note the essential ingredient to be a Muslim. The umma has also
that Muslims, at the very least, share the religion of Islam, determined that those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord,
regardless of their sectarian affiliation or level of observance. I God and Savior are not Muslims, and any Muslim who
believe we can speak of “the Muslim world” as an unreached comes to confess this belief is now an apostate. He or she
bloc of people, without denying the diversity within that bloc. will likely be persecuted to varying degrees—this is where
the diversity lies—as I chronicle in my article. This is the
Third, and perhaps most importantly, I address the charge that historical challenge in ministry to Muslims—one which has
field research that focuses on “movements” is more important limited fast-growing movements in Muslim contexts.
than field research that focuses on “individuals.” From a social
science research perspective, one cannot interview a move- If missionaries promote the necessity of Muslims retaining
social insider status in Muslim contexts (which the missionaries
ment. One can only interview people within that purported
rightly understand is important for fast-growing movements)
movement. (Perhaps a researcher could conduct a focus group
then they will frequently and invariably push their disciples
interview made up of multiple individuals.) Ben Naja inter-
into a continued affirmation of Muhammad as God’s prophet.
viewed 390 individual believers in one East African country.
This is the same Muhammad who denied the Divinity,
J. H. Prenger interviewed 26 individual Muslim insiders in
Lordship, Sonship, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.
seven different countries, ostensibly to promote diversity.
I interviewed 20 individual Muslims and 20 individual If SITO is not the answer, then what is the answer?
Muslim-background Christians, from a total of 18 different Movements to Christ among Muslims hinge on the willing-
birth countries, also to encourage a diversity of responses. ness of Muslims to embrace Christ as Lord and thereby break
with Muhammad (thus becoming ex-Muslims). These new
If there is an insistence on movements, I would suggest believers must be willing to deal with the umma’s response
that all Muslim-background Christians worldwide in this to that break. The first believers in Christ in any Muslim
generation could be considered a movement. The Muslim- context should be encouraged and prayed for, not simply
background Christians whom I know experience “group pitied because they are perhaps only individuals who do not
dynamic,” including fellowship and church issues, as well yet constitute a “movement.” The encouraging trend is that
as family concerns, community pressures, and shame-honor we are indeed seeing larger numbers of Muslims rejecting
issues within all of those contexts. I don’t know anyone in Muhammad. Those among them who turn to Christ break
ministry to Muslims who is not dealing with these issues, free of a spiritually-binding shahada covenant which their
or who is promoting radical Western individualism. At the communities have collectively affirmed for centuries. This
same time, I believe that placing our hope in large group opens the door for them to individually experience new birth
conversions can be a bit of a mirage in Muslim contexts. in Christ and a new collective identity in the Body of Christ.
Allow me to further explore this important discussion Like L. D. Waterman, I am optimistic regarding the future
raised by Waterman and Daniels regarding “movements.” of ministry to Muslims. I also welcome other researchers
I must confess I am still unclear about what constitutes a providing information on what is happening in diverse
“movement,” who determines when such a movement has Muslim contexts. IJFM

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

CITO: A Bridging Conversation
The Complexity of Insiderness
by Warrick Farah

he term “Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider” (CITO) was first
coined by Abu Jaz, himself a Muslim-background believer (MBB),
to describe the way he and fellow believers integrate their lives
and ministries as MBBs who remain inside an Islamic context (Daniels and
Waterman 2013).1 Like others, when I first heard it, I thought it was a helpful
nuance in the discussion of contextualization and insider movements.

Most disciple-makers would agree that we want believers from any and all
backgrounds (MBBs, HBBs, and CBBs, etc.2) to remain as salt and light
inside their communities—culturally similar yet with a different, gospel-
centered faith and worldview.3 This is a biblical goal that is both healthy for
the new believer and strategic for the kingdom. The CITO concept is also
reminiscent of Andrew Wall’s famous indigenizing and pilgrim principles,
which few would contest (1996a). Dean Flemming states that “this tension
between ‘at-homeness’ and prophetic transformation is the consistent pattern
of biblical contextualization” (2005, 23).

Yet as we know in frontier missiology, the nature of tight-knit, traditionalist

communities in unreached contexts makes faith change highly problematic,
even for those who consider themselves insiders. But when we say “insider,”
what do we actually mean? Inside what? Their religion? The term “religion”
is vexingly elastic and creates misunderstandings nearly every time it is used
in the insider movement debate. For example, in Abu Jaz’s interview in this
issue of the IJFM, I can easily imagine others missing his point when he says
certain Muslim “religious” customs are “just culture.”
Warrick Farah, DMiss, serves with While CITO is helpful and biblical, it is still too simple to bypass the cate-
International Teams (
in the Middle East, training leaders in gory “socio-religious insider.” I propose that there could actually be four types
discipleship and coaching community of CITOs, all significantly different from one another (see chart below). All
transformation facilitators. He blogs
at Circumpolar (muslimministry.
five of the aspects I’m using to describe the aggregate nature of insiderness (cultural, social, communal, ritual, theological) intimately interact with one

International Journal of Frontier Missiology 32:2 Summer 2015•85

86 The Complexity of Insiderness

another. Reality is nowhere near as share are types of believers who already ties to his natural social networks are
neat and clean as the chart suggests! exist in the Muslim world, and are severed, at least for a season. He be-
But lest we make the (unfortunately) not a hypothesis for different kinds of comes an “outsider” believer in Christ
common mistake of thinking all insid- “insider movements.” 5 Instead, what in all the aspects I have suggested on
erness is the same, I will try to outline I aim to demonstrate is that there are the chart (although after a period of
how some insiders express their layers of complexity embedded in the time he may begin to develop insider-
insiderness differently than others.4 basic CITO idea. I believe this nuance ness in his new context).
I will also attempt this with minimal is needed for our missiological discus-
sion on insiderness to move beyond Exiles are incredibly diverse in their
reference to “religion,” since the term
some of the unproductive (and often faith journeys and in how they relate to
clouds the issue rather than clarifies it.
irrelevant) disputes of the past. their contexts, but they all typically pay
a high price when they choose to follow
The Danger of Sterile Debates Christ. As a result, their stories of faith
Sometimes it can be beneficial to use Five Expressions of Insiderness are often quite remarkable and inspir-
categories to make complex phenom- 0. Exile (or Refugee) ing. They deserve our utmost respect
ena understandable (e.g. the Parable of Before talking about insiders, it is as fully equal members of the body of
the Sower). Models are approximate important to remark on the existence Christ. The church needs to do a much
maps which cannot fully explain the of many “exiled” MBBs. This most better job of becoming a new family for
actual terrain of reality itself, but are often occurs in Muslim contexts where them and utilizing their unique gifts.
still helpful to there is a previously existing Christian
church. Sometimes new disciples may 1. Cultural Insider
outline complex phenomena to make
leave (or be pulled out) from their The vast majority of new believers,
their multifaceted nature more man-
context because of a particular view of however, do not necessarily leave their
ageable in understanding the broad
picture while providing direction for Islam or conversion.6 But more likely, culture as they come to faith—indeed,
deeper investigation into nuances of at this expression of insiderness, new they cannot. In this case, I am referring
the modeled event or system. (Trull Christians are ostracized from their to culture in the absolute broadest
2015, 5) communities through acute persecu- sense, as the language, values, and
tion or extenuating circumstances. behaviors that distinguish one people
However, I am extremely hesitant to
group from another.7
provide an opportunity to perpetuate One example of this would be a Mus-
“sterile debates” in missiology which lim who comes to faith and openly For example, a North African comes
may be “virtually meaningless” (Accad declares himself to be a “Christian.” As to faith in Christ but does not leave
2009) to the lives of real people de- life-threatening persecution comes (in the context where she was raised. De-
scribed. I do not intend to offer a new this specific case), he flees to a nearby siring fellowship, she joins the North
model that one could use to stereotype region where he may take a Christian African church’s social network and
or objectify MBBs into distinct clas- name and may attempt to integrate leaves her own social network behind.
sifications. Neither am I advocating into the Christian-background believ- But she has not ceased being North
or promoting any type of insiderness. ers (CBB) church. In this instance, African. Her new faith is expressed
This is a descriptive exercise, not a he must learn and use a new cultural in culturally familiar ways. Since her
prescriptive strategy. The examples I system in his new context. Virtually all church would be filled with other

Figure 1. Five Expressions of Insiderness

Five Expressions of Insiderness Cultural Social Communal Ritual Theological
0. Exile (or Refugee) o o o o o
  1. Cultural Insider i o o o o

2. Sociocultural Insider i i o o/? o

3. Dual Belonging Insider i i i ?/o o

4. Reinterpreting Insider i i i i o

  5. Syncretistic Insider i i i/? ? i

i = insider; o = outsider; ? = occasional exception or ambiguous

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Warrick Farah 87

people culturally like herself, she could
join without experiencing culture
ecause they remain in their social networks,
shock (depending on the church!). there are rare times when these types of insiders
This kind of cultural insider MBB may take part in practices classified as “Islamic.”
(actually, there are endless variations 8)
would clearly also be a theological They integrate many parts of their Dual belonging (not dual allegiance)
outsider (CITO), but would also be a faith (possibly including Islamic termi- insiders believe they can be loyal
social outsider, a communal outsider, nology for spiritual terms) with their to Christ and his body while also
and a ritual outsider. We will cover society, and they are known generally being active members in the local
other types of CITO believers below. as Jesus followers (but not Muslims) Muslim-majority milieu. They might
who remain socially inside their con- not change their language or dress
2. Sociocultural Insider texts. However, they are still theologi- to express their spirituality. Because
In this issue of IJFM, Fred Farrokh cal, ritual, and communal outsiders. they are followers of Jesus who obey
makes a helpful distinction between a the Bible, they do not believe in the
cultural insider and a social insider. In 3. Dual Belonging Insider prophethood of Muhammad nor in
general, new believers should not and In this expression, insiderness is the inspiration of the Qur’an. And
could not be expected to repress their expressed at a deeper level than the perhaps like many other nominal
cultural backgrounds as they come sociocultural. Dual belonging insiders Muslims in their context, they may
to faith in Christ. The issue is rather, have a clear identity “in Christ” at the never perform salat prayers nor attend
can they remain social insiders (SI)? core level of their personal identity. the mosque.
Is SITO a more accurate representa- But at the social level of identity, they
However, their dual belonging means
tion of the insider phenomenon than maintain some sort of belonging to
that they may be present at many situ-
CITO? I welcome Farrokh’s desire their Muslim community as affiliate
ations such as a funeral or a ceremony
to distinguish social and cultural, but members while simultaneously belong-
where customary Qur’anic recitations
I believe the reality of insiderness is ing to the body of Christ as full mem-
take place, or the shahada is invoked
still more complex than either of these bers. Dual belonging insiders have a
ritually. In this case, they might alter
acronyms express. communal insiderness10 with the local the second part of the shahada and say,
At the sociocultural expression of Muslim community, even though they “Jesus is the Son of God” under their
insiderness, these new MBBs are able to also belong to a local (house) church. breath as the community prays togeth-
remain in their own social networks in They relate to the body of Christ and er. But ultimately, while they maintain
some contexts. They cease to identify as witness to other Muslims in ways that a sense of communal insiderness with
“Muslims,” but certain contextual factors appropriately identify themselves with their Muslim community, they are still
allow them to create the social space Jesus in that context (Green 2013). theological and ritual outsiders.
necessary to develop a Christian identity This expression of insiderness high- For these insiders, their social label
without resulting in harmful stigmatiza- lights an important point that has (i.e. “Christian” or “Muslim”) is not
tion from the broader Muslim society been made recently in missiology an area of great concern for them
(e.g. Hefner 1993). They are cultural and in regards to identity (e.g. Greenlee (others who do know them well may
social insiders but are not thought of as (2013)). In reality, all people every- even think of them as Christians). Of
“Muslims” by other local Muslims. where experience multiple belonging greater concern is the way they pass on
Additionally, because they remain in at the social level of identity. We all si- their faith to the next generation, in-
their social networks, there are rare multaneously relate to different groups cluding challenges relating to marriage
times when these types of insiders in different ways, and we belong to and parenting (Green 2012). In any
may take part in practices that would many at the same time. Multiple case, these are believers who have an
generally be classified as “Islamic.” For belonging becomes an issue for Jesus established core identity “in Christ,”
example, members of the emerging followers when the groups to which and for various contextual reasons have
church in this expression, even with we belong seek to create a compet- been able to negotiate a communal
a Christian identity, sometimes fast ing, incompatible ideology at the core identity that is represented by dual be-
during Ramadan, either for relational level of our “in Christ” identity. We longing; in some sense a “Muslim” and
solidarity with their neighbors or to must continually ask ourselves, is there yet also a biblical follower of Jesus. I
show that they practice the spiritual something in this group I belong to hesitate to go into more detail because
discipline of fasting as well, albeit for a that challenges my allegiance to Jesus there are many contextual variations of
different purpose.9 or my integrity as a disciple? dual belonging insiderness.11

32:2 Summer 2015

88 The Complexity of Insiderness

4. Reinterpreting Insider The ultimate goal for some reinter- matches a Unitarian understanding of
Often, the first thing many think of preting insiders could be to start some God, and they believe that Christ is not
when they hear the word “insider” is sort of reform movement within Islam, God incarnate or ceased to be divine
this expression of insiderness. But I or instead to start a local transitional at the incarnation.14 This would make
hope I have demonstrated that there movement that ends with indigenous them closer to theological insiders,
are three other layers of insiderness home fellowships. These CITO believers since they may also implicitly affirm
that are expressed differently than this are very different from both sociocul- the Islamic doctrine of tawheed which
one. Reinterpreting insiders are most tural and dual belonging insiders. teaches that God is a singular monad.
commonly referred to as MFCs (Mus- Even though syncretistic15 insiders
lim Followers of Christ) who could, in 5. Syncretistic Insider
Interestingly, “most American evan- might not completely align theologically
general, agree with a standard evangel- with their Muslim community, the point
ical statement of faith, making them gelicals hold views condemned as he-
retical by some of the most important is still that there is clearly an aspect of
theological outsiders from the broader unhealthy theological insiderness at this
Islamic community. What makes this councils of the early church” (Emmert
2014). We must be cautious about ap- expression. Of course, there are some
expression unique is that they also take who contend that the other kinds of
part in common Islamic rituals, reap- plying standards of “doctrinal purity”
to new believers on the frontiers of the insiderness described in this article are
propriating them and filling them with harmfully syncretistic as well. However,
new meaning. kingdom that don’t exist in our own
churches established in Christendom. my classification of this expression is in-
Their ability to reuse rituals is possible tended to describe what I believe a broad
because they also have a theology of consensus among evangelical missiolo-
Islam that reinterprets essential Islam- gists would identify as a negative form of
ic doctrines instead of rejecting them. syncretism. Insiders in this level are not
For example, there are ways some Deviant theology theologically “outside” enough of their
MFCs refer to Muhammad as a “di- of any type context to be biblical disciples of Jesus.
We may disagree over what constitutes
rective prophet” (e.g. Talman (2015))
and hold him in high esteem. They is a matter of more or negative syncretism at other expressions
of this model, but not on this one.
may frequent the mosque for evange-
listic and social reasons, and have Holy
better discipleship,
Other examples may include groups
Book studies where the Injil is read not ostracism or who believe that only the four Gospels
side-by-side with the Qur’an (which
is not seen as special revelation but a anathematizing. are inspired and who also believe in
the inspiration of the Qur’an. Another
helpful spiritual text), using whatever
group of syncretistic insiders with an
truth they find to point people to Je-
anemic ecclesiology would only gather
sus. Salat prayers are performed in line
for worship in (Bible-less) mosques
with other Muslims, and the shahada is Each of us, including other MBBs at
with other non-MFCs, thus affirming
recited but only as a cultural marker, in various expressions of insiderness, have
their full belonging inside the ummah.
their view. For them, the real markers unconscious weaknesses at some point
that identify a follower of Jesus are the in our worldview (we all have blind Syncretistic insiders do not necessarily
fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22ff ), not a spots): the real issue is whether the have to be practicing Islamic rituals,
label like “Muslim” or “Christian.” telos of our lives points towards ever- and they might not be making any at-
increasing conformity to the Truth tempt to belong to the body of Christ.
Some in the global church accept
( Jn. 14:6; 2 Cor. 3:18).13 This is the It is difficult to predict whether syn-
their local theologizing, while others
process of discipleship. cretistic insiders will likely transition
do not.12 Regarding the local Muslim
into biblical movements—they could
community, however, their reinter- However, there are unfortunately some
remain as they are, or be absorbed back
pretations would at best be simply insiders who hold to beliefs that are
into the local Muslim community, or
tolerated by those who do not accept clearly beyond standard Christian
they could turn in a healthy direction.
them. However, throughout the Mus- orthodoxy. Whether it is consciously
lim world “orthopraxy is more impor- done or not, their unorthodox theology How syncretistic insiders are discipled
tant than orthodoxy” (Ess 2006), so usually makes it easier for those from is a very delicate subject. Deviant theol-
theological insiderness might not be as their background to accept their mes- ogy of any type is a matter of more or
essential of an issue as ritual insiderness sage. For example, certain MFCs (not better discipleship, not ostracism or
in some Muslim communities. all!) have a theology that more closely anathematizing. Inadequate discipleship

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Warrick Farah 89

might encourage them in their syn-
cretism or patronize them as children.
ovements can be found in three kinds of
It is imperative for some disciplers to insiderness: sociocultural, dual belonging,
remain in close relationship with them
to help them with their hermeneutics
and reinterpreting insiders.
and doctrine, among other issues. of the model itself. Yet my intention Microsoft Word, simply click on a but-
here is not necessarily to classify insiders ton called “merge.” Much of the insider
Dynamic Transitions but to grapple with insiderness which is movement debate, including discussion
Movements can be found in three complex and dynamic. concerning contextualization,18 becomes
kinds of insiderness indicated in the obscured when different kinds of insid-
ers and insiderness are merged together.
chart: sociocultural, dual belonging, Diverse Contexts
and reinterpreting insiders. The cul- In the incarnation, the Son of God Herein I have attempted to disentangle
tural insider (who is not also a social became an insider. Christ expressed in- important concepts blended together by
insider) usually does not have the siderness in his context, yet without sin. ideas like CITO. It should also be evi-
kind of relationships with unbelievers dent that the terms “insider movement”
Jesus our example was an insider and “insider proponent” are vague and
to see multiplication happen, and so
who never relinquished his outsider may create misunderstandings.
movements have rarely been observed status that challenged people to see
at this expression.16 In any case, it is their world from an entirely new per- Significantly different expressions of
helpful to see the distinctions between spective. (Flemming 2005, 23) insiderness exist for believers where
different kinds of insiders lest we think the church of King Jesus is emerging
they are a monolithic phenomenon. This reflects how Paul saw his ministry
of becoming all things to all people (1 today. Hopefully this article helps us
As the chart may convey, insiderness Cor. 9:19ff ), while avoiding harm- communicate respectfully around the
is not a static concept. It is possible ful syncretism (2 Cor. 6:14ff ). In this actual issues and embrace the insider-
for groups of MBBs to move through basic CITO tension, it is absolutely ness complexity on the frontiers of the
various levels of insiderness over time. crucial to keep context in mind. Jesus’ mission of God. IJFM
Like a movement, insiderness is dy- Jewish setting was different from
namic and fluid. Yet, Paul’s Gentile mission, so we are not Endnotes
surprised to see them with different 1
This does not mean that culture and
we have to ask whether it is fair to
expect a movement to survive only expressions of insiderness. theology are divergent categories. All theol-
as a movement. Either the move- ogy is contextual and expressed culturally
It is true that some reinterpreting (Netland and Ott 2006).
ment disintegrates or it becomes an insiders are trying to stay inside Islam 2
institution, this is simply a sociological I use examples from the Muslim
for missional or theological reasons. world in this article. However, the same
law. Every religious group that started
However, it is incorrect to assume expressions of insiderness could apply to
out as a movement and managed to
there is one entity called “Islam” that Hindu or Buddhist contexts as well, perhaps
survive, did so because it was gradu-
all insiders are trying to stay “inside.” 17 even a specific secular-progressive North
ally institutionalized. (Bosch 1991, 52)
It is much closer to reality to recognize American context.
This refers to a syncretistic insider that most insiders are simply trying to
Unfortunately, the “inside/r” word
movement as well. bear faithful witness to Jesus within itself has taken on a negative connota-
tion for some in missiological circles. Yet
Yet while movements are transitional in their context, following in the foot-
insiderness cannot be talked about in a
nature, insiderness can settle for a time. steps of those in the New Testament. binary construct: something you’re either
The vast majority of disciples of Jesus And since every context is different, for or against. As Don Little says, effective
around the world obviously have some discipleship for new MBBs should “express
we cannot assess all insiders with
uncompromisingly bold and culturally
level of insiderness. There are even dif- broad strokes nor evaluate all insider- appropriate witness for Christ that remain
ferent insiders with different insiderness ness with the same criteria. What we inside Muslim communities” (2015, 125).
in the same context, so we need to be say in hermeneutics also applies in 4
Higgins (2006) and Waterman
aware of the variety of expressions. missiology: “context is king.” (2014) have done something similar in
previous articles. It could be possible to
In all fairness, it often takes a thorough
link the “levels” in this article with certain
understanding of the specific insiders Conclusion portions of the C Spectrum (Travis 1998),
and their context to discern which in- Here is a brief analogy of the main but I believe doing so would make it overly
siderness they describe, but even then it point in this article: if you want to join complicated. I’m trying to be simple with-
might still be fuzzy due to the limitations different cells of a table together in out being simplistic.

32:2 Summer 2015

90 The Complexity of Insiderness
Jens Barnet insightfully remarks that ritual outsiders, they still have the flexibility 15
There are different ways the term
while we need to develop better models to do an “Islamic” practice such as fasting, syncretism is used in missiology (Farah
to deal with the multifaceted, tangled, even during Ramadan, although it might 2010). I am primarily using it as an evaluative
and layered nature of identity today, he is not be in the exact same manner. term to describe deviation from the broad
concerned that many of our approaches are 10
There is a weakness with the term consensus of historical Christian orthodoxy.
still using the same kind of enlightenment “communal identity” because “the term im- 16
Rodney Stark remarks that one of
thinking that failed to describe the com- plies that Hindus and Muslims identify only the criteria for the success of new religious
plexity of reality in the first place (2015). with a community of Hindus and Muslims. movements is that they remain “an open
(It is important to note however that I am Although some Indians may embrace and social network, able to maintain and form
not dealing with “identity” but “insider- propagate such an identity, few Indians live ties to outsiders” (1996, 142).
ness.”) To the point that I might be steeped with such a singular self-understanding. 17
The essentialist fallacy is committed
in dichotomist or modernistic thought, Overreliance on the communal notion is when an evaluation is made of an “insider”
I enthusiastically welcome criticism and akin to examining identity with a very nar- or MBB on the basis of some supposed “real
improvements of my proposal here. This is row view. . . . many Hindus and Muslims do Islam” and not on the basis of how the spe-
the exciting nature of missiology. not live within discrete and distinct religious cific believer relates to the particular context,
I want to thank Jens Barnett, Abu worlds but practice faith lives that obscure including his or her local Muslim community.
Daoud, Abu Jaz, Gene Daniels, Brad Gill, clear identity boundaries” (Gottschalk 2000, Both insider proponents and traditionalists
Tim Green, and L. D. Waterman for their 39). (I want to thank Barnett for sharing may sometimes commit the essentialist fallacy.
help in formulating ideas and crafting this this insight with me.) For persuasive cases against viewing
article. Any errors or weaknesses though are 11
The phenomenon of the “secret be- Islam as a monolithic, coherent entity, see
ultimately my own. liever” (C6 on the C Spectrum) is probably Ramachandra (1999, 13–46); Marranci
5 (2008); and Jung (2011). I believe it is best
I have learned about these believers found most commonly at this expression
through my own research, ministry experi- (even though they do not attempt to relate to view “Islam” as simply being what people
ence, and also as a member of the Bridging to the body of Christ or are unsuccessful in who profess it actually believe and do (Bates
the Divide Network (http://btdnetwork. safely doing so), yet could be at other levels and Rassam 2001, 89). Biblically-based
org). The academic discipline of evangelical as well. As we know from experience, there ministry in the Islamic world is not about
missiology would be strengthened if there are many new believers like this in frontier engaging Islam, but rather about engaging
were more empirical studies on specific contexts, yet analysis on secret believers is Muslims. Romans 1:18ff does not refer to
communities of insiders that specifically outside the scope of this article. systems such as Islam, but to humankind. It
examine their insiderness. However, recent 12
Barnett offers a helpful observation is people who “suppress the truth by their
empirical studies that provide examples of wickedness” and thus need to be the focus
on the dynamic of syncretism: “Cultural
insiderness in this article can be found in of the gospel (Walls 1996b, 66).
change in a community is not instanta-
the research projects of Kraft (2007), Green So whether or not the Islamic State,
neous, nor is it uniform. Since transforma-
(2012), Oksnevad (2012), Naja (2013), Saudi Sunnis, or Hezbollah represent “real”
tion of a culture will always involve the
and Miller (2014). Garrison also has many Islam should not be a major concern. As
contesting of cultural symbols, pockets of
anecdotal examples (2014). ministers of the gospel, we start with people
confusion in the initial stages seems, to
An individualistic understanding of in the complexity of their contexts. It’s not
me, unavoidable. If we define syncretism
evangelism and faith change often drives our job to define Islam, but to present biblical
semiotically, as the association of a non-
this ‘extractionist’ approach to ministry. See faith. Yet the complexity of people in their
biblical meaning to a symbol or form, then
L. D. Waterman’s important insights in this contexts must be embraced without resorting
some degree of syncretistic confusion may
issue of IJFM. to reductionistic oversimplifications which
well be a normal stage on the way to good
7 often lead to the type of decontextualized
I do not intend to suggest that the contextualization” (2015). This partially
approaches to Muslim ministry that can be
other variables of insiderness in this schema explains how some insiders could eventu-
commonplace in evangelical missiology.
are independent from culture. For example, ally transition to different expressions of 18
For many of the same reasons, I also
rituals are part of every culture. insiderness, and thus we might appreciate or
think it is important to show differences
Additionally, Duane Alexander comprehend why these levels of insiderness
between workers’ approaches of contextu-
Miller has noted instances of Iranian MBB exist for a period of time, even if it may be
alization. See “The ‘W’ Spectrum: ‘Worker’
communities who left Islam and embraced confusing or even troubling.
Paradigms in Muslim Contexts” (Farah and
Christianity in order to be “inside” their Still, there is much theological Meeker 2015).
culture, because Islam was seen as Arabizing diversity within evangelical orthodoxy.
and Christianity was seen to affirm their 14
While the deity of Christ is obvi-
own historical and ethnic peculiarity (2014, ously a huge stumbling block to Muslims,
Accad, Martin
189). In this case, Miller comments that it is also a strong factor facilitating the faith 2009 “Away With the Sterile Debates!”
Islam could be the “outsider.” journeys of MBBs. In my own study of Christianity Today, December.
Notice on the chart that this level is MBB conversions, many Muslims are actu- Barnett, Jens
marked with “o/?” on the ritual column. One ally drawn to Jesus by his majestic position 2015 “Searching for Models of Indi-
weakness of my categories is that reality is as the Lord God (c.f. Farah 2013, 17). I be- vidual Identity.” In Understand-
indeed much more complex and fuzzy than lieve this reflects a central way Jesus himself ing Insider Movements, edited by
I’m suggesting here. The point is that while made disciples: “he manifested his glory and Harley Talman and John Travis.
this group is clearly recognized by others as his disciples believed in him” ( Jn. 2:11). Pasadena, CA: William Carey.

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32:2 Summer 2015

William Carey Library

e whole world are joined in the effort to reach

hough it has been documented that Western
outside their countries still comprise the
ions workers, the growth rate of majority world Missions represents the
Effective Engagement in Short-term
paces that of the West. In recent years, while to understand and
single most ambitious effort to date
rces are shrinking in numbers and possibly in MISSIONS from improve upon patterns of ministry
in STM. In six sections, the
m the majority world have proliferated, bringing
links between STM and older
some challenges. Missions from the Majority the MAJORITY WORLD: authors explore topics such as the
nt with people of other
patterns of long-term missions; engageme
thinking of fourteen majority world mission
specialized ministries such as
cultures; international partnerships;
liabilities; and last but not least,
rners with lengthy experience in the missionary
hows the progress and challenges of missions medical missions; legal and financial
the impact of STM on participants.
the ways in which STM is car-
rld and illustrates by case studies from Asia,
The goal of this book is to improve
dings needed on the part of all
ried out and to improve the understan
this book attempts to provide a
who engage in the ministry. In short,
leadership within the short-
n, Ph.D. is a research professor of intercultural studies and knowledge base for those who provide
WA N a n d P O C O C K , e d i t o r s

mission pastors, lay leaders,

term missions movement. Youth pastors,
r the Doctor of Missiology program at Western Seminary. Dr.
sident of the Evangelical Missiological Society, vice-president missiologists will all find informa-
ommission International, founder and editor of the e-journal, college and seminary students, and
their concerns., and director of the Institute of Diaspora tion that is helpful and relevant to
e is also a member of the Lausanne Diaspora Leadership
author of the William Carey Library title Christian Witness in
Century (2004). PROGRESS, CHALLENGES, of mission and
ROBERT J. PRIEST is professor the Ph.D. pro-
intercultural studies and director
and CASE STUDIES gram in intercultural studies
at Trinity Evangelical
a Ph.D. in anthropology
ved at Dallas Theological Seminary for twenty-two years. He Divinity School. He holds
, Berkeley. Among
from the University of California
s is the 2007 book, This
sor of missions in the school’s department
his more recent publication
ultural studies. Following studies at Trinity and Christian Faith
m which he later received his doctorate Side of Heaven: Race, Ethnicity,
rved along with his wife Penny with The (Oxford), co-edited with Alvaro
TEAM) for sixteen years, first in Venezuela

E N O C H WA N a n d M I C H A E L P O C O C K , e d i t o r s

Missions from the Majority The Missionary Family (EMS 22) Effective Engagement in
World (EMS 17) Witness, Concerns, Care Short-term Missions (EMS 16)
Progress, Challenges and Case Studies Dwight Baker, Robert Priest (Editors) Doing it Right!
Enoch Wan, Michael Pocock (Editors) Robert Priest (Editor)

Churches from around the world are joined in The title of this book points to a feature— Effective Engagement in Short-term Missions

the effort to reach the whole world. Although the missionary family—often considered to represents the single most ambitious effort

it has been documented that Western be a distinctive of the Protestant missionary to date to understand and improve upon

missionaries serving outside their countries movement. Certainly the presence of patterns of ministry in short-term missions

still comprise the majority of world missions missionary families in the field has been a (STM). In six sections, the authors explore

workers, the growth rate of majority world central factor in enabling, configuring, and topics such as the links between STM and older

missionaries far outpaces that of the West. restricting Protestant missionary outreach. patterns of long-term missions; engagement

In recent years, while Western missionary What special concerns does sending with people of other cultures; international

forces are shrinking in numbers and possibly missionary families raise for the conduct partnerships; specialized ministries such

in influence, missions from the majority world of mission? What means are available for as medical missions; legal and financial

have proliferated, bringing amazing progress extending care and support to missionary liabilities; and last but not least, the impact

and some challenges. families? These issues are the focus of the of STM on participants. The goal of this book

chapters in part 1 of this book. is to improve both the ways in which STM is
Missions from the Majority World represents
carried out and the understandings needed
the thinking of 14 majority world mission In recent years an increasing number of
by all who engage in the ministry. In short, this
scholars and 10 Westerners with lengthy reports have surfaced of sexual abuse in
book attempts to provide a knowledge base
experience in the missionary enterprise. The mission settings. Part 2 serves the mission
for leaders within the short-term missions
book shows the progress and challenges community by scrutinizing such matters,
movement. Youth pastors, mission pastors, lay
of missions from the majority world and offering legal, historical, and psychological
leaders, college and seminary students, and
illustrates this with case studies from Asia, perspectives on the topic. Fourteen evan-
missiologists alike will all find information that
Africa, and Latin America. gelical scholars participate in the discussion
is helpful and relevant.
found in part 3.

List Price $14.99 • Our Price $11.99 List Price $16.99 • Our Price $13.59 List Price $16.99 • Our Price $13.59

ISBN 978-0-87808-019-9 ISBN 978-0-87808-044-1 ISBN 978-0-87808-005-2

Erin Enoch Wan, Michael Pocock (Editors) Dwight Baker, Robert Priest (Editors) Robert Priest (Editor)
WCL | Pages 440 | Paperback 2009 WCL | Pages 350| Paperback 2014 WCL | Pages 655 | Paperback 2008

Recasting Evangelization: ISFM 2014
Why Cultures Matter
by Miriam Adeney

t the Lausanne Conference in 1974, Ralph Winter and Donald Mc-
Gavran turned Christians’ attention to “peoples,” to human groups in
cultural contexts. “The Bible is not people-blind—Jesus did not die
to make Muslims stop praying five times a day or to make Brahmins eat meat.
People should not be invited into the church and all invited to play the violin,”
Winter quipped as he enlivened his serious arguments (Fickett 2013:6, 7, 90).

That emphasis on cultures and people groups changed Christian mission

significantly. But is that era past?

Globalization scatters torrents of travelers—laborers, immigrants, students,

refugees, businessmen—like a tsunami washing over every society. People
mingle. The next generation often speaks English. They build new identities.
Even those who stay home “live in a constant and daily tension between the
global (CNN, McDonalds, Target, GAP, Microsoft) and the local, between
the image (the TV sitcom groups we connect with, our internet relationships)
and the real. So we constantly construct identities and create new tribes” (Harris
and Schaupp 1994:383).

Amid this global whirlpool, how much do cultures matter? How much do
peoples matter? Or are other priorities more important today?

Four reasons why cultures still matter may be suggested. First, understand-
ing cultures helps to reduce conflicts. Sunnis and Shiites, Ukrainians and
Miriam Adeney, PhD (Cultural
Anthropology) is professor of World Russians, Palestinians and Israelis, whites and blacks in Ferguson, Missouri—all
Christian Studies at Seattle Pacific
University, has taught on six would benefit from listening to each others’ stories.
continents, and is the author of many
books and articles on culture, gender, Second, understanding cultures helps us do business. This includes mission
ethnicity, diasporas, development, business, microfinance, health and education projects, and even communicat-
and contextualized communication,
including Kingdom Without Borders. ing the Christian story—any pragmatic project.

International Journal of Frontier Missiology 32:2 Summer 2015•93

94 Why Cultures Matter

Third, cultures are not going away. human lives. Ecological anthropolo- categories. Clifford Geertz defined a
Though travel and the internet may gists continue this emphasis. culture as “a historically transmitted
erode differences, paradoxically they pattern of meanings embodied in a
Marxist anthropologists have framed
also highlight cultural distinctives and system of symbols which grids action.”
this material focus with a specific ide-
reinforce separate ethnic connections. Geertz also referred to culture as “webs
ology. Whenever there is “private own-
The members of an ethnic group may of significance which we spin and in
ership of the means of production,”
be dispersed and mobile. What they which we hang suspended” (1973:4–5).
class struggle will ensue and intensify,
treasure from their culture may differ
eventually provoking an explosion that All these theories are far more com-
from their grandparents. Yet their
will eventuate in a classless society plex than is suggested here. Yet they
loyalty to their roots can be fierce.
where people share the proceeds of also share significant commonalities.
There is a fourth and particularly their labor, “from each according to his All envision regular patterns and
Christian reason why cultures matter. ability, to each according to his need.” processes, which are basic to science.
Before exploring that, however, we All anthropologists want to be holistic.
Classic British and American anthro-
will trace understandings of culture They want to study real behavior, not
pologists have viewed family and social
through time. just ideals. Corporate groups, not
structures as the elements that are cen-
just individuals. Culture in all its rich
tral to cultures. Around these struc-
and confusing complexity, not just a
Between Us and Them tures, all the other parts of a culture
few selected variables. And cultures
Humans naturally make distinctions form a system, including material
throughout space and time. Attitudes
between our own people and others.
that anthropologists cultivate include
During the Middle Ages, Westerners
empathy, curiosity, objectivity, and
called others heretics. Or monsters.
tolerance for ambiguity. Within this
During the Age of Exploration, oth-
ers were seen as pagans. Or potential
Though travel context, they evaluate theories for their
slaves. During the Enlightenment, and the internet may simplicity, their comprehensiveness,
how well they generate significant
others were savages, primal or primi-
tive beings. Chinese have viewed oth-
erode differences, hypotheses, and their elegance.
ers as barbarians. Muslims have seen paradoxically they In our postmodern era, deconstruction-
others as unbelievers, infidels. ists have arisen, particularly scholars
also highlight cultural influenced by the French philosophers
Early anthropologists like Edmund
Tyler and James Frazer were evolution- distinctives. Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault.
Raising questions about the nature of
ists who affirmed not only physical but
truth and our ability to understand it,
also cultural evolution. Simple cultures
they call all our theories into question.
were dominated by magic, they taught.
Some of their revisionist ideas might
More advanced cultures were struc- elements and worldview elements. be summarized in several points:
tured by religion. The most advanced These theorists are called structural-
cultures were organized around science. functionalists, and their influence on 1. Truth is experienced in multiple
missionary anthropology has been great. and incomplete ways, including
As anthropology developed, and more
paradox and ambiguity.
data was collected, these broad gener- Besides the materialists and the
alizations slipped from favor. Instead, 2. There is no trustworthy, over-
social structuralists are the symbolic
some scholars came to emphasize the arching story or metanarrative.
anthropologists. Claude Levi-Strauss
material components of culture, others (Life is fragmented, truth is con-
propounded that cultures are systems
the social structures, and others the structed, and changes.)
imposed on the random natural world
symbolic elements of ideas and images. by the structure of the human mind. 3. Subjects and objects cannot be
Among the materialists, Roy Rap- For him, the basic human mental disconnected. (What is known is
paport defined culture as “an adaptive structure involved binary contrasts. affected by who is knowing it or
mechanism for maintaining material Other cognitive anthropologists have saying it.)
relations with the other parts of man’s attempted syntactic and semantic 4. Fact and value cannot be discon-
ecosystem” (1967:6). The resource base analyses to discover what a people nected. (Facts are not neutral.)
and the particular arrangements for hold to be the constituent entities and 5. “Truth” is often a tool used by
balancing production and consump- taxonomies of the universe—the basic those in power to maintain their
tion were the realities that shaped units and how they are organized in position in the hierarchy.

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Miriam Adeney 95

6. History is not necessarily pro-
ontinuity complements change. In spite of their
7. Cultures are not necessarily ranked. faults, our cultures remain dear be­cause it is our
Such postmodern ideas draw from cultures that give us our categories.
anthropology, and also help to shape it.
“ethnotheologies.” To minister authen- Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young
tically, we need to know indigenous Adults Are Leaving the Faith and How
Applying Cultural fears and values and how local theolo- to Bring Them Back, he identifies five
Understanding in Ministry gians tackle these. Evangelical Hispan- subcultures among young Americans,
All of these perspectives on culture can ic theologians, for example, emphasize and suggests gospel bridges to each:
enrich our ministry. Materially, what is community, the Holy Spirit, care for
the people’s resource base? That is one 1. Postmoderns distrust explana-
the needy, mestizaje or mixedness,
of the first questions to ask if we are tions, analysis, and logical argu-
marginality or exile, and God in ev-
learning about a society. What is an mentation. Truth is too complex.
eryday life with all its embarrassments
So Dyck recommends telling
average meal? What is a rare luxury? and fights and failures. It takes time to
stories, true stories—your own
If finances are tight, what strategies do absorb these themes, but is essential
“mini-narrative” and the great
they use? Beyond the immediate fam- for ministry.
“enchanted metanarrative.” Be
ily, who do they regularly contribute
sensitive to nuance. Acknowl-
to or share with? How do they get to
work? What technology do they own?
Change and Complexity edge mystery. Be humble. Build
Deconstruction theory prods us to trust. And invite them to serve
How do they get health care, and how
think about change and complexity. alongside you even before all the
do they pay for it? What multinational
We should not assume that cultures answers are spelled out.
or government or foreign entities
are static. Most people wish life were 2. Recoilers have been wounded or
dominate the local economy, and is a little different. They have dreams
that influence increasing? perhaps offended by hypocrisy.
and aspirations, and would like new Empathize with their anger and
The material dimension matters. opportunities. Cultures always are on hurt. Talk about how Christ joins
Recently, when some of my students the move. Nevertheless, continuity us in our pain. Then enjoy your
surveyed Asian-American Christians, complements change. In spite of their faith, and model hope beyond
they included questions on this aspect faults, our cultures remain dear be- wounds and cynicism.
of culture, such as, “What Asian- cause it is our cultures that give us our 3. Moderns do want reasons. So dis-
American economic habits reflect categories. “We do not contemplate cuss worldviews, and push them
Christian values? On the other hand, reality face to face. From the moment to defend theirs. Ask them: Why
where does the Christian faith critique we are born, things do not come before be good? Avoid triteness. Model
Asian-American economic habits?” us in all their nakedness. They come a serious effort to think. And, in
Good dialogues resulted. dressed in the names some community the course of your discussions,
has given them” (Alves 1985:26). clear out bizarre misconceptions
Sensitivity to economic realities must
Besides emphasizing change, decon- of Christianity.
shape our ministry. For example, if we
require air conditioning, private laptops, struction theory also reminds us that 4. Earthkeepers honor nature, women
and private jeeps, might that commu- individuals may have multiple cultural as the nurturers of life, and prayer.
nicate the idea that one cannot be a top identities, and that these may shift They approach the supernatural
Christian leader without these things? around. A Filipino-American marries with awe and reverence.
a Native American. Their children are 5. Rebels want justice and freedom.
Similarly, the social dimension of culture Filipino-American, Native American,
has applications for ministry. Many mis- Finally, power is one of deconstruction-
members of a specific tribe, and gen-
sionary anthropologists have given at- ism’s most important themes. Multi-
eral American. One child may choose
tention to family patterns and commu- culturalism is not a level playing field.
to emphasize one label. His brother
In a plural society, stronger groups
nity structures and their implications for may feel more connected with another.
tend to dominate others. Inequality
witness, discipling, and church develop- At different times they may move back
of opportunity results. Often serious
ment (Nida, Kraft, Hiebert, Smalley in and forth, switching identities.
oppression occurs. “White privilege”
Winter and Hawthorne 2009).
Subcultural identities matter too, even is the term used in the U.S. to refer to
The symbolic dimension of culture also though they may be overlapping or this unfair advantage. Although white
contains useful resources. Consider cross-cutting. In Drew Dyck’s book, people can be victimized by affirmative

32:2 Summer 2015

96 Why Cultures Matter

action programs, generally they are in in the later 1500s, they could not exploit He is the one who has generated the
the default position of power. Filipinos quite as cruelly as they had possibility for cultural variation.
the Latin American Indians because
In India, people at the bottom of the Yet that is not the whole picture. To
the Filipinos were seen as true human
caste system are called Dalits. Success- say we are in God’s image does not de-
beings, at least in theory.)
ful Christian witness here does not scribe our nature completely. We also
build on beautiful ideas in traditional A Christian theology of culture holds are sinners. That is the tragic truth.
Hindu literature. What has Hinduism that although other peoples may Patterns of exploitation and idolatry
done for Dalits? Instead, these people seem strange, they are not monsters, pulse through our cultures. How well
want to hear about dignity, justice, and or savages, or barbarians, or primal or we know the corruption, the waste, the
opportunity. Wise witnesses note the primitive beings. They are not funda- lust, the power-grabbing, the envi-
power relations in society. mentally pagans or heretics or po- ronmental degradation. Every cul-
tential slaves. They are human beings, ture reeks of selfishness, with people
Deconstruction theory reminds us that
made in God’s image. This means, in wounding each other continually.
many people do not fit into traditional
part, that they are gifted with a bit
cultural categories: What is the iden- In the middle of this dynamic ten-
of God’s creativity. Using this gift,
tity of the biracial child? The Navaho sion between our creativity and our
people in different parts of the world
who oscillates between the reservation sin, the gospel arrives. It affirms the
have constructed distinctive family
and the city? The Filipino who labors patterns, economic exchange systems, gifts of God’s creativity. It critiques the
for 40 years in Abu Dhabi but cannot cuisines, music, architectural styles, patterns of exploitation and idolatry.
retire there? The youth who buy and The expression of this critique should
wear goods and watch media from be led by indigenous leaders who are
everywhere? The refugee immigrant?
immersed in the Word and the Spirit.
Who are their people?
Cultures Tragically, missionaries sometimes
Whoever they are, the gospel offers have dominated, and in the process
them a home. God doesn’t stereotype
must be valued as have judged the local culture more
us, but meets us each as the exceptions treasure chests of symbols harshly than their own. To correct
we are, with our multiple and overlap- that, we must bend over backward. We
ping identities, our unique pilgrimages, for exuberant expression must acknowledge, “If you are a sinner
our individual quirks. God doesn’t slot
us into pigeonholes. Whether we have
of the image in need of a Savior, so am I. If your
people are sinners, and if your culture
permanently lost our community, or of God. is exploitative, so are mine. We are in
are temporarily adrift, or have patched the same boat. And God in his mercy
together bits of several heritages, God has reached out to all of us.”
welcomes us into his people, offering
us a community that stretches even and philosophies. In other words, they
beyond the systems of this world. have built cultures, employing God’s Culture Takes Time
gift of creativity. Cultures, then, must It takes time to learn a language, to
be valued as treasure chests of symbols adapt to a way of life, to be a friend.
Culture is a Gift of God for exuberant expression of the image It requires openness to ambiguity
Here we come to the fourth reason of God. and even to failure. If we are going
that culture matters. to absorb the historic continuity, the
Such cultures enrich God’s world.
In the early 1500s, Bartolomé de Las connotative richness, and the contex-
Like a mosaic, like a kaleidoscope, this
Casas was a plantation owner in Latin tual integration of a culture—even a
diversity appears in biblical texts about
America. He experienced Christian mixed culture—it will be hard work.
God’s kingdom at the end of time,
conversion, grew in grace, and then To honor that culture, we will have to
such as Isaiah 60. The God who cre-
increasingly came to lament European ates billions of unique snowflakes and die a little to our own ways of think-
exploitation of indigenous peoples. Over personalities, who dazzles with diverse ing and acting. Like a seed falling into
a period of years, he shared his concerns colors and infuses our inhaling with the ground, we will find it dark and
with the Pope. In 1537, Paul III issued aromas, who imagines a boggling array uncomfortable. But then we will be
the authoritative document Sublimis of tropical fish in the oceans and even reborn. At first ignorant and incom-
Deus. This affirms that native people varieties of granite hidden deep in the petent, almost helpless, we will have to
everywhere are fully human. (As a result, earth—this God delights in diversity. practice and repeat, over and over, like
when the Spanish came to Philippines a toddler.

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Miriam Adeney 97

A lot of mission workers want to avoid
that death. So they just rush in and take
lot of mission workers just rush in and take
action. But nobody deserves to be acted action. But nobody deserves to be acted upon.
upon. Nobody should be our project. If,
on the other hand, we are willing to go
Nobody should be our project.
through the death and rebirth that is and reach hands across the chasms Harris, Paula and Doug Schaupp
part of adapting to a culture, the yield with true respect for God’s image and 1994 Being White. Downer’s Grove, IL:
in God’s good time will be a hundred- Inter Varsity Press.
true empathy for fellow sinners. They
fold—brothers and sisters and fathers Rappaport, Roy
lead societies across bridges of recon- 1967 Pigs for the Ancestors. New Haven:
and mothers. This is the pain and the ciliation. This is one more way that a Yale University Press.
joy of true global Christianity. Christian understanding of culture Winter, Ralph and Steven Hawthorne, eds.
Today that Christianity is being lived may serve in our time. IJFM 2009 Perspectives on the World Christian
Movement. Pasadena, CA: Wil-
in thousands of cultures by believers liam Carey Publishers.
who are working to express their Bibliography
family and workplace relationships, Alves, Ruben
their economic exchanges, their praise 1985 Protestantism and Repression.
rituals, and their philosophical and Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
theological ideas, in ways that are Fickett, Harold
2013 The Ralph D. Winter Story: How
consistent with their heritage and also One Man Dared to Shake Up
with the glory of God. World Missions. Pasadena, CA:
William Carey Publishers.
And when civil ties break down, as
Geertz, Clifford
they do so often today, Christians 1973 “Thick Description: Toward an
who love cultures without idolizing Interpretive Theory of Culture,”
them often can be found on the front In The Interpretation of Cultures.
lines. They step out into the margins New York: Basic Books.

32:2 Summer 2015

98 Response

R e s p o n s e
the “pop idol” culture in Japan? The young people who
follow it are still deeply Japanese, but in ways that render
that word almost unintelligible to their elders.
In the circles I am a part of, a hot topic the past few years
has been the identity of Muslims after their conversion to
A Response to Miriam Adeney’s “Why Cultures Christ. How do we refer to them? Are they Christians? Are
Matter” (ISFM 2014) they Muslim Background Believers (MBBs), Believers from
a Muslim Background (BMBs), or even Muslim Followers of
by Gene Daniels Christ (MFC)? Not only are each of these identity choices

pregnant with complexity, but they also beg the question,
remember when, as a budding anthropologist, I first “Who decides?” People like Jens Barnett (2013)and Katie
read Dr. Miriam Adeney’s article, “Is God Colorblind Kraft (2007) have made a good start to explore these topics,
or Colorful?” So you can understand why it is a little but more research is needed.
unnerving to follow her at this podium. Dr. Adeney is
one of the giants in the field and her presentation “Why However, the issue of cultural hybridity is not just a post-
Cultures Matter” was a tour de force on the topic. conversion concern. I saw this clearly in my dissertation
work among Muslim converts to Christ in the former
The essential argument of her paper was that culture still Soviet Union. The people in that study are what we call
matters in mission because it addresses fundamental issues Russified Muslims. And I found that understanding their
of our humanity. Culture is critical to conducting the prac- particular form of cultural hybridity was crucial to under-
tical aspects of mission such as community development standing what conversion and discipleship meant to them.
and microfinance. It hangs as a backdrop to globalization as
peoples from distant parts of the world come into close and To view their culture as only Muslim masks the very
sometimes sharp contact with Christians here in the West. significant part of their heritage rooted in Russian society.
Perhaps most importantly, she pointed out that paying On the other hand, to focus on linguistics, that is to reduce
attention to culture helps us stay focused on the human them to simply another kind of Russian speaker, ignores
dimension despite a trend toward what some have labeled the impact of growing up with even one foot in the Umma.
“American managerial missiology.” The hybrid nature of their identity affected everything from
evangelism, to conversion, to discipleship.
Dr. Adeney also offered a brief survey of the different
schools of anthropological thought that have influenced I distinctly remember the story of one Kazakh man. He
mission these past forty years. This part might have seemed grew up in a very non-religious home. He went to Russian
a bit esoteric to those not steeped in the discipline. But schools and Russian was his first and most fluent language.
I am amazed at how often these ideas lie at the root of He was led to Christ by another Kazakh, but later someone
our mission conversations. For example, whether or not a took him and his wife to a Russian-speaking missionary
person has ever studied anthropology, their view of Insider church. They attended that church for over a year, yet in
Movements will usually conform to either a structural, retrospect he said:
symbolic, or deconstructionist view of culture. Yes, culture Of course, the Christians in that church smiled and were nice,
and the theories about it still do matter. and I liked that, but I couldn’t go any further with them.
They had their own world and I felt like I came from another
With her presentation as a backdrop, I will expand on world . . . They could not understand the difference between
one of the points Dr. Adeney raised and then tease out saying “Yesus” (Russian) and “Isa” (Kazakh) for me, especially
something she did not talk about explicitly, but which was since I knew they were the same person. So [they] were wor-
certainly implicit in what she said, here as well as in many ried and suspicious of me.
of her previous writings.
The people around him were “worried and suspicious”
because they did not understand that although he seemed
Hybrid Identities
to fit into Russian society just fine, there was a whole other
In her discussion of deconstructionism and postmodern-
side to his cultural identity. It is a classic case of what hap-
ist thought, Dr. Adeney talked about changing and flexible
pens when a flat, two-dimensional missiology runs into the
cultural identities. Many anthropologists today are using
complexity of cultural hybridity.
the terms hyphenated- or hybrid-identities. Globalization
is allowing for the blending and bending of cultures on an There has been a beginning toward missiogical reflection on
unprecedented scale. Do the children of Turkish emigrants these pre-conversion hybrid identities. For example, at last
to Germany think of themselves as Turks, or Germans, or year’s ISFM Michael Rynkiewich presented a paper about
German-Turks, or something else entirely? Or what about peoples in the diaspora (2013). Although I disagree with

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Gene Daniels 99

e need people doing careful research into how the fusion of global pop
culture with traditional Arab identity is affecting perceptions of the
gospel, not just looking for quick new ways of using social media.
some of his conclusions, he did open up some important hours drinking tea and talking with these men on a wide range
points for this conversation we should be having. of theological topics. I am convinced that all of them are sound
biblically, but as an anthropologist I would call few of them
We need to be discussing how growing up as a Guajarati,
“evangelical.” They and their churches are simply too different
but in the context of Los Angeles, might influence some-
to place in the same category as my home church in Arkansas.
one’s conversion to Christ and subsequent discipleship. We
need people doing careful research into how the fusion of Nevertheless, missionaries often use this warm and familiar
global pop culture with traditional Arab identity is affecting term because it is so much easier than struggling to give a
perceptions of the gospel, not just looking for quick new truly authentic picture of the other. But accurate missiologi-
ways of using social media. cal representation is important for many reasons. One reason
is that it helps move us from an orthodoxy built exclusively
The missions community needs to wrestle with this issue of cul-
on Western theological ideas towards one that is informed
tural hybridity in all its forms, both pre- and post-conversion.
by a globally-shared faith. Mission anthropology should
Yes, the nuance and complexity of it can be frustrating, but that
help us paint accurate pictures, not just palatable ones.
is just part and parcel of doing mission in our globalized world.
Anthropological Representation So here we stand forty years after the sea change in mission
Now I would like to tease out something that was not
brought by Lausanne ’74. Dr. Adeney made a strong case
exactly explicit in Dr. Adeney’s presentation, but it seems to
that culture still matters in mission. As she said so well, it
me is implicit in her thinking. This is something the litera-
matters because “it keeps us seeing humans as humans; not
ture refers to as “anthropological representation,” which is
projects, not souls to be saved, but humans created in the
the way we use rhetoric and voice to shape people’s percep- image of God.” Or as an MBB in Central Asia once told
tion of the cultures we describe. me, “I am so tired of being some missionary’s ‘project.’ ”
A few years ago Daniel Varisco wrote a book entitled Islam Paying attention to culture helps us fight this tendency,
Obscured (2005). In it he argues that most ethnographic and for this reason it will continue to play a major role in
writing is filled with researchers telling us what people say or Christian mission until we stand before the throne of the
do, and contains very little of what they themselves actually Lamb, and mission is no more. IJFM
have to say. Thus, we end up with a view of people that is
highly filtered by the researcher’s perceptions of them. Gene Daniels (pseudonym) and his family spent twelve years
At times I worry about this same problem in mission, a working with Muslims in Central Asia. He continues to focus on
problem I would call missiological mis-representation. I the Muslim world, now primarily through research and training.
Daniels has a doctorate in Religious Studies from the University
am concerned that we often give the church back home
of South Africa.
carefully filtered perceptions of other peoples and cultures
rather than honest representations of them.
For example, I constantly hear the word “Evangelical” used References
Barnett, Jens.
to describe the new, vibrant churches emerging on mission 2013 “Living a Pun: Cultural Hybridity among Arab Followers
frontiers. I have a problem with this. I would argue that the of Christ” in Longing for Community. David Greenlee, ed.
term “evangelical” was coined for a certain kind of Protestant Pasadena: William Carey Library.
church which emerged to revive the faith of nominal Kraft, Katie.
Christians in a certain kind of nominal Christian society. 2007 “Community and Identity Among Arabs of a Muslim
Background who Chose to Follow a Christian Faith.” PhD
Thus, when we apply it to young churches in somewhere like
diss., University of Bristol.
Uzbekistan, it is more an act of filtering for our audience’s Rynkiewich, Michael A.
sake, than of accurate missiological representation. 2013 “Mission in ‘the Present Time’: What about the People
in Diaspora?” International Journal of Frontier Missiology.
During the years my family lived in Central Asia there was 30, no. 3, (Fall 2013), pp. 103–114.
a push to develop national evangelical alliances in various Varisco, Daniel
post-Soviet countries. Many of the former Muslim church 2005 Islam Obscured: The Rhetoric of Anthropological Representa-
leaders in those organizations are my friends. I have spent tion. New York: Pelgrave Macmillan

32:2 Summer 2015

100 Book Reviews

economy and migration are his themes as he describes
the ebb and flow of the Bay as an inter-connected region.
However, he does address, not unexpectedly, the spread
of Islam from west to east across the region, and there are
lessons here to be learned. For example, he describes the
conversion of the ruling family of Melaka in 1419 which
Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the cemented the relationship between Islam, trade, and the port
Fortunes of Migrants, by Sunil S. Amrith (Cambridge, MA: polities of the Indian Ocean rim; port cities with Muslim rulers
Harvard University Press, 2013, pp. 1-285, 287-353. were hospitable to Muslim and non-Muslim merchants from
across Asia. (p. 41)
—Reviewed by Michael Rynkeiwich
Of what interest is this kind of book to missionaries? Every

B etween the Global (everyone’s

favorite concept) and the Local
(the place where the narrative hits the
culture, every region has a history of shared understand-
ings and embedded relationships as well as dueling nar-
ratives and ruptured visions for the future. For example,
road) lie several levels of organiza- Amrith discusses the situation immediately after World
tion such as the national (on its way War II: “New ideologies—more aggressive, more martial
out, but still a force). Lost in the rush than before—claimed the postwar order, and few of them
among missiologists to leverage glo- had room for people between homes, between countries,
balization and diaspora for mission is
between journeys” (p. 214). The insight here is that, when
an old and still significant force called
the British Empire was in its heyday, movement was
“regionalization.” The region has its
actually easier because it was “internal” in a sense. With
own dynamics, economy, politics, migration, order, and
the emergence of nation states, migration was slowed for
opportunities for mission. Understanding the region is a
several decades. The missionary arriving in the region in
missional task. After all, was not Mediterraneanization the
context for the spread of the gospel in the first centuries of 1990 might assume that what’s seen has been in place for
the church? hundreds of years, when in fact the social scene had only
recently been frozen that way. As the new era of globaliza-
The Bay of Bengal bordered now by Ceylon, India, tion after 1990 reveals new opportunities for migration and
Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, diaspora, we can now see that it isn’t new at all, but a revival
is a region with well-worn seaways. The nations are modern, of old pathways. That means that there is much more depth
but the region is much older, fully as old as the Arabian Sea to the beliefs and behaviors one encounters in the streets of
region on the other side of India, whose ports and routes Melaka or Penang or Chittagong today than imagined, a
are clearly described in the first century ad. depth that must be understood if the gospel is to be heard
The Bay of Bengal region saw the migration of labor in words and actions that local people understand.
(especially from Ceylon and south India to Malaysia), the
There are not enough books like Amrith’s available, and
diffusion of products (e.g., Tamil merchants and products
certainly not enough of these kinds of studies being carried
to Myanmar), and ideas (Islam, capitalism, Christianity).
out by doctoral students in Missiology. Fortunately, there
The earliest Malaysian autobiography begins with a
are some works about labor migration in the Arabian Sea
Hadrami Arab migrating from Yemen to Ceylon where
he married a Tamil Muslim woman; their children moved region. Two worthwhile reads are:
to Malaysia and Indonesia; and their children in turn met Andrew M. Gardner, City of Strangers: Gulf Migration and
the Portuguese who sailed into Melaka in 1511. All the the Indian Community in Bahrain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell
children and grandchildren were multilingual and multicul- University Press, (2010).
tural—500 years ago. The next year, when the Portuguese
druggist Tomé Pires walked the streets of Melaka, he Abdulhadi Khalaf, Omar AlShehabi, and Adam Hanieh,
recorded the names of 84 languages that he heard being editors, Transit States: Labour, Migration and Citizenship in
spoken. The Portuguese did not create the network, they the Gulf. London: Pluto Press, (2015). IJFM
stumbled into a centuries old community. Globalization is
no new phenomenon.
In Crossing the Bay of Bengal, Amrith works his way up
to the present illustrating every era through Portuguese,
Dutch, and then British dominance to today’s independent
nations. He pays little attention to Christian missions since

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

102 In Others’ Words

commends her for her excellent historical research, but

In Others’ Words notes there is strategic information missing: data about the
growth of Christianity in Nigeria over the past century—
data that he feels helps explain why Islamic insurgencies
Editor’s note: In this department, we highlight resources outside have surfaced.
of the IJFM: other journals, print resources, DVDs, web sites, We are in fact dealing with a religious revolution among Chris-
blogs, videos, etc. Standard disclaimers on content apply. Due to tians as well as Muslims. Back in 1900, the lands that became
the length of many web addresses, we sometimes give just the title Nigeria had a population of some 15 million, of whom 25 to
of the resource, the main web address, or a suggested search phrase. 30 percent were Muslim. Christians at that point scarcely exist-
Finally, please note that this April–June 2015 issue is partly ed, representing perhaps one percent of the whole, but they
composed of material created later in 2015. We apologize in grew explosively over the following decades. By 1970, Mus-
advance for any inconvenience caused by such anachronisms. lims had grown to perhaps 45 percent of Nigeria’s population,
roughly the same proportion as Christians, and that rough
Is the Term “Unengaged Peoples” Just a Mobilization parity continues today in a country with over 180 million
Gimmick? people. Complicating this picture is that the religious groups
Here’s the link if you missed the provocative article by Ted are not equally distributed: the north of the country is chiefly
Esler in the April 2015 Evangelical Missions Quarterly Muslim, the east largely Christian . . . Now look at this transfor-
called “The Unengaged: An Engaging Strategy . . . or Not?” mation from the standpoint of northern Muslims. A hundred
One of Esler’s bones of contention is that “in defining years ago, it seemed obvious that the whole region was natu-
unengaged, there is an unstated assumption that full-time rally destined to be Muslim . . . History was clearly moving in
missionaries are the only (or at least best) way to reaching an Islamic direction. By the end of the 20th century, though,
the people group.” Paul Eshleman notes that some may growth, progress, and wealth were badges of the emerging
have mistakenly thought “full-time workers” in this defini- Christian Nigeria, and aggressive evangelism even threatened
tion meant expatriate workers. In “A ‘Straw-man’ Case?” he to make inroads into the Islamic heartland.
points out:
Update on the Disappearance of Christianity in the
1,213 new people groups have been engaged since 2006 . . .  Middle East
Nearly 295 churches and organizations have sent out 14,810 In the Spring 2015 issue, we mentioned the catastrophic
full-time workers and are coordinating the ministry of 47,514
demolition of world heritage sites and the murder of many
bi-vocational workers and part-time workers. Of these
workers, 96% are nationals from the country of the UUPG Assyrian Christians on the part of ISIS. Fast forward to
[Unengaged Unreached People Group]. (Italics ours) August 2015, and we have more daunting footage of the
destruction of irreplaceable temples in Palmyra, the behead-
For the historical roots of the 50-year controversy over the
very definition of unreached people group, see Greg Parson’s ing of one of the foremost (Syrian) archaeologists in the
article “Will the Earth Hear His Voice?” in IJFM 32:1. 21st century, and the abduction of hundreds more Assyrian
Christians in Syria. In an excellent article in the New York
Crowdsourcing Bible Translations Times, July 22, entitled “Is This the End of Christianity in
Most of the men in the room had, up until recently, been the Middle East?” author Eliza Grizwold puts faces and
bomb-makers, special operatives, and senior leaders of terror-
names to genocide. She also recounts a haunting history of
ist networks in the Middle East. Now, as disciples of Jesus,
Christian presence in the Middle East. Bookmark it.
they had been appointed by their church leaders to translate
the Bible. Geopolitical Risk Predictions
When movements to Christ are multiplying fast, how Crisis plans, sudden missionary expulsions, kidnappings, or
do you disciple new believers quickly enough to prevent murders—geopolitical risks are rising and mission agencies
syncretism and the rise of cults? Surely access to excellent are having to adapt. In its May 2015 issue, the Atlantic has
translations in mother tongue languages is critical. The an article entitled “The Disintegration of the World.” Pri-
newest Mission Frontiers (Sept/Oct 2015) takes up the marily focusing on what this means for large corporations,
theme of Bible translation and technology with its cover the author quotes Ian Bremmer, an expert in the assessment
story “Setting the Scriptures Free in a Digital Age.”
of global political risks, who characterizes our time as
The Impact of the Explosion of Christianity in Nigeria a period of geopolitical creative destruction–the glue that
From a book review in Books and Culture, July 2015, comes is holding the world together no longer sticks. The last time
a penetrating analysis by Philip Jenkins entitled “The this happened was the end of World War II. The level of
Nigerian Jihad.” In his critique of the book Boko Haram: geopolitical risk as a consequence of this transition–which is
Nigeria’s Islamic Insurgency by Virginia Comolli, Jenkins just starting–is absolutely going to be a big deal. IJFM

International Journal of Frontier Missiology

IJFM & Perspectives 103

Whether you’re a Perspectives instructor, student, or coordinator, you can continue to explore
Related Perspectives Lesson and Section

Lesson 11: Building Bridges of Love (C)

Lesson 14: Pioneer Church Planting (S)

Lesson 10: How Shall They Hear? (C)
Lesson 5: Unleashing the Gospel (B)
issues raised in the course reader and study guide in greater depth in IJFM. For ease of reference,
each IJFM article in the table below is tied thematically to one or more of the 15 Perspectives
lessons, divided into four sections: Biblical (B), Historical (H), Cultural (C) and Strategic (S).
Disclaimer: The table below shows where the content of a given article might fit; it does not
imply endorsement of a particular article by the editors of the Perspectives materials. For sake
of space, the table only includes lessons related to the articles in a given IJFM issue. To learn
more about the Perspectives course, including a list of classes, visit

Articles in IJFM 32:2

The Cultural Insider, Theological Outsider (CITO): A Conversation with Abu Jaz 
(pp. 61–67)

Will the Umma Veto SITO? Assessing the Impact of Theological Deviation on Social
Acceptability in Muslim Communities  Fred Farrokh  (pp. 69–80)

The Complexity of Insiderness  Warrick Farah  (pp. 85–91) X X X X

Why Cultures Matter Miriam Adeney (pp. 93–97) X X

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August 2015 • Frontier Ventures • 34:8

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Varanasi’s Jains Go All Out to Liberate Their Souls
Varanasi Has Deep Roots in Buddhism
20 If They Won’t Attend Class, Teach Them on a Boat!
31 India Gospel Outreach Work in Varanasi Still Bearing Fruit
$12 / year within the United States

32:2 Summer 2015

in conjunction with

Int’l Society for Frontier Missiology

gatherings of Evangelical Missiologists, Missionaries,

nizations, Mission Professors and Students

African Christianity & Pentecostal Studies
in Mission
iety) & GW Aldeen Professor of International Studies & Professor of Mission and
September 18–20, 2015 • GIAL Campus (Dallas, TX)
ultation / Forum ternatio
nal ga th er
ings of Professors
tions, M
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ts, Mis
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sionar ies,

This year the ISFM and EMS join forces around the theme “Controversies in Mission.”
rgest in sion Organiza
of the la Mis
for one ropologists,
Join us Anth
& Pente
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costal Stu
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sor of Mis
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Speake nt Scholar (Baylontemporary Africa

r Unive ernation
sor of Int
PlenartryWoodberry,h-GIndepyaendude, ProfesGhansora)of Co logical Society) & GW Aldee m
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the Divide model—that have enabled us to go beyond mere controversy. Editors and

Track Topics (over 95 sessions to choose from)

ions to
95 sess
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Dr. Ro ena Asam inary – Accra,angelical Mis
Dr. Kw ological Sem President (Ev inity School) (BtD) Cons
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Dr. Ro gy (Trinity “Bridgin
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Anthrop tion Team
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contributors to the 2015 book, Understanding Insider Movements, will handle multiple
Facilita includ uality; Co sio
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For conference details,

Edgy registration
Questions and&
in Arts accomodations,
Mission see

ISFM 2015 Speakers include: John Jay Travis, by Robin
Kevin Harris
Higgins, Darren Duerksen and Harley Talman.———
Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics