THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK
To know the only true God, honor and obey Him, and make Him known.
To be an Insider or to not be an Insider?
So much has been written about this topic on both sides! Non-Insiders tend to see everything through filters that they have created, and Insiders tend to do the same on the other side. Each side tries to explain what the other side believes. Sometimes this is done without actually consulting with the other side, or by only consulting the most extreme proponents of the other side. Each side then presents arguments to prove that they are right and the other side is wrong.We need to seek more balance. We need to understand that we are all on the same team, desiring to obey God and reach the Muslim world for Christ. We need to go to the Word of God and look for Biblical principles and then apply them in our daily life and in our ministry.
We must "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19-20). We need to be careful to not get distracted from our calling. Both the Insider and non-Insider approaches are valid Biblical ways to conduct ministry. It is not either/or; it is a combination of both, advancing God's Kingdom for His honor and glory.
"Do not speak against one another, brethren." (James 4:11)
"Do not complain, brethren, against one another." (James 5:9)
"But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." (Galatians 5:15)
"Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." (Hebrews 12:14-15)
Responses to some common objections to the Insider Movement
(Please note that these are accusations being made by non-Insiders. The accusations are not necessarily based on fact, or may only be applicable to a small minority of Insider practitioners.)
- Insiders encourage missionaries to become Muslims
There may be some who promote that. The People of the Book does not encourage that thinking. We believe that only those who come from a Muslim background can be true insiders.
- Insiders just want to avoid persecution
Actually, this is not true. Insiders have been martyred just as non-insiders have been martyred. The motivation is to live in obedience to the Scriptures, win Muslims to Christ, and glorify God. It is not to simply avoid persecution.
- Insiders think that the entire Qur'an is the Word of God
There may be some who believe that. The People of the Book considers that to be a heretical position. There is some truth in the Qur'an and it can be used as a bridge, but the Bible is the only and complete Word of God.
- Insiders think that Muhammad was a true prophet of God
Muhammad was not a true prophet of God in the full Biblical sense, but it often does not accomplish anything positive to make this a point of contention when speaking with a Muslim. In many cases it would be counterproductive to immediately confront a Muslim with this very difficult issue. Once a Muslim has experienced the transforming power of a new life in Christ, the Word of God will reveal the light of truth in his heart and mind.
- Insiders have abandoned the church
They have not abandoned the church. The issue is that there is one body of Christ that is comprised of all true believers, but there are different expressions of how the local church manifests itself in a specific location.
- Insiders think that Islam has a few minor problems, but that it also contains a lot of good, positive elements.
The message of Islam directly contradicts salvation by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone. It cannot just be reformed. The message of Islam is satanic, but in many cases it would not be beneficial to immediately confront a Muslim with that fact.
- The Insider Approach does not work. There are no viable examples of this anywhere.
Fruit from the Insider Approach is being produced. The potential for movements inside Islamic communities is now a reality in some places. That is the main difference between the Insider and non-Insider approaches. The non-Insider reaches individuals effectively as God works in hearts. The Insider approach has the potential of not just reaching individuals, but actually starting movements from within, as God moves in hearts. This is happening now in different parts of the world. God is at work! One approach is not better than the other. Both the Insider and non-Insider approaches are valid ways to conduct ministry. It is not either/or, it is a combination of both.
- Insiders do not believe in the triunity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
This is simply not true. There may be a few who believe that, but the People of the Book would consider such a belief to be heretical.
- Insiders preach a compromised Gospel message
This may be true of some people. Just as some churches in the West have watered down the Gospel or confused it with health and prosperity, there are probably both Insiders and non-Insiders who are compromising the message of the Gospel. The People of the Book would not be in agreement with such a practice.
• Insiders change the Bible. For example, they have removed "Son of God" from the Scriptures.
Some have chosen this route. If you read our Strategy page, you will see that we support the language that God Himself has chosen to use. We have also compiled a list of some of the verses that are related to the concept of "Son of God." It is important to be able to explain the meaning of this phrase to a Muslim!
- Insiders attend Friday prayers every week and fully participate in all forms of Islamic religious life
Some do and some do not. We do not consider either way to be mandatory. Each Muslim believer can decide for himself how often and for what occasion to attend a mosque, and in what forms of Islamic culture to participate. As Muslim believers study God's Word, they will be able to weigh each issue with the teaching of the Word of God and apply it in their own life. It will be a process, not an immediate resolution of all issues in a matter of days or weeks.
- Insiders deny Christ
Each Muslim believer must decide how and when he/she must take a stand for Christ. If no one asks specifically, then how are they denying Christ? It seems unfair for someone on the outside to make judgments on this. Muslim believers on the "inside" do share their faith with others in their community, but they do so selectively. They also exercise great patience and seek discernment as to the right timing, to follow God's leading. It might be helpful if some of the critics of the Insider Movement would take a stand on some biblical issue that would put them at imminent risk of dying, to set the example for what they are asking insiders to do. Otherwise, do they have the right to preach what they do not practice?
- Insiders are deceivers
Did Jesus always answer every question that He was asked? Did He not on occasion answer with another question, change the subject, or even just remain silent? Is it sometimes appropriate to answer truthfully, but without revealing every single detail? We affirm that it is never appropriate to tell an outright lie or engage in deception. For this very reason, we believe that only Muslim believers can be true insiders.
- Insiders try to take examples of how Paul and Jesus functioned within a Jewish culture and then apply it to Muslims. This is comparing apples with oranges.
Jesus as well as Paul dealt with both Jews and Gentiles. Investigate how they did it! For example:
Jews received Jesus and remained Jews. Followers of Christ from a Jewish background kept their Jewish identity. (Acts 2:1, 2:46, 5:12, 7:2, 9:20, 11:2-3, 13:5, 15:5, 28:17-22).
Gentiles received Jesus and remained Gentiles. Mark 5:1-20 - The Gerasene demoniac was told to go back to his home, family, and his own people. The ministry of this man was confined to his Gentile area among Gentile people. Jesus did not want him to leave his Gentile context to join Jesus' Jewish disciples. Followers of Christ from a Gentile background kept their Gentile identity.
Samaritans received Jesus and remained Samaritans. John 4:5-42 - The Samaritans had a distinct ethno-religious identity. They had deviated from Biblical religious beliefs. They had their own priesthood, their own theology, their own temple, and their own religious writings. The Samaritan woman went back to her people and shared the Good News about Jesus Christ. There is no mention of Jesus instructing them to stop being Samaritans! Followers of Christ from a Samaritan background kept their Samaritan identity. They did not need to convert to Judaism to be followers of Jesus.
The principle of 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is not just to be applied by Jews in a Jewish context. Paul could not have made that any clearer!
- Judaism has its roots in Biblical history and is based on the Old Testament Scriptures. This cannot be compared to Islam.
Both Judaism and Islam deny the triunity of God. They both deny that Jesus died on the cross. They both deny the principle of substitutionary atonement in relation to the death of Christ. They both deny that Jesus was raised from the dead and that through faith in Him we can have eternal life. They both believe that salvation is by faith plus works. Both Jews and Muslims who are not true believers are going to hell because they have not put their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Even so, Paul had no problem identifying himself as a Jew, and then sharing the Gospel with them. He did not identify himself as an ex-Jew, even though there was an active Christian community in the area that was not part of the Jewish community (Acts 28:17ff). What is the problem with a Muslim following that same example within his community?
- Islam is a false religion. A true believer cannot remain inside.
Islam is an all-encompassing way of life. It is not simply a "religion" as many in the West would understand it. It is possible to consider oneself a Muslim, but not hold to all the traditional tenets of the Islamic belief system. This is easy to observe if you just look at all the different kinds of Muslims who live in this world. Just as a nominal Christian or Jew is "born" a Christian or Jew, so many Muslims are simply "born" a Muslim. We do not see that true believers will normally stay inside the Islamic religious system permanently. We do see that staying inside can give them precious time to share their faith in Christ with family and friends, as opposed to immediately denouncing Islam publicly and being ostracized or killed.
- It is not possible to call oneself a Muslim and not believe in Islam.
Wafa Sultan made the following comment in Los Angeles in October of 2009. She is not a believer, but her comment helps us to understand that someone from a Muslim country with a Muslim background can indeed consider herself to be a Muslim, without practicing the religion of Islam.
"I left Islam. I don't practice Islam anymore. But culturally, yes, I am still Muslim because it's my skin. I cannot peel it off. I was born and raised as a Muslim. But as a religion, no, I do not believe in Islam. I do not practice Islam anymore."
- Insiders are causing divisions on the field as they try to force other missionaries and Muslim believers to see the Insider Approach as the true "Biblical" approach to Muslim ministry.
This is a true statement, and we do not approve of that behavior. We are also aware that there are non-Insiders who are becoming so obsessed with destroying the Insider Approach that they are dedicating large amounts of time and money to root out all Insider proponents and even convince those who support them to stop giving to their ministries. The People of the Book understands that both of these extremes are not exhibiting Christian character and are getting off-track. God is obviously at work through both approaches.
- The Insider Approach is an invention of Western missionaries because they were looking for some way to get better results.
Actually, the Insider Approach has been applied in many different contexts, not just in Muslim evangelization. It came out of a study of the Scriptures. Those who are taking an Insider Approach are not just trying to get better results, they are following Biblical patterns and seeking to obey God in taking the Gospel to all people groups.
Watch this short clip by Coptic priest Zakaria Boutros from Egypt:
Return to the Strategy of The People of the Book.