Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Be Honest with Muslims

In response to my recent blog about the dangers of the Insider Movement as a strategy for reaching Muslims with the good news of Jesus, I received the following email from a dear friend:

Hi Daniel,

In a recent update from you, there was mentioned "Insiders Movement" and were interested to learn more.  It so happens a couple in our study group is involved with that group.  We have been introduced to it.  It is an approach to Muslims in bringing them to know Christ, but not calling themselves Christian, but "Followers of Jesus".

Christianity has a bad rap from the Crusades and America as a Christian nation.  Islam advocates that their people  read the New Testament and learn about Jesus.

I have read the book "Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road" by Paul Gordon Chandler.
  It is a true story of a man born in Syria-a Muslim country.  This man thru great struggle became a believer and follower of Christ.  He is well known in the Middle East and has been imprisoned and could become a martyr.

If you would like to read the book, we will have a copy sent to you.   I think VOM would welcome this concept if they haven't heard about it already.

{A Brother in Christ}
 Here is my reply to him.

Thank you very much for your kind and generous note.  I apologize for the length of time that it has taken me to respond.  You have such a gentle way of approaching this topic.  

Immense quantities of words have been expended by both sides in discussing the pros and cons of the Insider Movement.  And I don’t want to put you to the trouble of trying to read them all.  Certainly, the Insider Movement is not all bad.  And there are many variations of the Insider Movement; some are more problematic than others.  If it were only a matter of people calling themselves “Followers of Jesus” rather than “Christians” I probably would not worry about it.  (But even the term Followers of Jesus has problems in a Muslim context, because all Muslims believe they already follow Jesus, as well as all the other prophets of the Old Testament.  So the term “Followers of Jesus” becomes somewhat meaningless to them.)  

Although the Quran does contain some teachings that agree with and even validate the message of the Bible, Islam itself is antithetical to Biblical Christianity.  (See, for example,  It is something like the difference between Mormonism and Christianity.  They use a lot of the same vocabulary.  Perhaps you have had the frustration of trying to tell a Mormon missionary “I believe that we are saved by faith in Jesus alone” only to have them say, “We believe that too.”  The Mormons use many of our Christian hymns in their own church services, and just tweak a few words here and there.  Yet, for me to go to a Mormon friend and say, “You know, we believe basically the same things.  Joseph Smith told people to read the Bible.  You can continue to call yourself a Mormon, keep reading the Book of Mormon (after all, the Book of Mormon contains many direct quotes from the Bible!), believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and remain a member of your local LDS church, but you need to accept the fact that Jesus’ death (not your own religious efforts) paid for your sins.”  At best this would be contradictory and syncretistic.  But this is essentially what the Insider Movement often does.  Some proponents of the Insider Movement do (yes, this really happens!) tell Muslims that they can continue to call themselves Muslims, find truth in the Quran, believe that Muhammad was a prophet, and worship in their mosque.  

The book you read by Mr. Chandler unfortunately only presents you with one side of the evidence.  I have found a pretty good review of the book, explaining some of its problems.  You can read it at (Unfortunately the review itself is a bit on the caustic side.  I wish it had been of a more balanced tone.  But I agree with the information the reviewer is trying to convey.)

Rather than trying to tell Muslims that we want to make them “completed” Muslims or that they can simultaneously be “Followers of Jesus” and Muslims, I think it’s better to be clear and up front: we are calling them to an entirely different basis for redemption: the blood of the God-man Jesus.  In the end, although they may reject our Jesus, I think they will appreciate our honesty.

Once again, thank you for your email.  And I hope this helps to clarify what some of the potential issues with the Insider Movement are.  If you have more questions or comments I would love to hear them.

Blessings to both of you, in Jesus!