I am adding this foreword to this article to clarify my stance on Insider Movements. I am in opposition to Insider Movements that subjugate the Gospel to culture and/or redact culturally offensive material from the Bible. (There are some other minor issues that I would not personally practice, but these two are primary and are deal-breakers for me.) For the most part everything I do and teach is compatible with those who practice Insider Movements. Unfortunately, the term “Insider Movement” has become identified by traditional Christians and leaders with those who subjugate the Gospel to culture and/or redact culturally offensive material from the Bible. This means the term has become problematic and raises high passion on all sides of the yelling match (it is not a conversation). I have dealt with the term “Insider Movement” from the negative side of the argument, including the reasons that cause me to reject the terminology. It is up to those who embrace the “Insider Movement” terminology to clearly state what they do and do not believe and practice. I certainly understand that traditional Christians and leaders often say one thing and do another. But, when the accusations come, it is up to us to Biblically defend our beliefs and practices. History and tradition have tremendous weight, and those of us who stand against that weight are forced to defend our beliefs and practices, even though the accusers are not held to the same standard.
There is a disturbing trend in missions known as Insider Movements. I am not going to address all the good things that have come out of Insider Movements. In fact, I have contributed to the body of knowledge related to Insider Movements, and I have incorporated into my work many of the things I have learned from Insider Movements. I want to address two aspects of Insider Movements that cause me to be in opposition to Insider Movements as they are currently being expressed – The subjugation of the Gospel to culture; and the redaction of culturally offensive material from the Gospel in order to appease a culture.
Insider Movements start with culture and subjugate the message of the Gospel to a particular culture. Truth starts with the Creator and His message via His Holy Spirit to mankind and through His expression of Himself as the Son of God, Jesus. (This sentence is an inadequate expression of the nature and function of the Holy Trinity) The primary authoritative source of God’s communication with mankind is the Bible. If, because of culture, we choose not to present the entire Word of God to those from any given culture because parts of the message may be offensive, then what we are presenting is NOT the Gospel and it is potentially heretical. Yeah, I get progressive revelation. But this is not the same as letting God’s story unfold in all its beauty and ugliness as expressed by mankind, regardless of cultural bias. It’s changing the story to make it acceptable.
By the way, much of the Western church is guilty of Insider Movement mentality. We don’t talk about hell. We avoid controversial issues like homosexuality, adultery, divorce, abusive relationships, the murder of unborn children, and much more. We don’t demand obedience to the Word of God, love for God and our neighbors, and holiness as the normal expression of devotion to God for those who call themselves Christian. You can add to the list the things we don’t address from the Bible with new and other Believers, as well as seekers. Our doctrines have become watered-down, and in some cases heretical, to appease the sensibilities of our Western culture. Is it a surprise that our mission efforts are following the same trend?
I know. Insider Movements are trying to be culturally sensitive. Culturally Sensitive Expressions remove or never incorporate Western or other-culture expressions of leadership, worship, governance, and etc. Culturally Sensitive Expressions ask the question, “How do we obey the Word of God in our context, regardless of what it may cost us?” It is not being culturally sensitive to change the message of the Bible, which was given to us by God. It is being heretical. This is true whether you are removing the “Son of God” language to appease Muslims, or if you are saying the commandments of Jesus were just for the 11 Apostles and we don’t need to worry ourselves about obeying them in our churches today, or if you are teaching that there is no hell.
Muslims will die for one letter of the Quran. What message do we send when we are willing to change and/or ignore entire passages of the Bible in order to be culturally sensitive? Why will we fight for “grace”, “mercy” and “forgiveness”, but ignore “repentance”, “obedience” and “good works”? Has our desire to be culturally sensitive in order to reach people for Christ taken us away from Christ and made it impossible for us to lead people to Christ?
The most disturbing issue related to Insider Movement mentality is the willingness or demand to redact the printed Word of God in order to be sensitive to the culture. Whether it’s the removal of the “Son of God” language, the changing of the “Father God” (gender) language, or the removal of anything that someone may consider offensive; any change to the Word of God begs the question, “Where does it stop!?” There is a difference between scholarly interpretation/translation of the Bible with peer review and changing the thrust and meaning of the Bible to appease culture. The Bible should address the sinful and/or misguided worldviews of mankind, not comply with them. God is the standard, not our culture(s).
The moment we put any culture above the message of God, we become a hindrance to that culture knowing and obeying God within their context. We become the source of heresy. We must come back to the central doctrine of Scripture – it is given by God for us to obey. God’s love language for mankind is certainly grace and mercy. But mankind’s love language for God is obedience to all the commands of Christ. Anything less or anything else takes us from God, not to God. When we are moving from God, how can we show others how to find God?
Blessings!David Watson Somewhere over the Pacific