A Conversation on Short Term Missions

February 24, 2012

Short Term Missions is a fairly recent movement, gaining momentum in the 1980s.  Since then millions of dollars and people go to/on an international short term mission yearly.  What is the lasting impact on the host culture/church?  What change is there for the goers of these trips?  What are the benefits towards pioneer church planting efforts?  What value do we place on statistics, on case studies, anecdotes?  These are the types of questions we wrestle with the Insight students during their time.  How can we mitigate some of the negative aspects and increasingly become better stewards of our resources and responsibilities?  What are your thoughts? 

Here are some resources to check out to gain more knowledge for yourself:


H-Scale (for Hinduism)

January 30, 2011

Most of the time the C-scale is used for Muslims only. Therefore a Hindu scholar, H.L. Richard, created the H-scale. Here is a reposting of his article in EMQ.

Note the big difference that the C-scale has 6 iterations while the H-scale has 7.  Thus while the C-scale and H-scale have cross0ver and may be used to describe either major religion.  The scale measures slightly different.

Read more of H.L. Richard’s work from the International Journal of Frontier Missiology here.

Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 40(3), July 2004, pp. 316-20

Insider Movement vs C5: Is there a difference?

January 25, 2011

NOTE: This is an objective article, not intended to share the opinions of the author concerning use of such strategies discussed. This also is an update to a previously article titled: “Insider Movement vs C5 contextualization: is there a difference”

There is a major issue I want to flush out and get to the bottom of. It seems that amongst missiological circles and even published in major mission scholar journals that the terms Insider Movements and C5 are interchangeable. I submit this humble treatise to argue that there is a crucial difference of the two, and request possible new terminology to represent such differences.

A few examples to note that combine the terms C5 and insider movements:

  • Bill Nikides’ article Evaluating “Insider Movements”: C5 (Messianic Muslims) where he reinterprets the original C1-C6 in light of insider movement terminology. (Nikides 2006)
  • John Stringer has a section titled C5: “Insider Movements” in his critique of contextualization. (Stringer 2007: 7)

Here are a few examples of those who are on target with these issues:

  • Timothy Tennent, who critics insider movements properly separates the two, “The growing emphasis on ‘insider movements’ often linked with ‘C-5’ strategy calls for continued discussion and reflection among mission leaders today.” (Tennent 2006:101)
  • H.L. Richard, a prominent Hindu scholar does a good job of separating the two. (Richard 2009: 175-176)
  • I will repost much of Rebecca Lewis’ Promoting Movements to Christ within Natural Communities (Lewis 2007: 74-75) who does a good job of teasing apart the two definitions.{Rebecca Lewis also separates the difference between ‘insider movement’ people movement’ and church planting movement’ in IJFM 26.1 (Lewis 2009: 16-19)}

According to a brilliant scholar and experienced worker, Rebecca Lewis,

“an ‘insider movement’ is any movement to faith in Christ where a) the gospel flows through pre-existing communities and social networks and where b) believing families, as valid expressions of the Body of Christ, remain inside their socio-religious communities, retaining their identity as members of that community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.” (Lewis 2007: 75-76)

Insider Movement can be simplified into: who is in the local ‘church’? The two major factors for insider movements are community and identity. Remaining in their own social network without leaving their pre-existing community is the primary factor. The secondary factor under community is identity. What does this community see themselves as? (Muslims, Muslims who follow Isa, Christians, etc.). Insider Movement proponents fundamentally argue against aggregate church planting (who have progressed from extraction church planting).

Many missionaries go to the field looking to start a movement. Say a missionary, Paul, meets on separate occasions Philemon and a Roman Centurion. Aggregate church planting methodology would have Paul, Philemon and the Roman Centurion meeting together. This may (or may not) take Philemon or the Roman centurion out of their natural communities. Insider Movement methodology would refrain from having Philemon and the Roman centurion meet. Instead Paul would equip both to share their faith with their family and “implant” the gospel into their natural community.

In contrast, the C-scale is about “Christ Centered Communities” and helps answer the question: what does the ‘church’ look like? The primary factor is the forms to which the community adapts their biblical faith. The secondary factor is identity: what will this community call itself? In the C-scale, most of the controversy is between C4/C5. When nailed down, a C4 community calls themselves Christian and opposes styles of worship/prayer that are strictly Muslim (accept neutral forms). A C5 community calls themselves Muslims and look to reinterpret styles of worship/prayer that are strictly Muslim, infusing them with gospel meaning.

John Travis, who coined the C-scale over a decade ago revisits it with new ‘insider’ terminology,

“By definition, C3 and C4 Christ-centered communities are attempts to stay and witness within one’s community of birth: in other words, to remain an ‘insider.’ Therefore, perhaps we need to find a better term like ‘cultural insider’ (for C3 and C4) and ‘religious’ or ‘socio-religious’ insider to describe C5.” (originally in Mission Frontiers 28:5 p.7, quoted from IJFM 24.1 [Corwin 2007: 15])

Travis agrees there is a difference in culture and religion as well as how these play into the C-scale. He admits himself that “insider” is getting used too often (or as Heath & Heath say “semantic stretch” p.173). Insider Movements and C5 are not mutually inclusive terms. However with the identity component as described in both earlier, there is overlap. It is true that most times when people stay in their communities, they will also stay within their religious group. I would say that most often insider movements are found within C5 communities.

Biblical scholar and missiologist Rick Brown says, “so insider believers can be found across the C-spectrum of Christ-centered communities, although insider movements occur only in C4 and C5.” (Richard 2009:177). I would change one word here: “only” and substitute it for “usually.”

There is a caveat here. Since the primary indicator of an insider movement is the community identity, a whole community can move across the C-scale as time goes on. Say a group of Muslims turn to faith along familiar lines. In the beginning everyone still calls themselves Muslims and look on the outside like Muslims. Once the movement has reached the tipping point and comprises the majority and leadership of a community, the community could decide as a whole to reject different forms and change the communal identity. Thus they would maintain their insider movement while crossing into another category along the C-scale.

Two situations that may help picture this:

A gathering of Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) who come from different parts of the city, but are coming together for study and prayer. They were strangers who met at this meeting. They only see each other once a week although enjoy each other’s company. The style may even look Islamic but when the individuals are pulled out of their network it ceases to become an ‘insider movement’ even though it is a C5 community.

Albeit unusual, I propose the following as a extreme point for contrast. There is a C3 community where a village or sector in society have all become MBBs. These groups of families are frustrated with Islam so leave their religious ways behind. They still worship in their language, but it does not resemble Islam. They no longer refer to themselves Muslim. The whole community/familiar network has decided to follow Jesus and have abandoned the ways of Islam. Perhaps they even look Western (or Asian, African, or Latin American). However since the entire network made a group decision, they are still an C3 insider movement.

It is more about the network and communal ties than the “religion”. The most misleading situation is a house of religion (Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, etc.) that begins to follow Jesus as a whole, but is still made of people who randomly come together for worship (like we see in the West). Insider Movements occur when the gospel takes over a web of dyadic living, regardless of what it looks like.


In both Insider Movements and the C-scale identity matters, there is some overlap. However identity is a subset of either community or form/style. The primary factors that describe the two terms must be teased apart for there to be an intellectual conversation about the issues at hand. It also seems that the primary controversy surrounds this misunderstanding dealt with today. In my estimation most people meaning to critique the issue of contextualization and syncretism should be talking in terms of the C-scale. Insider Movements seem to be mistakenly tacked on to C5 within this controversy.

To close this I will refer to Rebecca Lewis’ comments,

“In my view, ‘insider movements’ are distinct from the C-scale in that, regardless of how Western or non-Western their forms, all that matters is that no new communities (no ‘aggregate churches’) are formed to extract believers from their pre-existing families and networks, so that they naturally retain their former identity. As such, ‘insider movements’ can take place within any socioreligious context, Western or not (such as Russian Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Chinese Communist, etc.), as long as believers remain inside their families, networks and communities, retaining the socioreligious identity of that group. So, while their new spiritual identity is in following Jesus Christ, and they gladly identify themselves with Him, they remain in their birth family and community and retain the temporal identity of their familial socio-religious context. A C5 church might or might not have developed along the lines of natural social networks, and it might or might not be part of a movement and is therefore distinct from ‘insider movements.’ ‘Messianic synagogues,’ for example, though highly contextualized in forms to religious Judaism, are not an ‘insider movement’ because they are neither flowing through Jewish family networks nor have they succeeded in retaining an acceptably Jewish identity among Jews. Messianic mosques and messianic ashrams often suffer the same fate, following an aggregate model of fellowship formation instead of letting the gospel flow through pre-existing natural communities.” (Lewis 2007: 75-76)

For more information, an unbiased source that may be helpful is the Wikipedia article

Historic Gatherings of 2010

December 3, 2010

Unbeknown to many, the year 2010 is a historic year for Christian Gatherings.  This year a number of meetings commemorated the 1910 Edinburgh meeting that effectively launched the modern ecumenical movement, focused on World Evangelization. If you trace the global missions gathering, you can go all the way back to William Carey, who called for a meeting of this kind in 1810. That meeting never materialized, so 1910 is the date most recognized.

*So here are four conferences that occurred in 2010 that brought together Christians to talk about missions:

Toyko 2010 – This was the brain child of Dr. Ralph Winter, and took place in May of 2010  (one year after his passing).  The major distinctives of the conference were 1) its focus on unreached people groups, 2) attendees from sodalities and 3) planning and attendance largely from the non-Western world.  The major accomplishments of Tokyo 2010 were 1) the Tokyo Declaration: a reclaiming of John Mott’s vision of “Making Disciples of Every People in Our Generation” and 2) the establishment of a global collaboration effort towards reaching all peoples – the Global Network of Mission Structures (GNMS).

Edinburgh 2010 – was held from June 2-6 and was very ecumenical as well as culturally diverse.  The WCC (World Council of Churches) was the primary ecumenical community launched by Edinburgh 1910.  It was understandable that the WCC was so prominent in this centennial celebration. The conference was limited to 250 invitations which enabled the delegates to work together face to face on common documents (as opposed to the others that did most of the work before).  A major criticism of Edinburgh 2010 is that it was so concerned with ecumenical issues and unity, that it neglected the idea of evangelization and missions.

Cape Town 2010 – commemorated Carey’s desire for a meeting in Cape Town from October 16-25.  It was the longest (8 days), largest (4,000 delegates) and most publicized of the four meetings.  Cape Town provided the most access to its meeting through online live videos, twitter, a blog and Facebook. The meeting was sponsored by the Lausanne movement (that has its roots from Billy Graham and John Stott in 1974) as well was the WEA (World Evangelical Alliance – also birthed from Edinburgh 1910).  Lausanne is ecumenical in participation with its focus on worldwide evangelization.  The goal was to further partnership and participation in global evangelization.

Boston 2010 – occurred November 4-7 and was smaller compared to Tokyo and Cape Town.  This was a meeting planned by and for the academics -professors, seminary students and others.  It looked much like an EMS meeting in that it was largely presenting research and receiving comments.  The conference was the only of the four not to be by invitation, and was much cheaper than the others.  Planners hoped it would accomplish a movement of mission activists in the vein of The Student Volunteer Movement and Mount Herman One Hundred.

Along with the conferences, two major book projects are being released.  Operation World is a daily prayer guide through country by country issues newly updated.  The other is a scholarly evaluation of worldwide Christianity, The Atlas of Global Christianity.

*This is a more detailed description from Biola professor Dr. Allen Yeh published in the IJFM.  Here are two Mission Frontiers issues that also include these events: May/June 2010 & July/August 2010.  I also found a listing of these four major events along side of some of the less known conferences of 2010 here.

Videos about Unreached People Groups

November 6, 2010

Here are a few videos about unreached people groups.


Here is Dr. Winter, talking about unreached peoples and talking about how we need to focus beyond the concept.

From John Piper – how we were made to engage

From an agency, Mission to Unreached Peoples. The video has some good stats but is tilted to use scare tactics a tad too much.

Review of 1040 Documentary

October 17, 2010

Last night I had the opportunity to watch a documentary called 1040: Christianity in the New Asia. Here is the official website. Here are some clips from YouTube.

It wasn’t at all what I expected, but I did enjoy it. I don’t know about you, but when I hear 1040 and when it is explained in mission circles, I automatically think about unreached peoples. However, this documentary was not about the lack of faith or the need for workers to go to these places. It was about the faith that was there and growing in geographical boundaries of the 10/40 window.

It was interesting to see stories of how God is working across the continent of Asia. The documentary is structured around a trip across Asia that Jaeson Ma made. He visits about half a dozen cities and interviews people there to ask about their story, hoping that story could be representative of the general population. The message the documentary is trying to give is that we are entering the last days and its Asia’s turn to stand up for Christ. The people interviewed seemed confident that faith in their country was growing faster and deeper than in the West. While I don’t completely disagree with these claims, I think they were stated in biased and non-representative terms.

While I enjoyed the documentary, I thought there were some major short falls. The documentary focused on Jaeson Ma and his travels with his friends in Asia. Jaeson uses his relational connections in the global hip-hop industry as a gateway into these cities. These upper class, famous entertainers and followers of Christ speak for the movements to Christ in their countries. There are no interviews from “ordinary” followers. Another blatant omission is that there was nothing from India, another part of Asia with vast influence. I had questions on some of the missiology it was promoting as well but don’t have the space to go into that here.

I would categorize this under more of a mobilization tool to be used to get people excited about missions. It is a good conversation starter, so it might be a good idea to get a group together to watch it and then discuss it.

PS Jaeson Ma was the right hand man of rapper/pastor MC Hammer. Pastor Hammer is interviewed throughout the documentary.

Follow up to Muslim Community center near Ground Zero

September 3, 2010

After the most recent post I had some personal communication about my thoughts on Islam.  Below is the basic question asked and then my response.

Have you personally read the Koran yourself?  With Islam are the older expressions okay while the newer expressions are violent and extremist?  Are Christians the enemy?

Personally I have read the Koran, although it has been some time since I have done anything more than read a surah or two.

I would not say that “the old stuff is okay while the newer stuff is violent and extremist.”  I see the difference between a people and a religion.  Does the Koran have some passages that can be interpreted to call for violence?  Yes, that is why the extremists refer back to their holy text.  Do the vast majority of followers of the Koranic ways interpret the book in that light?  No.  That is why we aptly call those who do “extremists.”  While I cannot remember the exact reference, I’ll note that the concept of “terrorism” that is now often equated with “Islam” actually came from outside Islam.  Terrorism in Islam is a recent concept.  

Now, are we Christians the enemies?  I think this statement is a stretch as well.  Our dual-citizenship to the Kingdom of God and the USA is complicated.  The principles Christ lays out in the Sermon on the Mount are eternal, and direct our modus operandi.  No matter whether good/evil is done to us, we are to respond in love.  We forgive unending (phrased 70 times 70); we turn the other check; we love our neighbor and our enemy.

Thanks for the question and continue to dialog and ask questions.  May we above all reflect the character of Jesus.

9/11 Ground Zero Muslim Community Center

August 25, 2010

I do my best to keep this blog focused on missiology. Here is a missiological debate foiled by politics, pain and many quick judgments. The situation with the possibility of burning Korans on the upcoming 9/11 date in response to a muslim community center being built in the vicinity of “ground zero” is a hot issue right now. My overall view is that we are called to love and forgiveness first.  Here is a recent post I read concerning these issues:


Short Term Missions – Carol Lewis

August 16, 2010

A little while back I posted a treatise on Short Term Missions.  Click here to read the original post. I want to follow up my comments by someone who has thought a lot about these issues. Here is a short video that shares her views.

Comment to this post if you have a question for her.

Link to original video file.

Frontier vs. Regular Missions Part III

August 13, 2010

Today concludes a three part series of defining missions, and showing the priority for frontier missions over regular missions.

I hear all the time, “Our mission is right here in the U.S.” Let me preface the remainder of this discussion that God is God and He can call anyone to any task he has, no questions asked.  God can call us to the U.S. for a purpose and I am fine with that.

However, I think many people use that statement as an excuse. Yes, we are all called to witness where we are located, in the communities we are a part.   That is a static calling that is a clear imperative from God’s word.  We are to be a redemptive force pointing to the Kingdom no matter what our location is.   Evangelism is the natural sharing of our deepest love, not the end of bringing Shalom to a hurting world.

We are not supposed to stay here because it is comfortable or because God has a special calling for us away from the unreached people groups.  I’ve really agreed with this phrase, “You can’t stay here unless you are willing to go, but you can’t go unless you are willing to stay.”  We are all to have a part in the Great Commission. It is a commission for all of us who given our lives to Christ. The question is not “does God want me to be involved in spreading his Word throughout the world”, but “how does He want me to be involved?”

So, is it bad for Christians to stay in America? NO, but even those who aren’t called to go overseas should be involved in the kingdom spreading to those who don’t have access to it. Those who stay aren’t doing something else, they are still focused on the unreached and having a huge part of the behind the scenes work. We’ve come up with a list of different roles on how to be involved with frontier missions, only 2 of the 11 are actually leaving the U.S.

Conclusion: Unreached People Groups is not a concept only for the missiological society.  It is an issue for every follower of Christ.  When we say we adhere to the principles set forward by Christ himself, then we all are responsible for the one sheep missing.  We must all be concerned that everyone has a chance to hear.  We all have a part to play and a role to fulfill.  We are all called to the Great Commission.

I leave you again with the words of the greatest missionary:

“thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
-Romans 15:20-21