Posts Tagged ‘Missiology’

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.

Conclusion

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

Strategic Value of Farmers in Mission

July 27, 2010

The strategic value of rural persons in missions.

FACT: Many little rural villages around the world have not heard the gospel.  There are many completely unreached.

Who better to reach these people: suburban, globalized individuals, or rural people familiar with dyadic community oriented societies?

People who know the earth, the dirt, who raised animals, who have tangible stories of seeing God’s tangible provision are well equipped to go and do likewise in places with no opportunity to hear the gospel message or see it lived out.  These people know what it is like to share resources and truly be a secure network of families that must depend on one another for survival.  They know what it is like to be on a team of committed members working towards the same goal.

These qualities and characteristics make rural peoples ripened for field work in rural villages.  I would argue that it would be beneficial to assign recruiters and mobilizers to the country side to petition for kingdom workers.  Who do you know from a strategic rural background that could be integral part of seeing the great commission completed in our generation?

Missiological Reflections of the Protestant Reformation

February 20, 2010

Considering the breath of Catholic Missions throughout their history, it is astonishing that Protestant Missions took centuries to really take off.  When a new form of religiosity centralized in scripture formed out of the Catholic tradition, why did they not take the desire to spread this new fervency outward?

First lets get a quick recap of the Catholic mission movement.  The outward focus was not pervasive but it was there.  The Celtic Mission Movement is most famous for spreading throughout Northern Europe.  St. Columba especially was fervent in taking the gospel forward.  Raymond Lull centuries later would profess the gospel to the saracens.  The major thrust of Catholic Missions comes through the sodalites of the Franciscans and Dominicans.  The monasteries were often planted in outlying areas of where the churches were and gave access to Christianity to the outside world.

Centuries before Hudson Taylor set said for China, Nestorian missionaries had brought the gospel multiple times.  It seemed like each time a dynasty fell, the rising rulers destroyed the church, often to eventually rebuild.  Throughout Persia, India and Asia tradesmen, monks and others had taken the message of Christ out.

The Catholics sent priests and monks out on explorations once the Americas were discovered.  The Spanish especially sent out Dominicans, Jesuits and others who brought Christ with them.  While many of these efforts were tainted by “Convert or die” political powers, with selfish power motives, the fact is that they put at least put the effort in.

So we get to the Protestant Reformation.  The history of how this movement came about is intriguing and complex, I’ll concentrate on the missiological reflections though.  The efforts of the new movements were abysmal in comparison to the Catholic counterparts.

There are exceptions.  Paul Pierson helps to point out the few successes in the early Protestant Missions Movement in his book “The Dynamics of Christian Mission”.  Check it out for more details.

So after covering the context we come to the main question: why did the Protestants not carry the missions fervor of the Catholics?  Why did it take centuries until Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann first launched their Moravian missions and William Carey popularized the Protestant Missionary Movement?

Theological
The theology of Predestination and election drained the new movement of theological reasons to spread outwards.  The thought pattern was basically, “God will bring to His Kingdom who he chooses and does not need our help.”  William Carey came across this as well.  When appealing to go to India, legend says he was told, “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.”

The other major theological hindrance was mis-interpreting the Great Commission passages.  Prominent Reformer Martin Luther among others also thought that the Great Commission was only given to the first century apostles.  This view was prevalent then and has lingered since.

Organizational
The primary means through which Catholics did missions was through the missionary orders.  These sodalic structures gave a focus and an avenue for missions to happen.  Most monasteries were not the loner desert retreats but outposts for study and providing for the surrounding community.  They taught agriculture, took care of the orphans and poor and gave religious fervency to the towns that were built up around them.  When the Protestants restructured church, they lumped the monastic orders in with the corruption they were trying to escape.  We know Luther had a real problem with Tetzel the Dominican enforcer of indulgences in his German province.  It is possible that Luther made the mistake of generalizing his opinion on that specific group and threw out the concept of a separate mission structure because of the corruption he witnessed first hand.  The major Protestant Missions Movement started centuries later when sodalities were once again established with the formation of the Baptist Missions Society.

Political
During the times of the Reformation Movement there was much internal struggle.  Different sects were coming out of different areas with often competing goals and theologies.  This added to the struggle with the Roman Catholic Church distracted their attention from the outward.  In a sense, they were distracted and lost focus

Historical
Connected to the political is the historical.  There is a trend for renewal movements and new movements to concentrate on their own concerns.  Another good example of this is the African American Missions Movement.  African Americans have been going since they have come to America (often returning back to Africa with the gospel after being freed).  As a whole though, they have had to battle other issues and properly give priority to overcoming the barriers they faced.  Decades after the Civil Rights Movement, we are now seeing growth in the number of missionaries being sent out, however the percentage of African American missionaries is still relatively low.  I suggest the same trend in the Protestant Missions Movement.  The Reformers were now concerned with running a new religious structure, a task many had not asked for (some wanted church to reform, not start another structure).  This large task focused their attention more locally and did not concentrate on expanding.

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Further Reading

Insider Movements vs. C5 contextualization: is there a difference?

February 11, 2010

This post has been updated an expanded upon after a year of thinking upon this issue.  Please read the new post by clicking here.

NOTE: This is an objective article, not intended to share the opinions of the author concerning use of such strategies discussed.

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 contextualization 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)

John Travis, who coined the C-scale describes points of the scale,

“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).  C5 contextualization and Insider Movements are not mutually inclusive terms.

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.”

One key difference I see is that the C-scale is is reporting how far along the scale believers are seeking God according to their indigenous culture forms, although it also looks at identity.  Insider Movements look at the identity of the believer, but more along the lines of familial and community networks.  Members of Insider Movements would answer yes to the following: do they hold the same social status as they did before encountering Christ or not?  Are the communities  allowed to remain in their previous network (as opposed to a conglomeration of individuals from various aspects of society)?

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’.

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 may not even still call 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 Insiders.

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.

Confusing stuff?!?

Once again I will refer to Rebecca Lewis’ comments on this subject to end,

“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 an unbiased approach, check out the wikipedia article.

Muslim Followers of Isa

February 8, 2010

Can people remain in their faith but follow Jesus?

Check out this video and let me know your reactions.

Book Review: From Seed to Fruit (edited by J. Dudley Woodberry)

December 21, 2009

It is not often to come across a book that has breadth and depth at the same time, especially concerning missiological topics on Muslim peoples.  From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices and Emerging Issues among Muslims is such a book.  This book has it all to me.  Various authors sharing their concentrations.  Different missionaries sharing their context-specific experiences.  Topics covering both macro and micro ideas for the missiologist (theorist) and missionary (practitioner).  It seemed like a great overview of the missiology I have been learning for the past five years.  The book is the result of research taken from field practitioner reports and attempts to analyze what practices lead most effectively to people movements.

Buy the Book HERE

Here are other reviews of the book:

Here is the Table of Contents to get a snap shot of the book:

Part I Global Trends: Soils, Seed, Sowers and First Fruits
Chapter 1 Look at the Fields: Survey of the Task – Patrick Johnstone
Chapter 2 Unplowed Ground: Engaging the Unreached – Jeff Liverman
Chapter 3 The Imperishable Seed: Toward Effective Sharing of Scripture – Andrea & Leith Gray
Chapter 4 Laborers from the Global South: Partnering in the Task – Greg Livingstone
Chapter 5 Sister Laborers: Partnering in the Task – Sue Eenigenburg
Chapter 6 First Fruits and Future Harvests – Jim Haney

Part II Fruitful Practices: Sowing, Watering, Gathering, Reproducing
Chapter 7 Eyes to See, Ears to Hear – Don Allen
Chapter 8 The Sowing of Witnessing – David Greenlee & Pam Wilson
Chapter 9 The Watering of Discipling – John Becker & Erik Simuyu
Chapter 10 The Gathering of Reproducing Fellowships – Eric and Laura Adams
Chapter 11 The Equipping of Leaders – Debora Viveza & Dwight Samuel
Chapter 12 The Gathering of Teams of Laborers – Andrew & Rachel Chard

Part III Emerging Issues in Fruitful Practices: Birds, Rocks, Sun, and Soil
Chapter 13 Factors Affecting the Identity that Jesus Followers Choose – John & Anna Travis with Phil Parshall
Chapter 14 Factors which Facilitate Fellowships becoming Movements – David Garrison & Seneca Garrison
Chapter 15 Bible Storying and Oral Use of the Scriptures – Jack Colgate
Chapter 16 Expatriates Empowering Indigenous Leaders – Abraham Durán, Michael Schuler, & Moses Sy
Chapter 17 Are We Nourishing or Choking Young Plants with Funds? – J. R. Meydan a& Ramsay Harris
Chapter 18 Relevant Responses to Folk Muslims – Caleb Chul-Soo Kim & John and Anna Travis
Chapter 19 Pre-Field Preparation to Sow – Don Allen & Abraham Durán

Part IV Emerging Issues in Global Trends: More Birds, Rocks, Sun, and Soil
Chapter 20 Islamism and Receptivity to Jesus – Moussa Bongoyok
Chapter 21 Toward Respectful Witness – Joseph Cumming
Chapter 22 Peacemaking and Church Formation – David Shenk & Ahmed Haile
Chapter 23 An Integrated Identity in a Globalized World – Patrick Lai & Rick Love
Chapter 24 Recapturing the Role of Suffering – Nik Ripken

Missiological Implications of the Intertestamental Period

June 19, 2009

This summer my wife and I are going through Foundations of the World Christian Movement, a 3 hour all of history overview course.  It follows similar path of the program we run called INSIGHT.  It is a lot of Dr. Winter’s missiology.

This week we’ve been reading about the time before Jesus comes to the scene called the Intertestamental Period.  Here are two major missiological implications of this time period:

  • Diaspora: The diaspora set up the possibility for God’s chosen people to be spread out all around the region.  It is said that God’s word was taught in all the cities.  Had the Northern and Southern Kingdoms not been taken over, the people of God would have been geographically isolated.   These spread out believers is who the 1st century missionaries like Paul and Peter went to first.  In these synagogues across the region people’s hearts were more ready to receive the truth that the Messiah had arrived.  The diaspora (along with the Septuagint {in detail below} ) made it possible for Gentiles to engage with truth before the ultimate truth (Jesus) came.  These “God fears” were the start of the Gentile church – greatly aided by the diaspora Jews.  A current missiological strategy could gather the local Christ-followers and make them catalysts for the spread of the gospel.  Most missions tend to neglect the local Christians and toss their nominal faith aside, rather than re-light a fire within them.  Another strategy could be proposed out of this example is saturation.  This is where we infuse an area with a large number of Christ followers and hope they share their faith with their neighbors.
  • Septuagint: The Septuagint is the Greek version of the Old Testament, put together during this time of Hellenization (see Alexander the Great).  The meaning of the ancient role of the Septuagint for modern missionary strategy concerns the language and culture of the people being served. The Septuagint was seen as attractive to the Romans because they could go and hear Greek being read and learn the language. It was a felt need that the early church and synagogues used. Usually the Jews made these “God fearers” sit in the back because of their ethnocentrism (a practice we should not repeat), but nevertheless Roman citizens were exposed to the truth. I think there is a missiological correlation with using the Bible to teach English.  This strategy has been widely used in China and other such closed countries where “English teachers” will come into to Universities, schools, or just neighborhoods and teach English using the truth. While I have not participated myself, from reports it seems like this strategy helps open people to receive the truth and use one on one mentor relationships to challenge individuals/families to faith and further disciple them (in both English and God’s word).

    Reports of Muslim Ministry from the Field

    January 17, 2009

    I have been reading the post (and the many ensuing comments) of a missionary working with Muslims in the Middle East.  I was encouraged by his post and found the discussion that followed shared many of the common beliefs of American Evangelicals.  I encourage you to read the post and some of the discussions that followed on the comments.  I think this issue is one that should be examined and study before we  assert our ignorance.

    Here is the link – http://www.sbcimpact.net/2009/01/06/my-pilgrimage/

    After taking some time to work out these issues in your own heart, please comment here as to where you stand in this debate.

    Christianity in India

    January 14, 2009

    *NOTE: I am not the expert in this, however my opinions have been formed by those experts. If you would like me to have a question answered, please post it in the comments.

    It seems like the so called caste system is eroding (if it ever existed). The way most Westerners are described caste (and Hinduism in general) is just academic and does not match with the reality on the ground.

    More than caste or the general class categories (Brahman, non-Brahman, Dalits), Jātis is what matters in India. Jātis means “birth” or the community you’ve been birthed into. There are hundreds of Jātis and people can range in their Jāti from poor to rich, urban to rural. More than caste Jāti is identity. In America our identity question is either “What do you do?” OR “Where did you graduate from?” In India it is “What is your Jāti?”

    So when Hindus become Christian they often add the Christian label to their Jāti and become “Christian-Jāti.” The Christian label is now a modifier and separates one from their Jāti.

    Well what do missionaries (& national Hindu background believers) do with caste?  The dual identity doesn’t usually work.  So the perceived solution is you have to get rid of the Jāti, since caste breaks up the church in India.  So now you have Hindu background believers leaving their communities and spheres of influence to join the church and become “Christian.”  What is really happening is their idenity as Christian becomes its own Jāti.  That cannot work.

    Those I agree with have proposed instead of dropping the Jāti of their identity, dropping the Christian label out of the identity.  Instead of calling oneself Christian, they now call themselves by the same birth identity.  They are a [blank] who happens to be a follower of Christ.  This keeps all the networks in tact and causes no identity crisis for the new believer.

    What do you think?  Do you disagree, should caste of all kind be eliminated from the Christian sphere in India?  How would you handle the situation if you were a missionary on the ground in India?