Insider Movements, Conversion to Christ, Conformity to Christ and Syncretism

“Gene Daniels,” missionary among Muslims for the past decade, interviews a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) about his Christian faith lived out in the midst of an Islamic country/culture: “Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque,” Christianity Today 57/1 (January/February 2013)

The editors of Christianity Today include a preliminary word to Daniels’ interview:

Can people from other religious traditions genuinely follow Jesus without becoming "Christians"? The question is a point of much dispute within today's missions world. Those who follow Jesus yet don't formally express Christian faith are said to belong to insider movements. And no insider movement has received more attention than Muslims who embrace Christ yet stay within their Islamic community. "Insiders" are hard to access due to cultural, geographic, and linguistic barriers. As a result, many Christians have taken positions on insider movements without ever having met or spoken with someone who belongs to one. In the following exclusive interview, we hear from just such an insider.

The following is the synthesis of two interviews conducted in 2011 with "Abu Jaz," a key leader in a movement that describes itself as the People of the Gospel. This group represents several thousand Muslims in eastern Africa who have converted to faith in Christ during the past decade, but who have remained in their Muslim communities. Abu Jaz is married and has three children. He started following Isa al Masih ("Jesus the Messiah") as the Savior 18 years ago.

One of the most interesting statements in this interview addressed becoming a believer, syncretism, discipleship and sanctification/transformation.

First, we cannot rule out syncretism at the beginning of a new believer's life. The purpose of discipleship is to separate their old beliefs from their new beliefs. So when they put their faith in Jesus, they may have at the same time Muhammad in their heart. But when they start to pray in the name of Isa for their own need, they experience joy, assurance, and peace. And when they pray in the name of Jesus and find people healed and demons cast out, they completely stop thinking about Muhammad. It is a process of the Holy Spirit.

A few questions to ponder:

  • What do you think of this statement? Do you agree/disagree?
  • How much syncretism can be allowed/accepted (acceptable) and a person truly be a Christian?
  • How long would syncretistic beliefs be allowed/accepted after being born again (conversion, becoming a Christian or a believer, regeneration, or other such descriptions of this same supernatural birth)?
  • Does syncretism affect both belief and behavior? How are belief and behavior affected by becoming a Christian?
  • In becoming a believer and in the subsequent conformity into the image of Christ, what and how much is instantaneous and what and how much is progressive? Specifically, how might this affect one’s view of syncretism post-conversion? More generally, how might this affect one’s view of a life of  sin prior to coming to Christ?
  • Is this a (super)natural aspect of the sanctification process, such that the sins, habits and patterns of life prior to Christ are progressively, by God’s grace, put away (mortification), and the graces of Christ are put on (vivification)?
  • How and at what point would you determine this would be a normal and progressive part of the Christian life, and how and at what point would you determine the person has not truly become a Christian?

Though I only included a brief, though important, quote that prompts many questions, I would encourage you to read the complete interview. It will provide a perspective from one who serves as a missionary among Muslims, and a Muslim who lives as an insider.

It should foster greater understanding of this issue, and enable you better to ponder, pray and process it and then to discern an appropriate God-glorifying, Christ-honoring, Spirit-illumined, biblically-faithful response.

Email Updates

Subscribe to receive EFCA blog updates.

* indicates required