The beginning of the ‘Insider Movement’ strategy: 1938 NECC Riggs Report

Near East Christian Council inquiry on the evangelization of Moslems: reportNear East Christian Council inquiry on the evangelization of Moslems: report by Henry Riggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone primarily interested in the history of mission to Muslims, I wanted to make this document available to researchers around the world. It is, after all, a rare document and quite difficult to find. I have no interest in either approving or criticizing the strategy proposed by this report. The report was composed by Henry Riggs with the aim of summarizing the findings of the 1938 meeting of the Near East Christian Council (NECC) which took place in Lebanon.

The main section is B.6:

6. It is the conviction of large number of workers among Moslems that the ultimate hope of bringing Christ to the Moslems is to be attained by the development of groups of followers of Jesus who are active in making Him known to others while remaining loyally a part of the social and political groups to which they belong in Islam. The ideal is that there should thus come into being a church whose only head is Christ, and which does not carry the stigma of being an alien institution, drawing men away from their natural social and political connections. In spite of the stupendous difficulties in the way of such an outcome,many workers are convinced that only as the spiritual significance of Christ is thus separated from external and unhappy connections in past and present can the way be opened for the power of Christ to do its work in the Moslem world.

This is, in a nutshell, the Insider Movement strategy of mission to Muslims–not seeking to make Muslims into Christian, but Sunni Muslims into ‘followers-of-Jesus’ Muslims.

Also note that to my knowledge the pagination on this document is not the same as the original.

The complete biblio of this source is, according to WorldCat, as follows:

Riggs, Henry H. 1938. Near East Christian Council inquiry on the Evangelization of Moslems: Report. Beirut: American Mission Building.

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Read it at Scribd:

NEAR EAST CHRISTIAN COUNCIL INQUIRY ON THE EVANGELIZATION OF MOSLEMS, November, 1938, by H Riggs

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11 Responses to “The beginning of the ‘Insider Movement’ strategy: 1938 NECC Riggs Report”

  1. Warrick Farrah Says:

    Wow, esp in 1938. Thank you for this!!!!

    I used to think IM was a postmodern phenomenon. I would love to hear your thoughts on the significance of this.

    • duanemiller Says:

      Hi Warrick, thanks for dropping by. I have thought about this a good bit, and right now my opinion (and it could change) is that this document is so obscure and does not come up in the IM literature, so I think the significance is, well, not very significant.

      What it does mean is that people have had these ideas before, indeed during an entirely different age of missions. It also means that the critique of the old Protestant missions of being uncreative and narrow-minded is not entirely fair. But since there is no documentary link between this report and today’s IM promoters, it probably does not mean that the contemporary strategy is indebted to this much older report. It could mean that the document has surfaced ex post facto. If I am correct in this preliminary analysis, then the critique of Nikides that IM is just American evangelical emergent Christianity dressed up for Muslims has not been answered. I think he makes the argument well enough that it warrants an answer from a pro-IM person, but I have yet to see one. If you come across one do let me know.

      That is sort of a dense answer, so if you’re not clear on what I mean let me know. In any case, I am glad that you found this document as interesting as I did.

      I am referring to Bill’s 2011 article in SFM, ‘The Emergence of Insider Movements’.

    • duanemiller Says:

      Hi Warrick, I expanded this into an article which you can check out here: https://duanemiller.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/the-origins-of-the-insider-movement/

  2. Doug Coleman Says:

    Hi Duane,
    While the Riggs document does not feature prominently in much IM literature, John Travis pointed me to it in personal correspondence, so I am certain at least he is aware of it. I don’t know for certain that other proponents are, but I suspect such is the case.

    It is mentioned on this pro-IM web site, although the site appears to be inactive now: http://isa4all.blogspot.com/.

    Doug

  3. duanemiller Says:

    Hi Doug,

    Thank you for your comment. If you talk to John again would you mind asking him how much it influenced him and, most importantly, when. I mean, was it a main source of inspiration, or a document that surfaced after some IM was already well-established?

    If you would be wiling to chat about this over e-mail I would be grateful, as you have researched this topic extensively. My e-mail is alex [dot] miller [at] nazarethseminary.org.

    –Duane Alexander Miller

  4. Noel Says:

    I love it whenever people get together and share ideas.
    Great blog, stick with it!

  5. Colin Edwards Says:

    Duane
    Massive thank you for posting this. Its a valuable document and I will be using it in teaching.

    On a related note: I now think its time to move past the terminology “insider movement.” This is not to deny the issues raised by the broader approach, but I think the term has hijacked the discussion and framed it wrongly. These movements are not “insider” but liminal. They are simultaneously “us” and “not us” and this tension of belonging is often present for their home Muslim context and for their new belonging in the body of Christ. This space in tension can be an incredibly creative space, being different enough to be recognised as “different” but having continuity so as not be be detached. “Insider” terminology obscures this creative placement. I haven’t come up with a catchy replacement (“Liminal” is too obscure), but I think discussion on the issues needs to focus on the issues, not the name.

    This article does very well at laying out issues. And in many ways gives a frame. I love the Christological focus, the christ of history (and his story: not my regurgitated understanding of his story) and the Christ of experience. I think the issue of Baptism needs careful unpicking. I think that present experience goes beyond this paper in seeing existing communities of identity (e.g. Isa-i jamaats) and issues they face. But its a very useful paper. Thanks.
    Colin

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