Evangelists and missiologists have long debated how best to contextualize the gospel within Islamic contexts. The debate over "insider movements" revolves around a key question: Should converts from Islam be allowed or encouraged to remain in their Muslim religious and social networks after conversion?
Past discussion on this topic has proven hurtful to Christians on both sides. However, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I believe we are finally going to see real changes in the way Christians write about fellow-Christians in regard to contextualization. This is good news in an arena where there has been a lot of bad news.
In an effort to promote reconciliation and facilitate healthy discussion, a group of 50 scholar-practitioners gathered in June to discuss the challenges of contextualization. Bridging the Divide was hosted by missionaries-in-residence Don Little and Benjamin Hegeman of the Intercultural Studies Department at Houghton College in New York. Attendees included five former Muslims and represented a wide spectrum of views on appropriate ways to reach Muslims.
Bridging the Divide's goal was to clear up misunderstandings, identify points of agreement and disagreement, and strive for mutual respect and understanding. Disputes over contextualization have a long history, and serious difficulties remain, but progress was made through face-to-face interaction, frank discussion, and a commitment to talk rather than throw darts at each other from a distance. As a participant, I saw three key signs pointing to this trend:
During introductions on the first night, many said they had come to listen. This paved the way for positive interaction. There was open sharing and prayer for one another throughout the meeting, ...1