Insider movements, Wycliffe’s translation and missiological controversies

There is a kerfuffle on the internet that might be worthy of some exploration. The controversy around Wycliffe’s Bible translation, currently on the back burner and under the WEA spotlight, has created a lot of talk about insider movements, contextualization, dynamic equivalence, postmodernism, and the connection between the emergent church and insider movements among Muslims. 

 And it raises a series of other questions about the integrity of missional practice on location vs. satisfying the accountants in the home country, sustainability vs. dependance, colonialism vs. equality, missionary paternalism vs. freedom for younger churches to self-theologize, etc.

I was thinking about doing a weekly post to flesh out some of these issues, probably each Sunday.

Is this of interest to anyone? If so, lets start chatting about it Let me know in comments below. If not, lets move on to another diversion.



Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)


  • I would be interested in your thoughts on two issues of process.
    a. Is launching a public Internet petition a good idea for solving missiological and theological differences between believers? Does it contravene in spirit the prohibition against one believer taking another to court? The rationale Paul gives for that seems to apply.
    b. At least one US denomination has given its final word on the topic before the WEA review produces its findings. Does this amount to a vote of no confidence in the WEA process? Might churches in other countries, especially where there are large numbers of Christians, perceive such action as unilateral? As American Christians thinking that they can unilaterally define Christianity and mission without reference to most of the Christians in the world?

  • I’m up for a discussion on it. I don’t know how much I’ll participate, but I’ll definitely read whatever you write. These are important issues.

  • I would LOVE a discussion on this. I am thinking seriously it is bigger than those issues. I am thinking it is time for a new missiology overall. I think that we have overstated and idolized culture above what we should have. (this is coming from a Mohican American Indian) I think this is part of what has contributed to this kerfuffle. would like to hear your thoughts anyway, you are an insightful guy.

  • Go for it. I’ll read them all. You have a unique perspective as a global traveler that many do not. And it is a pretty big deal that is shaping the way mission is done in a lot of contexts.

  • We had a young visitor from a missionary family to stay this week and an intriguing situation arise in our area regarding missions and the issues you are talking about. Will be wonderful to hear your take on the problems involved. There is not just a need to do missions differently there is also a huge need to communicate what really goes on and what to expect to supporters, that does not require the tugging of heart strings to get support, if that is the way that the missionaries work.

  • Yes, a very important topic. I’m in India seeking to live out contextualised forms in a Hindu setting (seems nearly everyone working seriously on contextualisation / insider movements is focussed on Muslims). The history of colonialism here and degree to which the church’s theology, culture and forms is of the west is a huge deal. Typically western mind sets, worship forms etc. are so alien to the Hindu mind. Let’s lose the paternalism and realise that as the Spirit breathes life into different culture’s expressions of following Jesus we will all be surprised and enriched by what emerges. Sometimes trusting the Spirit at work in the lives of people very different from ourselves to do things very differently to how we know seems… risky.

  • I would be fascinated with this discussion. I have had a number of scintillating discussions about this translation with both western and non-western friends. The responses have been unexpected to say the least.

  • Would really looks to see what people think on various issues in this area. Generally the west is a sound bite audience, so lacking depth; a tourist culture, so lacking understanding. Therefore, as people seeking to fundraise in too this environment, how do we educate and inform a population who are so distracted by their predisposition for entertainment, especially leadership who are obsessed with being MCs, or know no other way. That plus turf warfare.

  • Let’s get into it, Andrew. And, let’s say things bluntly, the alternative to an insider movement is an outsider movement. The alternative to contextualization is colonization. Too often, the anti-contextualization crowd presumes that contextualization is the heterodox alternative to “normal” Christianity. It isn’t.

  • Yes, Cody, and the same crowd thinks of contextualization as an option for the overseas world of missions but are clueless about the ways their own home-grown Christianity has been contextualized to their own culture, either sub-conciously or intentionally – but this is the culture that gets unwittingly exported along with the missionaries they send.

  • I think this really needs to happen! One of the biggest problems right now is that there isn’t enough dialogue, and this could be a great forum for it.

  • Would love to see honest and open discussion of these controversial issues – especially by people who are not afraid to rethink the ways we’ve always done it while anchored in Scripture.

  • These are the most important topics in missions right now. Conversation needs to happen. I’ve heard from both sides and it is very hard to get them to talk with each other. Both sides don’t seem to be hearing each other either.

  • i am new to this but would love to hear more…i have been in the middle of some of the mud slinging that has happened (meaning, received the slings of mud :))….kevin

  • I’m up for it, although I will be late to the table. mind you, I will be more than content with the left-overs.

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