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God-Given Cultural Identity

Pre-existing Communities Become the Church:
How can the gospel take root within pre-existing communities, in such a way that the community or network becomes the main expression of “church” in that context? To understand why this factor is important in insider movements, let’s contrast planting a church with implanting a church.

Retaining Identity: Is It Biblical?
Does one have to go through Christianity to enter God’s family? The New Testament addresses a nearly identical question: “Do all believers in Jesus Christ have to go through Judaism in order to enter God’s family?” It is important to realize that, for both questions, the nature of the gospel itself is at stake.

The woman at the well in John 4 at first refused Jesus’ offer of eternal life because, as a Samaritan, she followed an Abrahamic religion that the Jews reviled as corrupt. As a result, she could not go to the temple or become a Jew. But Jesus distinguished true faith from religious affiliation, saying God was seeking “true worshipers who worship the Father in spirit and truth” (v. 19-24). Realizing that Jesus was “the  Savior of the world” (v. 42), not just of the Jews, many Samaritans in her town believed.

Later in Acts we see that Samaritan believers remained in their own communities and retained their Samaritan identity (Acts 8:14-17). But at first the disciples did not understand that just as they could remain Jews and follow Jesus, the Samaritans could also remain Samaritan.

Then the Holy Spirit revealed to the apostles that even the Gentile believers
from pagan backgrounds did not have to go through Judaism in order to enter God’s family (Acts 15). In Antioch, Jewish believers were telling Gentile believers they must become Jews to be fully acceptable to God. Paul disagreed and brought the issue to the lead apostles in Jerusalem.

The issue was hotly debated because the Jews had believed for centuries that conversion to the Jewish religion was required to become part of the people of God. But the Holy Spirit showed the Jewish apostles they should not “burden” Gentile followers of  Christ with their religious traditions and forms (Acts 15:19, 28).

Two Criteria

To make this decision, the apostles used two criteria: the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles coming to Christ, and the guidance of Scripture(Acts 15:5-19). First, they heard that the Holy Spirit had descended on believers from a pagan background who were not practicing the Jewish religion. Second, they realized the Scriptures had predicted that this would happen. These two criteria were sufficient for the apostles to conclude that God was behind this new movement of believers who were-remaining Gentile.

Therefore, they did not oppose it or add on demands for religious
conversion. If we use the same two criteria today, insider movements
affirm that people do not even have to go through the religion of Christianity,

but only through Jesus Christ, to enter  God’s family. Paul wanted people to understand that this truth has been part of the gospel from the beginning. He pointed out that God promised Abraham that all people groups would receive the  Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Galatians 3:8-26). As a result, Paul publicly rebuked Peter and Barnabas for “not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel” when they “forced Gentiles to follow Jewish customs” (Galatians 2:11-21). Paul warned that to add religious conversion to following Christ would nullify the gospel. He also affirmed that not through any religion but “through the gospel the Gentiles are made heirs together in the promise of Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).
Thus, the gospel reveals that a person can gain a new spiritual identity
without leaving one’s birth identity, and without taking on a new socio-religious label or going through the religion of either Judaism or Christianity.
The “Kingdom Circles” sidebar below:

Kingdom Circles

This diagram distinguishes between two kinds of identity: spiritualand socio-religious. The center circle represents the Kingdom of God.People gain a new spiritual identity by entering God’s Kingdom through transforming faith in Jesus Christ. The other circles represent various socio-religious identities.

Thai Missions Strategy

Figure 1 shows that many Jews in the book of Acts followed Jesus
as Lord and thus entered the Kingdom of God (A). These early disciples
gained a new spiritual identity but retained their Jewish socio-religious
identity, continuing to follow the Jewish law and worship at the temple
alongside non-believing Jews (B).

Thai Missions

Figure 2 likewise shows that many Gentiles in Acts followed Jesus
as Lord and entered the Kingdom (C), though most Gentiles remained
non-believers (D). In Acts 15, some Jewish believers insisted that non-
Jews had to join the socio-religious system of Judaism to be saved (E).
Paul disagreed and brought the issue before the apostles in Jerusalem.
The apostles became convinced, by both the Scriptures and the fact that
God gave the Holy Spirit to these Gentile believers, that non-Jews did
not have to “go through” Judaism to enter the Kingdom of God.

Thai Missions Movement

Figure 3 shows the situation we face today. Over the centuries,
“Christianity” has become a socio-religious system encompassing much
more than simply faith in Christ. It involves various cultural traditions,
religious forms, and ethnic or political associations. While many
people who call themselves Christians have truly believed in Christ and
entered the Kingdom of God (F), others have not, though they may
attend church (G). The Acts 15 question is still relevant today: Must
people with a distinctly non-Christian (especially non-Western) identity
“go through” the socio-religious systems of “Christianity” in order to
become part of God’s Kingdom (H)? Or can they enter the Kingdom
of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and gain a new
spiritual identity while retaining their own community and socio-religious
identity (I)?

You can read the rest of this VERY GOOD article  about Insiders Movement here….

Posted by on May 7 2011. Filed under Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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