Insider Movements

We welcome David Garner and Phil DeHart to speak about Insider Movements, which are increasingly popular approaches to missions predicated on controversial theological and hermeneutic foundations. Insider Movements have gained particular influence in mission fields and religio-sociological contexts that are particularly hostile to Christianity.

Dr. Garner is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary at Pastor of Teaching at Proclamation Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Bryn Mawr, PA. Dr. Garner has written “High Stakes: Insider Movement Hermeneutics and the Gospel,” an excellent essay on the subject. Phil DeHart has worked in the missions field in Asia and is currently a student at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dr. Garner has also coordinated with the producers of the film Half Devil, Half Child, a documentary on Insider Movements, to offer a special discount to Reformed Forum listeners. Just visit halfdevilhalfchild.com to purchase the digital download, and use the code “reform” to receive 25% off the download price of the film.

Episode image by terbeck.

Participants: , , , ,

Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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7 years ago

Thanks for doing a show on this topic of contextualization that has been a growing problem among some I know who is involved or have studied missions. I plan to share this on our blog.

Paul Lawton

7 years ago

1) Great intro to the topic from a P&R perspective
2) Dr. Garner really sounds like Nicholas Cage; it’s really outstanding to picture crazy Nicholas Cage as Dr. Garner is speaking

Brian K.

7 years ago

Thanks to all for a great show!

These issues have been discussed for at least fifteen years in places such as Evangelical Missions Quarterly and the International Journal of Frontier Missions, and the book “Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road”, ed. Woodberry (in which many of these ideas were first proposed) was published in 1989. I remember discussing (very critically) many of these topics as a student at Moody Bible Institute 20 years ago.

So while I deeply appreciate CTC devoting a show to this very important topic, I am saddened that it has taken the Reformed (and Reformed Baptist) world so long to wake up. I beg all of you involved with the Reformed Forum, and any who read this comment not to let this issue die! The extreme contextualization movement is pure syncretism that has sent, and continues to send, many to hell riding on the hopes of a false assurance!

Camden Bucey

7 years ago


Thanks for the comments. I’m no missiologist, but I would distinguish contextualization in general from Insider Movements, the latter being a specific subset of the former in my understanding. I am appreciative of the way Harvie Conn worked through varieties of contextualization in a class I took with him on missionary encounters. It was a distance course on tape through Westminster Theological Seminary, but it was still a valuable course for me as I developed my views of missions in light of Scripture. That being said, Dave Garner introduced “Insider Movements” to me about two years ago. While this episode introduced a new topic to many of us, I’m sure the missionaries of the PCA and OPC have been aware of it for quite some time.

Brian K.

7 years ago


I agree with your distinction. I am not against contextualization, as such, but as you said, much of what comes from the “Insider Movement” crowd is at the extreme end of the contextualization spectrum.

I firmly believe that many of the seeming difficulties in contextualization could be resolved by a proper and thorough application of the Regulative Principle of Worship. Sadly, most of the crowd that promotes Insider Movement thinking is unwilling to accept the RPW (if they are aware of it at all), because they are generally unwilling to allow the Scriptures to define their ecclesiology and their missiology.

Camden Bucey

7 years ago

I also wonder how attractive Insider Movements may seem to missions whose sole purpose is to plant churches. It would be worth considering the differences in philosophy among a number of churches and mission agencies to see how they work out across different missiologies.


7 years ago

It seems like it would be a great idea to hear from people who are pro Insider Movements. Though there is disagreement about the methodology, the motivations and ultimate goals of those on the pro side seem to be misrepresented here. I think that we need to remember that these people are brothers and sisters that we need to work with and try to come to agreement with – they are not the enemy.

E. Burns

7 years ago

Good and helpful program. Just some brief sketches, notes and comments from the program…………..

Phil said…..”Insider Movement is not an issue only about missions” Amen! So true! This is just a natural progression of the Christian and Evangelical world of the last 50 years. I would encourage people to read this book linked here. Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray

Link to it here> http://www.ligonier.org/store/evangelicalism-divided-hardcover/?gclid=CLm7jo_d87QCFexAMgodeHgApQ

This Insider Movement issue, like so many others, is only a reflection and natural outgrowth of our theology. A theology rooted in Pragmatism has ruled the day for 50 plus years in Protestant & Evangelical circles. It now even gains ground in Reformed circles. Many have fled Evangelical churches to good NAPARC churches, now many a NAPARC church is going down the same dark road. We need to own it if we are to change it. I hope programs like this help in that regard.

Kevin Higgins

7 years ago

Friends…I would agree with the posted comment regarding encouraging you to seek for input from those who are “pro-insider”….And in that spirit, please pray for the third meeting of the “Bridging the Divide” group….a gathering in June of some 50 or more practitioners, missiologists, and theologians from all over the spectrum re: “insider” work among Muslims. Though I am in the pro-insider camp, I have fund it helpful and transformative to meet face to face with those who would certainly be critics of the insider paradigm. Their questions and chalenges have shaped me, changed me in a number of ways, and sharpened my thinking. It has been a wonderful model of how fellow believers can approach divise and difficult areas in the Spirit of Christ. Kevin


7 years ago

Have you all read some of the articles on Mission Frontiers? I was reading through many of the archives after hearing this episode of CTC and I was shocked. It sounded like an entirely different gospel and a religion based on a different book. Parts of Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism kept coming to mind. Several pro IM folks responded to confusing (at best) articles by praising the articles and declaring the term “Christian” to be unbiblical and to calll “non-Christan believers” those who Christ really saves. Also a huge emphasis on the receivers’ cultural context when developing a translation instead of an emphasis on translating what God actually said.

I have seen a lot of connection with the early twentieth century book…”rethinking missions”



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