Edward Ayub formerly known as Mohammed Ayub was born in a Wahhabi Muslim family and trained as a practicing Muslim. He heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ during his university life in 1982 from a Muslim convert whom Ayub and his friends persecuted. But God has called and changed him in 1984. Since then he has been doing Christian ministries through evangelism and building churches, teaching, writing, giving and equipping leadership. He has earned a Masters of Divinity from the Philippines. Rev. Ayub is known as the motivator in giving birth to some Christian ministries. He has translated and authored more than 29 titles in Bengali. He and his wife gave their greatest contribution in giving birth to a Reformed denomination called Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh. He believes and is engaged in visible church planting among the Muslims characterizing exclusivity, specialization and uniformity. He wants to see 100 churches to be planted through PCB, 10 visible established sites in different regions of the country, a Center for equipping church planters for the Muslims, a library of 20,000+ books, a self-reliant church planting work, and transforming the rural areas through church planting toward changing his nation. He runs a study center offering one-year long residential training in comparative religion. His outstanding effort and pursuit against insider movement have proven him as a true lover of God’s Word. His wife Jostna has been a great inspirer and their 23 year- old son Utthan is now serving the Bangladesh Navy.
BANGLADESH’ SITUATION & CONSEQUENCES
The history of Catholicism has been for 400 years while for Protestants, for more than 200 years, but still we are ashamed to claim less than 1% Christians. Bangladesh has become one of the experimental grounds for IM. The IMers chose the right place because of the economy. Anyone can experiment anything here. Most of the IM leaders are the product of Christian churches. They were baptized into Christian church, became once Christian – they were proud of their identity, then some missionaries came to detach them from the church in the issue of cultural difference. A wall has been built, enmity has started to grow and finally separation was a reality. The once Christians from Islam are now Insiders – without work, with comfortable life, no Christian identity, no challenge – so they prefer the new lifestyle than the Christian one. Many repented back to Islam in front of the Muslim leaders and arranged feasts that they returned to Islam – they have been accepted again by the Muslims but suspiciously. Now Muslims are telling them to make their identity clear – whether believers of Islam or Christianity.
This presentation is made from the experience in dealing with the IMs (Insider Movement members). I consider myself privileged to be one of the most vulnerable person attacked by the IMs. I know personally some of the IMers and I have interviewed them. Many of them were not happy with the IM leadership due to doctrine and practices, many of them were not happy for the leadership so they came to me and shared their inside stories. I have visited them when they invited me and spent time with them. Many of them have been interviewed and videoed.
We have so far done two documentaries – first one is Unheralded of 15 minutes and the next one Half Devil and Half Child of 90 minutes. You could find IMs giving their interviews.
Because of these activities, I have been attacked – IM tried to damage my character, there were slanderous mails distributed, criticisms without giving me the chance to defend myself, accused of murder and attacking IMers, they tried to stop our fundings and became successful in charging us. We have investigated the charges and videoed the people in the place they mentioned but found they were false. I had to go to the court to prove my honor and got favor from the court. The agent of the IM surrendered and confessed with written apology. Missionaries in Bangladesh went to my home to threaten me, some of them met with our supporters to discontinue our support. I have been warned by some local well-wishers to be careful when I am alone and they advised me not to move alone because of possible attack. There were other international bodies and organizations who went to Bangladesh to interview me and the others involved, they could not find any truth but have been challenged by the nationals to stop IM. Unfortunately some of these groups’ report were in favor of IM because they have been sent by the IM leadership.
I was invited to the Potomac Presbytery to talk against IM and the overture was approved for the General Assembly of PCA. A study committee was formed to deal with the issue of the translation of the New Testament. The new translation has been rejected after two years of study thru the committee report. Then the whole issue of the IM was brought into the floor and the study committee worked for two more years. After lots of struggle finally the resolution was made that PCA would not support the IM ministries.
In 2012, with 8 Americans, we were attacked by the Muslims backed by the IM and ex-IMERYS. The news have become nationwide issue and the government have found many offenders who were with the IM. Money has been distributed to plot such attack.
EXISTING MISSIOLOGICAL APPROACH ON COMMON GROUNDS
Report on Insider Movement
There is one person who IM claimed had more than 700,000 followers in the Southern part of Bangladesh. His mission was verified twice and was found false. I was personally present in one group interview and had experience life threats for my presence. Another group claimed that their population of believers are twenty times more than all Protestants in Bangladesh. There are 500,000 Protestants so if this figure is multiplied by 20, their numbers would be over 1 million. I know another one who claimed that in a small district of Bangladesh, he had baptized 86,000 believers, etc.
When the first publication of the Gospel of Mark was published omitting “the Son of God”, and “Father” from the translation, the whole Christian community opposed but the IM did not respect their reaction and did not stop. Then they have published the first four Gospels plus Acts. After this translation, Christian leaders were upset and I have heard one leader saying he will sue them by selling all he had. Bangladesh Bible Society has issued a legal notice. One national association has convened a meeting and invited the people engaged with these translations, but they did not come to give their views.
Organizations in Hiding
You could not imagine which organizations are behind these scholarship research. Now many of those are open secret and struggling. My friends with IM say that they cannot give the exact figure, location and any information of their believers because of security. So how can you believe what is going on underground? No foreigners are invited into the spots so they depend on the nationals report only.
Mission Organization has become the pilot of the church
One serious move of the present mission work is that the mission is not from the church anymore and by the church, but the mission organizations and para-church organizations are guiding and teaching mission to the church. The church believes them and gives – because they think that mission people are expert on this. They understand mission better since they live in the field and experience the field better than the church. I strongly recommend that every sending church should ask clear accountability from their missionaries what they are believing, and what they are practicing. The church needs to check the product not the salesmen.
IS THERE ANY COMMONALITY WITH ISLAM?
The Bible and Quran
The issue is the inspiration – is Quran the inspired word of Allah? What is the response of an IM to the Quran? How does he view the Quran? Does he believe the Bible as the sole, authentic, inerrant, inspired Word of God and they add the Quran too with the Bible?
I have few national Bengali friends among the IM who recommend to new believers not to keep the Bible but spent more time in reading the Quran. They believe that the verses in the Quran can not only lead to salvation but can give salvation.
Yahweh and Allah
In Islam Allah is monotheist – from polytheism – Abraham to Ismael and on the Islamic history, Mecca has become the center of polytheism. The Yahweh of the Bible is One and Only true God. Islam does not believe in triune God – the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Believing in Trinity is unforgiveable sin in Islam. So how a Christian evangelist say to a Muslim that your Allah and my God is the same one? In Islam, the Holy Spirit is sometimes known as the power of Allah and sometimes equated to the Angel Gabriel.
Jesus the Lord and Jesus the Prophet
Islam respects and in fact instructed to view Jesus as one of the most respectful prophet. But is that enough in Christian faith? Is he a prophet only?
Sin and Salvation
The teaching of the origin of sin and transmission of sin is not found in Islam. Islam never talks about the sins of the prophets so the original sin of Adam has become so light that in Islam sin is always a shallow area to discuss and to deal with. So salvation is by faith and works in Islam but in Christian faith salvation is only by faith alone and the faith is on the cross which Islam clearly rejects.
The Church and the Mosque
In IM, you may hear the name of Jesus mosque, Messianic mosque, and others. There was one video circulated that all the devotees coming out from Friday prayer were Christians according to the narrator. We have identified the mosque which is still a mosque of the Muslims. I am ashamed to say this, how Christians around the world have been deceived for money.
The concept of church and mosque never matches. Jesus said that He had come to build His church. He died for His church, and the church is His bride – are these compatible to the concept of a mosque where people go for daily prayers five times a day?
The picture of heaven in Islam is horrible and even worse than the world’s vices – of whores, wine, virgins, and other worldly vices are available whenever you want. The Bible picture of heaven is relationship with God – “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” [Rev. 21: 3-4].
What is about marriage and divorce? Do these match with Christian practice? What we see in Islam are the external changes and washing which does not deal with the inner self. In Islam the inside is undegenerated so no Christian transformation is happening that we should expect from a Muslim the quality of ethics like Christianity have. Read Matthew 5-7 and we will see that it is contrary to Islamic ethics.
There are Muslims like me coming to Jesus Christ because of the ethical standard of Christianity. I love the excellence of Christian ethics.
Biblical View of Suffering
IM advocates avoiding persecution and the survival of believers, are important as IM technique. But on the other hand, they claim that they are going to the mosque as Paul went to synagogue and they want to convert the whole mosque into church someday. Going to mosque and preach like Paul is terrifying to Christians in Bangladesh. In our seminars on IM, almost all Christians are concerned that because of the IM, these visible Christians would be attacked and destroyed because the conclusion of Islam is that IM is a conspiracy of Christian world. And in the meantime some of the churches have been attached.
Suffering cannot be avoided – I strongly recommend IM to read Matt 5: 11-12; Acts 5: 41-42; Rom 8: 16-17; Heb 11 [vs 38]; 1 Pe 4: 12-19.
WHERE IS ISLAM IN JUDAISM VS CHRISTIANITY?
God in the Old and the New Testaments is the same one. Even after that, the Jewish belief about God is different than Christians because they did not understand the God of the Bible. They have seen God and personally experienced Him, but they did not believe the true God. They created their God from their own imagination. They have never talked of the Holy Spirit as God which is in the New Testament; they denied the deity of Jesus in their prideful understanding of monotheism.
God in Judaism and Islam is almost the same. If IM follows monotheism which neglects the Trinity, they follow what Judaism is teaching and not Christianity.
In Islam, salvation is by faith and works. So there is no assurance of salvation. In Judaism too they emphasized the Law. So Islam and IM are close in the view of salvation. Furthermore, IM is more unclear on their understanding of salvation because they never make this clear like Islam does. Islam is clear even though they are wrong, but IM does not make clear what is their exact view of salvation. They say about faith in Jesus in their hearts but never talks about it outwardly.
In Islam, the Messiah is the one who cleans. To the Jews, the Messiah is the political one. What is the stand of IM regarding the Messiah? Still there is no clear answer to this. They even replaced the Son with the word Messiah to please the Muslims and not to offend them.
The church is a covenant community throughout the Bible. God always has chosen His covenant community from the peoples of the earth. They have been holy or set apart for God’s special purpose. IM does not teach this but they want to include this teachings inside Islam as a sect.
Negative Issue of Islam
The followers coming from the negative view of Islam, the Quran or the life of Muhammad would not survive. Because their base of faith is the negative issues of Islam not the positive hope of Christianity. On the other hand criticizing Islam is risky but when we evangelize the positive hope of salvation to a Muslim, they surely are coming to Christ wanting to be baptized.
Reporting – The IM’s do not believe the report on the number of souls won for Christ and the exciting activities happening in the supporting churches. IM started to challenge the Christian church that the way of the church would not convert many Muslims to Christian faith. Of course this is true that there is no agenda even at any Christian church to reach the Muslims. So IM is taking the role of winning souls for Christ, claiming the highest number of souls of Muslims won for Christ.
Life-Style of IMers – carrying dual identity
To missionaries and outside supporting countries, they are believers of Jesus, but to local Christians, they are followers of Isa and to Muslims they are true Muslims.
Divisions Between Christians
The Christian church has been divided in this issue. Even there are many fractions among the Insiders and with this Christianity has become weakened even with a small minority.
Relationship with the Muslims
Muslims have some honesty so to make up with everyone’s identity clear. They appreciate Christians for their clear identity.
Harmful for Christians
Christian churches have lost many converts from their real faith to IM faith. Not only that, now IMers are criticizing the Christian church. Muslims are confused – since there is no group yet recognized as Isais, Messianic Muslims, true Muslims, or Quranic Muslims, etc. So who are these people?
DECISION TO MAKE
Back to the Bible
Christian missiologists are crossing the limit often. Many are losing their connection with the Bible. Their own research and ideas become equal or even higher than the Bible.
Re-read the Christian History
If there is truth in history, there is also false. History gives us both sides of the story. This is seen from the creation. God and His counterpart the Devil are always working against one another. But the true history of Christianity is of blood shedding by which Christianity has been strengthened in history in different parts of the world in the midst of state persecution. Where our next future generation would be if we are not faithful to the true history of Christianity?
Interpretation of the Bible
There are lots of approaches in interpreting the Bible. Which is the best one? I cannot guarantee. Scholars differ in this. But we must try to become Bible students rather than teachers of the Bible. We often teach the Bible to our students. We are teachers of the Bible because we teach the Bible, we teach Jesus-God. Much of the knowledge from our extensive readings influence the interpretation of the Bible. We lose the originality of the Bible meaning of we become confusing teachers.
Some of the texts commonly misinterpreted and used by the IM are: Matt 18: 19-20; 1 Cor 9:22; Phil 1: 12-18; Acts 21: 17-26; 2 Kings 5: 17-19. They take these verses out of the whole context in the same way they use the verses from the Quran without the context.
Norms of Biblical Contextualization
[Adopt a Biblical missiological approach]
Contextualization is not a post-modern term we use. God from His creation has been contextualizing to communicate His message to different generations, peoples, nations and cultures. Rather than our effort to discover or invent contextualization from our own world, we must read the Bible to learn on how God works in the cultures. There is nothing new to us, the history in the Bible itself is repeating in its consistencies.
So determine the principles to limit the extent of contextualization – how far you are permitted to go. One missiologist says that some modern missiologists are going too far. He wants to mean that they are crossing his own limit because he has been one of the greatest missiologists for experimenting and giving birth to the present concepts and principles of contextualization in Bangladesh as a testing ground. Now the problem is that these missiologists are not in position to return to the truth.
No Dialogue between IM and the Evangelicals
The so called dialogue was useless. My friends once attended this so called dialogue. They informed us that the goal of such dialogue is to pray for each other and allow the other groups to do their own works in their organizations. There is no real reconciliation unless there is a call for a total change. The appeal for such dialogue comes mainly from the IMers so that they might be more accepted and appreciated. They are not ready to change their ways or accept others’ suggestions.
Passive or Active NO?
Should the loving readers of the Bible keep silent or say something against heresies? I myself have been convicted again and again to write, speak, lecture, propagate and organize meetings because I was pushed by the Bible to speak the truth. One of the teachers once asked me, why should I talk about such things? It seemed to them that my teachings about the Bible hindered them to work their own ways. So they asked me to stop preaching and speaking about the truth, but I did not agree and I have lost all my support from them, a renowned mission organization. They have disconnected all relationship with our denomination without even giving an explanation.
Verify the Report & Keep the Resource-Generating Churches Informed
Whatever story you get from the field, verify. Some have done several times – and found a mess. But even their final report was not so appealing to the evangelicals. They wanted to make adjustments with the false stories. Christians should be black and white. Not only this, we must inform the supporting churches about the falsehood practiced and claimed using their money. Many churches and leaders in the world are innocently contributing their huge resources to wrong and unethical ministries.
No Hate to the IM But Love
My personal agenda is to pray for change to happen among the IMers, not hating them. Accept the heretical ones with Christian love. What should you do with the gay and lesbian in your church? Some are not doing anything but accepting them, and approving them. There are now gay and lesbian pastors in the pulpit. How are we going to deal with those? These issues are more complex and critical than IMs. If you accept gays, you have no problem to accept IMs. We are now in the zone of worst situation.
My direct experience says that backsliding, compromising in faith and heresies have been the result of lack of discipline. How is discipleship possible if there is no Bible study, but only more on reading the Quran and praying in the mosques? PCB has prepared its own discipleship curriculum of 40 lessons to cover the whole one year – each lesson is taught once a week. The curriculum covers four major areas – Islam, the Bible, Christian Doctrine and Ethics.
I do not know where the money comes from but the amount is usually huge. The whole of IM operates because of money. If money is cut down, the IM operations will slow down and it will eventually die slowly if big supporters cut down their budget for IM.
SOME COMMON REACTIONS FROM THE SO-CALLED PEACE-LOVING AND LIBERAL EVANGELICALS TO IM MEMBERS AND THEIR ACTIVITIES
I do not support this IM approach but I want to leave the matter to God so that He might deal with them according to His ways. The best example I may give from the Book of Acts is the role of Gamaliel.
I support IM for some minimal period of time after conversion due to persecution but this should not be for a long–term.
Dealing with IM is creating divisions among Christians
There could be a dialogue between IMers and non-IMers with brotherly love.
To approach the IM must be initiated by the nationals and not by foreigners so we can respect the locals. However, the IM missiologists are from the West. They started to hatch the egg of IM in Asia and Africa.
IMers are the secret believers in the country. They are believers like Gamaliel and Joseph during Jesus’ time. There are at least some results through IM approach – God can use the movement by any means.
I am not critical of the IM approach so I do not speak against it. I do not want to destroy my friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
AS RESPONSE TO IM, PCB’S ROLE IN MISSION AMONG THE MUSLIMS
PCB is not critiquing the IM approach just to give criticism or discourage it. But what PCB wants is for IM to follow the Biblical and historical model of church planting. What someone thinks is impossible for the IM, PCB wants to prove them that it will be possible. By this time, PCB will consider success if the following marks are accomplished:
Visibility – The church must be visible in its existence through worship, evangelism, identification, and as a community. How long a church could be underground? I have found no answer. My conviction is that it is better to suffer for few years rather than compromise for many years .
Reformed – PCB’s theological strength is in its Reformed stand – PCB owes it to the history of reformation in the middle ages and thereafter. I am not encouraging you to become reformed but I am inviting you to share what our mission has been doing.
Rural – More than 80% of the population live in rural areas. There are more than 80,000 villages. We plant churches in rural areas where relationship bond among relatives is strong. Our nation is overly populated especially in rural areas where houses are built closely, so if anything happens at one place this immediately affects the bigger areas. But our role is to destroy that bond, otherwise Christianity would not be able to achieve anything. We try to apply the teaching of Jesus written in Matthew 10.
Exclusive – PCB works only among the Muslims, one particular group which is a challenge to world mission. Islam in some countries is a major religious group. In some countries Islam is the state religion and there are Islamic states too where other religions are not tolerated. In Bangladesh the Muslims are more than 87% of the population, and 10% are Hindus. But PCB works only among the Muslims to minimize the cultural differences and adjusts to some of the problems regarding Islam.
Specialized – Through the Center for Religious Studies, PCB builds its own frontline workers by offering one-year Diploma course in Comparative Religion. Here students learn Islam and Christianity systematically so that they may face the challenge from Islam and give an answer from the Bible to defend his faith. Our church planters should know Islam even better than common Muslims not to use the Quran or Islamic knowledge to bridge, but to use this knowledge in defending their faith.
Uniformed – For the approach in evangelism, worship, and church planting method – PC maintains uniformed position so that this could be a united movement. Members of our staff are trained to follow and apply commonly agreed and researched approaches in mission field and they are not free to create their own ideas which would divide the church.
Cultural Transformation than Contextualization – The culture between Islam and Christianity is different – faith, worship, praying, fasting, funeral, marriage, festivals, etc. are practiced differently in two religions. So unless the former things are not deleted from the mind of the believers and replaced with the new ones, a culture would not be established and if not, Christianity would not survive in the Muslim community. So we believe to establish Christian community with Christian culture in the Muslim community.
Our mission feels comfortable to identify us as Christians, speaking with the use of Islamic terms but with careful attention to meanings based on the Bible.
IMers are trying to show themselves more Islamic than the common Muslims. In Bangladesh, less than 20% Muslims have beards, less than 10% wears veil; but IMers keep their beards and female IMers use their veils. Hiding is not possible – even though we say about Jesus, Muslims immediately categorize us as Christians. So IMers are showing they are Muslims but Muslims are considering them as Christians.
Rev. Edward Ayub is a Presbyterian minister in Bangladesh. He is the moderator of Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh. He is one of the five initiator of Bangladesh Missions Association.