Here is a question I have been pondering lately.
Is there too much emphasis on Islam in missiology?
Let me state up front that I am NOT talking about too much of a focus on Islam in the church, particularly the North American church. I can only hope and pray that churches would be more and more concerned about their attitude and posture toward Muslims, particularly those that live with us in the USA. I am also burdened by the large numbers of Muslims that will never know a Christian or understand the gospel through a believer.
No, what I am asking about is this: Are we allowing Islam to overshadow a Christian missiology?
Why would I ask such a question? In the circles I run in, the books I read, the conferences I attend, and the missiological influencers I am listening to are all highly focused on Islamic outreach. That's overall a good thing, because missiology is the study of missions and there is a great need to reach out to Muslims with proper and good missiology. My concern is that our missiology has become overwhelmingly reactive when it comes to Islam and is largely consumed by Islamic issues.
Christian theology stands apart from Islam and must be understood from its scriptural and historical roots, before Islam was created by Mohammed and subsequent Arab cultures. Since that point, we can understand Christian theology in part as it relates to Islam, but it is still unique from Islam. Yet, current missiological themes are highly interwoven with Islamic issues. My question is, "Has this gone too far?"
Is it good missiological practice, for example, to define the church theologically only in terms of its context culturally? This seems to be a major theme of the Islamic contextualization debate. Similarly, the task of the Great Commission (which is, from my perspective, a focus on discipleship resulting in church community) is most often discussed in relationship to Islamic outreach. A quick review of Church Planting Movement (CPM) reveals a historic root in Hindu societies. Yet, the movements which seem to be most discussed and written about are Islamic movements (I actually commend the editors of Mission Frontiers who, in the last edition on Church Planting Movements, included both Hindu and American focused articles). If you disagree with me I invite you to open up just about any missions resource and see if I am correct.
From a "closure" standpoint I suppose this is a good thing. If the church wants to see the message of Christ spread into every culture then Islamic cultures must be at the forefront. Muslims continue to make up a majority of the world's unreached and from a mobilization and recruitment standpoint Islam must be a major theme. I would caution, though, that missiology needs to be rooted on Christian theology and understanding first, with a secondary application to the temporal culture into which it is placed. I am not referring only to the contextualization debate, although that has garnered much of the recent interest.
Islam is the late-comer to the world religion arena. Christianity will outlast it. Let's not let Islam define our missiology to the point where it is reactive and temporal, a response to the headlines and world political situation. The cross preceded Islam and the cross will surely outlast it.
Do you agree with me on this? Are we a bit too focused on Islam in missiological reflection these days?