the weblog of Alan Knox

Extraction or Insertion

Posted by on Jan 17, 2009 in blog links, community, discipleship, missional | 10 comments

Strider at “Tales from Middle Earth” is one of the best storytellers that I know. I always enjoy his blog posts, and I enjoyed meeting him a few months ago. His latest post is called “A missional paradigm“.

He begins his post like this:

So, here is a story of a significant paradigm shift in my ministry understanding. It concerns the idea of ‘extraction evangelism’. Now, this may not be a concept that many of you know or understand. Extraction evangelism is really just normal evangelism, it is the kind that usually happens unless something intentional is done to stop it. What it means is that a lost person living in a lost community gets saved. Someone shares Jesus with that person and that person leaves his/her lost community and joins the community of the redeemed- usually that means they start meeting with a group of Christians whom they previously did not know. The group rejoices because this person has found Jesus and is no longer lost and their Church has now increased in size signifying God’s blessing on the group.

Now, this model is very problematic in a Muslim society such as the one I live in here in Gondor. First, very often there are no Churches for individuals to join! Second, the individual’s community does not usually give that person up without a fight. Family and community persecution are very common here even though technically the Government of Gondor claims to provide for freedom of religion. But the biggest problem is that once a person leaves their community to join a Christian community then that lost community is left without a witness and is now more resistant to the Gospel than ever. For all these reasons we have tried from the beginning of our ministry here to avoid extraction evangelism.

From this point, Strider tells a story about a co-worker who tries to encourage locals to consider evangelizing entire families.

This post helped me think through some of the things that we’ve been trying to do in a government assisted housing development. We’ve been spending time in this neighborhood for more than six months now, and we’ve gotten to know many of the neighbors very well.

We’re not trying to “extract” them from their environment. Instead, we’re attempting to insert ourselves and other believers into a community that already exists. There are already relationships there. We don’t want to destroy those relationships. Instead, we hope to see those relationships transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have any of you had experiences with either “extraction evangelism” or “insertion evangelism”?


10 Comments

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  1. 1-17-2009

    Thanks for the link Alan. It will be interesting to see if Western pastors want to face this issue any more than the national guys in Gondor did. My guess is that they are not ready for this discussion- so, maybe it is time to start pushing for it!

  2. 1-17-2009

    One of the brothers here served in Kuwait and other Muslim areas has said this is a real problem because if new believers aren’t “extracted”, or moved to a different locale, they are often killed or abandoned as Strider has said. What a challenge to us who live in complete freedom(or do we?) and many times fail to have even the weakest testimony, for fear of reprisal. I asked the Lord to help me be a testimony in my work the other day as I was driving down the road. Five minutes later I clipped the side of the rental truck in front of Home Depot with the back of my truck. I let out a big D word, and then said “okay Lord, I’m listening.” So I went in and told the clerk, and to shorten the story the manager said she appreciated me being honest and that that was unusual. Maybe not really related to the post, but I think we should expect to pay a cost for the communion we enjoy. And gladly.
    This same brother who was teaching in Kuwait, is now having a weekly bible study in one of the poorest most blighted areas of our community, and ironically, the same issues are there. Except gang life and life long drug addiction is the environment the extraction and insertion are taking place in. The hard thing is when you are building relationships in places like these and giving your life away, it’s so hard not to expect something in return. Easy to get disappointed when most ultimately reject the gospel. But praise the Lord for grace upon grace, this what we are called to-to give it all away in exchange for a heavenly kingdom. I appreciate your blog.

  3. 1-17-2009

    I have not experienced extraction evangelism in the context laid out here. But when i think back to the coming to faith that my wife and I experienced, the joyous inclusion into a body of believers and the subtle but steady pull back from the more “secular” world we had lived in, I can see how this happens, how the tug can be almost irresistable.

    “Insertion” evangelism, or “in place” evangelism is what is clearly needed. At the very least, you need to practice “re-entry” evangelism, by getting back into the lives of the unsaved that were around you when you were in the same sad condition. To use your prior relationships to help build new ones for the church.

  4. 1-17-2009

    Strider,

    I haven’t read of many who are interested in insertion. Most are still interested in removing people from their context and adding them to their church organization. I read some research recently that reported that most new Chrisitians quickly lose contact with all of the friends they had before they became believers. Why? They no longer spend time with the old friends because they are too busy with “church stuff”.

    Anonymous,

    It is usually extremely difficult – humanly impossible? – to be inserted into a situation like you mentioned. It is much easier to extract people from their context and bring them into ours. I’ve found that God seems to show up in the “humanly impossible” much more often than in the “easy”.

    Andy,

    Unfortunately, we’re having to learn to be “re-inserted” because we had very little contact with the unbelieving world. I hope this never happens to us again.

    -Alan

  5. 1-17-2009

    Alan,

    Thank you for airing the issue. Strider is right. I hadn’t thought much about the matter in our context, but have often spoken of it with some ex-missionary friends.

    This should give much food for thought to any who are serious about making disciples and training them to be disciplemakers.

  6. 1-17-2009

    Alan,

    When:

    1. Community happens at church (or church subsidiraries like small groups)

    2. Discipleship happens in church classes instead of life.

    3. Service is doing church stuff (usher, parking lot ministries, sound operation, childcare, greeting)

    4. Church leaders must have people submit to them in the context of church.

    Then extraction become the norm. I know because I was not only a spokesperson but also a platinum club member.

    Jesus says “I leave them in the world”. John warns “be in the world but not of it”. Peter says “as sojourners in a foreign land”.

    I think if we were under a different political-religous regime we would have to find ways to make disciples without all Christians dying in one day. I love this post and it is a beautful reminder of the wisdom the Spirit gives to the Church

  7. 1-17-2009

    Aussie John,

    Yes, I thought Strider’s post was very good, and I’m glad that people are thinking about this issue.

    Lionel,

    I was a platinum club member as well.

    -Alan

  8. 1-17-2009

    I think finding ways to become a Family, while not extracting ourselves from the world is one of the biggest challenges we face. I don’t know anyone who is doing it perfectly (especially not the early church), but I am thankful that we can all work to encourage one another along the way!

  9. 1-17-2009

    Joe (JR),

    I agree that this is a huge challenge. That’s one of the reasons that read alot of blogs from people who live in other parts of the world. Sometimes they tend to get this better than those of us in the USA.

    -Alan

  10. 1-22-2009

    Very moved by this post and related comments. The club I have been a part of is finding itself being dismantled. We (most of us) are actively shedding our unnecessary and ingrown programs and finding the expression of family to be so meaningful. Hillary once said, “It takes a village to raise a family” but I say the church is the family that should be raising the village; elevating our communities, serving, giving, loving.