The C1 to C6 Spectrum: A Practical Tool for Defining Six Types of ‘Christ-centered Communities’ (‘C’) Found in the Muslim Context

Greg Strand – January 28, 2013 8 Comments

From what we read, God is doing an incredible work among Muslims in that many are being saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thankfully, God’s Word is not bound by geographical or religious boundaries (2 Tim. 2:9)!

There have also been many questions raised about ministry among Muslims. One of the most significant as of late has been contextualization, and more specifically Bible translations for Muslims and the use of Son of God language. In order to have a broader understanding of this, it is important to go back a number of years to learn about the “C1 to C6 spectrum,” i.e. the spectrum of contextualization among Muslims. It was written by one engaged on the front-lines of ministry among Muslims.

John Travis (a pseudonym), “The C1 to C6 Spectrum: A Practical Tool for Defining Six Types of ‘Christ-centered Communities’ (‘C’) Found in the Muslim Context,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 34/4 (October, 1998): 407-408, described his contextualization spectrum and its utility:

The C1 – C6 Spectrum compares and contrasts types of “Christ-centered communities” (groups of believers in Christ) found in the Muslim world. The six types in the spectrum are differentiated by language, culture, worship forms, degree of freedom to worship with others, and religious identity. All worship Jesus as Lord and core elements of the gospel are the same from group to group. The spectrum attempts to address the enormous diversity which exists throughout the Muslim world in terms of ethnicity, history, traditions, language, culture, and, in some cases, theology. This diversity means that myriad approaches are needed to successfully share the gospel and plant Christ-centered communities among the world’s one billion followers of Islam. The purpose of the spectrum is to assist church planters and Muslim background believers to ascertain which type of Christ-centered communities may draw the most people from the target group to Christ and best fit in a given context. All of these six types are presently found in some part of the Muslim world.

Travis outlined the distinctive characteristics of each of the six Christ-centered communities (these have been abbreviated somewhat): (“‘Insider’ pertains to the local Muslim population; ‘outsider’ pertains to the local non-Muslim population.”)

C1: Traditional Church Using Outsider Language

Many reflect Western culture. A huge cultural chasm often exists between the church and the surrounding Muslim community. Some Muslim background believers may be found in C1 churches. C1 believers call themselves “Christians.”

C2: Traditional Church Using Insider Language

Essentially the same as C1 except for language. Though insider language is used, religious vocabulary is probably non-Islamic (distinctively “Christian”). The cultural gap between Muslims and C2 is still large. Often more Muslim background believers are found in C2 than C1. C2 believers call themselves “Christians.”

C3: Contextualized Christ-centered Communities Using Insider Language and Religiously Neutral Insider Cultural Forms

Religiously neutral forms may include folk music, ethnic dress, artwork, etc. Islamic elements (where present) are “filtered out” so as to use purely “cultural” forms. The aim is to reduce foreignness of the gospel and the church by contextualizing to biblically permissible cultural forms. May meet in a church building or more religiously neutral location. C3 congregations are comprised of a majority of Muslim background believers. C3 believers call themselves “Christians.”

C4: Contextualized Christ-centered Communities Using Insider Language and Biblically Permissible Cultural and Islamic Forms

Similar to C3, however, biblically permissible Islamic forms and practices are also utilized (e.g., praying with raised hands, keeping the fast, avoiding pork, alcohol, and dogs as pets, using Islamic terms, dress, etc.). C1 and C2 forms avoided. Meetings not held in church buildings. C4 communities comprised almost entirely of Muslim background believers. C4 believers identify themselves as “followers of Isa the Messiah” (or something similar).

C5: Christ-centered Communities of “Messianic Muslims” Who Have Accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior

C5 believers remain legally and socially within the community of Islam. Somewhat similar to the Messianic Jewish movement. Aspects of Islamic theology which are incompatible with the Bible are rejected, or reinterpreted if possible. Participation in corporate Islamic worship varies from person to person and group to group. C5 believers meet regularly with other C5 believers and share their faith with unsaved Muslims. Where entire villages accept Christ, C5 may result in “Messianic mosques.” C5 believers are viewed as Muslims by the Muslim community and refer to themselves as Muslims who follow Isa the Messiah.

C6: Small Christ-centered Communities of Secret/Underground Believers

Similar to persecuted believers suffering under totalitarian regimes. Due to fear, isolation, or threat of extreme governmental/community legal action or retaliation (including capital punishment), C6 believers worship Christ secretly (individually or perhaps infrequently in small clusters). C6 (as opposed to C5) believers are usually silent about their faith. C6 believers are perceived as Muslims by the Muslim community and identify themselves as Muslims.

In order to begin thinking and processing this, here are a few questions:

  • What do you think of this spectrum of contextualization?
  • What do you perceive are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where would you draw the line and why?

We will continue to address this important topic in the next number of blog posts.

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

8 responses to The C1 to C6 Spectrum: A Practical Tool for Defining Six Types of ‘Christ-centered Communities’ (‘C’) Found in the Muslim Context

  1. You ask “Where would you draw the line and why?” but I think it is harder to define the line than to recognize when the line has been crossed. I truly do think that the “fuzzy” areas exists within C4 and have been crossed in C5 so in a general sense I would draw a line at C4.

    In some C4 groups there are things that should make us very uncomfortable i.e. things like requiring adherence to a Halal diet, using bibles that contain only the the Injil (Gospels and maybe Acts), believing their C4 communities are the only true form of faith in Jesus, etc… Even when we see things that appear troubling, we still need to take the time to understand “Why” before becoming alarmed i.e. do they require an adherence to a Halal diet so as to not be an offense in their community or are the teaching that the dietary laws are themselves are a means of Grace? Do they use an incomplete bible because there is not a translation of the entire bible in their language or does their community simply reject the inspiration of the rest of Scripture? The answers to some of these questions may resolve some of our concerns, but some answers should alarm us.

    C5 contextualization, I believe, always crosses the line because even in its “best” implementations it still rejects Christian ecclesiology. How does one worship in the Islamic Mosque under the leadership and spiritual authority of Islamic Imams? How does one recite the Islamic prayers and the Shahadah (even if one says they have given it new meaning) as an expression of true worship? How can one have true fellowship in a community composed of a majority that reject the Lordship of Jesus? And most C5 groups go even farther i.e. they give prominence to the Qu’ran as God inspired Scripture and Mohammad as a true prophet of God, etc… While some of the western proponents of IM stop short of declaring these doctrines to be true, they often leave the door open by simply asking the questions like “Is the Qu’ran God’s word?” and “Is Mohammad a true prophet of God?” and then declaring that one must answer these questions for themselves.

    Where the line is on C6 is more difficult to define because, unlike C5, there is not an open acceptance of false doctrines. In many ways, most converts to Christianity start out as “secret believers (C6)” within their communities and coming out of Islam for most Christian converts is a long process that often takes months or years. The legitimacy of C6, I believe, depends a whole lot on the direction in which a believer is heading. I think we must ask whether they are they moving towards a true outward expression of their faith in Christ through discipleship or do they believe that an outward expression of their faith is unnecessary and are content to live a syncretistic faith their whole lives accepting worship in the Mosque as a valid expression of their faith?

    I personally find it frightening to see how many missions organizations have begun to embrace C5. This is something I would have expected to come from outside the church and not from within it, being promoted and funded by the church itself.

  2. I think one of the greatest weaknesses with the ‘C’ scale is not the scale itself but in how it has been used (and abused). Within the “Insider Movement” community there is a strong aversion to making any doctrinal classifications at all and many bristle at the idea of classifying their ministries using any scale. And even when there is some acceptance of the ‘C’ scale, IM proponents who use it often present their ministry as ‘C5’ but then describe it using examples that are typical of C4 i.e. “praying on a prayer rug,” “praying 5 times a day,” “worshiping on Fridays,” etc… leaving the false impression that these are the kinds of things that define C5. I truly believe that the church needs a scale (like the ‘C’ scale) that describes the boundaries in which a faith community exists, a scale that is accepted and understood by the all of sending churches, but I think that there is a lot of resistance from those involved in IM against accepting any scale that would attempt to define their ministries in any way. Within the postmodern circles from which IM comes, ambiguity is seen as something virtuous and attempts to bring clarity on doctrinal issues are often viewed as nothing more than prideful arrogance. In the current environment, it is hard to image a scale that would be accepted and used by all in the missions community and that means that churches are going to need to ask many hard questions if they don’t want to end up supporting ministry practices that stand in opposition to their own statement of faith.

    • Thank you for your lengthy reply, Mike, and your significant engagement with the issue of contextualization.

    • Thank you for engaging in this contextualization spectrum. As you end your post, it is not only important to line up what is said with a statement of faith, but it is also important to know what one does not believe. Both are important. I also appreciated the example of Bethlehem Baptism and the questions they raised about contextualization among Muslims, which is a positive example of your exhortation to local churches.

  3. Paul was C5. Acts 21:17-26. I’d call him C5A. Strategically C5, not legalistically or fearfully C5. Call that C5B.

    • The difference here is that Judaism was always intended to lead to Christ, where Islam comes after and does not lead to Christ. Christians believe the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings as having come from God, so the fact that he observes the Jewish laws and customs laid out in Scripture doesn’t confuse his identity as a follower of Christ. Christ Himself was Jewish and followed the Law. Also, in verse 25, this is clearly a picture of C4- they have decided that Gentiles reject cultural practices that would confuse their identity as followers of Christ like eating food sacrificed to idols.

  4. I think this spectrum is a good measuring stick, and decent for a reference point when describing the ongoing mission to muslim peoples. Obviously the spectrum is lacking, because (by and large) westerners can’t truly know (exactly) how the surrounding culture views what’s going on. The world is changing that rapidly. There is great variance among the ministry to billions (quite obviously). This spectrum is a useful tool for now…nothing more and nothing less.

    The strength of it lies in being able to quickly discern the context of muslim ministry you are referring too. The weakness of it is further clarification will always be needed as the world continues to change and ministry changes.

    I will say this about following Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t about our forms or style. I would think that would be an obvious thing. You always reproduce what you are. This is why there are so many C1 type ministries among muslim peoples. C1 type ministries that are truly aiming at bringing muslim peoples into their context for worship/discipleship/etc. are truly misguided. Yes, some will assimilate, but this will never be a popular choice. Why? Well, they simply won’t vibe with it. It won’t be their thing….it will be your thing. It will just feel and vibe western and foreign. It won’t stick….sure a few might like it. Like the two black attendees at my predominantly white southern Baptist church….a few muslims might come to a church….but it will always be few.

    C2 is the same thing as C1. It like your uncle wearing clothes made for teenagers. Like trying to be cool, but everyone sees through what your doing. Maybe muslims might appreciate the effort…however, it will most likely come across ingenuine and unauthentic.

    C3 seems to make a genuine effort of contexualizing the “meeting”. However, all depends on who is leading this meeting. If a white guy does it (to be frank) its western still. If it meets in a church its western still. Like dressing my daughter in a MJ jersey doesn’t make her Jordan. This doesn’t make the mission “muslim”. Though valiant it falls short.

    C4 hits the mark on a lot of levels of being “all things to all people”. Not meeting at a “church” is a must. Honestly, only a westerner (or someone influenced by them) would think having a building is a good idea. What a horrible, terrible idea to waste time on a building effort among (most likely) poor people. God forgive us for all these near empty expensive buildings, and the millions and millions that go into preserving them. The last thing we need is the dead faith that seems to spread into the people who attend such meetings in such places. C1 and c2 forms should be avoided like the plague. In fact, the workers should do everything in their power to not influence these forms as best they can….but again…we will reproduce what we are….this cannot be helped. We can, however, educate ourselves in putting all the effort and creation of the forms onto the new muslim believer. The terms don’t matter…this is well known. Its the intention of the heart and thought behind the terms. We pray to God all the time. Its no different than Allah. Keeping to the ways of the land out of heart that onces to “earn” is different than doing it out of “effort” and a desire to be respectful. If the latter desire is the motivation of the heart…then so be it….be as “muslim” as you like. What matters is understanding of the “why” you do things that are “muslim” and why you don’t do them if that is the case. Women cover their heads in these countries out of respect for the culture….this is the same thing…

    C5 is very interesting and I’m sure upsets many religious people. We do so love our forms and ways of thinking. We love to put our politics and doctrinal beliefs above following Jesus. You know what isn’t being discussed today? Whether Messianic Jews are followers of Jesus….because everyone knows that if you think Jesus is the Messiah and you love Him and worship Him. How you do it doesn’t matter. For some reason, if you flip the script and say Messianic Muslims it sounds funny and uncomfortable. The problem with us westerners is we like to form the world in our image. So your telling me in C5 that muslims are winning other muslims to faith in Isa…that whole villages are worshipping Isa…but they don’t just sing Chris Tomlin songs every single week? What’s the problem again? I say holy smokes awesomeness. Were there really people who were hoping that Muslim people would call themselves Christian? The title doesn’t matter at all….what matters is are they ashamed of Jesus? Christian carries too much other meaning today….wake up world…Mormons are Christian now to most of the world….it means u carry a political agenda….it means ur there to destroy culture and women will disrespect the culture they live in because Jesus told them too….etc. It carries all kinds of baggage….so once and for all everyone….we don’t want more Christians in the world…we want followers of Isa. C5 is nothing short of awesome…people that down it are just ignorant of how we are actually viewed in the east. C5 puts Jesus in the drivers seat and trusts Him through the reading of Injil and prayer to reveal the truth about all truth.

    C6….anyone every lead someone to Jesus and baptize them and demand that day they tell everyone they know? Anyone tell a new Christian to go to the local temple and exclaim the news of Jesus to Jehovah’s Witnesses? Probably not….so its funny to me that people get so upset about c6. This is just normal….many of these types of Muslims are getting saved between 2-4am in a dream about Jesus. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. I mean really take it in…so they wake up they want to follow Jesus….and I’m guessing they don’t even know what they are….they don’t even know what’s happened. They are filled with love for Jesus, and terrified about what that means and implies. C6 is an issue of “how long” to me. How long are they silent….how long are they quiet…is this a matter of having no one to seek out or disciple them or what? If your the type of person that thinks new believers in these countries ought to go home and be disowned…I think you should go stand right beside them when they do it.

    my thoughts….no more no less….

  5. Dear sir,
    I would like to share my testimony with you.. I was muslims by birth I Accepted jesus as my lord and saviour. When i knew i am sinner and God(Jesus) is 100% Holy he died for my sins He took All burden upon himself … My family is fundamentalist….they are blindly following their parents. A Muslim is the Muslims because their father is a Muslism…….when I shared Gospel in my family ..They start giving me persecution…..not giving me food for 2-3 days… They were giving me fumes (smoke) in my Nose ..they were beating me very badly . I was crying father why u r doing this I am only son of yours! …..they kicked me out from home in 2013 and I was living in Jaipur and helping in church but I had always Desire to our own people ( muslim should come in Christ)… so I have gone through QURAN, VEDAS , HADITH, AS WELL AS BIBLE I KNOW ARABIC ,URDU,LITTLE FARSI, I came in UTTAR Pradesh last 3 months back….where 200 millions of inhibitants …is the most populated states in India…unfortunately even after very long period . Most of Districts and villages still away from Radiant of Gospel…. and word’s of God…SIDDHARTHA NAGAR , SIDOULI, SITAPUR, BASTI, District is a such example.. where the population is about 2.5 millions in each District..but there is Hardly few Gospel worker here ..which mainly focused on Hindus peopel….Millions of Muslims lived in UP but there is no Ministry amongst these people ….so sorrounded by these circumstances I took initiate Task to fulfill this Gap ….I am going in 5 villages where 10-15 Muslims are coming every Sunday…
    So hereby I appeal one all to help whatever capacity you can…and connect me someone that I can fill This Gap…..

    Sent from Windows Mail

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