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by Aramus Crane
Jesus gives His plan
In Acts 1:4-8, Jesus lays out his plan for bringing the gospel of grace to the world. He told the Apostles to start their ministry in Jerusalem, staying there until the Holy Spirit came upon them. Then they were to move on to Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
These are commonly thought of as geographical distinctions but, as we learned in Perspectives, they were likely cultural ones. The people in Jerusalem were much like the Apostles in their beliefs, language, practices, and other cultural characteristics. There would exist few barriers to prevent Jews from accepting Jesus.
Barriers to accepting Jesus
Steven C. Hawthorne describes these barriers as walls and canyons. Walls are barriers to cross-cultural communication and canyons are barriers to acceptance.1 The wall is what prevents people from understanding the message of salvation, breaking up communication. These walls must be broken down by learning the mother tongue of the people group and by using every possible method of communication.
While the wall is what hinders communication, the canyon is what prevents people from accepting that message. It is what prevents a lordship decision from being made. They may incorrectly believe that they have to leave their culture, their family, or their way of life.
Unreached groups are likely unreached because the wall has not
been broken. The canyon will become a problem later. Both will present
their problems and, in my opinion, neither keep more people from
accepting Christ than the other.
This focus on Jerusalem made the Church like Ivory Soap, 99 and 47/100% pure
In Acts 1:4-8, Jesus lays out his plan for
bringing the gospel of grace to the world. He told the Apostles to
start their ministry in Jerusalem, staying there until the Holy Spirit
came upon them. Then they were to move on to Judea, Samaria and to the
ends of the earth.
The Holy Spirit breaks the cultural barrier
At the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, the apostles saw that the Holy Spirit fell upon people who were not Jewish. Thus, they realized that God was moving among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. All the way back in the days of Noah, God had promised his son Japheth (ancestor of the Gentiles) that he would dwell in the tents of Shem (ancestor of the Jews). (Genesis 9:27) Acts 15 records the fulfillment of that prophecy.
However, this dwelling in the spiritual tent of Israel, did not mean that the Gentiles would be required to abandon their culture. There are many distinctions between one culture and another. Many cultural practices are ethically neutral. They do not show any lack of love toward God or toward man nor any abuse of nature. These practices are acceptable to Jesus Christ and should not be attacked by the missionary.
The message of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed to every people group in a way that is sensitive to these cultural practices. Otherwise canyons are created that prevent an individual from accepting the message.
Today, most of the missionaries sent throughout the world are from the West, with a majority coming from the United States. Because few Americans travel outside of their own country, many of American missionaries have little understanding of different cultures. Few know how much their culture affects their religion. Furthermore, legalists tend to make culture a dominant part of their religion. In Romania, this lack of understanding have caused many of the problems the Repenter churches have relating to the Orthodox.
The Romanian canyon
Romania's culture, language, religion, music, and politics are a mix of east and west.
There is a lot of conflict between the Repenters (also known as Neo-Protestants) who have been financed by the West, and the Orthodox. Most of this is due to the canyon that separates the East and West. Most of the conventional Protestants entering the country realize this and are much more conciliatory toward the Orthodox brothers. The Perspectives movement has helped Evangelicals rethink their divisiveness toward others in the Body of Christ and incline themselves more toward Orthodox and Catholics. For more on the spiritual situation in Romania, read Romanian faiths and their impact on society.
The Repenters are generally seen as less ethical and as having
been bought out of the Orthodox religion by the almighty dollar and
Euro. The Repenters generally think the Orthodox are "lost". Thus, the
non-believers in both groups are unlikely to hear the gospel being
proclaimed by the other. The cultural canyon between Repenters and
Orthodox is too wide. Thus, less than 10% of Romanians have had a
conversion experience and perhaps 1% feel any personal assurance of an
eternal salvation by faith as the Bible outlines can be theirs.
As many missionaries in Arab areas take on new labels, when traditional Protestants begin working in Romania, we must not permit ourselves to be mislabeled Repenters or even "New Protestants". Although many of the Repenters are our brothers in Christ, our theological differences are large enough that we genuinely are of a different class. If we treat this issue carefully and diligently, we can ensure that we are placed on the same side of the canyon as 90% of the population.
What is a true crestin?
How do we distinguish true Christians from the world? Any reading of the Bible, especially Job and I Corinthians 10, will show that God allows Satan and his assistants to test all believers. Furthermore, in any culture, there will be believers whom God allows Satan to liberate from their earthly life. The triumph of God's truth is demonstrated when someone dies with joy and dignity and love for the offender. Faith is not just a theory or an hypothesis. It is something that changes lives and attitudes.
The true believer glorifies God in his life. God is glorified because Satan sees that God is worthy of our praise, even in the time of greatest desperation. Even in the worst situations, God is worthy of our service, Satan isn't. From the life of Job we see that Satan wants to bring shame to God by having His people abandon Him. He wants to demonstrate that God isn't worthy of praise unless He is blessing them.
People see the validity of the message in the life of the
martyr. Satan is defeated when someone dies with dignity for the sake of
the Gospel. Such faith demonstrates that Satan cannot subjugate a
person with the greatest fear of all--death. Martyrdom is the ultimate
proof of God's worthiness of praise. Clearly, God wants to make the
kind Christians that love Him and love others, not those who build walls
and canyons between believer and believer or believer and unbeliever.
He wants to draw all people to Himself
Making disciples of Romanians