Abstract: God calls the missionary to understand and bridge differences in culture that he or she will encounter that together we can bring the gospel message to every family in the world. We should organize people into churches, and input love. We are organizing such in Romania.

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Getting organized to reach the world.  (Part 2)

by Aramus Crane  2005.02.20
Part 1 Organizing the audience
Part 2 Organizing the message

The gospel must speak their language.

Reaching every people group is a prerequisite for the return of Jesus. We know that Jesus Christ will come back. So we must do this job. Having a good sense of the omnipotence and self-sufficiency of God, we know we don't hold Him up if we don't do the job, but He has preordained us to get the job done. So, this is the goal of the missionary movement.

In order to reach the world, we must first listen to the people. Each person will have a different worldview, but there will be things in common between people in the same people group. Worldview is the perspective that one has on life. It is a filter through which all impressions are made. It serves as the underlying motivation for actions. Without knowing the local worldview, missionaries will not understand those whom they are trying to reach the Gospel and their relationships will suffer misinterpreted actions and motives. For an understanding of Romanian worldview, visit Mission to Romania by Tim Prochnau.

Thus, when we want to plant churches, we must bring seeds, not a potted plant. When one brings a seed (the Word of God) it is planted into the hearts of people. The church that grows from that seed will be completely different from that which was brought. The seed dies and brings life. When we bring a potted plant, we want the church to look just like the parent church in our old culture. Plants often die when planted in different environments. Likewise church planting is rather futile when you try to reproduce your kind of assembly.

When we have an idea of how a group of people view the world, we must customize the Gospel to their culture. This does not mean we change the message but that we make the message understandable to the person to whom we are speaking. For instance, in some cultures Judas Iscariot is viewed as a sly man who knew how to get the best out of life, almost like a hero. These same people may see Jesus as gullible and naive. Instead, God entrusted us with His Son and we killed him. A missionary who was ministering to two tribes wanted to find some way to explain the gospel to people who had a totally different set of ethics. He chose an illustration from their culture.The two tribes had brought peace to their relationship by the chiefs giving their child to the other chief. Neither parent wanted something bad to happen to their child, so they ensured that there was peace. It would have been totally unthinkable for the chief to kill the other's son, because his son's life would be put at risk. God sent His Son to our "tribe" and we killed Him. This was very valuable to their understanding of the world. Putting the Gospel in terms people can understand will make it easier to accept and apply.

Putting the Gospel in terms people can understand will make it easier to accept and apply.

Because the gospel is not tied to any culture, we can adapt it to the culture to make it relevant to them. This makes the illustration dynamic. A good example of this is the redemptive analogy. God's plan of salvation can make sense to any culture. This is unlike Islam where a big part of it is the jihad or the holy war. We don't have to kill the enemy to enter Heaven but to love him.

There is a mistake often made when one adapts Jesus' message to the culture. It is called syncretism.This is where the local belief system is adopted without questioning whether the Bible affirms it. The pagan systems get communicated into the church's beliefs. Cultural practices are usually not inherently evil if the motives are good. However, when local belief systems get incorporated in Christianity, that is syncretism. An example of syncretism is if one adapts a local practice of wearing head coverings and tell people that you must cover your head to be saved.

We must effectively communicate

But, it takes not only understanding but often three kinds of encounters with God before a person will give his life to Christ. The Power Encounter is when the non-believer must see that God is more powerful than the other beings around him, otherwise God's will risks not being fulfilled. We must be able to trust God to have victory over Satan. The Love Encounter is when a person realizes that God will bless them and that will love them unconditionally. The Allegiance Encounter is the relationship that the non-believer has with God. He must renounce the world to come to Christ and must continually rid his character of the world's influence in order to develop Christian character.

As missionaries, we must overcome the locals' opinion that the gospel is alien or threatening. To achieve this, we can:

  1. think of and portray oneself as a learner, not a teacher. If you go in preaching instead of listening, then people get the impression that you are distant to them and to their culture.
  2. find parts of the gospel message that are congruent with the culture. If you go in like Abraham did in Egypt and say that the Lord is not in this place, then you lose a connection with the culture and are likely to be driven out as he was.
  3. appreciate the positive aspects of the culture. Each culture has its good parts. Romania has some beautiful music and art in their churches. The stereotypical missionary goes in and says that it is all wrong and brings in his own cultural bagage.
  4. remove the missionary's cultural aspects from the gospel message. The missionary must do his best to avoid creating the canyons that will convince people that they cannot become Christian within their own culture. This is virtually impossible to do completely, but if one can remove 80%, he is doing well.

By communicating effectively, emulating the character of Jesus Christ, and assist people in encountering God in power, love and allegiance, then God will effectively change the world into His likeness.

Part 1 Organizing the audience
Part 2 Organizing the message

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