Reaching Across Cultures
Our God is a missionary God who created human beings in His image and for a relationship with Him.
God has chosen a people to join with Him in seeking restoration of relationship with all of humanity.
Jesus Christ came as the Word of God in human form to model God’s heart and His way of living. Through His death and resurrection, He paid the debt for our sins. God invites us to into His work of reconciliation with peoples of every tribe, nation, and language.
We can better understand World Mission and how it relates to the Church and our lives by exploring the following;
The vision of our missionary God is to enfold people of every nation, tribe, and language into His Kingdom.
God’s Heart To Reach Across Cultures
God has chosen to work through a particular people of His calling. That is, the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament. This calling was always with the intent that His people would become agents of His mission to all peoples.
Many Old Testament passages point to the day when God will gather peoples from all nations. They will be included in His purposes and become agents of His Kingdom. Some verses that explain this journey can be found here(Isaiah 56:3, Isaiah 56:6-8; Isaiah 66:18-21; Zechariah 8:20-23).
They were sent on a mission into the world as Jesus Himself was sent by the Father (John 20:21).
The Holy Spirit And Making Disciples
After Jesus ascended into heaven and after the Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost, Jesus mission transferred the Church.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus indicates that the Spirit will empower His people to become His witnesses. The spread of the disciples’ witness involved moving outward from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, Antioch, and every remote region.
In fact, this mission required crossing ethnic and religious barriers. The Gospel moved from the people of Israel to the Samaritans who had a form of Old Testament faith. The message then moved onto the Gentiles. They consisted of diverse ethnic groups and were followers of a variety of religious beliefs.
How can we reach the entire world by crossing different cultural and religious backgrounds?
Creative Ways to Reach Across Cultures With The Gospel.
Reaching the least reached is not an easy task for the church.
We need creative methods and entry points. God has empowered the Church to be HIs witness in the world.
Key areas of innovation include the following:
Awareness and adaptation of cultural differences so as to minimize the challenges to effective communication of the Gospel
Ralph Winter, in his essay “Cross-Cultural Evangelism: The Task of Highest Priority,” highlights the need for awareness of the “cultural distance” between the messenger and the recipient.
The nearer the messenger is in cultural adaptation to the recipient culture, the more effective is the sharing of the Gospel. This “nearness” may be due to one’s culture of origin or even the result of careful adaptation to the recipient culture.
The messenger must work hard to understand the other culture by learning the language, traditions, historical problems, religious allegiance, and patterns of behavior.
At Global Disciples, we believe and encourage indigenous clusters of churches to train and send their own workers.
These are people who know the culture well in order to reap the plentiful harvest.
The willingness of clusters of churches to send church planters to least-reached, remote, and difficult areas
In Global Disciples, we believe that churches in close proximity to the least-reached areas are instrumental. If these clusters of churches are willing to identify and train church planters to cross to the next village/town, we will provide a Small Business Development (SBD) training tool for them.
This will allow them to train their church planters. Then they can develop their own legitimate businesses to give them the resources to access least-reached people and to sustain their families and ministries.
How did Paul present the Gospel to the people of Athens (Acts 17:16-34)?
Becoming all things to all men
We must begin on common ground by understanding the culture of the people we are trying to reach. Without understanding the culture, we can’t begin on common ground in order to engage the Gospel in this people’s context.
Understanding another culture is not as easy as we think. Everything that a culture is and will ever be is driven by its worldview. This is the deepest part of the culture.
Understanding the culture of our audience allows us to properly present the Gospel message in their context. The Apostle Paul was an expert at understanding cultures.
He was provoked by all of the idols that he saw in the city of Athens (Acts 17:16). But He began his talk by observing that they were very religious in all respects. Then he mentioned that he found an altar that was dedicated, “To an unknown God.” He used this “unknown God” to tell them about the true God who created heaven and earth. He showed them the supremacy of God by saying,
“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24-25).
Understanding The Culture & Context
Paul even used their writing, “‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” He used their poet’s sayings to support his argument that all human beings came from one man and that we are all children of God. Finally, he called them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31). “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (emphasis added).
Here, Paul made it clear there is no salvation without repentance and submission to the saving power of the One who defeated death. Contextualization means beginning with some common ground and presenting the saving Gospel in that context.
Distinguishing between culture and Gospel
Every ethnic group has its own culture and some kind of religious background. Therefore, for the Gospel to be understood and received by any people group, it has to be communicated in the context of that culture to make it meaningful. But most of the time, we do not go with a “pure” or naked Gospel to adapt it into the new culture. In taking the Gospel across cultures, one of the mistakes we often make is that of going with a Gospel wrapped in our own cultural context. So we need to be careful to distinguish between the two—culture and Gospel.
The Gospel message we received originally came in the historical context of the Hebrew and Greek cultures. But these practices had to cross many different cultures as the Church expanded. For example, in the early Church, the Hebrew practices of circumcision and dietary laws were set aside in the Gentiles’ culture (Acts 15:1-35; Romans 14). The churches did not always agree as to how to relate to surrounding cultures which resulted in controversies and division.
The Gospel And The Culture
Our Gospel is the universal message of salvation for all people irrespective of race, language, culture, or circumstances. It does not presuppose the superiority of any culture to another but evaluates all cultures according to its own criteria of truth and righteousness based on the Word of God. To communicate the Gospel effectively, we have to separate it from our culture and present it in terms of the culture of the people we are reaching. It is good to remember that Jesus Christ is the captive of no culture and is the master of all cultures. The central task of our mission is to present the message in the context of our audience so that they can respond positively (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
We have the authority to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people within their context. Just as Jesus Christ became flesh and dwelt among people, we, the messengers of the Gospel, must have a cultural incarnation in order to be meaningful (John 1:14-18). We cannot communicate the Gospel withot concerning ourselves with culture because our Gospel is super-cultural in its origin, truth, and application.
Did you know that sharing the Gospel effectively requires thoughtful, biblical contextualization? This means the removal of non-scriptural cultural elements from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Contextualization requires choosing appropriate words, analogies, worship styles, etc. In the early Church, the decision about the necessity of circumcision was a critical issue requiring contextualization. Some saw it as a prerequisite to becoming a follower of Christ. The Jerusalem council realized that the deeper intent of the Old Testament passages was that circumcision (the form) was only a sign of actual spiritual submission to God (the meaning [Romans 2:25-29]).
How Paul Reached New Gospel Audiences
Paul contextualized the Gospel message in the context of his audiences (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). He chose to live like the people he was reaching. The Gospel message must be contextualized in the language and custom of the local people as God speaks to them in their real situations as Paul did. Even if we believe in contextualization, we do not compromise on salvation that is only through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). It is through Jesus Christ that God is reconciling the lost and dying world. Anyone who does not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is eternally lost.
We are on a mission of reaching and discipling the entire world with our Commissioner, Jesus. He invites us to participate in the greatest, most diverse, and most significant historical gathering of the harvest in the last days. This mission, which He has entrusted into our hands, needs to go to the ends of the earth by crossing cultures as it is prophesized in Isaiah 49:6: “I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (NLT). These words anticipate not only the work of Christ (Luke 2:32) but also the future witness of His disciples, including us (Acts 13:47).
God’s Mission And Making Disciples
One day, God’s mission to include people from every nation, tribe, and language in His kingdom will be fulfilled (Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 7:9). The Church today, as God’s missionary people, can confidently bear witness to Christ to advance His kingdom, near and far, crossing every cultural barrier. We will not rest until the Gospel has reached every people, has been shared in every locality, and until churches have been planted at every corner among the least-reached peoples around the world.
We will look forward to the day when this global mission is accomplished, when great multitudes from every race, tribe, nation, people, and language will stand before the throne of our true God and sing the song, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). Getting involved now will allow us to experience in advance a little of what heaven will be like.
Are we willing to cross-cultural and religious barriers so that we will fulfill the mission Jesus has given us?
Global Disciples Canada is a Christian mission organization that trains local leaders living near least-reached communities to multiply disciples for Christ. One-third of our world hasn’t heard the Good News of Jesus. Yet. Global Disciples refers to these as “least-reached” people, and fewer than 10% of all missionaries work among these groups. We live in a time where many of these people are within reach of a local church. Through our simple and effective strategy of training and coaching, believers share the Gospel in their own nations and cultures. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and we’re committed to doing just that. If you are looking for a Christian mission organization to partner with to become a better disciple and help make disciples, connect with us today!
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