Evangelizing With Understanding
From LS, 2004: I think it will always be a struggle for missionaries to share the gospel in a context that is contrary to what they have been around or known in their life. I would like to learn of what missionaries have done to share the gospel and show understanding of the people’s culture, practices, problems, and struggles without compromising the gospel. I want to learn about some of the misunderstanding that happened between missionaries and the cultures and people they were in. I want to learn how they were able to understand the ways, beliefs, and practices of a people and how through that they could tell these people about God and confront places in a community that needed to be addressed and changed, while other stuff that is maybe not American, but certainly can be Christian.
Interview with Jim F, missionary to Taiwan for 11 years (February 5, 2004)- One way that Professor F evangelized with understanding was by greeting students when they came and when they left and also by greeting the new teachers. This is something that no one did. Jim taught Bible stories in English for English classes. He never criticized the Chinese religion, but only spoke positively about Christ. He felt one important aspect of evangelizing with understanding was helping the different people that would end up interrupting his plans. They had needs and his helping with their needs helped him develop lasting relationships.
Baking cookies brought people into their home to sing songs and share about Jesus. Jim’s biggest task (without him knowing it) was living his daily life with Christ, not being the leader or the Head know-it-all Christian authority.
Interview with MD and SD:
In Asia and Korea interpersonal relationships are very important. Sharing in worship with local Christians is sharing in their identity. He said never neglect to go out with the group. This is true at least for Korea where some have refused to go out with groups and have seriously offended others.
Interview with EB and PB., missionaries to Papua New Guinea (2/19/04): You have to have a missionary attitude of love and willingness to change. Often we are so westernized and so “4 spiritual law” organized that we don’t relate to other cultures. We think a whole area will change overnight, but this isn’t seen in Southeast Asia, at least not yet.
There are a lot of good things about Buddhism that can be respected and uplifted, but in the end you have to show and tell that there is only one way. To evangelize with understanding you have to be friendly and sometimes act outside of your comfort zone to get to know people. This is the same thing you have to do when you first come to a school.The people in a country want to be your friends and take part in your daily lives. You can’t desire privacy as a missionary.
Interview with WF and FF., missionaries to Taiwan (3/18/04):
He promised to a guy that he wouldn’t talk to him about Christianity. He spent his time listening to the guy and trying to help him with his problems. Because he was coming to the church the guy got to know other Christians. Through this the man became open to the message of Christ and he let himl talk to him about Christianity. He was baptized. W says that at times he has been a bad guest and that it is important to realize that what is rude in America may be less rude than how you respond to it.
Dr. B, missionary to Nigeria said this (Tuesday March 23, 2004): EB felt that you can’t be evangelizing with understanding if you are waking up 3 hours later than the people and going to bed 3 hours later also. The people will think you are casting spells on them at night. Some important contributors towards evangelizing with understanding is discovering the needs of the people, translating the Bible, and leadership training.
Interview with RH: RH says to forget arguing about things like “is the left behind series orthodox,” but instead look at what is bothering the heart. You try to live as close to the culture as you can and have as few cultural gaps as possible. You will never be their culture though, kind of like a sister-in-law will never be completely one with the family.
One man tried to live and be exactly like the people in Papua New Guinea as a missionary and the natives petitioned that he be sent home because he was “crazy.” You don’t have to dress like a culture. You don’t need to dress like an African American or a Hmong student, but you try to understand them and step over the boundaries. You also try to be what you are.
Ideas from JJ, 2003: Definition: Evangelizing with understanding has a lot to do with how we present the Gospel to the lost. There are going to be many situations that will come about when in a culture not our own and it is important to remember the message of the Gospel. If people in another culture do things differently than the way people do them in the United States and the Bible says nothing about it one way or the other, which way is right? We can’t make them do the things that we think are right because that is the way we were raised! Missionaries need to meet the people where they are. We always need to remember that it is the Holy Spirit that is doing the work through us and that the Holy Spirit is the one who creates faith moves people to spread the Good News. God will work through us and others who might not present the Gospel in quite the same way we would. God is always at work and watching over us.
Movie: Meet the people where they are at. Missionaries need to step out of the way and let the people do the evangelizing and support local pastors in doing just that. See other people groups as partners because we are all one in Christ. Let them make their own decisions and mistakes. Do a lot of listening.
Interview with Delores: Delores and her husband both needed to understand that the people who they were teaching English to had their own religion. Almost all of them were not Christian and they needed to be empathetic of the peoples beliefs and not cram the gospel down their throats.
From interview with MD: language is a necessity to getting into culture: must learn the language. Example: the Korean sense of sin. It Means more like: breaking trust w/ another person. It Is a societal thought. Not against a higher being. Must build up sense of sin as something that separates one from God.
From interview with EP and PB: good ministry takes people wnere they’re at one step closer to showing them God’s love. Sometimes give them blanket, bag of rice, help at a point of need, know that we’re building a relationship that will be important later. Sometimes in our exuberance we get tangled up it may be difficult to wait on gov’t/society to change: essentially it’s waiting on the Lord. Buddhism has much to offer: Uplift them and their beliefs, but Still show them there is a one way as well.
From film about Carol in Hong Kong: love seemed to be number one way she explained Christianity. Teach others how to share the gospel. “I don’t’ think I do anything special, I just do what I think everyone wants to do.” Are they cold/hungry/in need? That is the gospel, showing the word through word and action
From AB, 2003: Look to befriend and love the people/citizens before smothering them with the Gospel message. Get to know their culture/religious backgrounds (Understanding goes a lot further than condemnation). Pray diligently that the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts. Be open and gracious to them. Answer any questions they might have about you or your faith. Give, give, give (Have a servant heart, and give to them graciously). Be positive. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel at any moment.
In a pioneer jungle setting, the missionaries taught OT truths for 2 months before they even mentioned Jesus Christ The missionaries in this video used large Bible studies and dramas to explain Christianity to this primitive tribal culture (EE-Taow video).
Interview with JG: ESL teaching lead to a lot of curious questions about Christianity by Ms. G’s students. Building relationships in one’s community may open up doors to share the Gospel The people were very open to listening and learning about Christianity).
Interview with PB: Pastor B’s messages were heard on the Lutheran Hour in Venezuela, as well as many different countries.Over half of the Christian’s in Venezuela learned of Christ through the media.
Info from textbook Missions: Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies by Gailyn Van Rheenen:
Few missionaries chose the difficult process of learning the local language and culture, personally teaching people the way of God, nurturing them to minister effectively within a body of Christ, and training them as Christians leaders…A direct correlation was always found between the growth of religious movements and the personal relationship of their leaders with specific national peoples. 58
Missionaries must be learners before they become teachers. 59
The three characteristics-compassion, interpersonal rapport, and reciprocity—define the qualities of genuine missionary identification. 69
Rather than expecting the local people to identify with the missionaries’ way of life, missionaries must learn the language and culture of the host society. 91
Jesus lived among the people to whom he ministered. He spoke their language, ate their food, slept int heir homes, shared their joys and sorrows. 106
Info from textbook Stepping Out: A Guide to Short Term Missions–
Contextualize: Putting the truths of God into the context of the local culture. This involves seeing how one’s culture colors understanding of biblical truths, and then taking the unvarnished truth and applying it in another culture. 57 When circulating in a group always take time to talk with older people. 116
Pitfall – Assuming you think alike. Remedy – Be explicit about your expectations and capabilities
Pitfall – Promising more than you can deliver – Remedy – Make sure to under promise and over deliver
Pitfall – Taking to the road without a map – Remedy – Establish goals that make a difference
Pitfall – Understanding Cultural differences – Remedy – Build intercultural understandings
Pitfall – Taking shortcuts – Remedy – Develop evaluation procedures and use them
Pitfall – Forgetting to develop self-reliance – Remedy – Include self-reliance in your goals for the partnership
Pitfall – Running a race with no end – Remedy – Have an exit plan before you start
Culture Shock, Chapter. 2: We need to reconcile self-love and humility. They seem like total opposites, but really they are closely related. Self-love does not equal self-centeredness and selfishness but rather because one loves himself/herself, s/he is able to turn that love outward to others. Likewise humility is not thinking of oneself in low fashion, it is not thinking of oneself at all. A person is always looking outward.
got to this author’s principles of evangelism
Go to this author’s page on contextualization
Go to this author’s suggestions for particular religions