Wednesday, December 05, 2012

We Do Not Need to Reinvent The Wheel

          As overwhelming as the points covered in my last few posts might seem, there is more, much more.  With this proper understanding of what culture is, worldview being at the core of culture, the importance of contextualization and avoiding syncretism, there is little wonder that a great deal of training is involved before missionaries are sent abroad from sending countries.  Fortunately, a church that might want to become involved with supporting missionaries, sending missionaries, or church planting is not alone.  There is a wealth of resources already available.
          The Joshua Project is a research initiative that seeks to highlight the ethnic people groups with the least followers of Jesus Christ.[1]  Information is available concerning the languages spoken among various people groups in a particular country, the status of Bible translation into the local language, the Jesus film, audio recordings and tracts that help with evangelism.  The project also tracks data on local religions including the progress of Christianity among the indigenous people.  More tools are being developed too such as tablet and smart phone apps that missionaries might use in the field.
          On the denominational front, the International Mission Board (IMB) and the North American Mission Board, both entities of the Southern Baptist Convention, exist for the sole purpose of sending missionaries to underserved parts of North America and the rest of the world.  A similar outreach called the General Board of Global Ministries is the global mission agency of The United Methodist Church.  The Roman Catholic and many others have similar outreach ministries that span the globe trying to reach the lost people groups of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
          The point is simple: there are a great many resources available and a tremendous outreach effort already underway from all corners of Christendom.  Interested individuals and local churches can easily become involved in local, domestic and/or international missions should the desire to do so be present.  They need only express the interest and follow the Great Commission.  We do not need to reinvent the wheel!    
          Missions is not the goal of the church; worship is.  Missions exist because worship does not exist.  When this age comes to an end and the redeemed fall on our faces before God missions will be no more but worship will continue forever.[2]  In the opinion of the author we must never lose sight of this fact.  This should also energize all Christians for the cause of reaching the nations with the gospel.
The role of culture in communicating the gospel cannot be ignored.  Without understanding culture, it is unlikely that the missionary or church planter will have much success.  This understanding includes understanding that worldview is the core of culture.  Before an opportunity to be an example to the receiving culture is possible (John 13:15), the missionary must first win the trust of the people.  Learning the language and the local customs is only part of the equation.  The missionary must become a partner with the laypeople in the new church plant teaching proper hermeneutics to the new believers while learning how Christianity adapts to the receiving culture while subtly going to work on the worldviews of the people.
This partnership should result in contextualizing the gospel in a manner that assists the receiving culture in better understanding the truth being presented.  It should be relevant and address the issues the people face while also being guarded against adopting the local culture in such a way as to dilute the gospel.  When syncretism takes root, true Christianity is obscured.  While avoiding this outcome, it is equally important not to overcompensate and force Western values on the receiving culture as this can and often does result in those beliefs being adopted for church situations and disregarded in much of the rest of the lives of the people.
The gospel should be presented using narrative much as Jesus did when teaching the people and his disciples.[3]  People remember stories much better than other methods of teaching and also find practical ways to apply those lessons to their lives.  Winning people to Christ and helping them grow in the faith is being obedient to the Great Commission.  Seeing people worship the true living God, now that is exciting!

[1] U.S. Center for World Mission. Joshua Project. 2009. (accessed August 14, 2012).
[2] Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1993, 2003, 2010), 35.
[3] Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 1963, 1964, 1993), 66.

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