Tag Archives: contextualization

DMM Obstacle: Cultural Misunderstanding Gets In the Way

cultural misunderstandings about Christianity
“Nobody likes you. It would be better if you and your Jesus had never been born. We hear that you are all cannibals–you eat the flesh of your children in your sacred meetings.” This was said by Caecilius to his friend Octavius in the 2nd century. Pretty significant cultural misunderstanding about Christianity, don’t you think? Cultural barriers are not new to us today.  As we work with people from other faith backgrounds, these misunderstandings feel huge. Could they even prevent the starting of a Disciple Making Movement? How can they be overcome?

Good News: It’s A Short-Term Problem

Many cultural misunderstandings about Christianity exist. These do create difficulty in the early stages of the movement. Over time, the problem lessens. More and more indigenous people come to Christ and express the gospel in simple ways. Barriers fall. One of the characteristics of DMMs is that they are locally led. As outsiders recede into the background, cultural expressions of the gospel emerge naturally. The image of Christianity (and of Jesus followers) in the region begins to shift.

Aren’t You A Christian?

I was riding first class on an Indian train. I almost never did that, but no other seat was available. A well-educated Muslim businessman sat in the opposite seat in my compartment. I was tired, so I relaxed and read a book.  He was busy on his cell phone, talking to clients. I noticed that he was articulate. He spoke excellent English and was clearly well-traveled.  After a few hours, he too relaxed a bit and pulled a book out of his briefcase. He began to read a publication put out by a group called Osho. Having had some experience with this group, I was surprised to see him reading this.  We began a conversation. I asked what he thought of the book and the Osho philosophy of life. “What do you think about their attitudes toward freedom and sexuality?” I inquired. Slowly, the door opened to share that I believed God (using the Muslim word- Allah). “He has given us guidelines about how to function well in this aspect of life,” I shared.  I believe the all-powerful Creator loves us and gave these rules to us for our good and blessing,” I said. Surprise showed on his face.  He then asked a revealing question. “Aren’t you a Christian?”  He automatically assumed I was. After all, I was from a Western country.  “I am a follower of Jesus,” I replied. “I worship the Creator of the world.” His face twisted into a confused look. “I thought all Christians believed in free sex,” he said.  Though educated and well-traveled, he had never met a genuine follower of Christ. His only perception of Christianity came from Hollywood movies. I was so happy to share with him more about who Jesus is and how He taught us to live.  

4 Tips For Overcoming Initial Cultural Barriers

1) Don’t promote Christianity, share Jesus.

“It is He whom we proclaim as we admonish and wisely teach everyone, so that we may present everyone mature in the Messiah.” Col 1:28 ISV (Italics added).

 Many times, cultural misunderstandings about Christianity relate to organized religion. I often say, “I don’t care if people become Christians or not, I want them to become disciples of Jesus.”  Our goal should not be to promote our religion or to convince anyone to change religions. We must change our mindset. We are there to share about Jesus. Introduce people to Him. Focus on who He is, what He taught and that He is alive today.  Barriers fall away when we stop trying to get people to become Christians and simply introduce them to the One who changed our lives. If it helps, call yourself a Jesus follower, and don’t use the term Christian at the beginning (or at all).

2) Learn about the cultural barriers and how to bridge them without watering down the power of the gospel. read more

Do We Need To Live Among Them? Incarnational Ministry Questions

incarnational ministry

My kid’s school is far away from my ministry field.  How important is it that I live among the people I’m trying to reach?  If I can’t live “on site” how much will that affect my fruitfulness? It is important to consider the significance of what is called incarnational ministry.

Jesus was incarnational.  What that means is though He was God, he took on human flesh and became a man. He left heaven, came to earth, lived among us and through that, that helped us to see what God the Father was like.  He is our model. How important is it that we do this?  This article addresses, not the issue of adapting to culture, but the question of living among the people we serve. read more

Being Contextual Without Being a Zealot

contextual

One of the important aspects of a growing movement is that it becomes indigenous.  Disciples are free to live out the gospel message in a contextual way. What does the word indigenous mean and how can we contextualize without going too far?

Miriam Webster defines indigenous as: produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment.  We speak of indigenous plants, indigenous people, indigenous culture.  What we mean by indigenous Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) is that within these movements disciples grow naturally in their own context and culture. read more