10.02.2006

Crossing Cultures

I came across a great article in the US Center for World Mission's
monthly publication about missions work that accelerates versus
inhibits "movements to Christ." That phrase, "movement to Christ," is
apparently a missiological notion that so incarnates the gospel in a
local culture that oftentimes much of the pre-salvation religious
trappings are retained -- for example, a Muslim or Hindu keeping her
ethno-religious identity but becoming a follower of Jesus within that.

Wherever you fall on this debate -- some deem this no salvation at
all, while others consider this the only way conversions can happen in
some cultures -- you should agree with the points that were made in
this article. For they are relevant not only to cross-cultural
missions in tough settings, but to a lot of Christianity in general,
and even to less spiritual matters such as social justice and
community development.

Here, then, are seven dimensions to accelerating, rather than
inhibiting, indigenous growth:

1. Preserve an insider identity as believers, rather than establish a
foreign identity.

2. Penetrate existing communities with the gospel, rather than
extract believers into new communities.

3. Cultivate local leadership, rather than start with foreign leadership.

4. Emphasize community-oriented fellowship, rather than emphasize
meeting-oriented church.

5. Develop contextualized church practices for gatherings, worship,
and the sacraments, rather than adopt foreign church practices.

6. Develop contextualized doctrine, rather than accept traditional doctrine.

7. Preserve local independence, rather than accept foreign dependence.

It is fascinating to consider that while the gospel is universal
truth, it does not look the same across times and cultures. For those
of us in America, however close or far we are to the mission field, we
best get to understanding this, because it is likely that before we
die, the "center" of Christianity, in terms of numbers and influence,
will no longer be the West, given the remarkable growth of our faith
in such places as Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

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