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The grass really IS greener on the other side?

by on April 27, 2012

Why cross-cultural mission has big advantages over same-culture mission

Taking the news of Jesus to your own kind has obvious advantages.

I’m male, middle class and white. And when I reach out to the same kind of people….well, I already know lots of them; I speak their lingo; I’m comfortable with their Anglo culture; it’s easy to connect. If they turn to Christ, I can help them wrestle with those complexities of honouring Him as a middle-class Anglo. Same-culture mission makes sense, and in Sydney it’s become the norm.

But should it be?

Now that I’ve spent time in Bangladesh and in Canterbury, I’m convinced that crosscultural mission has much bigger advantages than same-culture mission. When Christians take the gospel to those who are culturally different from us, there are weighty blessings, deep benefits.  And, with our dominant ‘same-culture’ model of mission, we’ve  been missing out on these blessings.

I’ll be sharing three big advantages of cross-cultural mission. Before I do, though, what do you think? Have you experienced any advantages in reaching out to non-Christians who are culturally different from you?

From → General

  1. Sophie permalink

    One advantage: when they have little background exposure to Christianity you can present Jesus as fresh for the first time for them, and it can be very exciting for them to find out about him when they’ve never been able to before (I’m thinking of the Japanese people who come to stay in Methven for a few months at a time – they are very open).

    Another advantage: natural conversation openers with “what do most people believe in your country?” etc. You can ask with genuine interest and they are likely to ask about what you believe, in return. I’m thinking of this situation with longer-term friends here who happen to be from other countries (eg China, Austria).

    In general, kiwis don’t talk about religion. So it’s hard to get conversations going anywhere, they are shut down pretty quickly. However I find that foreigners, be it short-term or long-term residents here, are much more willing to talk about it.

  2. christianjanderson permalink

    Thanks Sophie. We’ve found all those things occurring here in Canterbury too. It’s pretty special, don’t you think, that for some people from other cultures, you’re the first of Jesus’ followers that they’ve ever been friends with. Who you are and what you say about your Lord will be fresh news to them about Him.

  3. Nuria permalink

    Here are a few more that spring to mind:

    1. Working cross-culturally puts you outside your comfort zone and you reach the end of your own resources a lot quicker. But that’s a great thing! When you know that you don’t know what to say, or the best way to say it, you’re forced to pray more and to rely on the Holy Spirit and not your own strength. And when people respond, God gets the glory, because it was clearly his work. Isn’t that the way “ministry” is meant to be?

    2. As I’ve read the bible with people from other cultures they’ve pointed out to me stuff I wouldn’t have noticed or understood from my own cultural perspective. Many of my friends from non-western cultures used to live in villages where the way of life and worldview is much closer to 1st century Palestine, so they just “get” things like Jesus’ parables a lot quicker.

    3. Working cross-culturally forces you to think “what is cultural” vs. “what is biblical”, for example in terms of the things we do in church meetings etc. This has two advantages. It helps to keep the main thing the main thing. It also frees us to try out different different cultural expressions of worship within church meetings, and this can enrich the experience of everyone.

    Looking forward to reading what others think.

  4. christianjanderson permalink

    Three great points Nuria – thank you. (As you can see from the blog post I just put up, my first ‘advantage’ of cross-cultural mission pretty much matches yours!).

    We’ve definitely found that third point to be true in Canterbury. E.g, if many people who come (or who potentially would come) to our church services don’t speak English as their first language, are we prepared to change the talk, the Bible readings, the hymns, the prayers to care for them, and even to acknowledge their different languages? I’ve been challenged to think, from the New Testament, whether the typical Sydney Anglican 30 minute exegetical sermon should be the immovable centre-piece of the service that we’ve always held it to be!!

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