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3 big advantages that cross-cultural mission has over same-culture mission (no.3)

by on May 4, 2012

3) Cross-cultural mission Commends the Message  

When you do cross-cultural mission, your mode of activity warmly commends the message you’re bringing.

Ever had someone try to persuade you to buy something from them? Or to recruit you to a cause? Or even to a religion?! Sometimes our first thought is ‘Am I going to gain from this, or is this just about your own agenda?’. Many people must react the same way when a Christian tries to persuade them to trust their lives to Jesus. 

We’ve found in Canterbury that when you, as a gospel-bearer, genuinely cross over into another person’s culture, your actions are saying to that person something vital: ‘I’m not gaining from you getting this message, but you’re going to gain from it’. 

They look at you, and see you’re voluntarily doing things that are a burden to you but a pleasure to them! At first, they might wonder ‘Why is she spending time with me, when someone from her culture would normally pass me by?’. Then they might notice you’re asking about subjects that wouldn’t otherwise interest you, eating food that you never would, pronouncing words you’d never attempt. You’re a friend who doesn’t pull them off their own turf. In fact, so much do you value the good things in their lives, that you’ll make yourself uncomfortable in order to affirm those things. 

If that’s what you’re like towards them, well when you tell them the confronting message that Jesus is their Lord, they’re more likely to recognise it as good news rather than threatening news. News that sets them free, rather than crushes them. 

For a long time I read Paul’s famous words ‘to the Jew I became like a Jew, to win the Jews’ (1 Cor 9:20-22), and thought, ‘We must become “relevant” to be effective’. But read the chapter and you’ll see what makes Paul’s cross-cultural mission effective is not its relevance but its sacrifice. When he became like a people group, he became a slave to them (9:19). What commended his gospel was not simply that he’d come along side them, but that he’d given up his rights to be there. 

For us living in multicultural Sydney, that’s a relief, don’t you think? What will commend our message is not our slick assimilation to those from a different culture, but our stooping (often clumsily and painfully) towards their feet. We don’t have to come among them as equals; we must come among them as their servants. But if we only do same-culture mission in this city, we’re missing out on this way of commending the gospel! 

In Canterbury, we know we can only ever be amateur students of most of the 20 different cultures in our neighbourhood. But that’s ok. As we move stoopingly towards these diverse neighbours, we’re commending to them the Son of Man we speak of – who came for our good and not for our harm, to serve rather than to be served, to free us rather than crush us. 

From → General

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