Summary: Helping people make decisions is at the very heart of evangelism. This made me wonder why nearly all of Christ’s evangelism endeavors varied to best suit the hearer’s decision-making processes? In each case Jesus took into consideration the patterns of th
HOW DECISION-MAKING STYLES AFFECT CROSS-CULTURAL EVANGELISTIC METHODS
Introduction - Helping people make decisions is at the very heart of evangelism. This made me wonder why nearly all of Christ’s evangelism endeavors varied to best suit the hearer’s decision-making processes? In each case Jesus took into consideration the patterns of the person’s previous decision-making.
He knew people’s natures, their goals, desires, allegiances, problems, needs, and their overall world views. Moreover, He was able to best fit the key of the gospel into their particular keyhole to make the tumblers turn. However, he left each person with the option of opening the door of their mind, will, and emotions to the Lord. All of this intrigued me so that I decided to examine my seminary students decision-making processes in their evangelistic appeals.
The following is a list of 22 continuum types of decision-making styles found in both evangelists and receptor cultures found in Jos E.C.W.A./S.I.M. Seminary Nigeria. These styles represent a broad array of the kinds of decisions made by seminary evangelists.
Their decision-making styles tend to determine the kinds of evangelistic appeals as well as the kinds of responses given by the receptors of the gospel. The ways in which decisions are made varies greatly according to the needs, world views, age, gender, social class, and rewards anticipated.
By reflecting on the various appeals of the seminary evangelists, one can understand how to adjust the evangelistic methods to suit the receptors’ culturally preferred decision making style. It was learned that by teaching the evangelists to modify their decision-making style in their methods of presenting the message of Christ they were better able to find points of felt needs in the receptor audience. This allowed them greater access to the deeper levels of belief in the respondents.
Discovering the normal ways of decision-making seemed to be one of the keys for the evangelists to bring the message across cultural barriers most effectively. Also finding how the receptors’ made decisions during times of crisis proved to be another key in opening up the people for lasting decisions for Christ. The following chart gives a pictorial idea of how the evangelists can match their decision-making methods with the host cultures’ decision-making styles. The parallel to the key and the lock is to illustrate the need for evangelist to be ready to use multiple keys to adjust to the set locking defensive devices imbedded in every culture:
Babe Ruth had hit 714 home runs during his baseball career and was playing one of his last full major league games. It was the Braves versus the Reds in Cincinnati. But the great Ruth was no longer as agile as he had once been. He fumbled the ball and threw badly, and in one inning alone his errors were responsible for most of the five runs scored by Cincinnati. As the Babe walked off the field after the third out and headed toward the dugout, a crescendo of yelling and booing reached his ears. Just then a boy jumped over the railing onto the playing field. With tears streaming down his face, he threw his arms around the legs of his hero. Ruth didn’t hesitate for one second. He picked up the boy, hugged him, and set him down on his feet, patting his head gently. The noise from the stands came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly there was no more booing. In fact, hush fell over the entire park. In those brief moments, the fans saw two heroes: Ruth, who in spite of his dismal day on the field could still care about a little boy; and the small lad, who cared about the feelings of another human being. Both had melted the hearts of the crowd.
Ted W. Engstrom, The Pursuit of Excellence, 1982, Zondervan Corporation, pp. 66-67.
MATCHING DECISION-MAKING STYLES
Biblical Receptors’ Culture
The following is a brief overview of the twenty-two continuum styles of decision-making found in through the J.E.T.S. evangelists’:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
a. Authoritative ...... Participatory
b. Dependence ......... Independence
c. Idealism ............Pragmatism
d. Past Examples .......Present examples
e. Art Methods .........Scientific Methods
f. Group Networking ....Individual Merit
g. God’s Sovereignty ...Moral Choice
h. Avoiding Shame ......Avoiding Guilt
i. Trial and Error .....Learning Theories
j. Discontinuity .......A.T.R. Continuity
k. Character Evaluation.Behavioral
l. Propitious ..........Calculating
m. Obligations to group.Self
n. Resist Change .......Admire Change
o. Natural Gifts .......Spiritual Gifts
p. People ..............Tasks
q. Autocratic ..........Democratic
r. Crisis ..............Non-Crisis
s. Compartmentalizes ...Integrates
t. Status Given ........Status Earned
u. Static Perceptions ..Changing
v. Majority approach ...Early Adaptors
w. Uniformity learning .Diversification
1. Themes -
a. Authoritative ...... Participatory
Out of the myriad of worldview assumptions represented in our seminary student population, I observed that there seems to be a continuum of themes. On the one hand I observed students who make decisions for their evangelistic methods on the authoritative scale. They stress decisions must be made through the following themes: