Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series



Seldom are people willing to take off their masks of security without sufficient stimulus and reassurance. Many contextualizers have to come to a point of desperation, loneliness, or failure before they are willing to open their lives through disclosure. Few people have learned how to be contextually intimate across cultures. It is often painful to make disclosures of our weaknesses, fears, and past disappointments. How will people really know the richness of Christ’s love unless one is willing to disclose that love through openness? Contextualizers find their greatest openings when they begin to be open. The greatest results in Christ’s ministry came when He was open to the twelve disciples. These were the men who knew Him best and were able to minister because of the close association with Him. In Acts 4:13 people said of the disciples:

``Now as they observe the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marvelled because they had been with Jesus.’’

When we become intimately acquainted with Jesus we are given the courage, love, and security to be intimate with others across cultures. Contextualizers need to see that aloof teaching produces superficial followers. Cross-cultural contextualizers need to be especially reassuring that they are creating an environment of safely, security, and protection for their followers. When they remain vague to their followers about how the Lord is working in their lives, they can only expect their audiences to respond similarly. Contextualizers need to feel a personal relatedness to the needy people they are working with. Missionaries have traditionally not done a good job in taking off their masks across cultures. As a result many services, prayer meetings, and Bible studies lack penetrating personableness. Superficialities abound in relationships on the mission field because of the fear of removing the masks that serve as barriers from hurt. Our lack of intimacy in the social and personal areas greatly diminishes our ability to communicate the deeper meanings of scriptural truth! Only then are we are able to live out Christ’s command:

``By this will all men KNOW that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.’’ (John 13:34,35)

When I pray with people across cultures, I notice that at the outset many people are apt to prayer impersonal prayers. They are afraid to remove their masks at first. Many of my students will pray for school fees, safety in travel, or for the recovery of a sick relative. Seldom, will they pray about a serious character deficiency in their own life or a deep emotional need. However, as soon as I share an intimate need with the group about something very close to my heartfelt needs, the group follows. Recently, I shared that I needed help with a very personal concern of mine. It was as if everyone in the room knew that it was safe to remove their masks and do the same. We had such an intimate time of sharing and prayer that most of the men in the room wept profusely. Many of the men were of the mindset that sharing personal concerns was only for women. They felt that being vulnerable was a sign of weakness. However, when they saw that I was willing and able to expose my needs, they gradually followed suit. Slowly and patiently this open attitude has penetrated my teaching, preaching, writing, and interpersonal relationships across cultures. This has allowed for many leaders, especially the young men in training, to characterize their ministries with openness, intimacy, and mutual disclosures to trustworthy brothers and sisters. If a contextualizers wants his audience to be open, he must begin to model it with his own life and ministry.

Risking rejection is a part of one’s faith expressions. Whenever I as a contextualizer try to pattern disclosures for Jesus’ sake, I find that it makes some uncomfortable. Many, in Africa, are prone to be suspicious and distrustful of others who are too open. They are conditioned to watch their back sides so that no one will get the better of them. Intrigue has become such a common part of African life that few are willing to make themselves vulnerable to anyone outside of their immediate families. No wonder there are few instances of solid qualitative growth in the fruits of the Spirit in many churches. Without the love shining through, the masks inhibit people from growing up into all aspects into Him - even Christ. Gradually, a contextualizer will begin to see a few of his followers confiding in him with their burdens, weaknesses, and problems. Broken hearts are eager to find someone to listen and console them. It may take six months, it may even take a year, but eventually contextualizers will find that the masks will be removed, the walls will crumble and the light of Christ will be allowed to penetrate the darkness. Warmth and personal concerns are some of the greatest keys to opening the closed doors across cultures. People need to know that they can really trust a contextualizer with their intimate secrets. By keeping confidences, a cross-cultural minister can gain entrance where few others have been able to tread. The encouragement, healing, and support this kind of contextualizer can provide is awesome. There have been times in my ministry that I have felt burned from being open, but I realize that the cost is worth the results. Many times, this will disrupt one’s plans in teaching, but if it enables people to share their needs freely it is worth a hundred lessons. The earnestness, sincerity, and freedom to open up it a privilege that will draw people to Christ by the thousands. Everyone wants to be loved. When people realize that the body of Christ is a safe refuge in the times of storm, many will quickly seek its shelter. Wearing masks only makes matters worse, especially in the church.

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