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Summary: Traditional & Cultural Factors in Growing and Planting Churches How To Evangelize a People Using Their Traditions

Traditional & Cultural Factors

in Growing and Planting Churches

How To Evangelize a People Using Their Traditions

Learning Objectives

1. The students will explain how to evangelize a people group with a knowledge of their traditions.

2. The students will discuss in a short paper how to overcome resistance to the gospel through a knowledge of people’s traditional perspectives & religious views.

Introduction - Let us learn to be learners of people’s traditions. Many people are proud of their cultural heritage. When one evangelist started preaching the gospel in a certain village, he began by condemning the people’s idol-worshipping. Within weeks the missionary had to flee for his life. Not only had the missionary failed in his efforts to start a new church in the village, but he spoiled the people’s first perception of Christianity. Paul said in Ephesians 4:15:

``But, speaking the truth in love we should grow up in all aspects into Christ.’’

Let us ask the Lord for wisdom in using people’s traditions in evangelizing them.

I. Begin By Asking the Lord for Wisdom in Understanding People’s Histories, Traditions, and Cultural Backgrounds

A. Evangelists must first learn how to move from what the people know about God to what they need to know about God for salvation.

B. The problem with many evangelists is they do not adapt their messages to fit their audience.

C. Evangelists must learn what the people value, believe, and perceive about spiritual things before they start to preach.

D. Learning the people’s language may serve as a bridge of communication to learning people’s traditions, cultures, and histories.

E. Asking questions of the elders of the village or community may provide clues for discovering the key traditions of the people.

F. Listening to people’s stories about their pasts may reveal information about traditions yet fulfilled.

Example - When Jesus witnessed to Nicodemus he knew of the Jewish historical incident where Moses lifted up a snake in the wilderness. Jesus promised Nicodemus in Jn. 3:14:

``As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’

Example - Paul used the Jewish law of marriage and death to explain the gospel in Rom. 7:1-6. He explained that when a woman’s husband dies she is free to marry again. So likewise, when a person dies to sin (Paralleling the law with sin) he is free to marry Christ.

Rom. 7:6 says, ``Now, however, we are released from the Law; we have been dead to what once held us in its grip, so that now we serve in the new relationship of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.’’

G. Begin by trying to find out what areas of interest you might use to arrest the attention of the people.

Example - A certain tribe had a tradition that one day a man would enter their area with a black object tucked under his arm. This man would be known to be a man of truth by the black object. One day a missionary came to the village with a Bible tucked underneath his right arm. Not knowing anything about the people’s tradition, he noticed that everyone quickly gathered around him to listen. Whenever, he took the book out from under his arm, all the people leaned closer to hear everything he had to say, through a translator.

God used this people’s tradition to stir their receptivity for the gospel. He used this missionary, unknowingly to help bridge the gap between the people’s culture and the truth of the scriptures. Eventually, all of the people in that area became Christians as a result of the credibility given to the missionary’s preaching because of the link to their culture, history, and tradition.

H. Practice cultural sensitivity by refusing to condemn a cultural practice until you understand its meaning. Some people may prefer eating out of the same bowl. Rather than telling them this is not healthy discover why the people do this. It may be that the people do this for unity, cooperation, and economical reasons.

I. Learn about the context of the people: environmental, geographical, social, educational, religious, spirits, legends, folklores, traditional religions, cultural distinctions, authority channels, habits, vocational practices, and problems. It may take listening, questioning, and observing for many months before you discover those bridge points for the gospel.

J. Relevance should be an important consideration in communicating the gospel. We must learn what relate to the people’s identities, history, and culture.

Example - One man learned that a certain tribe believed in a age of peace, prosperity, and health would come in the future. After centuries of war, poverty, and oppression by near by tribes, a missionary came to their village to preach Christ. One day, the new chief of the village, after listening to the missionary tell a story of Christ, the prince of peace, rose to his feet to address his people. He said: ``My people, for many hundreds of years our people have believed in an age of peace. From what these men are teaching today, I declare that the age of peace has come to our village. How sad it is that these missionaries did not come earlier so that our fathers could have enjoyed this age of peace.’’

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