Summary: Using Comparisons Between The Traditional versus Progressive Outlooks in Cross-Cultural Evangelism
Using Comparisons Between The Traditional versus Progressive Outlooks in Cross-Cultural Evangelism
Introduction - Throughout the world there is a growing trend towards more effective - contextual evangelistic approaches. Increasing evidences of God using preaching that draws from people’s experiences, stories, and real life problems is producing results never before thought possible in such short time with certain audiences, but not with others. With an emphasis on "possibility faith that makes all things possible with God," there is an awakening going on in churches across denominational, ethnic, and social stratus. However, much of this excitement is largely centered in certain camps of the Christian world - why?
Perhaps much of the effort of contextualizing the Biblical message has neglected the philosophical assumptions of the people. It is understood that contextualization involves a knowledge of both the philosophical interpretation of the message and its audiences perspectives. The contextualizer needs to understand the basic metaphysical, epistemological, and axiological presuppositions of the people in order to maximize understanding of the message.
All kinds of contextualization (Translation, applications, correlations, observations, explanations, and interpretations of events) should be faithful to the nature of the scriptures. However, this does not mean that a communicator can neglect the methods that make the message most compelling in the minds of the audience.
For example, Africans love stories and proverbs. Jesus communicated at least one-third of His teaching through stories and proverbs. These allow for a common philosophical vehicle of communicating truth close to the heart of most Africans. Jesus uses a rich display and profound respect for symbols such as in the parable of the sower and the seeds from Mark 4:1-22. He espouse an epistemology that takes as its starting point participation in the struggle to survive, prosper, and avoid the natural enemies of life through farming. He begins where the people are at socially, economically, educationally, physically, spiritually, as well as philosophically.
Beginning with the doctrines of Paul’s epistle to the Romans would not fit the philosophical pattern of most Africans’ outlooks as well as the stories of Jesus. By paying close attention to the philosophical patterns of the people we seek to communicate across cultures to, we will enhance the appeal of the scriptures through a multi-dimensional approach.
Similarly, there seems to be a problem with the philosophical emphasis in contextualizing one’s ministry cross culturally. Trying to balance the ministry of truth and grace has always been a struggle for the church. When one puts too much emphasis on the pursuit of truth there is a subtle neglect of its gracious applications. However, stressing pragmatical applications without a thorough grasp of the full implications of truth is like firing a gun without aiming. Since decision-making is only as good as the information upon which it is based, truth must always proceed practice.