Summary: USING OLD TESTAMENT ANALOGIES IN CROSS-CULTURAL EVANGELISM
USING OLD TESTAMENT ANALOGIES IN CROSS-CULTURAL EVANGELISMIntroduction -
Everyone tends to learn best when they are taught in ways that they are accustomed to. After ten years of teaching in an African seminary, this truth is becoming more evident daily. When I first brought out the book of Romans to my students to discuss the "Principles of Church Leadership" they seemed confused. One courageous student raised his hand and said, "Sir, the things you are teaching us is the theory of leadership, we want examples of leadership. After years of training and teaching in a western seminary, the rug of my suppositions had been suddenly pulled out from under me. Quickly, I started to give examples of leadership learned during my seven years of working as an associate Pastor. Still, another student raised his hand and said, "Those examples are just western examples, we want models that relate to our needs!"
For months I agonized on how to communicate models to the students that would be Biblical, contextual, and relate to their world views. Then I began to see the secret - use the Old Testament in a problem-solution manner of teaching. Formerly, I resisted using the Old Testament for several reasons. First, most of my western emphasis saw the New Testament as superior to the Old Testament. It seemed logical enough to emphasize the New Testament allowing the students to interpret the Old Testament in light of latter revelation. However, this belied some rather subtle prejudices on my part as a western teacher in an African seminary. It unconsciously portrayed to Nigerian students that western linear logical approaches to Biblical issues were better approached from the New Testament than the Old Testament - which is not necessarily true.
Furthermore, there was an underlying progressive bias that since the western world had progressed farther in its development than Africa, the western theoretical approach must be superior to the African practical - trial and error approach to learning, similar to some of the learning in the Old Testament stories.
Thirdly, the exclusion of the Old Testament in my teaching on church leadership, minimized the importance of precedent setting people, events, and ideals found in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deut. and I and II Samuel etc.
Fourthly, it presupposed that information for its own sake was enough to motivate the students to want to learn about better ways of leading the church of God.
Thinking back over those ten, years, I wish more emphasis would have been laid for using the Old Testament in all aspects of teaching my 64 different subjects at the seminary.
The real superior teaching came through Jesus Christ as communicated from a Hebrew perspective largely to a Jewish audience.
Fifthly, I figured that with the short amount of time we had to cover the essentials of church leadership that we should go straight to the highlights in the New Testament. This concern for efficiency in the use of time, effort, and resources seemed good to my western oriented mind, but not to many of my students. They were content to allow the lessons of the Old Testament peculate through debates, discussions, and interactions with real problems they were facing in their Pastorates.
They were much happier to exhaustively discuss one point than go over 10 essential characteristics of a New Testament leader from Romans and the Pastoral epistles. In my eagerness to see my students grasp the key ingredients, I forgot who I was teaching and what ways they preferred to learn about leadership. To me what appeared to just be historical was viewed by my students as foundational. They were far more interested in the unity, harmony, and wholeness of the Biblical view of leadership than learning about the principles and theories.
In fact, I had to learn how to integrate the principles of New Testament leadership into problem-solution scenarios of the Old Testament. When I saw philosophical and cognitive approaches to a problem, they saw people’s personalities, genealogies, and analogies.
They were much more apt to learn when they could vicariously participate with the struggles with Philistines, Egyptians, and Jezebels oppressors. Packaging the principles of New Testament leadership into Old Testament situations seemed like a challenge no one had really prepared me to do. The importance of using similar contextual factors must be plugged into the equation of teaching for it to really be effective. It all boiled down to the fact that my student thought more like studying the messages of leadership through Hebrew-like eyes than through Greek-Western perspectives.
Many Africans prefer learning through comparisons of things they are familiar with. The generous use of metaphors are seen in African proverbs, family instructions, dramatic portrayals of conflict, and every day expressions. Noticing comparisons make learning and teaching enjoyable in Africa. Yesterday, I took two ears of maize into class, one was full the other was dwarfed and diseased. By comparing the two with Mr. Spirit-filled Christian producing loads of fruit to the healthy looking ear, the students could see the benefits of proper nurturing conditions. When I asked them for their impressions of the diseased ear they said things like, "It appears to be struck by demons. It reminds me of some Christians I know in my church, sick and unfruitful. It looks like it was unprotected from predators. One old man said, "It reminds me of an elder in my former church who tried to poison the other men’s minds!" This use of a simple object lesson could have gone on for over an hour by using the tool of analogies.