Summary: Cross-cultural communicators, in the past, have sadly neglected the issue of spiritual-power thinking that the use of reasonable Christianity is the best way to produce change. However, in most non-western societies, the issue of power is central to most
USING POWER EVANGELISM IN CROSS -CULTURAL COMMUNICATIONS
Illustration;About 40 percent of Americans characterize the nation’s moral values as
"poor" and 41 percent say the state of moral values is "only fair." Only 18 percent rank the situation as "good" or "excellent." Weekly church attendees
had an even more negative perspective about the nation’s moral climate - 52 percent of active church members ranked moral conditions as poor. Women held
a more pessimistic viewpoint than men with 45 percent calling the situation poor, compared to 33 percent of men. Americans 18-to-29 years of age were less critical of the moral condition. Only 28 percent saw the situation as poor, while 24 percent said it was good or excellent. Some 67 percent of Americans said the nation’s values are deteriorating.
- Gallup Poll - May, 2002
The percentage of American adults who preferred no religion in 1991 was 7 percent and that figure doubled to 14 percent in 1998, say Michael Hout and Claude S. Fischer, professors of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
- American Sociological Review - April 2002
The probability of a person accepting Christ between the ages of 5 - 13 is 32 percent. There is a four percent probability of doing so within the ages
of 14 - 18; and a six percent chance from age 19 to death.
- Mark Matlock, PlanetWisdom.com
Introduction - Everywhere people are looking for power. They may look to politics, business, education, or even religion to find a source of power. Often people mistake status, influence, or force for power. Some will even look to various spirits in order to gain a sense of authority, influence, or control.
Cross-cultural communicators, in the past, have sadly neglected the issue of spiritual-power thinking that the use of reasonable Christianity is the best way to produce change. However, in most non-western societies, the issue of power is central to most people’s perspectives. To fail to know how to speak to the heart of people’s needs, is to fail to communicate the full message of the scriptures. Let us turn our attention to the quandary of using power encounters in cross-cultural ministries.
The term power encounter is generally traced back to Allen Tippett, a noted missiologist who taught at Fuller’s School of World Missions who had a twenty years of first hand experiences in the Pacific Islands. He makes the following observations about power encounters as a missionary in the Fiji Islands:
Case Study 1 - "In presenting the gospel the missionary advocated a plan of salvation. Much of this his hearers needed no convincing of. Sin and fear were real. They understood the need of salvation. They did not doubt the power of the God about whom the missionaries spoke. They knew that power (Like many of old) could save and it had come from outside of themselves. If the advocates of Christianity could offer something better than the religion they had followed they were interested. But the superiority of that salvation had to be proved by practical demonstration. Somewhere there had to be an actual encounter between Christ and the old god. To the Pacific islander this was best done by means of his own act of faith-a visual demonstration of a change of loyalty.
This encounter is the key to the first stage of missionary activity, the stage that brings the pagan across the line into the Christian camp. Those historians and other scholars who have scoffed at mission work because of the material accompaniments of conversion have completely missed this key to the missionary situation - the fundamentality of DYNAMIC ENCOUNTER." (Tippet, Solomon Islands Christianity and People Movements in Southern Polynesia, pp. 160-161)
Throughout the pages of the Old Testament, God allows some of His servants to use visual demonstrations of His power against the forces of evil. Take for instance Elijah’s challenge to the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal in I Kings 18:20-40 when he says to the people,
"How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him... Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves (450 prophets of Baal) and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire - he is God!" Then all the people said, "What you say is good." Then the prophets of Ball, called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. " O Baal, answer us. they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.