Summary: USING THE BOOK OF HEBREWS FOR EFFECTIVE CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION
USING THE BOOK OF HEBREWS FOR EFFECTIVE CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION
Introduction - The problem of any communicator lies in one’s ability to make his message speak to the heart felt needs of his audience. Fifteen years ago, I talked with one of my Jewish friends after an Old Testament survey class. I asked him, "What is your favorite passage in the Bible?" He thought for a minute and said, "I think it is the first eight chapters of First Chronicles." Since, I did not know that portion of the Old Testament that well, I pressed him further and asked why. He said, "These are Hebrew genealogies." To my way of thinking, these are some of the most boring sections of the Bible. Give me Romans 12-15 any day for practical advise. Little did I realize how important that conversation would be for my understanding of teaching African in a Nigerian seminary.
To my Jewish friend, like my Nigerian students, genealogies describe the rich heritage exhibited in a kin-ship oriented society unlike my own - individualistic one. To my Jewish friend, an active member of "Jews For Jesus" evangelistic commission, as well as to my African students, genealogies tell more about the love of God through history than many other sections in the scriptures. Like my Jewish classmate, many of my Nigerian students were far more apt to respond to the messages of the Hebrew historical viewpoint than the western - individualistic outlook. The medium would really become the message as Marshall McCuhan so aptly taught us back at the dawn of the television age. It was all a matter of perspective related communication. ]
Case Study - Today, as I drove around Jos, Nigeria, I discovered another illustration of the importance of contextualized learning. While I was looking for petrol I turned on my car radio only to hear another ghastly sound of chanting, drums, and an ear splitting horns interspersed with a man singing Hausa proverbs. Then I thought, perhaps some of my teaching, preaching, and evangelism pitches sound just like that to many Africans. I had often assumed that the main problem of presenting Biblical truth was how to relate the gospel to an African world view without compromising its content. Similarly, when I watch students doze off in my seminary classes, I question my own ability to teach relevantly, effectively, and contextually. When is all of this confusion about cross-cultural communication going to get easier? It makes me wonder, "What is it going to take to make my teaching, communicating, and preaching ministries speak in a frequency that most Africans want to hear?"
Recently, I picked up a small booklet called Jesus in African Culture by Kwame Bekiako. He suggests presenting Christ as the answer to the questions Africans are wrestling with rather than the one’s most of the well meaning white theologians ask. He stimulated my thinking by calling the book of Hebrews as "Our Epistle". He says the following about Hebrews as one of the key books in the New Testament to bridge the gaps between Africans and the New Testament portrayal of Christ:
"Hebrews is the one book in the New Testament in which Jesus Christ is understood and presented as High Priest. His priestly mediatorial role is fully explored and we are given one of the highest and most advanced understandings of Christ in the entire New Testament... Why should an Akan (Ghanian Tribe) relate to Jesus of Nazareth who does not belong to his clan, family, tribe and nation." The way the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews approached the question we have indicated, is to work from the achievement of Jesus - in the meaning of his death and resurrection - into the Biblical tradition of sacrifice and high priestly mediation." (p.33,34)
What Bediako says makes a great deal of Biblical and cultural sense in sparking the lines of communication to Africans. It made me realize what I had been missing by overlooking the medicine of Hebrews and its approach in teaching, preaching, and evangelizing Africans after all these years.
There are several insights that we can draw from the connections between Christ’s achievements and His ability to relate contextually to an African’s need to have:
1). A powerful mediator during times of trouble. (Heb. 4:14-16)
2). A sacrifice to atone (Make amends for the wrong and accept all the harsh consequences) for all human sins. (Heb. 10:11-18)
3). A trusting relationship with a God who can relate to the real problems of fear of the spirits and other evil forces. (Heb. 11:29,30)
4). A God who develops leaders who will imitate the faith of Godly saints who have gone before. Abraham is model for faith development. (Heb. 13:7,8,17)
5). A remedy for the soul sicknesses that plagued our people. (Heb. 9:11-28)