RIGHT OR WRONG? Learning about mission from immigrants
I tell our Sunday school class the stream of immigrants pouring into our city represents more of an opportunity than a challenge. What can we learn from them about doing mission with more integrity?
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) instructs us to go into all the world, making disciples of people from every nation. People from all nations are coming to our land to live; some for a short or temporary stay and others to live permanently. In addition to the going and sending that is done abroad, we have an excellent opportunity to fulfill the commission here. Our response to the present opportunity allows more Christians to be involved.
First, we must respond to God’s invitation for each of us to be involved. We are the “missionary” that we have hallowed from our earlier patterns of “doing missions.”
Second, we need to cultivate the ability to listen. Too often, we have assumed we have cultural superiority and sophistication. We may be surprised at what other cultures have to say to us if we will just listen. Listening affirms the importance of the person we want to reach. Listening provides the right to be heard. We develop a relationship with them and lead them to Christ through that relationship. This was Jesus’ method.
Third, learning to listen will require cultural humility on our part. Too much of our culture has gone into our religious expressions. We have developed our own words, songs, styles and responses. Some of this is difficult for others to appropriate. What words would they use to express the experiences we are hoping they will have? The late Findley Edge of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary called this “verbalism” -- using words for which we think we have understanding, and assuming that others understand what we are saying. Given a chance, they might have a different and better way of expressing it.
Fourth, we can learn the lesson of “seed time and harvest.” The Apostle Paul exhorts us to find our place in God’s mission, reminding us that one may plant, another may water and another may cultivate (1 Corinthians 3:1-6). The production of harvest is in God’s hands, not ours. So it is in working with those who come to Christ from other nations. We are not in a personal campaign to see how many people we can claim we led to the Lord. We contribute to what others may have started. God alone is to be praised.
With these principles, the people we lead to faith in Christ will know better how to advance the gospel in the context of their culture in our culture. They know the language, the customs, the hidden cultural factors, the better ways of sharing their faith. When they return to the native country or communicate with the “folks back home,” they can do so more effectively.
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