I remember somebody once said, “Either you do Acts 1:8 or Acts 8:1 will happen to you”, I find this statement funny and yet there is some truth in it. Either “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Or “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” God wants His name to be proclaimed throughout the nations. His plan is to use His people empowered by His Holy Spirit to make His name known, to become His witnesses among nations wherever they live.
Throughout history, God called people, from Abraham, Moses, Israelites to the apostles to make His name known. He’s still calling us to do the same today. Part of this plan is witnessing/evangelizing cross culturally. To be an effective cross cultural witness we need to develop in four areas:
- Our understanding of God’s plan to redeem the world
- A heart for the lost
- An understanding of cultures through relationship building
- An ability to break down cultural differences
Let’s take a few moments to look at each of these areas:
1. God’s plan to redeem the world
Looking back on history, Israel, God’s chosen people, so often failed to make God known through the nations. In Scripture we see they profaned His name and became like the people they were supposed to witness to “And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD.” Ezekiel 36:23. Many times we are like the Israelites living in ways that the world values and promotes. But we are supposed to be different.
God’s plan of redemption started at the very beginning after Adam and Eve sinned. It was clearly stated in the promise that God made with Abraham in the Old Testament “…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3. In the New Testament the apostle Paul reminded the Galatians of this promise. Interestingly, he described that God ‘preached the Gospel’ to Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9). This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and He is the Gospel that we are proclaiming.
We need to understand that you and I are part of the plan to make God’s name known and God is willing to use us to bring other people into His family, to have faith in Jesus. We need to embrace this plan as our own mission in life. If God had just redeemed us for our own personal salvation and nothing else then as soon as we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, God should let us die and go to heaven. But rather we have been called to make His name known.
2. A heart for the lost
As you and I understand God’s plan and embrace it, God stirs in us a heart for the lost and the nations. I always feel sad when I see or attend a funeral. With a believer’s one, it’s sad because of the temporary separation but there is always the hope that one day I will see that person again and joy because now that person is with Jesus. But with a non-believer’s funeral, it’s not just sadness but a feeling that hard to describe. My heart goes out to those who just lost their love one but also to the dead person because now he or she is facing God’s judgment and condemned forever in hell. This feeling makes me want to tell others more about the hope that we have in Jesus.
3. An understanding of cultures through building relationship
I became Christian through a short-term mission team from the US; the thing I appreciated about them was that they tried to build a genuine relationship with me. We hung out at coffee shop, went to the waterfall, played games, talked. I noticed something different about these people; I observed the way that they interacted with one another, so loving and kind like brother and sister. They shared the Gospel with me and listened to what I said, they treated me with respect and care. After two months hanging out with them (I was a student you know), my thought was that I wanted to be part of this new family that they talked about, the family of God. The thing that caused me to want to listen to their sharing was their actions; they were loving, kind, respectful and caring.
It doesn’t matter how well you speak if your actions don’t match with your words. Through building relationships, one starts to understand the culture of the people whom one wants to reach, what values and lies they hold dear so that one can response in truth and in love.
4. Breakdown cultural barrier and differences
On my evaluation trip to the churches in TCT program, I heard so many stories about how the church reached out to their communities through Acts of love. As a result, more churches were planted; many people were added to the church, especially people from different tribes. I asked why, they said ‘people heard and saw how we love and care for everyone regardless of what tribe they are from. They also saw that when the church prays, God heals. When they are sick, they go to witch doctor, hospital or use traditional medicine. And when everything fails, they called us who are from different tribe, even though, in doing so they broke their own culture and went against their religion. The church came to pray for them and God healed them, so they believed in God. The news spread out and other people started calling the church whenever they were sick. God healed them and they accepted Jesus. I thought to myself ‘wow! These people got it! They live out their faith in the midst of hostile environment.’ Love through action breaks down tribal barriers and even hatred, opening up the opportunity to witness about Jesus powerfully.
We are living in a ‘flat world’, you don’t have to cross the ocean to witness/evangelize cross culturally. Your neighbors next door may come from different nations or cultures. We need to ask God to give us a heart for the nations and encouragement to reach out to them, build relationships and understand their situations and love them as He commanded.
“And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.” Zechariah 2:11Image courtesy of SMB College / Flickr.com