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Making disciples among the unreached
     

Cross-cultural evangelism

Tags: Story, Training and Soul Care, US Office

“I distinctly remember a 2006 conversation with a young Central Asian man named Farhad. It completely changed how I understand and share the gospel.”

Jayson Georges served as a missionary in Central Asia for nine years. He now runs HonorShame.com, a website devoted to exploring how to contextualize the gospel for those from honor/shame cultures. This article is a summary of a three-part series he recently wrote on cross-cultural evangelism.

Ground Work

First, we must understand how someone’s cultural background impacts their understanding of sin. Christian anthropologists classify cultures into three different sin-response types:

  • Guilt cultures, which emphasize justice (Western)
  • Shame cultures, which emphasize relationships (Eastern)
  • Fear cultures, which emphasize power (Tribal)

Second, we must understand how “metaphors saturate our theology and evangelism.” They provide a framework to communicate abstract ideas with concrete images. “We use earthly language from our everyday experiences to communicate spiritual realities.”

Guilt Culture 

Westerners, coming from a guilt culture, typically use legal terminology when sharing the gospel. We use words such as judge, works, punishment, and debt. These terms can certainly be found in scripture and may communicate just fine to other westerners. But to people like Farhad, those metaphors are unhelpful. He “hardly sensed personal guilt, so he did not seek forgiveness from God.”

So how do we clearly communicate the gospel to those from shame or fear cultures? Jayson says, “Contextualizing the gospel is often as easy as changing the controlling metaphor and using new vocabulary.”

Shame Culture 

Shame-based cultures “rely upon community pressure (not individual conscious) to guide social behavior.” Members of these cultures preserve their honor, their reputation in the community, by adhering to the group’s expectations. They avoid the shame that could result in exclusion from the group. “Since honor and shame come from other people, they are inherently communal.” Honor and community are top values in these cultures. So relational words such as mediator, disloyalty, adoption, and approval can be used to explain the gospel. Jayson offers this example of a possible gospel presentation for someone from a shame culture:

  1. God wants to honor you as his child. He created us with glory and honor to live in his family.
  2. But, our disloyalty disrespects God and brings disgrace. We are now spiritual orphans, separated from our Father.
  3. Jesus’ disgraceful death covers our shame. The cross restored God’s face and mediates reconciliation. We are adopted as his worthy children with a new inheritance.
  4. So, to have harmony with God you must give allegiance to Jesus. Receive God’s gracious welcome into his family and live under his name. Stop boasting in your own honor, and receive God’s honor.

Fear Culture 

People from fear-based cultures believe that “invisible spirits inhabit the physical world,” and these spirits are responsible for most of the good or bad things that happen to them. They work hard to manipulate or appease these spirits so that they can be safe, successful, and happy. These magical practices can include burning incense, wearing an amulet, or casting a spell.

“Since life is viewed as a perpetual spiritual battle, the language and imagery of warfare may resonate better with people of fear-based cultures.”  Words such as deliverance, healing, darkness, protection, and blessing can help explain “how Jesus delivers us from spiritual bondage.” Here is Jayson’s example gospel presentation for someone from a fear-based culture:

  1. God is the sovereign King. He created people to rule his entire creation and experience his spiritual blessings.
  2. But we rebel against God’s rule, so we live in bondage to Satan. We are weak, and afraid.
  3. Jesus is the warrior who conquered evil powers to release the captives from Satan’s dominion. Jesus restores God’s power and blessings to us.
  4. You must know Jesus to access the Divine Spirit and overcome the power of sin and Satan. Jesus alone, not rituals or magic, provides us peace and protection.

More Available This article is just a brief summary of the excellent resources available in Jayson Georges’ three-part post on this topic. You can read the full series, starting with the first on SEND’s blog. “The gospel is a multifaceted diamond—Jesus saves people from guilt, shame, and fear.”