Christians are called to make disciples of all nations. To do this, you have to be willing to do cross-cultural evangelism at some point. If you don’t engage in this, you will likely only share the Gospel with people exactly like you, or you will fail to reach people who are not like you. Cross-cultural evangelism is not about elevating culture; it’s about doing what is needed to fulfill the mission of God. For example, if someone is learning a new language to share the Gospel, it’s not because the language is essential; it’s because the message of Jesus Christ is vital and worth the effort.
Oh No, Don’t Talk About Culture!
For some Christians, hearing the word culture can make people want to turn their ears off immediately. It tends to be a word soaked in the wokeness of our age, but it does not need to be. Everyone has a comfortable culture, and many are unaware of this until they are in another culture.
I remember when I had my first sleepover, and I realized that even families have different cultures within the culture in which they live. The place you work, the church you attend, all of these places have their own unique culture. Cultures can be intentionally built, or they can drift into being. Either way, culture is all around us. Culture is a hot-button issue because, in the United States of AStatesa, many white Christians have recently been challenged by this idea of culture. In 2020 after George Floyd was killed, it brought many uncomfortable conversations around race that people tend to hate having.
What is White Culture Like?
One of the things that became evident to me about this time was how little many white Americans understood about culture. I remember asking my connection group what people think white culture is. My group was both racially and ethnically diverse. Everyone not from America or who was not white could answer the question, but all of the white people in the group had no idea.
Many believed that white people did not have a culture. It was too hard for them to box white people in because they were all unique. But, if I asked white people about black or Asian culture, they could answer the question suddenly. Something was wrong here!
When you don’t understand that culture is all around us or you live thinking it does not matter, you will immediately step on your ability to share the Gospel with all nations. You will approach everyone as if they are just like you, and that is just not the case.
Culture dictates everything from the way we talk and the things we value to how we treat one another. Culture even plays a role in how we worship God. This may shock some people, but not everyone sees worshiping God in the same light because of our cultural lenses.
Understanding Gospel Contextualization Before Cross-Cultural Evangelism
Gospel contextualization is learning how the Gospel can fit into every culture. God is so good and sovereign that he does not want us all to fit into one box. He demands we submit to his reign and rule and follow him by calling on his son’s name. There is freedom in what that looks like, which we see in Galatians 5.
Gospel contextualization means emphasizing different parts of the Bible and God’s character to reach new people. For example, the majority of culture in America tends to focus on God being lowly and gentle, and this is especially true for a woman. It’s not that God is not those things; he is a gentle God, as that is one of the fruits of the spirit. The issue is that culturally that is not relatable for all.
If you go to America’s inner cities and tell them about this gentle God who loves them so much, it may speak to them, but not as much as other approaches. Some people need to hear about Jesus, who came not to bring peace but a sword. They need to hear about flipping tables, Jesus.
If you go to a part of the world with a lot of witchcraft and demonic activity, people need to hear about Jesus, who has victory over all evil. Notice all of these aspects of God are true, but in different cultures, they get emphasized or de-emphasized more.
Keys to Cross-Cultural Evangelism
1. Listen Well
If you’re going to succeed with evangelism, you will eventually get to open your mouth, but you better start with listening. Practice being a good listener who can nod along and ask superb questions.
You must be willing to go into a new culture as if you know nothing. You can’t bring in assumptions, and you have to be willing to accept you have prejudices that need to be broken down. Going into it with this mindset will allow you to humble yourself and become a learner.
2. Know The Culture
You will begin to know the culture when you have listened and observed long enough. You may never be an expert, which is ok; the goal is to become comfortable with the culture. Understand the inner workings to the point where people of that culture see you get it.
One mistake too many people make here is thinking they know the culture when people from that culture see that you are still lost. Instead, you should be able to do a few things here and there that shock people and build your reputation as someone willing to learn and adapt.
3. Know Your Culture
You can’t forget how important it is to know your own culture. It’s your default mode of operation. You will have massive blindspots if you don’t know your culture but think you’re learning another.
For example, some people think they know a culture and invite someone over to their house to build a relationship and immediately make that person uncomfortable. Why? Because they were not aware of how many cultural standards they adhere to that others do not.
Knowing your culture will help you understand the lens through which you read and have been taught scripture. Most white Americans approach The Bible like this “There is one Gospel, and you better believe we have it right.” Now here is the thing, there is one Gospel, but our God is infinite, meaning the Gospel can be both simple and complex simultaneously. The Gospel has many implications; most cultures focus on a few of these at best.
4. Understand What They Yearn For
When you understand your own culture, and you understand a new culture, it becomes clear what they yearn for. However, not every culture is attracted to the Gospel for the same reasons. A book called 3D Gospel does a great job of pointing this out. The Gospel is not just about guilt and being released from that guilt. Other cultures need to hear how Jesus meets their needs in different ways.
Here we get to the nitty gritty of cross-cultural evangelism. There is no Gospel sharing unless you understand why another culture needs Jesus. Even here in America, some people follow Jesus because of the answer to what happens to them after they die. Whereas some have no father in their life, they follow Jesus to get adopted into the family of God and finally have a good father.
You will notice that eternal life does not matter as much in parts of the country and world that experience poverty. Many Americans love eternal life because they are not worried about tomorrow. But if you are not sure where your next meal is coming from, you don’t sit around waiting for eternal life in Christ Jesus.
5. Keep Learning More About The Character of God
As I stated before, Our God is infinite! You can always learn more about his character, which is why we keep reading the Bible repeatedly. While learning about culture, you should never stop learning about God. The goal here is still God, not culture. Culture is a means to help us reach more people for God.
The more you understand God’s character, the more you will see what other cultures get right about God. One thing that always stood out to me about Caribbean culture is that people live in a way that trusts that God will pull through. In the United States, people don’t trust God like that. Instead, people trust themselves and their work. I believe that if I work hard enough, God will give me a favor. Even if people won’t admit it, that belief is woven into the culture.
Study God nonstop and keep making connections from culture to God. Every culture has aspects that can be redeemed, and every culture has parts that need to be cut out because it does not represent the character of God.
6. Open Your Mouth
Luke 10:2 reminds us that “the harvest is plentiful, but laborers are few.” So we are called to pray for more laborers! This is an evangelistic prayer, but it’s also a call that ears are open, but too many mouths are closed. Romans 10 tells us that people need to hear the word preached, which only happens when people open their mouths.
To do cross-cultural evangelism, you can learn the culture and a new language, but at some point, you must open your mouth and share the Gospel. First, people need to know this:
- Who is God – A perfect and holy God who created the heavens and earth.
- Who Are We – Made in the image of God but sinners separated from God.
- What Did God Do – He sent his son Jesus to live a perfect life and take on the full wrath of sin for us.
- How do We Respond – Confess without mouths that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Then, we repent, and we believe!
There are so many ways to share the Gospel, but in a nutshell, people need to know of this. They need to understand why the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were required for us to be one with God again. The best way for people to come to this knowledge is for Christians to open their mouths and share the good news. That is how you become a laborer.
7. Be Persistent with Discipleship
Either one of two things will happen when you open your mouth. First, people will believe or they won’t; no matter the route, you must be persistent. If they believe, you begin disciplining them to be more like Jesus Christ. You don’t just leave a new Christian hanging as if all there is to the faith is believing or saying a prayer.
If they don’t believe, dare to keep sharing the Gospel with them. Don’t take rejection to heart because it’s not about you. To truly love someone is to care about their soul and spiritual health. God wants to save as many people as possible, so we should like to see the same thing. We need to approach this with a do whatever it takes while staying far from sin to win people for the Kingdom.
Conclusion of the Keys to Cross-Cultural Evangelism
To make disciples of all nations, we have to go to the ends of the earth with the good news. The only way to do this is to engage in cross-cultural evangelism. You must be willing to get outside your comfort zone and go to the earth’s darkest corners.