Monday, September 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 3:5-23 (The Messengers of the Cross: Nobodies)

American Missions has been guilty of not reading this passage for decades now. Much of the modern missionary movement has been built upon people migrating from one cultural context to another and introducing the Gospel to that culture fully contextualized for the missionary’s culture. They bring a knowledge of the Bible along with church administration and Christian ministry know how, and introduce little copies of Western (or American) churches everywhere they go.

Often what that results in is a missionary arriving in a town, starting a dog and pony show that is very popular in its novelty, and then leaving after a few years whereupon the “church” dwindles away. Here Paul is saying that he hoped the work he was doing was not that sort of work. Paul was not about creating a following of any charismatic or personality driven leadership. Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? They were nobodies. And that is the way things should be today. The person who brings the Gospel is a “nobody.” Any churches that get started should not feature some “foreigner” prominently. The more a foreign influence is perceived, the less effective that movement will be at reaching people in the culture.

Strategies for cross-cultural evangelism should focus on how to communicate a Gospel that is virtually culture free. Let the culture be supplied by the people in the context being targeted. Let the movements begin and grow in already existing communities that are natural for the culture. Let the leadership in these communities be from the communities.

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