Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cultural Proximity: THE Key to Missional Living

One aspect of Missiology that is important to that popular concept “Missional” could be called “Cultural Proximity.” In fact, it may be the key to Missional living and ministry. The basic idea is this: The most effective spokesperson for the message of the Cross will have the least cultural distance from the audience to which they are relating. So, the best person to share Jesus with a tribesman in Africa is another man from that same tribe. Someone from a neighboring tribe would be a step down from that and a Western missionary could be slightly better than an American tourist.

The idea of cultural adaptability is closely related to this, and says that people who are able to view the world through another cultural lens are able to better communicate the Gospel to people from that culture. That is why the calling to career or long term cross-cultural ministry is so important. Some people seem to be “cultural-chameleons,” or are specially gifted to adapt to a specific other culture.

This whole concept becomes even more important when we realize that, applied to Western Culture, evangelical Christians are by definition some of the worst representatives of the Gospel message to the lost world. The Evangelical subculture is so foreign to secular people in the same countries that they are often unable to communicate with people outside of the “Evangelical Ghetto.”

This concept affects the way Missional ministry is done cross-culturally in at least two important ways.

Long-term dedication and intentional cultural adaptation is revealed to be of utmost importance. The more a person is able to see the world through another cultural lens, the more effective their communication of the Gospel to that culture will be.

Also, investment in national or new believers through discipleship becomes the cross-cultural workers primary task. Multiplying efforts through investment in the most effective witnesses has a proportional impact on the advancement of the message.

Basically, to become Missional all Christians should strive to know the truth of the Gospel like the back of their hands, but also learn to swim in and navigate the culture that surrounds them in an authentic “native” way.

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