Monday, January 16, 2012

Can the Gospel Be Presented Across Cultures? By John Mark Terry

Evangelical Christians respond to this question with a resounding yes. The Bible includes many passages about cross-cultural evangelism. In the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20), Jesus commanded His disciples to evangelize all the nations of the world. The word translated "nations" is the Greek word ethne, which is the root word for the English word ethnic. Thus Jesus instructed the apostles to make disciples of all the ethnic groups of the world. At His ascension (Ac 1), Jesus reiterated the command, instructing the apostles to witness even to the "ends of the earth" (Ac 1:8). Clearly the Bible reveals God's concern for all the cultures of the world.

Jesus Himself is the supreme example of cross-cultural ministry. Jesus left heaven to minister on earth. He was the first incarnational missionary as God in the flesh. In a similar way, Christians today should live the gospel among the cultures of the world. Jesus also demonstrated His concern for reaching other cultures by witnessing to the Samaritans, an ethnic group despised by the Jews of His day (Jn 4).

Peter, the leader of the early church, offers another example of cross-cultural ministry. Like most Jews of his day, he avoided contact with Gentiles. But through a vision God showed Peter the error of his prejudice, and Peter traveled to Caesarea to witness and stay in the home of Cornelius, a Roman army officer (Ac 10).

Paul provides a third example of cross-cultural witness. Though he had been raised to segregate himself from Gentiles, Paul met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, and Christ called him to be a missionary to the Gentiles (Ac 9:15). Paul devoted the rest of his life to planting churches among Gentiles

So the Bible clearly says that, yes, the gospel can be presented across cultural boundaries. Any doubt to the contrary is based upon the false contemporary assumption that at least some vital worldview beliefs (such as the gospel) are incommunicable to other cultures. This philosophical assumption has been shown to be false historically. In A History of Christian Missions, Bishop Stephen Neill wrote:” 'Christianity long has succeeded in itself a universal religion." Bishop Neil said this doesn’t mean that everyone has to become a Christian, but Christians can be found in almost every country of the world – among “the most sophisticated of westerners to the aborigines of the inhospitable deserts of Australia.”

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

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