PROCLAIMING CHRIST ACROSS THE CULTURES
A challenging task for the body of Christ is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord in a cultural context other than “our own.” Many Christians assume their home environment is the best or only way to express their faith because it is familiar or comfortable, and are not sure when in strange environs if their discomfort is simply because it’s “different” or because they are among heretics! Our worship, preaching, discipleship, walk with the Lord are all culturally conditioned to a degree; our interpretation of God’s Word often springs from cultural bias born of a love of a certain country, a local lore, family practices, or fear of the unknown rather than solid hermeneutics (principles of biblical interpretation).
This column is about learning how God is at work around us, and recognizing what is truly being said and done in His name. The examples will be: A) our mission trip to Alaska & B) this past weekend for me.
A) I’ve been asked by several for an account of our 1st MSBA-wide mission trip to Alaska. Thanks to all who contributed toward it and to those 35 souls who went to share their love of Christ in word and deed (1 John 3.18). To read a full account and view photos, please go to www.msbawv.org and click on Blog or Events. Our group encountered house churches, Russian Orthodox Native Alaskans, children from different lands, and lost people of every type. They also learned relationship-based evangelism.
B) This past weekend Jana and I attended services in an MSBA church (Glen Lyn BC), a deacon ordination for Shawnee BC (Jana sang and I helped with the ordination), and FBC Princeton festivities as it celebrated its 175th anniversary. I learned much from them (yes, in my 3rd yr. here I am still learning the what’s, how’s, and why’s of Appalachian attitudes toward church, Scripture, worship, values, etc!):
1. Worshiping w/Shawnee in a new location lacking in light but steeped in history made the familiar seem new & alive. (we traveled to Rehoboth Chapel E. of Union, oldest ch. Bldg. w. of Alleghenies).
2. Norm Arrington giving historical presentations at FBC and also the tour guide at Rehoboth (b. 1786) showed me the role circuit-riding preachers played in the formation of our older WV congregations. They served not only as beacons of the gospel but bearers of news from other communities. This tradition continues in many of our church services where prayer requests are treated both with reverence in prayer and interest in happenings elsewhere, and also in the oral recounting of families’ life events and how they affect several generations. The more homecomings we attend the more we appreciate the affection folks have for the work of the Lord and the ground on which it has occurred. 3. Sometimes customs of a group must be honored and sometimes they must be broken in order to get the gospel message heard (John 4, Jerry Rice’s reminder of the importance of witnessing).
4. A Roman Catholic (Edward Keenan) can be led of God in 1786 to donate land for a Methodist church (Rehoboth Chapel) where Baptists could come and ordain deacons in 2015.
5. I am grateful for my Baptist heritage (John Leland, B.H. Carroll, Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers) but I am also grateful for the Kingdom contributions of others through the ages like Balthasar Hubmaier (Anabaptist), Francis Schaeffer (author and philosopher), and David Bosch (missionary).
Much of Paul’s epistles deal with false teachers, yet Jesus warned us not to judge too quickly those not “of our fold” (Mk. 9.38-40). When you worship “elsewhere,” or when folks “fill in” during your services, what are you learning about how God works through others?