Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Perspectives) is a fifteen week course about the global purpose of Christians, designed around four vantage points or “perspectives” – Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. The course has the objective of opening the eyes of Christians to the vision that God has a “world-size” role for every believer in His global mission. The point of this course is to simply show practical examples of how missions can be done wisely and well, against the background that God will fulfill His promises.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:3).
I have embarked on the Independent Study Online format of the Perspectives study program and will periodically share a perspective on different lessons.
Lesson 11 – Building Bridges of Love. In this lesson I saw how the Incarnational Model that Jesus gave us is a primary model for cross-cultural workers today. “:The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” challenges me to get in line with the heart of God when crossing cultural barriers in the communication process.
The Incarnated Christ and Identification – The lesson mentions two main characteristics of the incarnated Jesus, renunciation and identification. Hebrew explains how Jesus identified with human. He shared our “flesh and blood, was tempted as we and tasted death for us (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15; 5:8). During Jesus’ public ministry he identified with all our situations as He befriended the poor and the powerless, healed the sick, fed the hungry, touched the untouchables and risked His reputation by associating with those whom society rejected. There is no doubt that Jesus felt that He belonged to the people and in return impacted people feeling that He belonged to them. In serving as Jesus did He never lost His own identity in identifying with man. This is very instructive for cross-cultural ministry. Cross-cultural ministers should endeavor to identify with the people they are trying to reach and as the people sense their heart they will be drown to them and what they represent – Jesus Christ. “Jesus’s evangelists must humbly seek to empty themselves of all but there personal authenticity” – Lausanne Covenant.
Seeing Beyond One’s Own Culture – This is the humility to take the trouble to understand and appreciate the culture of those to whom missionaries go. This is knowing that we have very much to learn and that we should never condemn or despise another culture, but rather respect it. This is demonstrated in the story, Symbolic Value of Food. The author, a missionary, describes an experience that forced him to look beyond the food he would get at home. He started out eating a mixture of cassava flour and realized that it was as nutritious as the various food in his own culture. In a conversation with a native who said that missionaries did not eat their food which he believed went against what is said in the Bible in Acts 10 to kill and eat. The author assured the native that missionaries would eat what is provided. A few days later the meal provided was the same cassava with caterpillars. This was scary for the missionary but eating it he realized that it tasted better than he thought and was a good complement to the cassava. This has a positive impact on the natives. He made a note in his journal that evening saying: “An empty pan of caterpillars is more convincing than all the empty metaphors of love which missionaries are prone to expend on the heathen.”
Bi-cultural Bridge – Paul Hiebert describes “bi-cultural bridge” as the relationship formed when members of two different cultures learn and adapt to each other’s’ cultures, resulting in a third culture with newly defined rules and shared assumptions. This is necessary because before local people can consider the message, they must have an understanding of the messenger and thus enabling meaningful two-way communication between the cultures. When missionaries go to a people it is important that a “bi-cultural bridge” is developed to ensure the effective spreading of the gospel. This is considered the critically important relationship between missionaries and their counterparts in the recipient culture.
Jesus’ character of identification, seeing beyond one’s own culture and bi-cultural bridge were really instructive to me in connecting with others in taking the gospel to all nations. The most exciting principles for me in this lesson is “bi-cultural bridge.” This can improve our ability to communicate God’s Good News to those who are culturally or linguistically at a distance from us.
– Garfield Miller, Missionary Society (Jamaica)