You must embrace the culture to which you are called. Embracing the culture will allow you to contextualize the gospel.Paul did this with the Greeks he met on Mars Hill when he made mention of the statue to an unknown god. He said, “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23 ESV).
Paul took something familiar to them and used that concept to preach the Gospel.
Paul exemplified another aspect of contextualization when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 ESV:
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
As I mentioned in my last post, our first step to embracing culture is to break a “fortress mentality.” The children of Israel had a fortress mentality. They remembered how life was in Egypt and complained about their new surroundings. They wanted to return “home” even if it meant returning to bondage! The fortress mentality doesn’t understand that you cannot receive something new while holding on to something old.
Hebrews 11:15 introduces a new way of thinking. It speaks about the men and women of faith who were single minded, looking only to God’s will: “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.” Instead of turning back, they plowed forward. Missionaries must not look back. We are pilgrims.
In Mexico, baseball and soccer are hugely popular. When we lived there as missionaries, my children played both sports on Mexican teams. They made friends and became a part of our town. My daughters learned how to do folk dances for school projects. They sang the Mexican national anthem and saluted their flag. We learned to like real tacos and tamales along with the other Mexican food. This gave us a sense of belonging. We became one with the people we were called to serve. Once we made that transition, we became very fruitful in gospel work and church planting.