Missions Misunderstood » Blog Archive » You Know What Assuming Does

Posted June 29th, 2010 by E. Goodman

They say that assumptions can be dangerous. For example: Assuming that the size of U.S. coins have any correlation to their value will lead you to overlook the humble dime in favor of the (relatively) hefty nickel. For Americans traveling in the UK, fortunes are lost this way.

Assuming that someone who looks and (seems to) act like me is, in fact, like me, is equally dangerous (and detrimental to your pocket book.) That nice family that lives next door? They could be Democrats or Russian spies, for all you know. You just can’t assume.

Which brings us to missions. Ministry in the context of a distant culture– say among the Quechua in northern Peru– is clearly different from ministry in the (relatively) near culture of Camden Town, London. It doesn’t take much wandering through the Andes mountains for you to feel like an outsider. You immediately recognize that the way you did things back home would be blatantly inappropriate here. Communication of the gospel –incarnation– requires a change on your part.

Camden Town, on the other hand doesn’t feel so foreign. Especially if you’ve spent much time in the city. Sure, there are goths and punks and scenesters milling about, but they’re practically speaking English, for heaven’s sake! There aren’t any barriers to effective and obedient communication of the gospel here, are there?

The friendly Turkish taxi driver? Hates your guts, you “christian” dog. The kind, old babushka in the park? Longs for the good old days when the USSR scared the snot out of you. Everywhere you look, culture provides two realities: how people act and how people think. Unfortunately, people’s actions only tell part of the story of how they think.

Assuming will cause you to miss opportunities to connect, relate, and love people who are different from you. Living out the gospel requires you to scratch beneath the surface of culture and move into relationships with people. Then, and only then, can you know the questions to which Jesus is the answer, and how He can be Good News to all people.

On a related note: be sure to visit Ed Stetzer’s blog and read his series on contextualization. Read in amazement as commenters decry contextualization as “sinful!”

Filed under:Culture, Missiology