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!”
I knew it was over when I quit reading my own blog.
Seriously. Missions, Misunderstood was so theoretical, so boring, so tedious to read, that I actually quit reading what I was writing. Those of you who have stuck with it must be gluttons for punishment. Either that or you’re just too lazy to change your RSS feed reader settings. Either way, I’m going to pull a Domino’s Pizza mea culpa and say, “We used to put out some real crap around here, but we’re changing our recipe now, and we think you’ll really like it.”
For starters, my “anonymity” has kept me from being able to write about personal experiences. You know, the interesting stuff that people might want to read. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to write about a personal adventure/experience/life lesson but reconsidered in deference to my alter-ego. From here on out, I’m going to worry less about keeping my identity secret and more about writing good posts. Or, at least decent posts.
Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost a certain amount of snark. Not that the world needs another Johnathan Acuff, but a healthy dose of wit can make for some fun reading. And we all know that what missions needs is a little more sass. After all, if people wanted to read heart-warming missionary stories, they’d visit the site of a major missions organization, wouldn’t they?
This blog is still about being a missionary and understanding missions. Only now it will be more so.