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To Every Tribe - Winter 2011

To Every Tribe - Winter 2011

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Published by Sammis Reachers
- http://www.toeverytribe.com/
- http://www.toeverytribe.com/

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Published by: Sammis Reachers on Jul 06, 2013
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10/16/2013

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The tough assignment for missionaries is to
accurately
communicate the
meaning
of the gospel to their hearers. Explaining the grace of God and thegospel through the complexities of foreign languages and unfamiliar cultures isincredibly complicated. The obvious initial obstacle is language learning. Thereis no substitute and no excuse for not becoming proficient in the local language.However, as difficult as it is to acquire linguistic fluency, that is not the hardestaspect of communication. Though inseparable, exploring the numerous layers of multi-faceted cultural belief systems is considerably more difficult than thelinguistic challenge. Taken together, the barriers of language acquisition andcultural acuity seem nearly insurmountable.For example, after a few years of studying the previously unknownlanguage of the remote Sawi tribesmen in Irian Jaya, New Guinea (Indonesia),Don Richardson was stunned the first time he told the basic storyline of thegospel. For the Sawi, whose highest cultural ideal was treachery, Judas Iscariotemerged as the hero and Jesus was the dupe. It wasn’t until much later, withadditional cultural understanding, that Don was able to
contextualize
the gospelso the intended meaning was understood.Hindu belief systems also present unique challenges to the presentationof the gospel. Hindus believe in a universe that basically never changes. Everyperson moves through eternity one life at a time (reincarnation). They arecontinually born again. A person’s status in one life may be important, but, in thenext, may be less significant. It doesn’t really matter for the Hindu because whenthis life is over, another begins and another one after that. The Hindu worldviewseems completely defeatist to those in the West. Americans want to yell out tothe Hindu, “Come on! You can make things better for yourselves and yourchildren.” But Hindus view such Western optimism as meaningless. Theywonder why we exert ourselves so much in this short life when we may comeback in the next reincarnation as a grub worm. There are reasons for the Hindu feelings of hopelessness and fatalisticview of life. To meaningfully minister to Hindus, we must take their beliefsseriously and compassionately by making steady efforts to identify with theirculture. We must understand what they mean by being “born again” so thegospel is communicated accurately.
 Communicating the Gospel
By David Sitton
 
1 TO EVERY TRIBE P.O. BOX 1572 Los Fresnos, TX 78566
 
When missionaries preach good news to Papua New Guineans, villagersmay be thinking of the good news about acquiring the white man’s wealth. Thisis
cargo cultism
. How does one know whether the enthusiastic crowd isinterested in the gospel or if they just want your steel axes and tennis shoes?Will you even be culturally aware enough to ask the question?What is a missionary to do in cultures that don’t know what sheep are?How does one teach important truth about the “Lamb of God that takes away thesin of the world” if there are no sheep in the culture? I’ve known missionarieswho would simply allow Jesus to become “the pig of God that takes away the sinof the world.” Is that acceptable? It wouldn’t go over very well with Jews andMuslims! These are the kinds of complex culture questions with whichmissionaries constantly struggle. The gospel transcends every culture, but it doesnt automatically fitperfectly into any culture. There must be a thorough translation of the meaningof the gospel into local languages and customs.Appropriate contextualization is so much more than merely convincingpeople to alter certain external behaviors. Without a transformation of heart,soul, and mind, external reformations mean nothing. Contextualization involvesthe entire process of identifying with the beliefs and experiences of a people withunderstanding so the meaning of the gospel can be accurately communicated. 
To Every Tribe
endeavors to prepare new missionaries for the spiritualand cultural complexities they will encounter on the field. This issue of ourmagazine provides a brief look into some of the communication strategies ourmissionaries are learning at the
Center for Pioneer Church Planting
.As we often emphasize to our missionaries in training, it is impossible to
not
communicate. So, let’s learn to do it well.
 
President, To Every Tribe
Contextualization is accurately communicating to people what we mean to communicate, in cultural forms they can readily understand. What wecontextualize is not the content of the gospel but thecommunication of it.
www.toeverytribe.com • www.toeverytribeblog.com 2

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