Is your congregation living in a strange land?
My wife is a professor at a public university. In her work, she encounters many different people from many backgrounds. Perhaps surprisingly to some, people are often interested in her faith. They want to hear about it. Their desire to listen increases as they hear about God redeeming and restoring all things (Colossians 1.15ff). Their exposure to faith people has typically been individual-focused and world-dismissing. This kind of faith seems strange and unhelpful. But a robust, redemptive faith that turns the world upside down to turn it right side up appeals.
An unappealing and strange faith?
The truth is, our faith can be unappealing and strange. Richard Twiss’ book, Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way, reminded me of this. Twiss points out how strange European practices of faith, worship, and life seem in the Native American context. His work calls for better contextualizing Christianity for Native peoples.
Twiss’ contextualization work is controversial in many venues. However, it raises important questions in the Native world and all places. Four things are worth considering from Twiss’ work, no matter your milieu.
Do you have a “Dynamic Equivalence” Church?
There are dynamic equivalence Bibles that take the language of the Bible and translate it into language people readily understand. Twiss argues we Native churches need to be dynamic equivalence churches: speaking a Native culture expression of the faith.
Here is something for all of us to consider: Is our church a dynamic equivalence church?
What cultural expression of the faith is represented in your worship and expected behaviors? Twiss writes, “An authentic Native American cultural or Indigenous expression of following Jesus was never allowed to develop—the very idea being rejected as syncretistic and incongruous with ‘biblical’ faith.”
Does the way you express faith in Jesus speak to the culture you live in and bring the Gospel to (See 1 Corinthians 9.19-23)? How are you engaging the culture well without becoming the culture?
…good contextualization attempts to communicate the Gospel in word and deed and to establish the church in ways that make sense to people within their local cultural context, presenting Christianity in such a way that it meets people’s deepest needs and penetrates their worldview, thus allowing them to follow Christ and remain within their own culture. Darrell Whiteman
We believe that God wants his church incarnated in the cultural way of life of every society (people group). Just as Jesus totally participated in first-century Palestinian life, not as a foreigner but as a native son, so contemporary Christian communities should not be living like foreigners in their own lands, speaking their language with a foreign (usually western) accent, performing foreign-looking rituals at strange times and in strange-looking places. Richard Twiss
Who Pokes You?
Facebook at one time had a place where you could “poke” someone. A poke let them know you were there and maybe even asked them to listen to you. Who pokes you?
We need to contextualize the Gospel and learn from those outside our contexts. We need someone who pokes us. Learning from outside is one way the Gospel penetrates our worldview.
- Who are you learning from outside of your culture?
- How is that learning reshaping your message and penetrating your culture?
- How is it changing how you speak the Gospel?
…we of the West, as well as those of other cultures, are being denied theological insight because of this lack of positive regard and respect for the perspectives of those other cultures. By cutting ourselves off from the insights of people immersed in other cultures, we of the West are in danger of developing and perpetuating certain culturally-conditioned kinds of heresies. (Richard Twiss)
- Listening to the Strange Land
- Poodles don’t like to be turned into microwave ovens