Cross-Cultural Gospel

Today, I spent sometime visiting people.  A couple of the people I visited were elderly folks who were absent from worship last week.  Two other families are people who used to attend services at the Kandiyohi Church of Christ but for various reasons, no longer do so.  I always enjoy meeting new faces and hearing new stories.  This is one of the best parts about serving as an evangelist. 

One of the major questions I am trying to answer involves how to cross several cultural barriers with the gospel.  The population of Kandiyohi County historically has been Swedish and Scandinavian.  However, in the last decade there has been a rapid increase in two different and distinct people groups.  The first group is of a Hispanic ethnicity and therefore is also most likely Roman Catholic religiously speaking.  The other group comes from Somalia.  Faith wise, the Somalians are Muslim in their belief. 

I do not want to minimize the big cultural differences between the traditional caucasion population and the Hispanic population, as there are major differences.  However, the Hispanic population is more acclamated to the American culture.  On the other hand, the Somolians stand out more because of the dress code that most of the woman strictly adhere to. 

Here is my dilemma:  How do we as a church take the gospel to them.  I know it must involve crossing cultural barriers and this is a conviction.  It is upon the church, and not the target population, to cross the cultural barriers (as God did for us by becoming flesh in order to offer us grace and truth – John 1.1-17).  Thinking about this will be completely new for this congregation (except possibly for a few members). 

What are your thoughts?

12 responses to “Cross-Cultural Gospel

  1. First off, kudos for recognizing that “Hispanic” is an ethnicity. My wife tires of being told that she “doesn’t look Hispanic” just because she’s fair-skinned with green eyes.

    I’m thrilled your congregation is thinking about this. I think it takes conscious effort by the majority group to be sensitive to the minority. Just remind them that even though these people may not know our language and customs well, they are probably just as intelligent as we are, if not more so. Sometimes good-meaning Christians treat foreigners like children.

    Blessings on this new aspect of your ministry.

    Grace and peace,

  2. I wouldn’t say the entire congregation is thinking about this or even the majority, which is one of the challenges – to make them aware of the responsibility before us.

  3. One of the challenges I believe my congregation has only begun to face here in NJ is the multi-cultural environment in which we find ourselves. We have a good start, though, as a Brazilian church that in the past couple of years added a Spanish-language service. We are thinking about how to reach out to English speakers as well.

    A full-fledged evangelistic outreach to Muslims would be ill-advised, and I’m not sure your congregation would be willing to engage in the sort of open-hearted interfaith dialogue that might lead into any redemptive paths. Then again, I don’t know anything about the congregation you serve.

    I’d suggest you work with what you have and build along those connections. You might be surprised how far the relationships of family and friends of church members reach into other ethnic and religious groups.

    Above all, pray.

  4. Appreciate your Christ-like spirit, brother.

    I don’t want to sound simplistic, but I’d sum it up with a two-fold approach: 1) spiritual conversations; and 2) redemptive relationships.

    Lord willing, I’ll be writing a bit about my thoughts on this topic over the next few weeks.

  5. Adam,

    You are right about starting with what we have. There is much work (teaching) to be done to prepare us to be a mission church (rather than a pastoral church). In addition, I have a lot of learning to do still.


    Simplistic but not so simplistic. Spiritual conversations and redemptive relationships are always challenging. Nevertheless, I am right there with you. In my judgment, for those in the CoC, learning to build relationships and create conversations that are both spiritual and redemptive needs to be learned. It seems that we have been better at confrontational witness (I’m right, you’re wrong) rather than spiritual and redemptive (tell me your story, here is my story, let’s discover how God is at work in our stories and what he is at work for).


  6. I wish I had some good advice, but I am unfamiliar with Somalian culture. However, as I understand it, Muslims take how you treat their holy book very seriously. They would never underline a passage or highlight it as many Christians do in our Bibles. So in order to be taken seriously by Muslims, I would study with them from an unmarked Bible. It shows that you respect your Bible as much as they respect their Quran.

    Actually, the main reason I am leaving a comment, though, is to tell you thanks for the good comment you left on my blog. I appreciate it.

  7. Terry,

    Thanks for the advise with regards to an unmarked Bible. I will need to see if I actually have such a Bible. I never knew that a marked Bible would be a barrier to someone. But hey, that is a barrier I can demolish – by using an unmarked Bible.


  8. Rex,
    wonderful post brother.
    I believe that the 21st century will be a great century of change that we have been praying for. I really believe that God is going to tear down walls that seperate us with churches. I do think Christian unity is possible as we settle that the thinks we have in common is Jesus Christ and the hope that he offers. I really believe that the issues that have been minors turned into majors will change as well. I think the church of this century will be more missional and emerging. I am excited about what God can and will do in the next 100 years. God is so good and continues to bless those who strive to do his perfect will.
    Thank you brother for this wonderful post and great discussion.
    May God give you a blessed weekend.

  9. It’s so exciting to hear you talk about this stuff, Rex. Keep it up!

  10. You think you will convert somolians, arabs, middle east arabs to christianinty???

    If any of these people try to change religion from muslim to something else, their family is sworn to kill them to save the family honor.

    Please do alittle research, it is so easy, use the internet.

    Read this…then think alittle….consider how these people really think…

    From their eyes
    Female genital mutilation & the women of Somalia
    Shauna St. Hill
    In a village in Banjul, Gambia, there are seven girls lined up side by side, sitting under a shaded tree in the dirt. The youngest of the group, Mary, is a 4-year-old Somalian girl. The other girls range in age from 8 to 11 years old. Mary’s feet are bound with wire, and her face is crusted with dry tears. Mary doesn’t have the strength to cry anymore nor to swat away the flies swarming around her. Mary knows the flies are attracted to the scent of her blood. The fear in Mary’s eyes is pronounced, but her mother can do nothing but look away. Mary’s mother thinks to herself, “I cannot hold her now but when my little Mary is healed I will comfort her. After all, tradition must prevail.”

    As with Mary and other girls around the world, the tradition of female genital mutilation continues today. Female genital mutilation – the removal of all or part of the female genitalia – began in Egypt and on the Arabian peninsula. An estimated 135 million females worldwide have undergone genital mutilation, and today, 2 million girls a year are at risk of mutilation in the Middle East and Africa, according to “Female Genital Cutting: An Introduction.”

    While female circumcision is practiced in many African societies, the most extreme type, infibulation, is practiced mainly and almost universally in Somalia. Women there continue to accept it as a part of promoting marital purification but due to a lack of education, they are unaware of the procedure’s long-term effects. Infibulation involves mutilating the entire vulva. This most life-threatening type of circumcision involves the removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora, and the joining of the scraped sides of the vulva with thorns, catgut or thread.

    In her book “Infibulation,” Esther Hicks explains that “a reed, tube or match stick is inserted into the vaginal opening in order that after the wound heals a small hole may remain for the passage of urine and menses. The girl’s legs are strapped together for 40 days to allow the wounds on the two sides to heal together by contact. In some Somali tribes, thorns are used to suture the wounds, and these are held in place by threads wound round their projecting ends.”

    Infibulation is practiced on almost all females in all of Somalia and wherever ethnic Somalis live.

    Because of widespread poverty and scarce medical facilities, infibulation is frequently done in less than hygienic conditions, Anesthesia is rarely used and the “medical instruments” often consist of razor blades, knives and scissors. The circumciser uses a knife-like instrument, the barga, reserved specifically for the purpose of circumcision. After each operation, she simply wipes the knife on a piece of cloth, sometimes rinsing it in water first before beginning the next operation.

    Female virginity is highly valued in Somali society. Although female genital mutilation is a painfully debilitating ritual, infibulation is usually performed prior to puberty and the first menstrual period, to guarantee the virginity and chastity of the women. “In general, the practice emphasizes punishment and control, clearly indicating to the little girl a sense of mystery and importance of sex, and, at the same time, creating a fear of unchaste behavior in her.”

    A girl who does not have her clitoris removed is considered a great danger, especially to a man if her clitoris touches his penis.

    Many of the men and elders in Somali tribes try to keep women ill-educated about the possible long-term effects of genital mutilation. There is even an ancient belief that if the clitoris is not excised it will grow razor-sharp teeth and engulf and eat up the penis.

    By imparting false ideas to the women about the importance of genital mutilation, the tribe is able to carry on the tradition through fear. Women are often afraid of being stoned or called “prostitutes” if they are uncircumcised. .

    There are many risks involved when performing the circumcision ritual, many of which can be fatal. At the time mutilation is carried out, pain, shock, hemorrhage and damage to the organs surrounding the clitoris and labia can occur. Women who undergo female genital mutilation can suffer fatal hemorrhaging because in the clitoris there are many blood vessels, such as the dorsal artery, creating the potential for young girls to bleed to death.

    And the last straw is that … they just leave a small orifice, through which the menstrual blood can flow. Frequently this orifice cannot let out everything, so a mixture of blood remains inside the vagina. As a consequence, a painful infection develops, which can cause sterility.”

    Female genital mutilation may seem like a gruesome experience for any woman, but for the Somali women, the practice is accepted because of tradition and purity, and the women are firmly educated to accept the act. Regardless of the possibility of death or sterility, the women still believe in circumcision. As Hicks explains in “Infibulation,” “It can be concluded that in most Somali tribes, a woman’s very existence is recognized through the act of being infibulated.”

    Somolians consider themselves the “exquisite” people . They are born killers…as their country attests to.

    Go figure. Help them?

  11. Leo,
    I could not think of a better reason to try to help them to know the Christ.

  12. Leo,

    I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is more powerful to save than any power enountered in this age. The power is not me but the Spirit of God that is living in me!

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