Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Differing Levels of Receptivity

Recently I had the privilege of witnessing to people from three very different cultures at a large, secular university. The first opportunity came when an African-American woman sat down at the table where I was drinking coffee and reading the campus newspaper. In answer to a diagnostic question, she indicated that she was basing her salvation on good works. She was very receptive to the true gospel, and in a short time she surrendered her life to Christ in repentance and faith. The other two opportunities were quite different. I shared the gospel with four Sunni Muslims and with an agnostic Chinese man. In both cases the people heard the gospel but did not accept it. Hopefully some good seeds were planted that will eventually be harvested.

Clearly, there's just one gospel, but there are many levels of receptivity, and the strategies we use to present the gospel can vary. When I encounter witnessing situations with non-receptive people that are challenging, it stimulates me to increase both my prayer life and my apologetic preparation. I am continually amazed at the divine appointments that God lays before me. Thank you, Lord!


Blogger David Rogers said...


From 1984-86, I served as a missionary with Operation Mobilization on board the ship M.V. Doulos. During this time, we visited about 20 different countries, from 3 distinct areas of the world: Northern Europe, Southern Europe, and West Africa. We used some very similar evangelistic approached in all three regions, but met with very different response. Several things I learned from this experience were: not all people, nor all regions of the world, are equally open to the Gospel message. It is not merely a question of being faithful to proclaim the message. The same faithfulness to proclaim the same message yields different results in different contexts. Also, I learned that one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter evangelistic presentations are not usually all that effective. It is also very difficult to be culturally appropriate and effective on a short-term mission trip. In order to really communicate the Gospel in a way that makes sense from the worldview perspective of the people being evangelized requires incarnational ministry, which usually implies long-term presence.

Not meaning to say that all short-term ministry is useless. But it really needs to be tied in to the on-going ministry of long-term incarnational workers to have any real lasting effect, in my opinion.

Thu Mar 15, 11:17:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

I agree. The gospel presentation should always contain key elements like Christ's atoning sacrifice, faith, and repentance, but in some cultures a foundation needs to be carefully laid as to who God is, for example. In a typical American context, there is general agreement about who God is. I think Roland Muller's book "Honor and Shame" is very helpful in distinguishing between shame cultures, guilt cultures, and fear cultures. Fortunately, the Bible speaks to all three cultures and various hybrids. As to receptivity, we can still learn a lot from the classic church growth movement as Donald McGavran outlined the concept. In regard to short-term mission trips, I think their primary value consists in bringing in people whose skills can be utilized to attract lost people to an evangelistic filter event. We used four baseball coaches in South Korea to do evangelistic clinics and saw 110 people surrender their lives to Christ in repentance and faith. We also utilized medical clinics and business seminars. Follow-up is difficult unless good relationships are established with local Christians (or already-existing relationships are utilized).

Thu Mar 15, 04:45:00 PM 2007  
Blogger B Nettles said...

Another function of the short-term trips is the "eye-opening" of believers who have become mired in Americanized Christianity. It startles them to see Christianity in other cultures and also to see how passionate the local Christians are for the lost of their country. It causes them to realize that Jesus IS the Savior for all peoples. To hear the Gospel praise to God given in different languages is a heart-stirring experience that until recently was available only overseas (now there are non-English congregations all over the States).

I really wasn't motivated to witness until my first mission trip and I saw the need for Christ there. Then I realized the true need right next door.

I also gives the local believers an appreciation of world-wide Christianity, and their common fellowship with all believers.

I do strongly agree that the short trips must be tied to long-term indiginous, culturally-relavant work, and NOT BE some fluffy, feel-good trip.

Fri Mar 30, 11:03:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Baptist Theologue said...

Bill, I agree with you. It's amazing how much folks get excited about missions at home and abroad after they experience a good mission trip.

Fri Mar 30, 03:42:00 PM 2007  

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