Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Is it possible to theorize on how to love? Are there methods that work and don't work?

I was pondering some different theories on how to "do" cross-cultural ministry. There are certain words that rub me the wrong way, like "effectiveness," "productivity," "results;" even seemingly fancy terms like "cultural sensitivity" and "going native."

And then I realized that the problem isn't that people sit around talking and analyzing missions, since some observations do hit the nail on the head. The Apostle Paul certainly did a lot of meditating and writing on the subject.

The problem is when you try to fit it into a system of doing "A" for "B" to occur. Take a simple concept like conforming to the local dress. If you wear the native costume, then you will be more readily accepted by "them" and will be able to get better access in order to preach the Gospel, and will produce more RESULTS! But what is the focus or priority here? My program? My need to feel fulfilled?

In fact, when we focus on loving the people around us, we arrive at many of the same basic guidelines, yet in an attitude of serving rather than of striving.

When people are in love, they study each other; new friends inquire of each other's interests; teachers try to find out what their students are like. It is done genuinely and that is why it is successful.

And so it makes sense, that when you live among people, in any culture; and when you want to go deeper into their lives and get involved, you start to make some changes to your behavior. Or you find yourself going to the library getting on the Internet to search for more about a certain subject. Because you want to understand. And I don't know how much the level of conformity (or non-conformity) matters in the end; as long as we are submitted to the Lord.


  1. I always compare love to my mom's love. My mom loves me at all times. I mean, I can screw up majorly, yet my mom will still love me and I can come back to my mom's place even if I burned all the bridges the day before. It is interesting to note that the law and the prophets (as per Jesus) were summed up in these two things: loving the Lord and the neighbor. Christianity is meaningless if it has no real love in it. I'd rather be around someone who I know loves and respects me than around someone who preaches Bible passages at me yet has no respect for me. I believe cultural assimilation can be done only if a person loves and respects the people around him or her, first and foremost, whether he or she is a Christian or not.

  2. " And I don't know how much the level of conformity (or non-conformity) matters in the end; as long as we are submitted to the Lord."

    A question. Are you saying you do not have to love and respect someone (who is different from you) as long as you are submitted to the Lord?

    At least, that's how it sounds to me, Liz.

  3. Submitting to another's preferences is one thing, but submission and conformity are not one and the same. Loving someone does not mean copying every move and/or losing one's own identity.

  4. This is a very good post. I've sometimes thought of how witchcraft is in some ways based on doing "A" for "B" to occur: "if I can make this spell, saying these words in this way, then a person or situation will conform to what I think is best". God does not work this way. He never forces conformity on us. His is an attitude of self-less service. That is amazing love and grace.

  5. "God does not work this way. He never forces conformity on us. His is an attitude of self-less service. That is amazing love and grace."

    Mike, are you kidding? God who has created everything and who has made it possible for you and me to be born, God who is ruling over every second of this life is not making us to conform to His will and wishes? I disagree.

    Grace is about your soul being saved from hell. It has nothing to do with your everyday life. You have a narrow understanding of God's power. He is everywhere, Mike. Your every breath and heartbeat depend on his Spirit. Or do you think you live by your own power?

  6. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -Rom.12:2

    "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." -Rom.8:28-30

  7. great post, Elizabeth. I sometimes get concerned in church planting circles that all the talk about strategy and contextualization may be motivated just as much by ambition to "see something happen" as it is by love for people. You sound a good cautionary note.

  8. Thank you, Karl. That actually brings up some other thoughts that I've had.


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