Missional Skills: Developing Healthy Exit Strategies

The landscape of Kentucky has changed!

The nations are now our neighbors. Over a quarter of a million Kentuckians do not speak English at home, and nearly 180,000 citizens of the commonwealth are foreign born. Many of these are unreached peoples who have yet to hear the gospel.

Population growth in cities like Bowling Green, Lexington, Owensboro and Louisville has outpaced the growth of the church. In fact, we now have areas all over our state, both urban and rural, with inadequate numbers of churches to engage the lost.

Our towns and communities are seeing culture shifts, as our nation continues to transition and deal with the impacts of a global pandemic. Attendance in churches continues to fluctuate, and many churches are having to learn news ways to engage their community with the gospel.

The good news is that many of our Kentucky Baptist churches are meeting these challenges head on. They are working through the problems and looking for effective ways to see the gospel advance. The Gospel to Every Home and Acts 1:8 Mission Assessment Paradigm continue to help many churches and associations, as they reengage their communities with the gospel.

Is your church already playing a role in seeing our state reached with the gospel? Maybe you are strategizing to engage an unreached people group in your community, working in a partnership to revitalize a church, or preparing to launch a team to start a new church in a pocket of lostness. If so, it is time to start thinking about an exit strategy.

In Mark chapter 1, after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). He calls some of his disciples, heals many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out demons. Then, in Mark 1:35-39, Jesus arises early and goes to a desolate place to pray. And when Simon and others who were searching for Jesus found him, they said, “Everyone is Looking for you.” But Jesus said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” So, Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons (paraphrase vs. 35-39). Although Jesus healed people everywhere he went, he understood the purpose for which he had come, and it guided his path and influenced his decisions. Even though the Lord may not have shown us every step we should take to accomplish his mission, it should not stop us from developing an exit strategy.

Advancing with the end in mind
Exit strategies have long been an important component of how missionaries engage peoples, cities and regions with the gospel. Effective exit strategies help with ministry alignment and evaluation, bring clarity in communication, establish healthy boundaries, and create a trajectory and momentum toward multiplying gospel work.

Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky.

Developing healthy exit strategies
It is one thing to have an exit strategy. It is another thing to have one that is effective. Here are a few considerations as you begin to think about developing an exit strategy to fit your context:

1. A biblical foundation: Start with a clear understanding of the mission and characteristics of a New Testament church. Then, map out clear objectives for church autonomy. A helpful question to ask is, “What biblically needs to be in place before we exit the work?” One reason churches lose strength, momentum and eventually die is that they do not have a strong biblical foundation. A great resource to consider as you think though the ecclesiological and missiological foundation in your exit strategy is 12 Characteristics of a Healthy Church by the International Mission Board (IMB).

2. A vision for sustainability: A good exit strategy must address sustainability related to areas such as finances, leadership readiness, overall cohesiveness of a body and other practical issues. A key question to ask is, “What practically needs to be in place for this new work to be autonomous and sustainable long term?” With the high failure rate of new church plants in the U.S. (some suggest as high as 70-80%), we need to make sure we don’t exit before the new work is positioned well to stand on its own.

3. A commitment to ongoing relationship: Exiting does not mean abandoning. When the Apostle Paul exited his work, he maintained contact and relationship with local churches. As you think through your exit strategy, ask the question, “What will the ongoing relationship and support look like after we leave?” Think through what ways you will continue to relationally support and encourage the church. Clear expectations regarding the ongoing relationship will go a long way in the flourishing of a new work.

Establishing biblically grounded, well thought through exit strategies is a valuable step in preparing your church for gospel advance in Kentucky. As we begin to think more like missionaries, let’s consider how we can best craft and develop effective exit plans for the work to which God has called us.

The Mission Mobilization Team exist to serve you and your church. Click: www.kybaptist.org/missions-strategies/ to connect with our team. Email either John Barnett [email protected] or Doug Williams [email protected] to discuss next steps. We look forward to serving you.

Displaced People: God’s Great Commission Strategy

Displaced People: God’s Great Commission Strategy

We live in an incredibly unique time to fulfill the great commission! Every day, millions of people are moving across the planet and communities, cities, and countries are literally changing overnight. In the midst of this migration, God is opening new pathways for the church to be on mission both locally and globally. Taking the gospel to the ends of earth is not only about being a sending church, but also a receiving church. It has always been God’s design for the gospel to spread to and through diaspora communities, or through those who have been displaced from their homeland.

Welcoming the nations locally

As God poured out His Spirit in Acts 2, the disciples began to fulfill the Great Commission by ministering among the diaspora in their midst. The apostles were preaching to, baptizing, and discipling the “devout men from every nation” who had come to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. These men, both Jews and proselytes, had come from the Near East, Asia Minor, North Africa, Arabia, and from the known world. Under the apostle’s leadership, they formed the church, faced persecution, boldly proclaimed Christ, helped those in need, and God added to their numbers daily.

During the pandemic, God opened the door for KBC churches to embrace the displaced people across the state. One church was able to not only love, serve, and welcome a refugee family from an unreached people group to KY, but also to lead them to the Lord. Through Zoom, the team met Ibrahim’s mother, who still lived in a refugee camp in Central Asia. After hearing her son’s testimony, Ibrahim’s mom was willing to let an IMB worker visit her home. As she heard the gospel in her heart language, she not only came to know Christ, but also opened her home to host a Bible Study for women in the camp!  

In partnership with World Hope Bible Institute, the Mobilization Team started a training center for international pastors in Louisville.  Multiple pastors from across the state are providing theological education for 11 pastors from East Africa. Also, the Lord opened the door for KBC churches to partner and plant two new Congolese churches, and now these 11 pastors shepherd 4 different congregations.

Going to the nations globally

In Acts 8, God allowed persecution to send Philip to preach the gospel in Samaria, and God used an angel to send him to lead an Ethiopian eunuch to Christ in middle of the desert. In Acts 11, scattered believers from Cyprus and Cyrene preached about Jesus to the Greeks and many believed. They called themselves Christians and formed Antioch church. Then, in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit called out members from this church of displaced people to declare God’s glory among the nations.

In June, volunteers from 3 KBC churches went on an emergency trip to West Africa, in order to help IMB workers serve displaced people in crisis. On this trip, God used the team to not only open new pathways to love and serve those in crisis, but also to share the gospel with Muslims who have never heard. After sharing the story of Jesus healing the paralytic in one of the camps, one of the Muslim men said, “No one has ever told me that about Jesus. If Jesus can forgive sins, then that would make him God, right?” Now, local pastors are leading Bible studies in the camps.

Declaring God’s glory among the nations by ministering to and through the diaspora has always been a part of God’s global plan. The question for us is simple: Are we willing to join him? Discover the new opportunities for you and your church today. Contact John Barnett email: [email protected] phone: 502-654-3385.

The Mission Requires Submission

There are several things we think about when sending a group from our church out on mission for a week or even a weekend.  We expect those going on a mission trip to be people of integrity, faithful in their local church, bold in sharing their faith, and prepared for the work they’re going to do. 

I’ve seen many requirements for going on a mission trip, but I don’t recall ever seeing “submissive” on the list.  Our culture views submissive as a weakness so most don’t want to submit to anyone.  So, should submission be a requirement for going on a mission trip? 

What does submission mean? Google’s dictionary defines submission as “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.”

Submitting means putting others before yourself; it means not always doing what you want to do. It means putting God’s desires above your desires.

Missionaries on the field with whom short-term mission teams work have prayed and sought the Lord’s direction concerning the people they’re trying to reach, strategies they use and ministry methods.  Well-intentioned short-term volunteer teams generally arrive on the field, filled with excitement and zeal about the mission work they’re planning to do.  They too, have prayed and prepared themselves for this experience.

However, sometimes teams believe they know better than the missionary how the work should be done and question, or even push against the methods or ministry plans.  This creates tension and has the potential to minimize the effectiveness of the mission.

If there is a difference of opinions, an unwillingness by volunteer teams to submit to the missionary in authority shows spiritual immaturity.  And, if the short-term team is unwilling to submit, it is the missionary who remains behind to correct things long after the volunteers leave.

The Bible has much to say about submission: to God (James 4:6-7), to political authorities (Romans 13:1-7), to church leadership (Heb 13:17), within marriage (Col 3:18), and even a general submissiveness of all Christians to one another (Eph 5:21).

We all have a lot we can learn about submission. Submission can be a very hard thing. When Jesus prayed for an alternative to the cross (Luke 22:39- 44), he wanted another way so badly that he sweat drops of blood. However, He chose to follow the Father’s plan even when it was hard. All of us should be extremely grateful that He did.

There may be times as a volunteer team member that you believe you know better than the missionary what is best and that what you’re being asked to do doesn’t even make sense to you.  Like Jesus, you may find it hard to follow the plan, but exercise submission to the missionary in authority and trust our Father for the results. 

Living in Response to the Gospel

Thinking like a missionary is a reasonable service proposition (Romans 12:1). It is not extreme in light of what Christ has done for us. Following Jesus might seem radical or extreme at the outset, but once the initial step has been made the missionary mindset follows naturally.

Following Jesus re-wires our thinking. It changes every facet of our worldview. Christ is the light of the world, and His light enlightens us (John 1:4; 8:12). Far too often as Christians, we exaggerate the difficultly of choices that are normalized in the Scripture, i.e., sharing the gospel as a regular part of our daily walk with the Lord. 

Life as kingdom citizens is joyfully different than the status quo. We get to live with a perspective focused on “things above.” For example, Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” As our Lord and Savior, Jesus modeled this kind of mindset for every believer. As born-again believers, God has filled us with the Holy Spirit, so that we might walk in His ways. Remember, it is Christ in us and not Christ and us!

We could try to identify the bottom-line indicators of the missionary mindset in a number of ways, but perhaps the simplest way is to look at a missionary’s priorities.

Missionaries are mission-oriented Jesus followers. They find joy in prioritizing gospel-mission over their own comfort. A believer with a missionary mindset makes decisions based on gospel-mission objectives.

Mission-oriented Jesus followers will answer life questions like “where should I live?” or “how should I spend my income?” in radically different ways than those living out the status quo for American citizens. However, these decisions will not seem radical to them. Far too often, a Jesus follower living in light of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will hear “I could never do that” from other believers as they observe their mission-oriented decision-making process. For the missionary, the life choices they have made seem joyful, fulfilling, and reasonable.

A natural and vital reprioritization is especially important if we are to fulfill our calling to make disciples who make disciples. If we are going to disciple others to lead, we must become leaders who intentionally live open and accessible lives. We must ask ourselves, am I willing to live a life that follows Christ at all costs? Is my identity in Christ and Christ alone? Do others see Christ in me?

Leaders must bring their disciples into their lives in a way that allows them to observe, learn and practice the same decision-making process that they live by. The new disciple must learn to see the world from a kingdom perspective. They must be led to apply the example of Christ’s life to every aspect of their own. If we are living for Christ and sensing the joy of a life lived on mission, we will invite other disciples into our lives and teach them to do the same. This will become the DNA that is passed on to second, third and fourth-generation believers. This does not mean that we will never face challenges, but that we will model, teach, and learn how to keep our identity in Christ in the midst of our sufferings.

Prayerfully, many of our kids and the next generation will not think that the missionary mindset is so “radical.” After all, it is a reasonable service in light of the good news. It is our joy to follow Jesus!

Here are some questions/thoughts to explore:

  • Would choosing to live in a specific neighborhood because of their need for the gospel seem like a strange choice to you?
  • Would accepting a particular work assignment because of the way it would position you strategically for gospel mission seem weird to you?
  • Would inviting someone to live with you or have free access to “private areas” of your life with the objective of discipling a new leader seem odd to you?

Add-on: Read the June 15 Blog Post below, “Key Missional Skill: Think Like a Missionary”, for some practical first steps to take as you seek to live on mission for Christ.

Key Missional Skill: Think Like a Missionary

How can I think like a missionary?
Missionaries live with a deep love and compassion for those who are far from God. They are burdened for those who are lost — those who are like sheep without a shepherd. They live by the words of Jesus when He said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). They are driven by the fact that there are people out there who are not yet brothers and sisters in Christ, simply because they have not been given an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. With this great burden comes three questions that are usually on the forefront of missionaries’ minds:

1. Who lives around me?
Missionaries want to discover the people who live in their city. They want to know the number of people, commonalities, diversities, languages, cultures, joys, hopes, fears and struggles.

2. Who goes to my church and the other churches around me?
Missionaries want to understand who their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in their city or community. They want to know the number of believers, the health of the churches and the reach of their ministries. They understand that every believer and every church is called to fulfill the Great Commission, and that it is God’s design for churches to work together to reach their communities and the world for Christ.

3. Who is left?
Missionaries want to devote their time and resources to those in their community who are unbelievers and have not yet had an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. They look for “gospel gaps”, which are opportunities to use the gifts and skills God has given them to enter into the lives of unbelievers and to meet them in the midst of their brokenness. They engage people through social, service, support, sports, seasonal or study activities. The goal is to build authentic relationships with gospel intentionality.

How can I live like a missionary?
Once a missionary has asked these three questions about their community, then what would they do?

They would:

  • Be fervent in prayer.
  • Seek to enter into the lives and communities of people who are far from God and have not had opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
  • Be bold and frequent in the proclamation of the gospel, calling people to repent and believe.
  • Disciple those who come to faith, teaching them to obey all the commands of Christ.
  • Gather new believers together to form healthy churches, growing them up together into maturity in Christ and developing from among them those who will lead these newly formed churches.
  • Eventually partner with churches and leaders they formed to press into other communities where they gospel had not yet gone.

What would our cities look like if we saw ourselves as the ones Jesus sent to seek and save the lost in our own communities? Imagine how our culture would change if we began not only to think but also to act like missionaries in our cities, towns and neighborhoods. The Mission Mobilization team exist to serve your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. To discover new opportunities to make disciples and further develop an “Act 1:8” strategy that reflects the specific gifts and personality of your church, contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone 502-654-3385. We are here to serve!

Timing proves critical to sharing gospel with refugees

A word from IMB workers and The Global Refugee Network:

Time is never a guarantee when Christians meet a refugee in Greece. They may have years, months, weeks or just hours to share the hope that is found in Jesus. This is why International Mission Board missionaries and ministry partners who serve in Athens, Greece, developed an eight-hour, eight-day and eight-week ministry strategy to share the gospel and disciple refugees based on the time available.

“You never know how long you are going to have with someone,” Derrick Pennon* said. Pennon and his family formerly served with the IMB in Athens, Greece, before accepting a position at a Baptist church in Kentucky.

“You might lead somebody to faith that morning, but they’re on a train that night, leaving for Macedonia, so drop everything you’re doing. You’ve got eight hours,” Pennon added. “What are you going to give him in eight hours, or a family who might be leaving in eight days? What can you give them in eight days so that they can reproduce it whenever they land?”

Pennon says eight weeks to eight months with new Christians is ideal. They’ve found this time frame gives them opportunity to more fully share biblical truths before the refugees are relocated.

Greece is a transition country—no refugee comes with the intent to stay, Pennon explained. The Greek unemployment rate is high, making it difficult for many Greek citizens to find work.

Refugees typically first arrive on a Greek island, many of them coming by boat from Turkey. On the islands, initial checks are performed and then refugees receive approval—the timing of this varies—to be ferried to Athens. Refugees are placed in camps in the Greek capital as the asylum process continues, and while they wait to hear what country will admit them. Once refugees move to their host countries, gaining residency and citizenship is often another long journey.

It wasn’t always this way, but Pennon said refugees on the islands now might be there for years before they are ferried across to Athens. The islands are very overcrowded, and the conditions are poor. Pennon said the unfortunate reality is that many refugees stall in Greece due to a backlog of cases. The country has had difficulty managing the caseload of refugees coming through and COVID-19 exacerbated the situation.

Some of the refugees that Pennon has met have been there two years. Though many refugees have long stints in Greece, Pennon and other believers will often meet refugees interested in the gospel during the tail end of those two years. Sometimes they meet refugees who use smugglers to expedite their move to other countries. Timing can be frustrating and unpredictable, making preparedness key.

“God in His sovereignty—He knows when someone is going to come to faith,” Pennon said.

Pennon said they leave the timing up to the Lord and are committed to being prepared, no matter what.

“We’ve learned that the hard way during the height of the [refugee] crisis, because, literally, people would get off the boat in the morning in Athens, and then that night they’d be leaving for Macedonia. And so, you literally had eight hours—what are you going to do in that time that you have with someone?”

The height of the refugee crisis in 2015 led to the formation and galvanization of their eight-hour, eight-week and eight-day strategy. Though the crest of the crisis has passed, the strategy’s efficacy continued and IMB missionaries currently on the field are continuing the ministry.

Pennon said those ministering to refugees operate with a movement-minded strategy with church multiplication as the end goal. Their team includes multiple nationalities working together.

When possible, they pair refugees with a Christian from the same or similar background for evangelism and discipleship. One of the strengths of the diversity of their team is having same-culture or similar-culture Christians sharing the gospel.

In this way, God makes the most of their time together—however short that time might be.

A Word of Thanks

Dear Southern Baptists, 

As the facilitators of the IMB Global Refugee Network, we would like to express to you our sincere thanks for your ongoing concern, gifts and prayers for refugees and displaced peoples around the world and our workers among them. Your generosity and faithfulness help to spread God’s love and saving gospel to those who are often seen as, “the least of the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40).

Blessings, 

Barry and Sarah Holtman*

To discover how you and your church can get involved in reaching Forcibly Displaced Peoples both locally and globally, contact John Barnett, Missions Strategist, by email: [email protected] or phone: 502-654-3385. We are here to serve you today!

Link to this IMB article on the web:

Timing proves critical to sharing gospel with refugees

Embracing the World at Your Doorstep!

God is opening gospel opportunities by bringing diaspora and displaced people to our doorstep! Church, now is the time to embrace the nations as our neighbors, and share the love of Christ with those who have never heard!

Welcome the displaced locally.

We live in an incredibly unique time to fulfill the great commission! Technology, migration, travel, and media has made the world more globally connected, yet culturally diverse.

Every day, millions of people are moving across the planet, and communities, cities, and countries are literally changing overnight.  Most have been displaced through war, famine, persecution, racism, human trafficking, natural disaster, or forced migration. Many of them have never heard the name of Jesus and are desperately seeking help, healing, hope, purpose, and truth.

In midst of this global crisis, God is opening new pathways for the church to respond to needs, share the gospel, build community, and plant churches. Here are 3 ways the Mission Mobilization Team can serve you today:

Discover the Opportunities:

Learn about ongoing opportunities for your church to embrace displaced people both locally and globally. Mobilize your church to pray for the nations next door, by using the IMB Prayer Points calendar for April 2021. The document is attached below.

Develop a Strategy:

We want to help you develop a comprehensive strategy to reach displaced people in your area. The steps of this strategy are summarized as follows:

  • Step #1 – Hear & Share
  • Step #2 – Access & Discover
  • Step #3 – Develop & Implement
  • Step #4 – Train & Equip

Equip your Church:

Our team can provide personalized resources and trainings to your church as they prepare to minister to displaced people in your region. Read more about our resources below.

Go to the displaced globally.

For training and resources about how your church can embrace this global call, please contact John Barnett. You can email him at [email protected] or call him at (502) 654-3385. Get involved today church.

“So then you are no longer slaves and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19

A Vaccine in Every Arm and the Gospel to Every Home

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 500,000 Americans have lost their lives due to COVID-19.  This sobering statistic and the threat of even more deaths has caused pharmaceutical companies to up their game.  They are working harder and faster, in an effort, to get a vaccine shot in the arm of every American. 

Prior to COVID-19, there was a very little desire for competing companies to work together.   But the urgency of the situation now required companies to think much bigger and bolder in-order to accomplish the goal.  One White House official said “we have to take bold action and overwhelm this”. 

As a result, Merck and Johnson & Johnson realized they could be better together and decided to work in partnership to ensure a greater impact toward the goal of defeating the virus.  Another White House official speaking about the partnership said “they understood this was a wartime effort. This was their legacy. This was their time.”

Getting the vaccines made, put into vials, and shot into arms is a massive undertaking involving many different people.  The Defense Production Act, which gives the government the power to compel companies to support a war effort, could have forced cooperation between Mercke and Johnson & Johnson.  But it didn’t have to because these two companies voluntarily chose to work together in order to address an urgent need.  As a result, millions more Americans will have the opportunity to receive a vaccination in their arm in an effort to avoid death. 

COVID-19 is a serious virus and statistics reveal that it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  However, there is an even more concerning statistic shared by the Glenmary Research Center, who reports that 85% of Kentuckians do not a have a relationship with Christ.  It’s alarming to think how many will die without Christ and spend eternity in hell because they’ve not received the gospel.  But how can they receive the gospel if it isn’t shared with them? 

The Kentucky Baptist Convention’s “Gospel to Every Home” initiative is an opportunity for associations and churches to partner together so that our neighbors, family members and co-workers might receive the gospel and avoid eternity without Christ. Getting the gospel to 1,728,681 homes is bold action and a goal that can be accomplished if we voluntarily choose to work together. We’re in a spiritual battle and this is a monumental task requiring a wartime effort!  Let’s take action with an even greater sense of urgency and cooperation than Merck and Johnson & Johnson, and get the gospel to every home before it’s too late.  

REIMAGINE MISSIONS

In the remaining months of 2021, leaders will better see if the COVID pandemic was simply a blip in planning or a complete disruption to ministry as we have known it.

In a recent Barna webcast, the question was posed, “Is this an interruption or a disruption?”

An interruption means this is only a temporary interference and things will be back to normal soon.

A disruption requires more of a pivot to lasting adjustment. It means that the way we have done things may be incomplete for this season and beyond.

Will you dare to reimagine how your church can carry out the mission of God in light of our current reality?

Today’s Realities

COVID-19 Impact

As COVID-19 began to spread, many missional activities came to a screeching halt. Though the mission has not changed, our circumstances have. As we come out of the pandemic, we must move from self-preservation to selfless sacrifice for the sake of the nations. This will take intentionality and avoiding the inclination to return to overly programmatic and pragmatic approaches to missions.

Tips & Tools

Whether we succumb to fear and focus inward or seek to overcompensate in our own strength for the perceived slowing of missionary advance, we must return and trust our sovereign Lord who has promised a “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” around the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9).

During this season, we need a Mindshift when it comes to missions. We need to pivot away from overly programmatic and pragmatic approaches to missions and begin to see the people of God as the primary means through which God has determined to see His glory spread throughout the whole earth, by preparing and equipping the people of God as ministers of the gospel.

Tomorrow’s Possibilities

Reimagine

The clear biblical pattern and expectation is for every disciple of Jesus to reproduce others who walk with Christ by making disciples. Similarly, the clear biblical pattern and expectation is for every church to reproduce themselves. Disciples make disciples, churches plant churches. Reimagine a church that recognizes that their salvation is not for themselves, but that they have been blessed to be a blessing. Reimagine a church whose missions strategy is its people, where every ordinary follower of Christ is actively ministering the gospel among their friends, family, neighbors, and the nations.

Remember, the vision and mission of God never changes. Below you will find a simple Missions Assessment Tool and a resource on the Biblical Pattern of Missions in the Acts and the Gospels that can help you begin to reimagine today.

Tips & Tools

4 Helpful List: Custom Assessment for Missions

Resources

Patterns of Mission from Acts and the Gospels

The KBC’s Missions Mobilization Team is here to help you find resources and tools as seek to fulfill the great commission. Churches must learn how to innovate our practices while we maintain essential biblical convictions. Email, text or call John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, and let us journey alongside you as you Reimagine Missions in 2021 and beyond. Contact info email: [email protected] cell: 502-654-3385.

How to approach evangelism with different cultures, faiths, and worldviews

The United States is a melting pot of cultures and worldviews. Migration brings thousands of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists to cities all around the country every year. This trend continues while agnosticism, atheism and apathy marks the worldview of many Americans.

For Western Christians, being a witness for Christ in a religiously plural society is no longer an international missionary challenge. In the midst of a melting pot of faiths, Christians must learn how to adapt in their evangelistic efforts.

The first-generation Muslim immigrants who frequent your local park have different assumptions about issues of sin and salvation than those of the postmodern college student who works at your local coffee shop.

Christians in such a diverse context must learn to show how the gospel speaks to each of these differing worldviews. Evangelistic adaptability can be developed in the following four ways:

Listen to the person’s story.
Whatever religious context you face in evangelism, listening is crucial. Listening conveys a person’s value as one who is uniquely made in the image of God. Asking good questions helps one understand two major issues: what is most important to the person (the object of their devotion) and the story that person tells themself in order to explain reality.

Ask questions about the person’s hometown or country, family, cultural holidays, hobbies, passions, and future goals. For example, you may say “Tell me the story behind one of your festivals or holidays.” A natural follow-up question might be, “How do you live out your faith? Tell me about your devotional life.”

A concrete type of question is often better than a theoretical one such as, “What do you believe about God?” Listen intently to how the person describes their views of God, humanity and the stories embedded in their devotional practices. You are not only listening for cognitive beliefs. Religious traditions, experiences and societal values communicate just as much about a person’s worldview as does their intellectual beliefs and convictions. You can then naturally begin sharing your own story of meeting Jesus and then share the story of Jesus.

Remember the essentials. 
In order to share the story of Jesus (i.e., the gospel), it is often natural to introduce it by sharing your own story of how you became a follower of Jesus. When sharing the gospel, keep in mind some essential elements, such as God, creation, sin, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the need for repentance and faith. The four-fold model of the Bible’s grand narrative as creation, fall, redemption, and restoration is also helpful. Another approach is to answer the following four questions in your gospel presentation: Who is Jesus? What has Jesus done? Why is Jesus important or the only way? How should we respond?

The ideal evangelistic encounter will include all of these elements. Do not be discouraged if you are only able to share aspects of the gospel in conversations with lost people. Any attempt at sharing Christ is not a vain activity. However, these essential elements can serve as foundational components for any contextualized gospel conversation.

Respond to their story with the story of Jesus. 
Once you have given a genuine ear to listen and learn about the other person, keep in mind what you learned as you speak about the story of the gospel. Responding to their story with the story of Jesus.

For example, if the person shares that their family is the most important thing in the world to them, it can be helpful to include Abraham’s story of how God used his descendants to spread the good news of salvation and bless all the families of the world. Perhaps the festival that is important to them has aspects of the gospel embedded within it. Use those elements to connect them to the gospel.

For example, the Hindu festival Diwali is about light conquering the dark. You can highlight the fact that Jesus calls himself the light of the world. You are not claiming that Jesus is the fulfillment of their festival. Instead, you are taking a familiar concept (light vs. dark) and connecting it to the biblical message, i.e., the truth.

Contextualizing the gospel is not making the gospel more relevant. The gospel already is relevant. Our job is to share the gospel with the nations here, there, and everywhere. We do this best when we listen well and then apply the gospel to what we learn about a person. However, this is difficult to do in the first conversation. That is why there is one more principle for learning adaptability.

Walk alongside them moving forward. 
If possible, do not just share Christ with a person one time. Follow up with them. Evangelism should not be a one-and-done approach. Jesus called us to make disciples, which involves investing time in people.

As long as an individual is willing to talk, continue to process the gospel with them. We describe this as “walking” because it is a process, and it is a relationship that is moving in a direction toward faith in Christ.

People who have very little exposure to a biblical worldview, such as Hindus and Muslims, need time to process everything. This involves getting them in the Scriptures as much as possible. Let the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts, as you share the Word of God. Let them see how Christ is truly alive and working in your own life. Help them meet other believers and witness the love of God in the body of Christ.

We also describe this as “walking alongside” because we are not in a position of authority over them. You are letting the Word of God serve as the authority as you continue to listen and learn about the person. Walking alongside others is how we can best learn to apply the gospel in a variety of cultural settings.

Contextualization in gospel ministry is best learned in relationships with people. Listen to them, remember the revealed faith, apply the gospel to their life, and walk alongside them towards Christ.

For more information on how to share Christ cross culturally, develop an Acts 1:8 paradigm, or build Great Commissions Pathways for you Church, contact John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, on the Missions Mobilization Team. Email: [email protected] Text or Call: 502-654-3385. We Are Stronger Together!