Provoke to Jealousy

The vision of movements captured my attention! Considering the possibilities became what I thought about while showering (I have read these are the “big” ideas that you don’t get paid to ponder). I wondered what could happen if thousands of Discovery groups started happening here in North America.

No, that has not happened, yet. But there are hundreds. Some of these have even jumped to homelands of immigrants who are here in the U.S.

I know people who reject those results as insignificant because these are not Anglos. While I continue to pray for my people group to experience sweeping spiritual transformation, I will not wait for that to reach out. In Acts, the earliest evangelistic efforts of the apostle Paul were among Jews. But God told him he was being sent to the Gentiles. But then there is that shocking statement in Romans that Paul was working diligently to reach Gentiles in hopes that their response might provoke Jews to jealousy and they too would come to faith.

What if the best way to light the fires of revival among Anglos is to reach Hispanics and Latinos? Wouldn’t it be just like Papa God to use Native Americans to launch national transformation? Turning to those who are spiritually open does not mean we are giving up on the people groups that we know the best and possibly love the most. Maybe we can provoke them to jealousy, for the kingdom. Many will only perceive the vision when they can see it with their own eyes. Let’s start it wherever!

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One-size-fits-all?…Nah!

About twenty-five years ago I took a graduate course titled, “Matthew as Story.” Jack Dean Kingsbury’s book by the same title was required reading. This literary (narrative) critical examination of the first gospel launched me on a trajectory that I could little anticipate. It is only within the last five that I consciously realized the connection.

Comparing/contrasting the plot of the four gospels reveals important information about their contexts. Reading today’s writers does likewise. I do not believe “one size fits all” works well with gospeling. Yes, our early attempts will likely follow more closely to one of the four than the other three, but even that reflects something about us. Either we are reflecting the choice of those who discipled us, we are reflecting which of the four has become our personal favorite, or we are reflecting a conscious decision based on our knowledge of the people group to whom we are speaking.

Before you invest the money in getting Choung’s book(s) translated into the language of your people group and distributed among them, make sure you do the same rigorous testing he did. Make sure the thought structures used in his books translate well into the worldview of your context. Recruit believers among this group to evaluate how helpful these resources will be.

When my friend tweeted me about Choung’s video, I responded from a cross-cultural context. My friend recently completed a master’s degree. He desires to move to Asia and serve as a cross-cultural missionary. I initially responded in light of our shared context (academics and love for missions). Later I Googled Choung’s web site and read his blog. As I have noted, I have not read his second book. My replies seek to apply what I have discovered on that web site to the video.

 

Contextualization on Christmas????

Every gospel dialogue is contextualized. The issue is not “if,” but how and by whom. It can be done well or poorly. It can be done intentionally or accidentally. Some accidental contextualization can turn out well, but it will likely be difficult to apply to a new context until the accidental becomes intentional. Not all intentional contextualization goes well, either.

Some might question me doing this article/series on Christmas day. “Give it a rest, John!” I can hear someone mumbling.

Where are the primary sources for what we call “the Christmas story” found? Yes, in the Gospel According to Matthew and the Gospel According to Luke. Two of our four “gospels” record the details about the birth of Jesus. But anyone who has read these two accounts closely realizes they are very different in their emphases.

Why would Luke include the details about the shepherds while Matthew focuses on the Magi? Why would Matthew spotlight the agitation of Herod and the religious leaders concerning the news that a king has been born, while Luke recounts Simeon and Anna who celebrate the news in Jerusalem? These two communication pieces were tailored for their respective audiences—the context into which they were spoken/read and out of which they were revealed. The four gospels are contextualized presentations of some of the details of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Celebrate the birth of Jesus during this season. Ponder how you can intentionally contextualize your presentations to your near neighbors, well. Acknowledge that what works well in my neighborhood may not be best for all neighborhoods, though. Allow the Scriptures to challenge you toward diversity.

Contextualization and Post-Modernity

Recently a friend tweeted the following link to a brief overview of critical transitions that need to happen in the life of an individual as he/she is discipled from being a “skeptic” into a “world changer”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep8XM5IFWsI

As I dialogued with my friend regarding the video, I pointed out that it is very “Western” and “individualistic,” especially in Choung’s discussion of the “skeptic” needing to “trust” a Christian to be able to transition into a “seeker.” I also raised the issue that Choung does not seem to have any familiarity with the concept of God raising up a person of peace who could serve as a bridge into his family and/or her community.

Today I did some searching on Choung’s website and found the following blog which contains the video mentioned above:

Real Life Continuum video which explains the basic model of the book is also out! http://www.jameschoung.net/2012/11/22/real-life-in-print/

It also links to an earlier video, “True Story,” that uses four circles to help visualize what needs to happen in coming to Christ. Later Choung writes about these two videos showing these charts being drawn and their connected books, “True Story and Real Life actually share a common lineage: they are popularized versions of first and second halves of my dissertation on postmodern leadership development. True Story gave the theological ground for Real Life’s disciple-making model.

Please note the very specific context of his dissertation—postmodern leadership development. What happens if you attempt to use his approach in a pre-modern setting? What about a modern setting? I will be exploring these questions as a means of getting Western thinkers to reconsider exporting our strategies cross-culturally without carefully exploring our own presuppositions.

DBS Helps Cross-cultural Communications

Cross-cultural communication is a challenge at best! Just ask wives and husbands how many times they realized their spouse did not hear what they intended to communicate.

In every cross-cultural conversation there is a sender and a receiver. The sender uploads what she/he intends to communicate, but their message is always encoded from within their cultural context (yes, this more closely approximates that of the receiver the more fluent their language skills are). Then the receiver downloads the message and filters it through his/her ethno-linguistic cultural grid. But the process is also impacted by “noise.”

The only way to assess what is understood is to ask for feedback. “What did you understand me to just say?” is a great way to seek clarity. When this person shares what they heard, then you can attempt to overcome the effects of noise and the differences in the ways we utilize words/phrases cross-culturally.

One of the great beauties of Discovery Bible Studies (when the stories are being heard in the heart tongue) is the passage is not being explored cross-culturally. Yes, I know that Scriptures were written from within and for other cultures (e.g., pre-exilic Hebrew, post-exilic Hebrew, 1st century Judeo-Christian, 1st century Gentile Christian, etc.) but it is not going through the additional cultural grid of the cross-cultural missionary.

The Word of God illuminated by the Spirit of God is enough to produce the people of God!

Worldview—What is Real?

Last we come to understand what is real for a people group. Their worldview answers four fundamental questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where am I?
  3. What has gone wrong here?
  4. What can be done about it?

How do children receive their worldview from their parents? They receive it from the people and experiences in their lives. They especially receive it from stories these key people tell. We each have stories that shape how we see ourselves and our world. Change the guiding stories and a person’s worldview begins to shift.

The ultimate answers to these “What is real?” questions are found in the Creation to Christ stories of the Bible. Each person was created in God’s image. As Paul notes in Athens, “The God who made the world and everything in it…made every nation of men….Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:24-31).

[NOTE: Diagram comes from Lloyd E. Kwast’s article “Understanding Culture,” pages 397-399 in the 2009 Perspectives Reader, which was edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthore.]

Walk Your Talk

Below the community values of a people group are their beliefs. Here we take note of what they believe to be true:

  1. What is truth?
  2. What are their core beliefs?
  3. Are they fatalistic or do they believe they can produce change in their world?

A group’s perception of reality always colors their experiences. If they believe that their lives are always overwhelmed by forces outside their control, then they usually tend toward fatalism. Change is viewed as impossible because these forces dominate their experience—in their mind.

We need to recognize that what people say their beliefs are and this level of their sense of self are rarely identical. Professed beliefs can sometimes be a cover to protect a person from cultural suicide. Here the individual disagrees with his/her society, but knows that it will be dangerous to openly proclaim personal beliefs. For others, professed beliefs are ideals that are held up as goals to strive for because they are not yet fully internalized.

What would an objective witness to your daily walk say you believe? Does your daily life evidence what you profess? Are you a woman/man of integrity? Do you walk your talk?

[NOTE: Diagram comes from Lloyd E. Kwast’s article “Understanding Culture,” pages 397-399 in the 2009 Perspectives Reader, which was edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthore.]