This week I embark on a new semester of study for my degree, focusing on Cultural Anthropology. Already, as I dive into the pages of the prescribed text book, I am captured by this study of human behaviour from a cross-cultural perspective and how that shapes the way Christians give witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The author of the text Charles H. Kraft relays a story illustrating some of the misperceptions that are experienced by the messenger and receptors of the gospel when there are differing views of reality. He shares the prayer that was prayed for three missionary recruits who were preparing to go to Nigeria: "Oh, Lord, help these young men to realize that it is You who are taking them to Nigeria, not they who are taking You."
What a powerful prayer that somewhat challenges the paradigm of many missionaries and evangelists who genuinely believe they are taking God to not-yet-saved people. To believe that we are taking God anywhere is to assume that God is not already there. In contrast, this prayer affirms that God is already present and that He sends us to go and join in where He is already at work. This radically changes the context, content and conversation of mission.
To go where God is already present opens our eyes to a partial revelation of God, opens our ears to interpret what God has already spoken and opens our mouth to speak appropriately into the conversation a full revelation of God through the person of Jesus Christ.
Maybe we need to remind ourselves of this prayer before releasing anybody, anywhere into an evangelical mission so we don't allow our preconceived cultural perceptions to get in the way of what God is doing among all cultures on earth.