Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Influence of Culture on Ministry

Last night I watched a program on PBS dealing with the O.J. Simpson trial. It's now been ten years since that trial ended, but what it revealed to us about race in America cannot be forgotten. It sometimes takes incidents like the Simpson verdict or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to remind us that not all Americans view things the same way. Why is it that most African Americans cheered the O.J. verdict, while most white Americans were disgusted? Why do many African Americans feel that the slow response in New Orleans has to do with race, while many white people think that race has nothing to do with it?

Whether we personally feel that O.J. was guilty or not or whether race played a role in the slow response to Katrina is not the most pressing question for us. We need to realize that the perspective of the white, evangelical community do not always coincide with those in the black community. The question for those of us that are white and are seeking to reach out to those in the black community is this: Are we willing to set aside our personal viewpoints that don't necessarily come from Scriptures in order to reach the lost?

Our views on hip-hop, George W. Bush, affirmative action, the police, capitalism, etc. may be very different than the lost people we're seeking to reach. Will we stay true to the gospel message that Jesus lived, died, was buried and rose again so that we could have eternal life? Or will we insist on ostracizing the lost because of our political preferences or our views of the American justice system? This is one of the unique challenges of ministering cross-culturally in the United States. We were born here. We have lived here most (if not, all) or lives and we bring with us very strong opinions on this country and how things should be done and how people should act.

When I go as a missionary to a country like Albania, I'm pretty indifferent to Albanian people and their culture. I really don't know much about them one way or another. I learn as I go. However....when I'm a white American ministering to black Americans, I'm not coming in with a clean slate. I carry past experiences, prejudices, stereotypes, and an array of fears. And, oftentimes, the people I'm seeking to reach also carry experiences, prejudices, stereotypes, and an array of fears with them.

I guess what we have to ask ourselves is if we're going to ask the lost to overcome their fears in order to hear the gospel or if I'm going to trust God to overcome my fears so that they can hear it?

1 comment:

orangejack said...

Some great thoughts, Scott. Since I work with online ministry, how do you see this affecting ministry in that context? I'm trying to explore it on my eMinistryNotes blog.