The Missionary Position

13Jun08

Growing up, I wanted to be a missionary. I read the AWESOME, amazing miracle stories about what God did overseas and I wanted in on that action. Plus, I wanted to be a top notch Christian. Growing up, it seemed like to be the best you had to be a pastor or missionary. So I wanted to do that, or be a youth pastor.I read this book, “Peach Child,” by Don Someone, around 2000. It’s about how Don, as a missionary to Cannibal tribes in New Guinea, had a really hard time getting through to them. For years, as a Wycliffe Bible Translator, he was getting nowhere – they didn’t understand or have any interest in – Christianity. Until one day, he noticed a cultural custom that was an analogy for what Jesus did for us.

The tribes there will get in, like, a “feud” with another tribe. They’ll be killing each other, and you’re somehow culturally obligated to keep the fight going forever – unless … your opposing tribe brings you a child from their tribe, and you give them a child from your tribe (a “peace child”), and you raise the child as your own.

So anyway, Don used that analogy to explain that’s what God did for us, and then the whole tribe got saved – it worked like gang busters! Very cool! Don has this theory that in every culture and tribe, God has put a cultural analogy for the gospel (I forget his term for it). He writes about this in another book, Eternity in Their Hearts.

Well, my point is not really related to that (but it’s a cool, no?). I believe Christianity in America is “cross cultural” ministry. Although the Christian subculture and the larger culture are 90% the same, we’re still trying to reach across a barrier of not understanding the gospel. For the part of the larger American culture that is not at all interested in Christianity, we have to reach across their pre-conceived notions of what the Christianity is all about (religion, myth, false comfort for the weak minded) – and we must do this similar to how missionaries work in their context.

Missionaries (successful ones) have to show the people that they care, that they love, that they have something valuable to share – before the people will ever listen. They have to take part in cultural customs that are kinda weird, but not unbiblical. Well, maybe borderline – anything for the sake of the Gospel, right? They have to immerse themselves by dressing like, eating like, talking like, becoming one of the people they are trying to reach (Hey, much like Jesus did!)

We are in the same position here in the US – the missionary position. Since people largely hate Christianity, and we are our own subculture, I think to be effective at reaching our nation again, we need to immerse ourselves with our non-Christian “neighbors.” We need to talk like them: which I think means using the occaisional cuss-word, and not using Christianese. We need to follow some of their customs: social drinking is one of those that we need to get-over ourselves and start doing so we can interact with them on their turf – Sorry if that sounds condescending! But we need to go-out and “have a beer” with our neighbor in order to gain respect in their life.

I think missionary ness also means not inviting them to “church.” I know this is our primary strategy of evangelism, but I don’t think it works. Generally (outside of the South), people hate church (can we blame them? Our brand image sucks. It’s like asking people to eat vegimite, or spam). It’d be cool if we could invite them to, like, something they are interested in – like maybe a concert? Or a discussion at a pub? Or a meeting at Starbucks? – something that doesn’t say “church,” but actually facilitates interaction with faith, God, good loving people.

Yeah, so, IDK, I think we have to be “missionaries” to the American culture – “so that we might save some.”

What do you think?

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2 Responses to “The Missionary Position”

  1. 1 Asher

    Well when you are living in your van and traveling around Georgia put your theory into practice. Tell us your results. I’m curious to hear how it goes.

  2. 2 Jessica

    I don’t think “talking like” and using cuss-words is necessary or even sometimes beneficial in bringing people into faith–the ends does not automatically justify the means. The bible says we should refrain from course talk and foul speech. We shouldn’t have to compromise on obedience to Christ just to share his name. So many stories of rough tumble guys with the one friend who just doesn’t swear–the fact that that’s even possible is a huge testimony to Christ–and often its possible they’ll just overlook that “one little thing” or “look after” their “less tough” friend who doesn’t swear, like God almost puts it innate in their hearts to protect other’s ability to do the right thing without even realizing it.

    Of course, there’s a difference between not swearing ourselves and being willing to hang out with course people who don’t submit themselves to our values, and breaking out of a christian bubble and into people who really need christ but don’t know it…If you’re feeling that christian bubble around you, maybe its time to break out of it a bit. I mean, don’t go so far youo get pulled into the world, but there’s a lot of places not like san diego. In the bay area where I am now, I don’t think there’s a single person at my work who is walking with Christ. I’m teaching the bible to junior high kids who all go to public school and have friends that aren’t christians. There’s so much opportunity up here to be the light and salt of the earth. Getting out of that “Christian bubble” and into the gritty world that doesn’t know Christ is where we find people who need Jesus.


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