In missions there’s a lot of talk about contextualisation – being relevant to the culture we’re trying to reach. In our home culture we tend to do that unconsciously, but when we move cultures we often end up doing things the way we do at home, even if it’s neither necessary for the gospel nor helpful for reaching the host culture. This is an important issue and I’ve seen first hand unhelpful carry-overs from colonialism in different countries.
On a short term trip, where you’re not very familiar with the culture, you don’t necessarily have the luxury of contextualising, and this was the case for us. We went to encourage pastors and preach the gospel, and the only useful thing we could bring was the gospel. Now I know it’s more complicated than that, but from our perspective, each night all we presented was the gospel. Stories about Jesus. The cross. Grace. I guess we made a small effort, but really, our confidence didn’t lie in our own ability, knowledge or missiological principles. It lay in the gospel.
And yes, that includes it’s power. If you’re going to preach that Jesus heals, in that context you better be ready to start praying for the sick.
I wonder if we try too hard in our culture. Paul had no problem preaching the foolishness of God. Jesus had no problem offending people – and in the end most of his disciples deserted him. And yet out of the preaching of the gospel came a movement that has swept two thirds of the world’s population. I wonder if part of the problem is we rely too much on missiological principles (and sometimes use them as an excuse for not doing anything when it gets too hard), instead of preaching and doing the gospel.
Jesus method was very simple, heal the sick, proclaim the Kingdom. Those who were hungry received it.