Effective Intercultural Evangelism: Good News in a Diverse World

Book Review : Effective Intercultural Evangelism: Good News in a Diverse World

Name of the book:  Effective Intercultural Evangelism: Good News in a Diverse World

Authors:  W. Jay Moon and W. Bud Simon

Published by:  IVP

Place of publication:  Downers’ Grove, Illinois

Year of publication:  2021

Reviewed by:  J.N. Manokaran

Authors Jay Moon and Bud Simon has done a remarkable study of reaching people across cultures in an effective way.  Both who had been missionaries in different countries, have drawn from their experience, done studious academic investigation and written this book. 

Evangelism is no one-size-fit-all approach. There is a misunderstanding that evangelism means to get people across a finish line.  An individual could have 30 opportunities or occasions before s/he takes a final decision.  Intercultural evangelism according to authors: “Putting Christ at the centre of someone’s worldview includes an invitation to place allegiance to Jesus Christ above allegiance to any other power, habit, or preference.”

Bound-set theory and Centered-set theory:

Bounded set theory is a person moves towards the centre (crucified Lord).  The boundary line is set and marks who are in and not.  In Centered-set theory, a person is on the direction towards Christ.  He may be far off, but on the right course. “In the centered-set approach, evangelism is a part of the discipleship process.  Once people turn from sin and give their allegiance to Jesus, they are in the set.  Discipleship is the process of keeping people Christ focused amid the temptations to turn their allegiance elsewhere.” 

Four worldviews

Authors present four overarching worldviews: 1) Guilt/Justice; 2) Shame/honour; 3) Fear/power; and 4) Indifference/belonging with purpose. Gospel presentation must be done according to the audience worldview.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they experienced Guilt, shame and fear.  The aspiration to escape these consequences creates a paradigm or like operation systems (OS) in the computer.  Cain is an example of those who have indifference as their worldview.  In mission strategy, the worldview is not considered seriously.  Paul Hiebert who writes about ‘excluded middle’ writes: 1) Examine worldviews; 2) Be exposed to other worldviews; 3) Create living rituals. 

Mostly the gospel presentation is relevant to the guilt/justice worldview and is considered as authentic.  Authors emphasize: “The error occurs, however, when we assume that this presentation of the gospel is the only one that is biblical.”

The table below gives an overall understanding: Evangelism among our worldviews: 

World viewGuilt/JusticeShame/HonourFear/PowerIndifference/Belonging with purpose
Typical LocationWest (North America/ Europe)East (Middle East, N. Africa, Asia)South (Sub-Saharan Africa, tribal, Caribbean)Postreligious
Sin’s resultGuilt/separationShameFear/curse/bondageIndifference
Solution in JesusPayment/substituteHonour restored, cleansedDeliveranceBelonging with purpose
Image of salvationCourtroom/justiceRelationship/cleansingPower/freedomComing Home
Relationship with God  Judge who declares: No guiltyFather who restores honourCreator who protects and deliversFamily who welcomes you home
       

Guilt/Justice

“Concepts of guilt, justice, punishment, judgement, and personal responsibility point toward a guilt/justice worldview.”  Those outside think the church and Bible existed to condemn people. Relevant values in presentation of gospel to those who hold this worldview:  “First, the audience would hold a strong notion of individual responsibility and see the decision to follow Christ as a personal choice.  Second, the audience would have a strong sense of justice that incorporates clear values of right and wrong.” 

There are two Images of salvation in this worldview: First, Salvation as atonement of guilt: God’s declaration that humans are not guilty of sin because they are credited with the righteousness of Christ. Second, Salvation as a covenant relationship:  Humans to have covenant relationship with God. However, A guilt/justice worldview is no longer relevant to younger generations. In essence, goal of evangelism: “Wrong need to be righted, guilt needs to be atoned for, and individuals need to be held accountable.” 

Shame/Honour

Authors presents a case study:  Pedro came to church, sat in the lonely place drinking from his water bottle, that was whiskey.  He came because of his wife.  “The shame of failing financially, failing to provide for his family, and failing to control an addiction pressed him down like a weight on his shoulders.”  Pastor came sat beside him.  He felt accepted as pastor put his arms around him.  Pastor brought coffee for him, he felt honoured. That day, Pedro gave his life to Christ. 

“The tendency of the church is to place guilt in the driver’s seat with the assumption that it will control shame reactions.”  Multiple worldviews are considered equally valid. “Christianity needs to be translated into a culture’s worldview rather than impose on a culture.  In this case, important questions include, how is God at work in this culture? And Where is the Holy Spirit touching people’s consciences in this culture?” 

Shame is an external control exerted by a group or community or it needs an audience while guilt referred to an internal code that includes awareness and self-criticism. 

Bud gives another example from his mission experience: Children used to get involved in petty theft.  They mentioned it was wrong, they should not do that, the children did not heed.  “We will tell the neighbours you are a thief.”  Or “When the neighbourhood finds out, no one will trust you.”  Children returned stolen items.  “Shame becomes a way to help understand cultural values and self-esteem in community.”

It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of global population holds shame/honour dominant worldview. “In a shame/honour worldview coming to the Lord as a community is completely valid.”  Evangelism is to invite to confer honour in Shame/honour worldview. In Genesis:  God covered shame and restore honour. Parable of Prodigal son:  Christ accepts us and restores our honour by including in family of God.  Restoring honour to the shamed is demonstration of compassion, love, and mercy.

“Shame/honour worldview prevalent around the globe, it was ascending in Western culture, which had been dominated for centuries by the guilt/justice worldview.”  One of the reasons is social media that gives a ready audience.

Fear/Power

African proverb:  A human being hides in the feathers of chicken. Traditionally, chickens are commonly used in situations requiring sacrifice to the ancestors or earth shrines for problems. If there are chickens in the home, we can ‘hide inside the feathers of the chicken.’  Jay in this conversation with a person from Africa understood the meaning of the verse that promises protection under His wings.  (Psalms 91:4)     

Spiritual power and the fear/power worldview have been called – the forgotten dimension of cross-cultural mission and ministry. Either good power will be at work or evil power will fill the empty space, no voids. Irenaeus (AD 130-202) for first to construct theology of atonement as victory at the cross over power of darkness. Ignatius mentioned salvation as escape from evil spirits. Origen mentioned that learned sorcerers could not cast out demons easily, decisively, and quickly as the simple and uneducated believers could in the name of Lord Jesus Christ. 

Authors emphasize: “Evangelism does not change a person’s worldview (such as from fear/power to guilt/justice); rather it introduces Christ into the person’s worldview to transform it.  When Christ comes to those person’s worldview, he replaces fear with love.”  (I John 4:18) People having this worldview are in fear and then need power greater than themselves and outside themselves to bring freedom and healing.

Among this people less than one percent reject a genuine offer to receive prayer.  “Evangelism uses prayers of blessing or to break curses in these arenas of life, which is meaningful and impactful.” By not inviting Holy Spirit in a person’s life, we push them to another power source. 

 Indifference/Belonging with purpose

Cain can be taken as a model under this category. Cain did not have sign of guilt, shame, or fear, but complains about his punishment. Secularization emerged with science, industrialization, the market economy, and the increasing dominance of technology. Post modernism suspects truth and challenges linear, scientific logic. “Paradoxically, this indifference to religion has led to a hunger for purpose and community.”  Viktor Frankl termed this indifference as ‘existential vacuum.’ Postmodern seek community, significance, and transcendence.  Postmodern gradually could come to Christ by:1) Experiencing compelling community; 2) making a difference through service or leadership, and 3) receiving mentoring (including pastoral care and accountability) or leadership development.  They need sense of belonging and purpose. 

Holistic evangelism

Authors emphasize the importance and need for holistic evangelism.  Jay gives an example from his mission experience.  “By digging a sanitary well in the village, it opened the hearts of the Kunkwa people to the gospel.”  Lord Jesus reading from Isaiah implies: First God desires to restore our relationship with him so we can experience his favour.  Second, our relationship with others is restored by breaking chains.  Third, our relationship with creation is restored. (Luke 4) “Evangelism in every worldview benefit when deeds are added to proclamation.”  There are four stages of holistic mission:  1) Relief, 2) Recovery, 3) Development, and 4) Sustainability.

Local Learning Preferences

Authors also bring to focus the different kinds of learning.  He compares with computer operating systems:  literate culture and oral learning culture. “A culture’s operating system is not visible at first, but it always operating in the background.” 

Characteristics of Oral learners is described as CHIMES. 1) Communal, 2) Holistic, 3) Images, 4) Mnemonies, 5) Experiential and 6) Sensory.  “While print cultures tend to use philosophy as a dance partner to reason through and express systematic theology, oral cultures often prefer the witty application of local proverbs for contextual theology.” Story, Proverbs, Songs, Symbols, Rituals, Drama are important for oral learners.

“Digital media has created a learning preference shift for many people away from print toward oral learning and has been labeled digital-oral learning.” The era of printing press is called as Gutenberg parenthesis as oral learning stopped with print era beginning and has restarted again in Internet era.  

Present Trends and Influencers

The authors discuss current trends in the last chapter.  They also provide a list of characteristics for Intercultural evangelists.  1) Higher emphasis on people, less on task; 2) Ability to not criticize the host people; 3) Tolerance of ambiguity; 4) Flexibility: open to culture learning; 5) Empathy; 6) Openness; 7) High cognitive complexity; 8) Good personal relationship skills; 9) Maintains a sense of personal control; 10) Innovativeness; 11) Proper self-esteem; 12) Perseverance and 13) Capacity to personalize one’s knowledge and perceptions. 

Insightful book This book is an insightful book for all Christians who love to be involved in evangelism.  It is a helpful tool for those who interact with people of different nationalities, language and culture.  In the globalized and digitalized world, all of us have interaction with people from different continents.  These missional insights will help each one to choose appropriate methods to share the gospel with others.

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