When we send missionaries to foreign fields they typically spend quite a bit of time learning the culture and language of the people they are going to reach. I had one friend who had to learn one language to learn the actual language of the place he was going! Where they are going is not entirely like the place they are leaving. To be effective they must learn how to communicate the truth of the Gospel to people who may not value the same things, think like Westerners, or even speak our language.
As the culture in the United States changes and becomes more and more culturally and religiously diverse…less homogeneous…it is crucial that we take on the perspective and approach of missionaries in our own backyards.
We may be called to learn new languages (I am increasingly seeing the need to learn Korean, for instance due to those who live within a mile of our home).
We will have to become students of culture. As we find out who lives nearby and as we go out to make disciples of the nations in our neighborhood we are going to need to change our approach. Our conversations, for example, no longer start with the assumption that people think the Bible is important or that God exists.
This will take prayer. This will take study. But most importantly this is going to take LOVE and an openness to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Consider the person who falls in love with a person who isn’t of their same cultural and religious background. That person will bend over backwards to learn whatever it takes to get to know that person on a deeper level. They will come to understand and appreciate their culture…learn their language, etc. in order to connect.
This is our Achilles heal in Christianity – we have thrived in a culture the world wanted to get to know. The world was coming to us…and we liked that…we got used to that…It was easy to sit back and expect them to learn our culture and then for us to try to assimilate people to our faith.
It won’t be that easy moving forward. We can’t be lazy. We must be loving. When we love and when we work in concert with the work of the Holy Spirit who is very good at blazing the trail to connect cultures (See Acts 10-15) we will see renewal and revival. But our approach is going to look very different than the one we have known our whole lives.
There are other key things I could list that will be crucial for revival – fasting prayer, and making disciples…all of these things will run more smoothly if we actually know those we are trying to reach!