Spreading the gospel across cultural boundaries

April 7, 2020

If you’re familiar with North Carolina’s pockets of lostness, you probably think of circles on a map. However, if you get out and drive through one of these pockets, you’ll quickly discover that each one is made up of different groups of people. Discovering these groups is important because the gospel often runs into barriers when traveling from one group to another.

As a fictitious example, let’s say a pocket has two main groups of people: long-term North Carolinians and people of Chinese descent. In this example, the gospel moves with fluency among the long-term North Carolinians. They have numerous churches, Christian schools and Christian radio stations, all of which speak their heart language — English.

The Chinese-American group, on the other hand, has little gospel fluency. Therefore, they have little access to the gospel.

They have not rejected the gospel, they simply haven’t heard it.

Cultural barriers
Let’s say that a group of long-term North Carolinians hear the call of God to go to their Chinese-American neighbors. The first thing they might do is translate some of their gospel material from English to Chinese. These dear believers might cross the language barrier with the best of intentions only to run headfirst into a cultural barrier.

This is exactly what happened to me while trying to reach Chinese-speaking people with the gospel. I took an English-Chinese copy of “The Four Spiritual Laws” by Bill Bright and shared it with numerous people. When I did, I received a tepid response at best. Only later did I discover that the number “four” in Chinese sounds like the word “death.”

Many Chinese people avoid the number four at all costs. They do everything they can to avoid phone numbers that end in the number four, especially numbers that end in the digits one-four, which sound like “I want to die” in Chinese. They seldom marry in April (the fourth month) and apartments on the fourth floor are cheaper in China because you can’t get people to take them.

I enthusiastically encourage you to share the good news of the gospel with your Chinese-American neighbors, but I certainly don’t recommend using “The Four Spiritual Laws” to do so.

Different groups of people often require different approaches to evangelism and discipleship because the gospel can run into barriers when traveling from one group to another.

Differing approaches
Different groups of people often require different approaches to evangelism and discipleship because the gospel can run into barriers when traveling from one group to another.

This idea is modeled for us in Scripture, when the Apostle Paul used different approaches to share the gospel with different groups of people across the Roman Empire.

When teaching Jewish people, he rooted his teaching in the life and words of Jesus, and he probably spoke and wrote in Aramaic and/or Hebrew. Paul was able to center his teaching around Jesus because the Jews had more biblical understanding than the Gentiles. Jewish people already believed in God as their creator, that man is sinful, and in a Messiah that would save them. Paul preached the person and work of Jesus, showing from the law and prophets that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Paul’s Jewish audience listened with a high degree of gospel fluency.

When Paul taught and discussed religion with philosophers in Athens, he started with their altar to the “unknown god,” probably speaking in Greek and/or Latin. He couldn’t start with Jesus because the philosophers had a low degree of gospel fluency. Paul encountered the barriers of ignorance and misunderstanding, so he had to fill in a lot of the back story of the gospel before the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus would make sense.

This year, our articles will focus on some of the different groups of people (population segments) found in North Carolina’s pockets of lostness. Not all differences will be as dramatic as the differences between Aramaic and Greek or English and Chinese, but these groups often require different approaches to witnessing and discipleship.

We pray that these articles will help North Carolina Baptists discover beauty in cultural diversity, as well as what potential gospel barriers may lie within each group of people so that the gospel will flow unhindered through North Carolina’s pockets of lostness.

 by Cris Alley  /  Strategic Focus Team  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

3 questions to ask when parenting based on strengths

3 questions to ask when parenting based on strengths Working with families who have teenagers at home is always a novel and often difficult experience. As one youth leader said after returning home from summer camp, “We are dealing with very hard situations, such as homosexually,...

4 ways churches can help prepare students for college

As we head into the fall semester, we know we need to prepare high school seniors for those first few days and months of school to be a very special year. But we also need to prepare high school seniors for the following fall by helping them transition well to college and life...

NCMO offers relief, eternal hope

NCMO offers relief, eternal hope Every September, churches across the state of North Carolina pause to reflect on, celebrate and give sacrificially to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO). The NCMO is an annual offering that provides support for the ministries of Baptists...

8 ideas as your church prepares to ‘Fill the Tank’

The more I think about it, the more excited I get about the statewide “Fill the Tank” baptism emphasis and celebration scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 12. My prayer is that all baptistries across the South Roanoke Baptist Association (SRBA) and beyond will be filled with water and...

NC Pastors’ Conference to highlight statewide ministry leaders

A full slate of pastors and ministry leaders from across North Carolina will highlight the lineup of speakers for the 2021 N.C. Baptist Pastors’ Conference, scheduled for Nov. 7-8 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C. “A Place at the Table,” based on Matthew 9:37-38,...

5 reasons your best church members should leave

Our family returned from the mission field in 2005. We were struck by what we found. Church attendance and baptisms were declining. Students were leaving the church after graduation and few were returning. Society was moving away from the gospel. And a host of refugees and...

3 ways to encourage baptism in your church

Will you lead your church to “Fill the Tank” on Sept. 12? “Fill the Tank” is a statewide initiative in which every North Carolina Baptist church has the opportunity to celebrate the sharing of our faith and God’s saving power. Church leader, here are three ways this initiative can...

The importance of a good ministry exit strategy

The landscape in North Carolina has changed. The nations are now our neighbors. Almost 1 million North Carolinians (11%) do not speak English at home. Many of these are unreached peoples who have yet to hear the gospel. Population growth in cities like Charlotte, Greensboro and...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!