The article is a presentation of strategies that the Lausanne committee developed to address the difficulties of cross-cultural evangelism. The presentations comprise nine sections that discuss the influence of the gospel on culture and vice versa. The authors begin by outlining the biblical basis of culture (Lausanne Movement 1978).
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They look at the creation of man in Gods’ image, and the command to fill and subdue the earth. When man fell, the perfect culture under the Lordship of God, which God had intended man to enjoy, was taken away and man had to deal with an imperfect, self-centered culture.
In the second and the third sections, the authors define culture and look at culture with a biblical revelation. In a bid to understand the relationship between the two, the authors look at the nature of biblical inspiration. The authors note instances when biblical writers used culture as a means of expressing their message, which they interpret to mean that culture is compatible with divine inspiration (Lausanne Movement 1978).
The authors look at the normative nature of the scripture where they assert that the bible is without error in its assertions even after it was translated into different versions. Further, they look at the cultural conditioning of the scriptures where there are specific messages for people from a specific culture.
The authors state that such scriptures should not be completely disregarded if they differ with our cultures. On the contrary, they are to be interpreted in a context that encourages obedience, but not avoidance.
On understanding Gods’ word in the contemporary society, which is the fourth section, the authors outline various ways in which Christians approach the word. One of the approaches outlined is the traditional approach where a person studies the word without putting into context the time and culture when the word was written.
The author states that this approach is faulty, as it does not seek to understand the times when the word was written. The second approach is the contextual approach where the reader takes into consideration the context and language used. The authors encourage this form of studying the scriptures.
The authors also discuss the content and communication of the gospel and the need for humble servants in evangelization. In this section, the authors look at the appeal of the message being communicated and its relation to the different recipients. They also outline some of the cultural barriers that evangelists may encounter while evangelizing.
In addition, they also emphasize the importance of humility during evangelism especially due to the challenges that come with preaching. In the final sections, the authors interrogate the issues of church, conversion, and culture.
On conversion and culture, the authors note the conflicts that arise from conversion due to the influence of culture. They then offer some guidelines on how converts can balance their new status and culture. The authors look at the role of culture in church formation and the role of the church in influencing the culture.
Critique of the article
In this presentation, the authors illustrate the relationship between gospel and culture coupled with equipping evangelists with a few strategies on how to handle cross-cultural evangelism. The Lausanne report begins by relating the Bible to the origin of culture. However, the authors forget that the world can only be looked through the lens of the different cultures first before looking at it through the biblical perspective.
One of the misconceptions in the report is that people first look at the world through the biblical culture. This misconception has led to missionaries trying to convert all the individuals that they meet into the bible culture, which is wrong. The most important task for Christian missionaries is to know Christ in a way that causes others to know him without necessarily imposing a foreign culture.
Even as missionaries evangelize, they have to understand that people are made in the image of God, but not the image of the Christians that the missionaries would want them to be.
By understanding this aspect, missionaries will relate with people easily because they will be looking at them from God’s point of view, but not from the ‘model Christian’ perspective. Respect for other people’s culture in mission work is important because it ensures that ‘conversion makes instead on unmaking.’
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In the discussion about the people’s culture and the biblical culture, the report fails to emphasize the importance of establishing a relationship with the individuals before preaching to them. A relationship will show that one cares about the people and s/he is not out to destroy their culture while introducing his/her own.
Key successful evangelists in the Bible like Paul valued the cultures of the different people to whom they were evangelizing. They did not attack their cultures directly. Instead, they related with them in a manner that the people ended up admiring Pauls’ way of life.
This aspect simplified preaching. However, one of the report’s strengths lies in the emphasis that cultural change after conversion is gradual, and thus evangelists need to be patient with new converts.
The last three subsections emphasize on the relations between conversion and culture, church and culture, and Christian ethics and life style. While it is joyous to have new converts, evangelists must keep in mind that their work is only to sow and then God works on the rest. The main objective is to spread the good news to the unreached and let Christ deal with the conversion aspect.
However, the secret is to keep on preaching even when it is hard to get converts due to their cultural inclination. Evangelists should be patient with new converts who are still learning to adjust from their former cultures to Christianity.
In case there is a need for reprimanding, then evangelists should do so with love and gentleness. The overall message when reaching out should be that of love not of comparison of cultures. Evangelists and missionaries should encourage syncretism to avoid rejection due to cultural conflicts. Syncretism will ensure that conversion does not lead to loss of culture.
Despite the minor weaknesses, the Lausanne report has dealt with the issue of culture and the church adequately. The evidence in the article has been represented correctly. The article has adduced valid evidence that almost all Christian evangelists and missionaries can identify with.
The church and culture are intertwined. Therefore, it is important for missionaries to be informed adequately as they go out into the mission fields. This report has addressed the missionaries and evangelists who are already in the field and those intending to join the spread of the gospel to the nations.
Lausanne Movement. 1978. LOP 2 – The Willowbank Report: Consultation on Gospel and Culture. Last modified 1978. Accessed from https://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-2