by Loren Gjesdal

Imagine that in six months you were committed to depart for an overseas missionary ministry.  What are some of the things you would use the next few months to do? I suspect that you would invest considerable time researching the country you were going to be working in.

What language is spoken? How much of it could you learn in six months? What is the culture like? What do they value, what are their norms and customs, what is the most common religion, what are its doctrines? I suspect you would use all this information with one overarching purpose in mind:  to prepare to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that could be understood and received in the country you were going to be working in.

We Live in a Mission Field

Like the hypothetical missionary in the opening paragraph, the question to consider today is, have we made any preparations to communicate the gospel effectively in the culture we live in? Have we invested any effort in learning to speak the language?

By that I mean, do we understand the perspectives of those we encounter every day, that don’t go to church, don’t know about Jesus, who live by very different values than we do? Do we even appreciate that we are living in a mission field?

Surveys indicate that the fastest growing religious affiliation is “none”—meaning no religious affiliation.¹ This group now makes up almost 30% of the general population, so the chances of interacting with a non-believer in our local context are high and increasing (and the younger the person the higher the probability).

As the percentage of unchurched increases, our own culture is increasingly a foreign culture to many Christians. It has its own set of norms and standards, its own doctrines, that are strikingly different from orthodox Christianity. One might ask if we even speak the same language anymore!

One Way, One Truth, One Life

One of Evangelical Christianity’s biggest challenges is to effectively convey the truth claims of Jesus to a segment of our population that does not believe in truth. It’s much easier to mock the nonsensical denial of genders, than it is to effectively persuade the denier that there is only one way, one truth, one life that will enable a human being to know the One who created human beings, male and female. Yet without agreeing on this Truth, all our other truth battles (so-called culture wars) are akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

It is easy to get discouraged trying to communicate the gospel in a culture that has abandoned Truth, but it can also be encouraging to realize that we may not need to go very far to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. The world has also come to us!

People from all over the world now live together in most major cities. But can we differentiate Allah from God? Can we explain the difference between the Kingdom of God and nirvana? Can we connect the good news of Jesus to the heart desires that brought them to us in the first place?

Speak the Language, Both Literally and Culturally

Paul understood the pantheistic worldview of Greece. He was aware of the preoccupation with hearing new ideas in the Areopagus. He used this knowledge to provide a touchpoint to the gospel. He began by talking to them about an idol to an unknown God.

He didn’t quote Moses like he would to Jews in synagogue. Interestingly he didn’t quote the Bible directly at all. Instead, he quoted a Greek poet! (See Acts 17:16-34.) Paul spoke the language, both literally and culturally, and used his understanding of both the Greek culture and the Christian gospel to make a connection between the two that sparked interest in hearing more, leading to the salvation of some.

Understand the Mindset

Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19), and Peter admonished us to be ready to give a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). These instructions are for all believers, not just a select few.  Both require some ability to communicate the gospel in a way that is effective and fruitful.

To be obedient to these instructions, we need to be able to speak the language, to understand the mindset and perspectives, to have at least a cursory insight into the worldviews of those we are likely to encounter.

But it also means we need to be able to articulate the Christian worldview as well. Do you know enough of either, to make a connection that would spark someone’s interest in hearing more?

Invest Time to Learn the Language!

Within the Christian community I hear a tremendous amount of frustration, even bewilderment, with some of the views expressed in the present culture. These views are seen as disregarding reality, preposterous at best and pure evil at worst.

Yet somehow those expressing these views are the very ones to whom we are sent to make disciples. This task requires being able to explain in an understandable way the basis for our differences—not in a mocking or belittling way, but in a winsome way that would attract to Jesus.

Yet we seem to be ill equipped to do more than drown each other out with the sheer volume of our social media megaphones. Is there a better way? Yes, but we will need to invest some time in learning the language!

Let Artios Help You Learn about Worldviews

Artios Christian College is offering a course called Worldviews. This course provides an overview of historically influential worldviews shaping our culture today, as well as those of other religions that have made their way into the melting pot.

Importantly, it will also provide an overview of the Christian worldview and help identify touchpoints between worldviews– central questions that every worldview seeks to answer. Being able to understand how each worldview answers these questions can help provide the kind of insight and understanding that makes meaningful communication possible. Let Artios help you learn the language!