A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling with Tropical Farms Baptist Church to Cuenca, Ecuador on one of Reaching & Teaching’s training trips. It was not my first time overseas, but it was a trip of firsts: my first trip with RTIM, my first journey to South America, and my first time to eat guinea pig!
Every time I am introduced to a new culture and get a chance to chat with the long-term workers about ministry in their context, I get a little overwhelmed. There are so many things to consider; so many manifestations of the fall unique to that context; so many barriers to people understanding the gospel; so many ways that good intentioned ministry can go awry; so many opportunities for misunderstanding and stumbling blocks; so many tactics of the devil to keep people from seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
These missiological questions fill the pages of books, produce a litany of breakout sessions at missions conferences, and puzzle the minds of God’s servants around the world. We seek to live in generational humility, knowing that we will never “arrive” at the most effective way to do missions. Rather, we are always learning, always growing, always seeking to steward more faithfully the task that we have received from our Savior. And the number of things to consider not only at a macro level, but also the individual day-to-day questions of each missionary in their context can be dizzying.
However, in the midst of all of these questions, and the valuable conversations that they stimulate, there is one simple message: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Amidst all the challenging questions of cross-cultural ministry, all the difficult security issues to consider, all the social and cultural norms that seem to close people off to the gospel, one reality rises above all the others and beckons undivided attention: the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the reality that has been shattering cultural divides, breaking addictions, re-shaping family cultures, and transforming lives for thousands of years.
Even as we seek to be faithful with the precious message that God has entrusted to us, we rest in the powerful hand of God and the promises he has given to us: His word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). His hand cannot be thwarted (Job 32:2). He will not lose even one of His sheep (John 6:39). He will purify his bride (Ephesians 5:27). He will clothe those from every tribe, people, and language with the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-14).
Praise the Lord, amidst the various questions that can and should be asked when it comes to gospel ministry, the wheel doesn’t need re-inventing. From the infancy of the church, it has been the faithful proclamation of the Word of God that given life to dead hearts and produced communities of faithful believers that we know of as the church. Cross-cultural ministry is quite complicated. But it is built on a simple message: a message that is foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, but to those of us who have been changed by it, the power and the wisdom of God.