Over the past few days I have been responding to an article by Jon Zens. It details the interaction between an Indian named Red Jacket and Missionary Cram. The dialog between the two demonstrates very clearly where we so often go wrong in missions, especially cross-cultural missions. (Jon's website is at http://www.searchingtogether.org) Here is an excerpt from my response to the article:
I have a photo from an Asian nation in my possession: it shows a rag-tag group of people squatting on a deserted riverbank beside a fast flowing river. I know their situation—they are non-literate, impoverished village people. They have already paid a price in terms of persecution and exclusion from society. In the picture, a man is standing before them, dressed in a suit and tie, obviously preaching to them from a large, black Bible.
Recently we were in Mongolia. In 1991, following seventy years under Russian rule, there were five Christians in that nation. There are now an estimated fifty thousand—along with denominations, organizations, and many of the trappings of Western Christianity.
What have we in the West done? We have exported our customs as well as the Gospel. We have given to other nations the Good News of the Kingdom of Jesus, and we have also given them our problems, and our ungodly attitudes. We have insisted on them leaving their own culture in order to join us in our Western expression of church life rather than giving them the freedom to create a Kingdom lifestyle that fits within their own culture and way of life.