Author, Simon Chan of Grassroots Asian Theology gave the best question we can be asking ourselves when evangelizing Christianity to the Asian culture: “what spiritual and intellectual resources of the Christian faith can we bring to bear on the Asian context such that an authentic Christian faith can be effectively communicated and received?”Chan gives some valuable suggestions to this humble and insightful question.
When evangelizing to the Asian culture, it is essential one is familiar with their values so they may learn how to introduce Christianity in a contextual way. “A more adequate way of organizing an Asian theology is to center it in the doctrine of the triune God as the divine family.”Due to the Asian’s importance of family, they can relate to a God who operates as a family in the triune Godhead. This lowers defenses and introduces a God they can admire and respect. Presenting God as a divine family offers a theological construct for the Asian culture and complements their family values, making God relatable to them.
As we learn to present a relatable God, it is important to remember that the Christian church extends well beyond our community, nation, and expresses itself differently in the various countries around the world. If we are to connect with the world church, we need to learn the traditions and rituals of each country and partner with them, while sharing a consistent theology. “Local cultures do shape the way the faith is received and expressed, but for a local theology to be authentically Christian, it must have substantial continuity with the larger Christian tradition.”Along with shared theology, collaborative work and respect for the varied faith expressions are critical if we are to build an authentic Christian community with different cultures. I am reminded of my church experience in Cape Town. It was unlike any service I had been too, but I could feel the love of Jesus and his spirit in their church community, and it was a thrilling experience to worship God with them. To connect with their church community enriched my spiritual experience and reminded me there are many ways to worship God as we relish in our shared theology. If we lack respect for one another, we lack community. Yet it is also in the continuity of theology that brings a connected Christian community, as we enjoy the varied faith expressions of our shared theology, providing a rich tapestry of Chrisitan diversity.
Scripture is our shared theology, but how each culture expresses itself is unique to that culture. God is a big enough God that as we share scripture, we can invite the Holy Spirit to act out the drama of the gospel in a theatrical manner in which each culture can comprehend it and participate in it. “Scripture can be considered the given script for the drama whose director is the Holy Spirit, who prompts the church in acting out the gospel drama.”This is what made Jackie Pullinger’s ministry in the Walled City so successful. She presented the stage comprised of theological principles but allowed creativity and guidance from the Holy Spirit in how those principles could be dramatized to influence and transform lives.Similarly, “the task of the professional theologian is not to tell the church what is good for it but to listen carefully what the Spirit of truth who indwells the church is saying through the people of God.”In any ministry, receiving guidance and partnership with the Holy Spirit and one another is essential in developing a respectful and effective connection with a different culture. There is a reason, the Holy Spirit is referenced as the Great Counselor, and it is up to us as ministers to receive her counsel and share this with one another so we can move and grow in unity.
Finding common ground with those you are trying to reach is just using common sense. “If you persist in saying that the piece of paper is white, you will not only irritate others, you will disrupt all harmony with them and lose the chance to help them. . . .This kind of argument or logic may sound quite reasonable and attractive, but if you analyze it carefully you will know it is based on a principle which looks right but is completely wrong.”It is puzzling to me when we think we are actually going to positively influence people’s lives when we are not positively connecting with people’s hearts. God talks about revealing our greatness through gentleness and provoking repentance through kindness. If this is how God influences change, this would be a good model for us to emulate when attempting to influence others for God’s kingdom. Yet, it is not uncommon for one to take time to mature in how to present the gospel with grace. When I was a recent high school graduate, I was asked to speak to the younger classmates in my Christian school about how to choose sexual abstinence and a life of purity. I still cringe when I recount my younger self, gearing up to present with guns blazing, to give a solid, scriptural retort to any challenging question directed at me. An aged, wise pastor also shared the stage with me, and I remember the kindness, and gentleness in which he addressed the students who challenged the scriptural beliefs. His loving, peaceful manner still provides a lovely, haunting memory with how I want to respond to those opposed to my theological beliefs.
Finally, we must remember our place.”The rhetoric is always repetitively similar: since Christianity is only a minority religion in most Asian countries, it must assume a humbler position and proclaim with all the great Asian religions a shared message of God’s universal purpose for humanity and creation centering on such themes as justice and peace.”This is a powerful reminder that we are guests in a foreign land, sharing a ‘minor religion’. Therefore, Christianity must be shared with humility and a respect that encompasses Asian cultural values, thus ensuring the best response for positively introducing Christianity to the Asian culture.
Simon Chan, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014) 10, Kindle.
Ibid., 42, Kindle.
Ibid., 11, Kindle.
Ibid., 13, Kindle.
Jackie Pullinger, “Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens,” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1980), 87, Kindle.
Ibid., 30, Kindle.
Ibid., 177, Kindle.
Ibid., 37, Kindle.