Month: April 2016

Season 2, Episode 2: Challenges of Transition

In this episode of Life On Mars, Don and Todd talk to Darrin about the challenges of transition. Darrin spent a year in the 10/40 window with a church-planting team, is a brilliant writer and thinker, and now works in marketing in the Chicagoland area.

We talk to him about the before and after – both the fears of moving overseas and the challenges of returning to America. If you’re a missionary, considering going overseas, or involved in a church that sends workers overseas, Darrin’s perspective will flood you with helpful insights and things to consider.

Subscribe to Life on Mars by searching for “Life on Mars podcast” on iTunes or by clicking here. You can also listen to this episode below!

One Strategy for Cross-Cultural Evangelism

When you are given the chance to tell an unbeliever about the hope you have, where do you start? Do you talk about being guilty before God but now being made righteous by Jesus? About once being far off from God but now being his beloved son or daughter? About your deceased father or your chronic bodily pain, but how the resurrection of Jesus promises a resurrection to a glorified body for you and all who belong to Jesus?

A few years ago, I listened to a talk by Tim Keller, “Writing from a Christian Worldview,” which gave me an exciting new paradigm for thinking about sharing the gospel. Midway through the lecture, Keller brings up 1 Corinthians 1:22–24, which is part of Paul’s discussion of the apparent folly of the cross:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Keller points out how, according to this passage, Jesus both contradicts and completes the longings of any culture. First, see how Jesus contradicts. “Jews demand signs [i.e., power] and Greeks seek wisdom,” and for these power-seekers and wisdom-seekers, the crucified Christ is nothing more than a “stumbling block” or “folly.” Jesus offers neither the Jews nor the Greeks what they in their own cultural milieus particularly prize. He contradicts these cultural longings.

At the same time, though, Jesus completes these longings. For Paul goes on to say that “to those who are called,” Jesus is in fact “the power of God” (for the Jews) and “the wisdom of God” (for the Greeks). In other words, no, Jesus does not embody power or wisdom according to the worldly or idolatrous standards of the Jews and Greeks. However, neither does Jesus altogether abolish these longings. Rather, he takes the longings of “those who are called” and transforms them such that they find their true fulfillment in him.

Parts of Keller’s foundation for reading 1 Corinthians this way are the doctrines of total depravity and creational good. Total depravity says that, after the Fall, everything is corrupted by sin, but as Keller points out, this doctrine does not say that everything in the world is completely, utterly, 100-percent corrupted by sin. If that were the case, that would mean that unbelievers never do or say or think anything that is less than utterly and completely wrong. Your neighbor ever mow your lawn for you while you’re on vacation?

Given that nuance, we can acknowledge the creational good that is still in our world, even after the Fall. There is a glimmer of goodness in every corner of creation, however heinous and hostile to God that person, community, or society might be. The Jewish longing for power and Greek longing for wisdom, however idolatrous apart from Jesus, is not so completely and utterly perverted that those longings cannot be transformed and realized in Jesus.

What this means for us in our evangelism is that we have an opportunity to meet our unbelieving friend where his or her heart is. We can try to identify our friend’s idolatrous longings and show how Jesus might be the unexpected answer to these longings.

After all, the gospel is a many-faceted jewel. To belong body and soul to Jesus, God’s Savior-King, brings us a wealth of different blessings. Why wouldn’t we begin our evangelism by turning toward our unbelieving friend the facet which might at first be most beautiful to him or her? Over time we can show the fullness of what it means to belong to and follow Jesus.

I serve in a culture that, like many in the world, operates largely out of a sense of honor and shame. Thus, I am trying to learn how to express the good news of Jesus more in terms of honor and shame, knowing that these are major, fundamental themes in Scripture and may make more immediate sense to the people I meet here.

What do the unbelievers you know long for? How can you show them Jesus as the better, unexpected answer to these longings? Answer in the comments below!

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