Evangelism in a Cross-Cultural Environment

Introduction

Evangelism is one of the ways through which gospel is proclaimed to people. The rate of the spread of the gospel grows exponentially to reach a greater multitude of different cultural origins. Evangelism is also a way of bringing people to Christianity, regardless of their cultural affiliations. The goal of evangelism cannot be attained by spreading the gospel alone and witnessing people being saved. Rather, it also entails building an everlasting relationship not only between human beings and God but also among people. The paper will critically elaborate on the subject of evangelism in across cultural environments. It emphasizes new insights for the world evangelism in Kenya and Africa, changed perspectives, and any disappointments that the evangelists and people witness. Besides, it also presents personal perspectives on the need, viability, implications, and the possibility of evangelism in a cross-cultural environment.

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New Insights from World Evangelism in Kenya and Africa

Although modernization is rapidly emerging in Kenya and most parts of Africa, evangelism is still practiced in a community-based way, rather than the radical and individualistic means. This method is in line with Chilcote and Laceye’s work that demonstrates the link between evangelism and social justice.1Most of the preachers conduct group prayers. They also hold collective Bible studies, sermons to the congregations, and Christian gatherings among others. This plan is adopted due to the state of the African cultures and societies that are still in the lower level of the hierarchy of needs. Hence, togetherness forms the basis of the various methods through which a greater multitude can be reached.

Most Kenyans appreciate spiritual growth. However, their spiritual needs are mostly influenced by the history of the Church in their localities. For instance, if a Church focuses on deliverance, most of the evangelist works will be based on this theme. In turn, the respective people will confess their need for deliverance. These practices are evident in the domination of various Christian Churches and their significance in various parts of the country. The gospel that is being preached spreads easily due to well-defined communities that are concerned about the welfare of others. People believe in sharing, giving to the Church to gain blessings, and seeking the word of God to meet their spiritual needs. Therefore, it is difficult to evangelize to Kenyans and Africans through radical and individualized means since the Church is regarded as a community whose members belong to each other, irrespective of their cultural affiliations.

Spreading the word of God is also done through worshiping and fellowshipping among other means. This evangelism is effectively conducted in groups but not by individuals. Therefore, the clusters form Churches. This context is well elaborated in each Christian setup in Kenya and Africa. Thus, a true doctrine of the community is seen to be the basis of evangelism in Kenya and other African regions.2 For instance, Kenyans are more integrated into Church communities where they work together with others, irrespective of their cultural backgrounds. This idea should be transferred to the western society that embraces radical evangelism that is individualistic in nature.

Although embracing evangelism through the community of Christ is done by Africans, a system where a congregation is limited to a specific denomination should be gotten rid of and replaced with a situation whereby all Churches in a given locality collaborate to promote love among people instead of being centered to a particular denomination. Through this evangelistic strategy, Christians can complete the mission of Jesus Christ of preaching the gospel and practicing the Christian values. An evidence of such togetherness is seen in the Council of Churches in higher positions whose mission is to ensure that the word of God is delivered to the locals.

Reaching people in cross-cultural bases needs a proper communication. This communication is well done by evangelists who conform to the existing cultures in Kenya and the African setup. Most of the evangelists in these areas have been employing dynamic communication strategies to reach people. For instance, Kenya is a reflection of the African evangelism situation where evangelists are known to comprehend more than one local language. The goal is to reach all people, regardless of their culture or education level. Others have gone ahead to learn the sign language so that even the physically challenged people can get the message of God. Through prayers, God commands the Holy Spirit upon evangelists to preach His word. God opens up all the possible means that evangelists need to use to access all people, irrespective of their race, gender, age, or culture. Another way of reaching people is through house-to-house visiting. People are used to open-air preaching. Due to the improvement in technology, most people are currently shifting from public to private lives. Visiting homes has become essential in most African countries to reach those who cannot be met in public such as the physically challenged people. Other ways include being relevant when presenting the truth and using markets and homes to meet people. As mentioned earlier, strategies such as the use of the local languages that can be understood by the local people and perseverance by the evangelists have also been helpful in the course of evangelism.

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The introduction of technology has influenced the proclamation of the gospel to all and sundry in the world, including Kenya and other African countries. With improved technology in many parts of Africa, many people are currently becoming involved in random networks, rather than the usual fully ordered social networks, which link people to their closest neighbors. Today, it is possible to access evangelism materials of people, irrespective of their geographical positions. For instance, digitalized media has helped Kenyans to access South African, Nigerian, and even Tanzanian evangelism materials. One does not need to move from his or her comfort zones to get the contents. Digitalization has also helped to gather people from all over the world with a click of a button. Such media methods do not recognize people’s cultural boundaries, profession, geography, and classes among others. Under such circumstances, the gospel is spread in a shorter time. Africa has taken the advantage of the twenty-first-century networks due to global traveling of immigrations. The Christianity work has been linked to guarantee rapid growth of new Churches, which have helped to take the gospel in Africa to the next level. The African population is also advantaged because most of its people are the youths who are energetic and willing to spread the good news. Most youths are currently sharing their faith with friends who they end up converting to committed Christians.

Some approaches have been used to ensure that evangelism in Africa reaches many people. Encountering fear is also another approach to ensuring that evangelism is spread to the rest of Kenya and Africa at large. Many people come to Africa where they meet others from various cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it is essential to understand these cultures so that the followers can develop trust in the evangelists and hence understand and practice the gospel. Evangelists should take advantage of ministerial positions and be courageous to meet the people with unconditional love and respect. Proper preparation is always required in such situations when a servant of God has to minister to strange-cultured people. Hence, prayer is encouraged since evangelism is a means of taking the gospel to people, rather than waiting for the people to seek the word.

Other insights include a change of perceptions by people on evangelism. Every Church member should be a minister. Members should not just watch the pastor as he or she ministers to the congregation. Pastors should prepare people for God’s work. Such people must also appreciate the significance of evangelism where the key agenda is to gather as many people as possible to Christ. Lastly, Churches should establish many branches all over the African regions so that people who are converted to Christianity through evangelism can have accessible zones where they can nurture their faith. It is crucial for evangelists to follow up on new converts so they do not backslide once left to sail alone on the journey of faith.

Changed Perspectives and Disappointments

Before embarking on changed perspectives, a clear understanding of evangelism should be noted. Evangelism is acknowledged as the faithful witnessing of the conversion of people to Christianity. This process entails sharing of people’s faith and trust in God using the Bible teachings. To elaborate on evangelism in cross-cultural environments, evangelists should demonstrate a clear understanding of how different individuals understand God’s plan of salvation. Evangelism in a cross-cultural environment involves an assessment and appreciation of people spiritual desires, their culture, and relationship with the Gospel of God, as well as their perceptions on the same. These people should thereafter adopt the methods that are appropriate to approach others using their followers’ native language.

Spiritualistic Christians observe evangelism as a call for every person to conversion. The sectarian Christian views it as a call for everybody to join the community of believers while Common Wealth Christians view it as a call for people into the mission. Although such areas concerning evangelism exist, the role of cross-cultural evangelism should be understood when it comes to unifying the Christian faith. In line with Arais’ words, most evangelists misunderstand what is entailed in evangelism since a duty of conversion is only bestowed to the Holy Spirit, rather than the evangelists themselves.3 Such misunderstandings result in problems that include viewing evangelists as ‘gods’. This situation is marked by a change of focus where Christians shift God’s power to the evangelists.4 Issues concerning the followers’ private life may also be a problem where they decide to change to Christianity hoping to see their lives change immediately to the better. They forget the tribulations and sacrifices that accompany God’s people. The cross-cultural environment entails different kinds of people such as the antagonists who must be approached with unconditional love. The gospel must be preached to them through actions. The ignorant people must be approached through the creation of relationships, which give evangelists a chance to pass the word of God to them. This situation requires the evangelists to give a non-threatening and non-argumentative gospel to ensure they become seekers of the word.

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An evangelist who is preaching to the faith seekers must ensure that the message meets their spiritual needs.5 He or she must ensure that opportunities are created for communicating the impact of the redemption of Jesus Christ. This strategy paves a way for them to seek more information about Jesus Christ. The investigators must be confronted to decide from an individual point of view whether the message pushes them to acknowledge the salvation work of Jesus Christ. Lastly, people who are ready and willing to be redeemed must be assisted all the time in terms of making the right choices and committing themselves to discipleship.

Perspectives on the Need, Viability, Implication, and Possibility of Evangelism an A Cross-Cultural Environment

In the current situation, evangelistic methods have been changed accommodate the community-based Churches and large congregations of people from different cultural backgrounds. Dealing with many believers is problematic since the evangelist may not tell whether their confessions are real, or other people push them. For instance, a person may decide to confess his or her sins after seeing a close friend confessing. Dealing with a smaller community has been successful since the evangelists manage to hold a one-on-one interaction with the members. This method is still working well because many people are attracted to the Church through Church communities. The use of Bible study as another method of discussing is also currently noted to be influencing people to seek the gospel. This observation is evident in schools, colleges, and other learning institutions where students gather in their rooms to hold Bible discussions. A door-to-door evangelism is also being encouraged in the current society. Although the method is hectic, it can work well in bringing people to Christianity since evangelists who are well conversant with the local languages are on the rise. Therefore, it is possible to spread the good news in a cross-cultural environment.

Lastly, the friendship evangelistic method is also effective, although it is seen to be ineffective due to its fostering of friendship, rather than spreading the work of God or salvation. It has a greater impact when it comes to realizing the goals of evangelism since most people have the advantage of getting the message from their converted friends who have a first-hand experience in the ministry. Thus, they accept the word of God in workplaces, resting places, bus stations, or even in conferences. These observations are an indication of the need for evangelism in all places, irrespective of the recipients’ cultural affiliations. The above method is viable in a cross-cultural environment since the listeners are only interested in the message and not the message giver. Churches and evangelists need to realize that the proclamation of the word of God to people is their main business, irrespective of the cross-cultural foundations.6 Therefore, evangelists must understand that their role is to evangelize but not to convert people.

Conclusion

The paper has shed light on the field of evangelism in a cross-cultural environment. With the emerging technology, evangelism has been taken a notch higher where preachers and listeners can interact real time, irrespective of their geographical locations. As a result, the paper has presented new insights concerning evangelism in a cross-cultural environment that has been characterized by technological advancement. Evangelists must ensure that God’s word reaches everybody across the different cultures.

Bibliography

Arais, Mortimer. Announcing the Reign of God: Evangelization and the Subversive Memory of Jesus. Lima: Academic Renewal Press, 1984.

Chilcote, Paul, and Warner Laceye. The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church. New York, NY: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2008.

Footnotes

1 – Chilcote Paul and Warner Laceye, The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church (New York, NY: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2008), 5.

2 – Chilcote and Laceye, The Study of Evangelism, 6.

3 – Mortimer Arais, Announcing the Reign of God: Evangelization and the Subversive Memory of Jesus (Lima: Academic Renewal Press, 1984), xvi.

4 – Arais, Announcing the Reign of God, 7.

5 – Arais, Announcing the Reign of God, 11.

6 – Arais, Announcing the Reign of God, 21.

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