June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
In addition to the stumbling blocks identified by Pani, I would offer three other obstacles to the gospel. The first obstacle is determining proper contextualization of “cultural” elements by identifying bridges and barriers to the gospel. The second obstacle is realizing our own ethnocentrism to identify personal and cultural idols. The third obstacle would be using the understanding of contextualization and ethnocentrism to shift focus to empower and enable the indigenous church.
Culture is similar to religion in that it is so varied and vague that it has become no longer useful. I would offer that it’s time we define “cultural” elements as social organization, customs and traditions, language, arts and literature, religion, forms of government, and economic systems and ask missionaries and academics to attempt to use these elements to make their arguments and offer solutions wherever possible. Ethnocentrism is judging other cultures by the standards of your own while assuming your own culture to be the best. Until we understand the implicit beliefs that we have acquired through our own development psychology and how the gospel can help us to identify and work through them then the cultural bias of ethnocentrism will be a major obstacle.
In order for the indigenous church to be empowered we will have to continue to seek transformation in moving from a short-term to a long-term view. As missionaries we will have to move from placing the primary focus on results to developing relationships with great depth and intimacy. In situations of great uncertainty and ambiguity it is a natural tendency to rely on preconceived and idealistic notions , and past experiences or the experiences of others, but sensemaking requires a great deal of cultural research and reliance upon God’s will in order to discern his mission, in this case for the Hindu.
Training, research, prayer and sharing best practices can help us to deal with the obstacles before us so that the gospel might be preached effectively in a Hindu context.
D. D. Pani, “Fatal Hindu Gospel Stumbling Blocks” (IJFM, Spring 2001)