Background and Considerations

Every Christian worker needs to think carefully about the culture in which he or she is working in order to effectively reach people with the gospel. Culture is defined as the integrated system of learned behavior patterns, ideas, and products characteristic of a society. Culture affects us on three levels:

  1. The Outer Layer – visible behavior, products and institutions
  2. The Deeper Layers – values, beliefs, ideas, and feelings.
  3. The Central Core – our world view, the level of assumptions about origins, what is real, and what has meaning.

Culture is a total way of life and therefore pervasive. It makes life meaningful to its people and also makes communication possible.

Since the gospel is a change agent and culture resists change, we must learn to contextualize the gospel so that it will fit as naturally as possible into the lives of the people we are seeking to influence for Christ. When this is done properly the implications and effect of the gospel message will not be compromised but rather enhanced because people will more easily be able to develop a relationship with Christ.

Key Passages and Questions

  1. Ethnic Divisions — Acts 6:1-7
      • Is it realistic to expect that no controversy will arise in the Church?
      • What conclusions can we draw from Acts 6 about how to deal with ethnic divisions?
      • How was the mission of the Church affected when this problem was properly dealt with?
  2. Contextualizing the Gospel — Acts 15:1-6
    • Does contextualization affect the content of the gospel, or only the form in which it is presented?
    • How important is it to observe the cultural practices in the area where we live and work?
    • Who should make decisions regarding the cultural practices followed in a local Church, and why?
  3. Criticism from the Brethren — Acts 21:17-26
    • What did the Church leaders ask Paul to do in order to quiet the fears and rumors of the Hebrew converts?
    • Was this good counsel in the light of the Jerusalem Counsel decision in Acts 15?
    • What should the Church leaders have done instead?
  4. Language Barriers — Acts 14:8-15
    • What was God’s solution to the language barriers in Acts 2?
    • Why is it important for people to be able to hear the gospel in their mother tongue?
    • Should our Church be doing more to reach people of various language groups in our area?

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