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"Missionaries to Austin?"
by Tom Goodman
May 19, 2006

As a leader in an American church, you may not see yourself as a missionary.  Ed Stetzer and David Putman think you should.  They believe that the only way you can reach your community is by doing what missionaries do.

In their new book, Breaking the Missional Code: When Churches Become Missionaries in Their Communities, they remind us that missionaries must have “a profound understanding of their host culture before planning a strategy to reach the unique people group that exists in that cultural context.”

They go on to say, “This is why [missionaries] first study the culture to find strategies that will work among the people who live in that cultural setting.  Missions history is filled with stories of great revivals because missionaries were able to ‘break the code,’ and the church exploded in their community.  The missionaries found the redemptive window through which the gospel could shine.”

You can read the introduction and the first chapter of this important new book here (requires PDF Reader).

I think the authors make an important point: why should we think that our church’s job is any different than the job of a foreign missions agency?  When missionaries bring the gospel into an unfamiliar culture, they have to ask some important questions:

What can I use from their culture as entry-points to make the gospel understandable?
What manner of their language or dress or music or story-telling can I adopt as my own to identify with this culture?
Do I consider their language or dress or music or story-telling “acceptable” as ways of teaching the Word and expressing praise to God?
How much of my own culture am I expecting them to adopt, even though it has nothing to do with the timeless gospel truth?
The best missionaries spend a lifetime making honest personal assessments along these lines.  The problem is, leaders in American churches don’t often realize that these same questions have to be asked of our own work.

The culture immediately around us has changed radically, and church leaders now have to do their work in America much as missionaries do their work in distant lands.  May God guide you as you work with me at connecting the unchanging gospel to the Austin community God has commanded us to reach!


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