Jesus valued culture. So do we.
God Became Man
And why that’s essential to everything we do
We know Jesus was God, the One True God, who left his perfect place of power, beauty, and love to be born into this world with the purpose of saving it. Jesus left a place of honor to come to place where even his best friends barely understood him, and those who hated him insulted him without consequences.
Jesus came to a planet where every person on it was in rebellion against him, and he traded his own life to win back those who would follow him.
Jesus is the greatest missionary.
Philippians 2:6-7 says, “Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Jesus provides a perfect model for our approach to crossing into other cultures. We want to take on the culture and language of the people we are called to reach, so that the gospel might be communicated as clearly as possible.
Language is the inner room of a culture
This can be one of the hardest values to understand for some, especially Americans. We can drive for three days in one direction, cover thousands of miles, and still be speaking English. Many places in the world need multiple languages to travel just a few minutes away.
More than a necessity, language gives you natural access to people. Real conversations of the heart, discipleship, and influence happen because of competence in a language.
The effects of learning a language are sometimes hard to quantify, both for the learner and the people. Language learners also learn humility, while God matures and prepares their hearts for the work ahead, as many of our missionaries can testify.
The language process sheds a previous culture and adopts a new one. Our missionaries do not want to transplant Western culture, but to transfer the Gospel–in its purest form–into another culture. Language acquisition is an essential tool for doing so.
Where culture and the Gospel collide
Romans 1 tells us God has already revealed Himself to all peoples, whether or not they recognize Him. It’s the quest of the missionary to discover where cultures have embedded this truth of God, and help the people see Jesus in a way that makes sense to them. That’s why we prioritize the learning of culture when we send missionaries.
Didn’t Jesus Himself show us how to leave everything behind and become a servant? Acquiring culture requires the same heart. One beginning missionary said during language school, “I feel like I’m giving up who I am.” It’s true. But that is the spiritual beauty of this process.