Moz to Oz – how does cross-cultural mission relate back home.

This is a post first guest blogged at stephenmcalpine.com and then the gospel coalition. Posted again here for those of you who may have missed it.

One of the of the most common question we get asked when we visit people in Australia is this:

“What can your work in Mozambique teach the local Australian church about sharing the Good News with people in Australia?”

Our answer is pretty simple:

 “Learn the language and culture of people outside of your church community so that you can share the stories of Jesus.”

 In other words do the same thing here that we are doing there. What the gospel in Australia needs right now is cross-cultural mission work!

Learn the language and culture of people outside of your church community so that you can share the stories of Jesus … What the gospel in Australia needs right now is cross-cultural mission work!

Our mission in Mozambique is to share with people the story and person of Jesus. Ultimately, we want to see people following the life-giving path of Jesus from within their own culture and context. We long to see a truly indigenous faith expression of church among our friends.

And that’s no different to what we want to see in Australia. Some of our core activities in Mozambique are learning language and culture so that we can have deep relationships and communicate well with people. The cultural gap is so extreme it’s a no brainer.  If you want to engage relationally and personally with people, learning language and culture is foundational.

And, you guessed it: In order to effectively engage relationally with people in Australia you need to do the same thing!

Once upon a time in Australia it may have been possible to walk outside of our church communities and use church language to talk about Jesus with outsiders and to be reasonably confident people would understand. There was sufficient shared narrative that bound us. But now? That’s all gone. In post-Christian, post-religious Australia, just as in pre-Christian Mozambique, we need to invest time and energy in understanding the language and culture of the average Aussie.

Once upon a time in Australia it may have been possible to use church language to talk about Jesus with outsiders. But now? That’s all gone.

What other key lessons have we learned in Mozambique? Crucially this: We can share “friendships and story”. The gospel is best shared within deep relationships and when given the chance to share the Good News, make sure you share the stories about the person of Jesus!

Friendships take time and energy and require space in our lives. If we desire to share who Jesus is with people there must be space within our friendship network for people from outside of our religious community.

Sociologist Robin Dunbar observed that we have a limited number of close friendships that are possible in our lives. And Communications professor, Jeffery Hall, says that in order to become good friends with someone it takes around 140 hours!

That can sound pretty daunting but it can also take the pressure off – Jesus focused on twelve friends and of those, three were close friends. Look to share Jesus with 3 close friends in your life. That’s it. It’s a pretty good goal.

In Mozambique we have learned the power of stories. Stories transcend. Stories allow truth to be discovered and internalised independent of the storyteller.

The Australian novelist Kate Forsyth said this:

 “Story is the most serious intruder in the human heart”. 

In an age where religion is on the nose, let’s trust that the stories of Jesus have to power to transform lives, transcend barriers and enter hearts.

We’ve seen the transcendent power of Jesus stories in action. Despite our faltering language and the massive cultural gap, people are captivated by the stories of a man who turned the world upside down in Israel 2000 years ago.

I think Australians are also crying out for something transcendent. They’ve rejected our version of institutional church but not the transcendent story of Jesus. Let’s learn the language and culture of our people and let’s tell them the story.

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