Missionary Communication Case Study

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Register to read the introduction… We said that the ultimate goal of the missionary is to raise up effective sources of the Christian message from within the target culture. Missionary communication that does not keep this goal in mind is myopic. The world mission of the church has been greatly weakened by lack of vision at this point. It is not so much that missionaries have been remiss in encouraging the emergence of Christian leadership in the

DAVID HESSELGRAVE — ROLE OF CULTURE IN
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Imagine the case of a missionary from New York who goes to Nagoya, Japan. His short-range objective will be to take the truths communicated in the biblical terms Theos, hamartia, and soteria7 (and related synonyms), and communicate them in terms of Kami, tsumi, and sukui.8 Ideally, he will encode these truths with as little intrusion of the North American cultural accretions attached to the terms God, sin, and, salvation as possible. This is no easy task, for by virtue of his enculturation, he is better equipped to understand the terms Theos, hamartia, and soteria. And he is certainly better prepared to understand Kami, tsumi, and sukui. Moreover, his long-range objective must be to encourage Japanese Christian converts to become sources and to communicate Christ in culturally relevant terms within their own culture, and in still other respondent cultures—Javanese culture, for example. In that culture, Japanese missionary sources will be called upon to communicate the meaning of Theos, hamartia, and soteria in terms of Allah, dosa, and keselamaton.9 The way in which missionaries communicate Christian truth to Japanese, in forms available within Japanese culture, may have a salutary effect on the way in which Japanese missionaries present these same truths to Javanese Muslims. After all, Allah is defined by the Javanese Muslim in such a way as to make the Incarnation impossible. Sin is defined in such a way as to make the Incarnation unnecessary. And as for salvation, Muslims view God as merciful and sovereign and are quite willing to let it go at that. Whether or not the Japanese missionary is prepared to deal with these cultural differences may well depend upon the communication he has received from missionary tutors and models in

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