Cross Cultural Discipleship: Where It Begins

24 Oct

If you are going to make disciples cross-culturally one of the most important qualities is one that really can’t be taught.

You actually have to want to make disciples cross-culturally if you are going to make disciples cross-culturally. If you want to make disciples cross-culturally, you are going to make disciples cross-culturally.

Take Paul.

It is easy to forget the kind of overwhelming sacrifices he made in order to influence people for Christ.

There were the physical factors.

If you think just about the travel. They say Paul traveled around 25000 kilometers to share the gospel, about 14000 kilometers of those, on land.

Most likely by foot.

There’s a song, I would walk 5000 miles for you. Well, Paul walked far more than that for people he had never met, who were very different than him, that they might know and have a relationship with Jesus.

Then there’s the relational sacrifices.

Cross-cultural ministry is difficult for us. But think about the apostle Paul’s upbringing for a moment. When we think about Paul’s upbringing, he was seriously Jewish.

He calls himself a Hebrew born of Hebrews, and as someone’s written,

“The statement that he is “a Hebrew born of Hebrews ” suggests that his parents brought him up speaking Hebrew and Aramaic, and that the family strictly adhered to the Jewish way of life regulated by the stipulations of the law, avoiding as much as possible any assimilation to Gentile customs and maintaining contact with the Jewish community in Palestine.”

He was raised, to despise Gentiles, and yet, he devoted most of his life, serving God by serving them, to the point of even going to prison, that they, might know the gospel.

And then, there are the mental sacrifices.

Reading Paul, he’s often telling us not to be anxious, and yet, when he talks about the sacrifices he made for the good of the churches, after describing all the sufferings he went through, he says, on top of all that, as if it were the greatest kind of suffering he experienced, 2 Corinthians 11:28, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

There’s another place where talks about it almost as being like labor.

And you have to ask what is it that drove a man to keep going forward, one step at a time, in the face of all that? Because, of course, we want that kind of passion as well, and we need it, if we are going to make, disciples cross-culturally.

One thing that drove him is the fact he knew the importance of the message. That’s vital, for cross-cultural, we have to have a passion for sharing the gospel, and that passion flows out of knowing the importance of the message, we are sharing.

I like Ephesians 3: 7 where Paul is writing, from prison. In fact, he’s called himself here, “a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles.” His cross-cultural ministry has been so difficult that it’s taken him to prison, and you wonder, what is it that’s kept him going in the middle of that?

He says, “Of this gospel I was made a minister.”

Which is the word deacon. That is the term he uses. And deacon means servant. It was a word they would use for someone who even waited on tables.

And Paul takes this word and is saying this is my relationship to the gospel. God made him a servant of the gospel, meaning, he saw himself not as someone standing over it, like he was in charge of it, but under it.The message wasn’t there for him. He was there for the message. It, the gospel, was more important than him.

As someone explains, “The decisive factor of missionary work is not the missionary but Jesus Christ, who is proclaimed, not the messenger, but the message.”

And it’s exactly that kind of attitude towards the gospel that produces, this overwhelming drive, that can keep you moving forward with the gospel, in spite of whatever difficulties you might face.

Even cross-culturally.

When you realize, one, you’ve been given this message that is more important than you, and when you believe, two, that this message has the power, to radically change people.

Which is a second factor, that motivated Paul, to share the gospel with others.

It’s one he gives Titus, in Titus 2. 
Because, as you know, in Crete, Titus is involved in a difficult cross-cultural ministry, and he’s working with people, that had a reputation, for being unable to change, and Paul’s calling on Titus to get involved in discipleship, and he motivates him by saying that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all kinds of men, training them to say no to ungodliness.

Persevere.

Keep going.

Because God can use your sharing the gospel to do something, miraculous.

Obviously there are going to be times when you share the gospel with others and not much seems to be happening. But there are also going to be other times when it is clear God is doing something way beyond what you could do with the message you are sharing.

And this is something that made the apostle Paul so excited.

Not just with the Cretans.

But listen to the way he rejoices at the beginning of 1 Thessalonians.

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3-5)

It’s like Paul’s just looking back and saying,

“Wow. What did God do? He totally changed you. We saw it in your life, right away. We knew something big was happening even as we were sharing with you because the gospel wasn’t coming just with logic and ideas and words. We could see the power of God at work in you and God granted us an unusual certainty about how the gospel was impacting you as we shared it with you.”

Which gives us such hope.

Because if all there was to sharing the gospel was us talking, it would get pretty discouraging. Especially, cross-culturally. But God is at work in this world and in people’s lives. He is at work saving people through the preaching of the gospel, and so if you want to really participate in the great work God’s doing, you should make a priority out of relying on the Holy Spirit like Paul and telling others about Jesus which is where cross-cultural discipleship begins.

It begins with believing the gospel is a message from God that can radically change people, and being so convinced of that, you are willing to do whatever it takes, to tell someone else about Jesus, even if they are different than you.

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