Following a blog post from ThomRanier.com–http://ow.ly/k8vh1–I was reminded of a very real issue for expectations and reality of being a faithful Christ follower in the non-West cultures.
Talk about “First World Problems,” Ranier’s list and the subsequent comments show the contextual issues of preaching in the West, or at least in the States. In Asian villages and even in Asian urban contexts, not a single one of these listed by Ranier would be problematic. It’s not that his list is invalid: those are real issues in the Western cultural context. In the East, especially in a near-village or village context, there is a much different context.
PRACTICAL “DISTRACTIONS” IN AN ASIAN-VILLAGE CONTEXT
In preaching in our little slice of Asia, we have a saying: “You haven’t really preached unless there was at least one woman nursing a baby in the group.”
Whether preaching, sharing the good news of God’s provision of right relationship with himself through Jesus, or really whatever, all these situations have great potential for a very different set of “distractions”:
1. animals of all kinds (dogs, cats, mice, spiders, flies, goats, cows, water buffalo, yaks, monkeys . . .)
2. [the aforementioned] breast-feeding
3. children, doing whatever they might and surely will do
4. people talking in “normal” voices about whatever: there’s no such thing as whispering
5. people coming and going all throughout
6. no excuses, no “Pardon me, Sorry,” etc.
7. phones going off, being answered in loud voices so the person on the line can hear [and there are plenty of phones: more than toilets]
8. question & answer, commenting, laughing, talking to each other, discussion, etc., etc.
9. changing the message midway, because of issues raised from the audience
10. arguing back at the main speaker/preacher/sharer
Only the last one is really an issue, but this can usually be used as a tool for better applying the Word to the audience!
As one commenter on Rainer’s blogpost mentioned: it is erroneous for us [the speaker] to have the attitude that it is our message, that the people just need to hear what we have to say. In that case, where is the Holy Spirit? Whose message is it really?
What then happens for someone now used to sharing in the Asian village context is that preaching in the West, namely in the States, becomes weird. Where is the dialogue, the interaction? Where is the body, the community? What is the church . . . a one-voiced group of many ears?
The post from BetweentheTimes.com–http://ow.ly/k8tgc–is an interesting indicator of this issue in the States: the “Call-Response & Celebration” practice in the black congregations of churches in the States speaks of the dynamics of relational church-gathered.
THE ASIAN CONTEXT IS RELATIONAL
The Asian context with all its “distractions” actually brings the message to the center. Why else would everyone endure all these pressing realities of life just sitting there listening and discussing? If there was no impetus to stay, the “distractions” would have long-before led them to their work or play. Instead, the message, the truth, the call to hear and see and taste the goodness of God’s holy love draws them in. Life continues along all throughout the message, but all the things going on around them only serve to affirm their awareness of the message of good news of Christ being brought near to them!
Also, the Asian village context serves to create a church dynamic in keeping with the New Testament cultural church. The people are involved in the preaching, not merely as a passive audience of receptors but as collaborators in the sharing. Their questions and comments lead the message on. Their stated issues and responses draw out specific applications of the Word. We can see this in the sharing of Jesus and throughout Acts, as the sharing was done in dialogue and many developments of the messages were based on the audience’s comments or situations.
It is a beautiful thing to be in relational proclamation!
There is relationship between the speaker and the hearer, and this helps not only to tailor the message to the specific issues of the context but also for the receiver of the message to have an un-escapable point of decision and obedience. Whether in one-on-one gospel sharing or in a church body sermon, relational proclamation is the nature of a familial body of Christ, the familial community of God’s people discovering the Word’s application to their reality!
Church is a relational family, and the proclamation of the Word in it’s midst should look like it.
The good news that God has provided a free gift of relationship with him through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, one time for all sin, one time for whoever will receive it, is also an invitation to the relational family of the church. God’s people should accompany their sharing of the good news with compassion and love for those potential siblings of the church; otherwise, we look like the Older Brother in the Prodigal Son parable! The sons’ Father says, “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Are you speaking about your life and faith to a gathering of people, or are you speaking and living out your salvation with your brothers and sisters?