So why can it be awkward to share this so called good news with people?
Too often we look at people as projects and not as what they really are – people. When we share the good news outside of honest and genuine relationships we aren’t sharing the good news that matters to the individual. I’m not saying we should cater the gospel to fit whatever the individual needs or wants but I am saying that the gospel shared outside of relationship is not the full gospel.
In John 4 Jesus meets a samaritan women at a well. The good news to her was the concept of living water. She could finally quench her life-long thirst for approval, security, and significance. A few days later (still in the same chapter) Jesus meets another man, a royal official. The good news to this man was that his son would not die. This man, unlike the samaritan woman, had everything he needed. He probably had moderate wealth, stature, and power. Why didn’t Jesus give the royal official the same “living water” speech he gave the samaritan woman? Outside of relationship, the gospel isn’t as penetrating and life-changing as it is inside of relationship. We mostly understand, now-a-days, that the bullhorn guy’s style of evangelism is ineffective, yet we use the same methods he does with slightly more tact.
The point is, people aren’t projects, they are people worthy of relationship. In the book, Tradecraft, the authors put it like this:
We can either treat [people] as others worthy of relationship or sentence them to a life as a project to be completed.
Think of the difference between a trusted friend asking for $10 and a beggar on the street doing the same. So it goes with the gospel.
This is just as true in missions as it is in the neighborhood you grew up in. This is why it’s so much more effective to empower locals to build relationships amongst each other. Genuine cross-cultural relationships are possible, but they are much more difficult to sustain.
In my experience, the gospel that is presented in a cross-cultural relationship is more likely to be a shallow version that won’t be sustained beyond the immediate friendship. These are not the kind of “disciples” we are called to go out into the world and make.
Are you empowering people to lead? Are you encouraging people to share what they are learning with each other, not just learn from you? Are you fostering a relational environment amongst people?