The Importance of Cultural Awareness
Every Christian is a missionary. If we carefully read the book of Acts, we will see that when persecution arose in Jerusalem, all the Christians were scattered except the apostles. Those who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Gospel (Acts 8). That was the way the Christian church multiplied. It was not by an ordained clergy, by the apostles, or even by the deacons. It was the rank and file of Christians who took the Gospel wherever they went in the ancient world. In other words, they were missionaries.
In the modern church we make a distinction between the “professional missionary” and the “layman.” The distinction is between paid missionaries and volunteers, between “full-time” hired employees and rank-and-file church members. Sadly, it has come to mean that the paid professionals are responsible to do the missions task. The layperson’s job is to pray for the missionary, give tithes to the missionary, and in other ways encourage the missionary. The missionaries are the players; the rest of us are cheerleaders.
God teaches us otherwise. Of course there is a special place for the paid professional. However, the biblical definition of a missionary has nothing to do with salary. A missionary is not simply “one who is paid.” In biblical terms a missionary is “one who is sent.” Here is the crux of the matter. We are all sent. It is our calling to be witnesses. Every Christian must get in the game. There are no cheerleaders—only players.
Some missionaries go to Africa—others travel to the Orient or to Europe. Every missionary goes somewhere. We all have a mission field, if only our own neighborhood or office building. Every corner of the world is a mission field. There are no boundaries in this world beyond which Christian witness is out of bounds.
Suppose for a moment that you had the opportunity to meet Jesus face to face. If in that meeting you had the chance to ask Jesus one question, what would you ask Him? The disciples had the opportunity to ask Jesus questions every day. They asked Him how to pray, how to heal the sick, and questions about theology. There came a moment, however, when they were down to their last question. They stood with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, the mountain of ascension. Jesus was about to depart from them. The cloud of Shekinah glory was ready to envelop Christ and lift Him to heaven. Jesus was leaving this planet.
There was time for one more question. What was it? The disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 NIV). I wonder why they asked that question. Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus had answered, “Yes. The work is finished. I am going to the right hand of the Father. As soon as I arrive and am enthroned as King of Kings and Lord of Lords you can all enjoy a vacation. I’ll take care of everything. I’ll make sure that every element of the world recognizes My reign. We will make an official announcement by writing it in the sky. Then I will send angels to every remote part of the globe to make absolutely certain that everybody knows that I am now the king of the universe. You fellows take a rest. Go back up in the stands and enjoy the game.”
We know that is not what Jesus said. Rather He answered their question something like this: “Look, it’s none of your business when the kingdom is going to be restored to Israel. My Father has a timetable for that. What is your business is Be My witnesses.”
The kingdom of God is real. At this very moment Jesus sits in the seat of cosmic authority. He is now the supreme ruler of the world. He stands over the governments of this world. He is King. The Premier of the Soviet Union must answer to Him. The Dalai Lama of Tibet must answer to Him. The Prince of Morocco must answer to Him. The President of the United States must answer to Him. But there is one big problem. His kingdom is invisible. Not everyone knows about it. All over the world people are living as if Jesus were not King.
Some people believe that there is no God. Others say that there are many gods. Some folks believe that man is supreme. Others believe that man is worthless. Many people believe there is a God, but they live as if there were no God. Still others ask, “What difference does it make?”
Where Christ is invisible, people perish. Where His reign is unknown or ignored, people are exploited. They are demeaned. They are enslaved. They are butchered. They are aborted. They are raped. They are casualties of war. They are robbed. They are slandered. They are oppressed. They are cheated in marriage. They are cheated in their wages. They are left to go hungry, naked, and unsheltered. They are consigned to loneliness. They are ridiculed. They are frightened—that and a whole lot more, is what difference it makes.
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