the weblog of Alan Knox

But I thought we were in Nicaragua

Posted by on Dec 15, 2011 in blog links | 1 comment

But I thought we were in Nicaragua

A few years ago – before I really started studying the church from the perspective of the New Testament – my family went to Nicaragua with some friends on a mission trip. When we got to Nicaragua, almost everything was new and different because we were in a new and different culture.

But, when we “went to church,” it was like we were back in the southern part of the United States of America – except the language, of course. Even then, I noticed the stark difference between the culture and the church.

I thought about this when I read a post by Felicity at “Simply Church” called “Missions: the bad!

She writes:

In many nations we have been to, the church resembles any traditional church in the West. The buildings look the same, the people dress in Western clothes for services; they sing translations of Western hymns or songs. Pictures of Jesus portray him as Anglo. The people love God with all their hearts, but Christianity is known as a foreign religion by those outside the church because it looks so different–so Western.

The history of missions shows much insensitivity to local culture. Missionaries, with the best of intentions, confused Christianity and Western culture. They are not one and the same.

The Good News of Jesus transcends culture; it can be contextualized within any culture.

In many places, the damage is done. With great intentions, the gospel was planted along with a Western church culture (the good, the bad, and the ugly of that Western church culture).

But, today, wherever we are, how do we ensure that when we proclaim the gospel we are not also proclaiming our own church culture, whether that is a more institutional church culture or a more organic church culture? (And, you do have a church culture…)

One Comment

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-18-2011

    That is a great post. I thought I would post my comment from there here as well…

    It’s hard to believe that the training of missionaries does not include cultural awareness training. I’m not familiar with the kind of training they go through, but it seems like this would be “Missionary 101.” Even politicians get it. You see it all the time on the TV. I’m sure everyone has seen Hillary Clinton with her head covered. It’s not like she goes to other countries and tells them to dress in pant suits! That would be insensitive (as you mention) and arrogant. We just don’t understand the psychological effects of some of our actions. Beyond just being insensitive (and although unintentional), don’t you think we’re subconsciously communicating that their culture is of the world and God established Western culture?.