We had an interesting day in Washington, D.C. The Mall was filled with people with causes. There were people who wanted to protect the animals, who were fighting breast cancer, who were involved in political efforts. There were people representing the inhumane treatment of people in other countries. But there were also spiritual groups. Probably the most noticeable of these were the Hare Krishna groups. Their tents were colorful, and they were giving out free food. They had great music. They were dressed in their Krishna garb, monk-like outfits. Their place was packed. For some reason, they drew everyone in. There was curiosity, and they treated everyone like guests. They treated everyone with a warm, warm welcome.
There were also some Christian groups there, and they were passing out literature. I enjoyed taking the tracts just to read what they were passing out. One was filled with words we take for granted, words like “atonement” and “trinity,” but I wondered whether people walking the Mall, just enjoying the Fourth of July, could really understand what the message was.
Some of the Christian groups were in-grown. They were under a little tent, singing hymns, some of which had words that would make little sense to someone without the backdrop, the theology. It seemed so out of context; it seemed there was no sensitivity to where they were and to what message would be appropriate and relevant in the context in which they were delivering it. For some reason, the Krishna group seemed more attractive than the Christian group.
I realize these are brothers and sisters who love the Lord, who were doing what no doubt God had urged them to do, but it made me think about our mission and whether or not we are relevant to the culture that surrounds us. Is our message is filled with words that need definitions and context, or does the context allow us to share the Gospel in a way that people understand? It reminds me of Jesus talking about the mustard seed and the trees that were visible to the people – he used the context to give an illustration of what faith was about.
It’s my prayer that we at American Missionary Fellowship will not be blind to the cultural context so that the message is easy for people to understand and powerful for people to claim for their lives.