You Can’t Reach Nonbelievers with ‘Passive Congeniality’ by ELLIOT CLARK for Christianity Today
Two experts on intercultural evangelism explore the challenge of sharing Christ in a climate of growing indifference.
Christian evangelism entails a conversation with people of different beliefs. But those conversations are also often between people of different cultures. That’s where Effective Intercultural Evangelism, a new book from missiologists W. Jay Moon and W. Bud Simon, steps into the discussion. They want to help Christians share the good news of Jesus in a world of diverse cultural perspectives.
Readers might assume such a resource would be aimed at those in cross-cultural missionary contexts. But the authors want us to realize that when we talk with the average non-Christian in our communities, they don’t just believe differently than we do. They often think, process, feel, appreciate, and evaluate differently than we do. They come to the conversation with different worldviews.
Consider, for example, the category of human desires. The authors encourage believers to ask their friends, “If you could receive any one of the following four things, which would it be? Deliverance, restoration, forgiveness, or belonging?” It’s a helpful question. Is deliverance more appealing to you? What about restoration? Do you ultimately seek forgiveness and cleansing? Or does discovering a sense of belonging and a longing for home more accurately describe your desires?
Moon and Simon believe that a person’s greatest desire is shaped by their worldview. The aim of their book is to help readers “discern various worldviews and how to continue God conversations that are relevant to each of these worldviews.” In other words, they want to equip evangelists to tap into the needs, desires, values, and assumptions of those around them. As Christians better understand the perspectives of their conversation partners, they’re more confident and competent to help them take the next step toward following Jesus.
Here’s how Moon and Simon define intercultural evangelism: as “the process of putting Christ at the center of someone’s worldview in order to initiate them into Christian discipleship through culturally relevant starting points.” The authors group these cultural starting points into worldview categories that form the structure of much of the book. Borrowing from the work of the pioneering Bible translator Eugene Nida and others, they address the dominant worldview frameworks of guilt/justice, shame/honor, and fear/power, along with an emerging category they identify as “indifference/belonging with purpose.”