‘Churches must seek to transform and enrich culture,’ states The Lausanne Covenant (Covenant pt-10). But what amounts to transformation? ‘The reality is that transformation is complex and often not properly understood . . . there is little agreement today as to what transformation would look like,’ writes Rupen Das in ‘God’s Work of Transformation in the World’. ‘Nowhere in Scripture are we called to transform the world,’ he argues. However, he concludes that ‘while God does not call us to transform society, he calls us to be witnesses to the reality of the kingdom of God and the king . . . in the midst of a culture that robs people of life, by demonstrating compassion, being advocates for justice, and proclaiming a Redeemer in a sinful and broken world.’
Can Christian communities use their traditional arts to reflect the reality and values of the kingdom of God and the beauty of his holiness? In his article, ‘The Arts Are Not a Universal Language’, Héber Negrão highly recommends the usage of local arts in ‘culturally appropriate worship practices in missionary work.’ The development of ethnodoxology has championed the arts as ‘effective means of communication and, if correctly approached, they can powerfully convey the message of the gospel to the intended culture.’ However, the author notes that ‘there are aspects in every culture that can be used to glorify God, but also cultural expressions that were tainted when humankind sinned.’ To grow ‘churches deeply rooted in Christ and closely related to their culture’ (Covenant pt-10), we can get help from well-qualified people such as the ‘artistic ministry practitioners’, in the article ‘The Critical Role of Christian Artists and Musicians in Missions’ by Byron Spradlin.
Spradlin advocates for the formation of ‘indigenous Christian community’ where ‘culturally relevant expressions of faith and worship’ are respected. He writes, ‘Artistic communicators and artistic expression specialists stand central to developing indigenous Christian community formation, though often they are not being valued.’ The author’s passion to support and equip them led to ‘the launching of Artists in Christian Testimony International (A.C.T. Intl), a mission agency comprised of musicians and artists, and other creative ministry-initiators of all kinds, each of whom is committed to indigenous worship and Christian community formation.’ Many more mission agencies and churches with sufficient ‘ministry-facilitating structures’, and more ‘in-depth training, equipping those artists who feel God’s call to ministry’, are needed.
If we have no regard or respect for the cultural values of the person to whom we are presenting the gospel, ‘we can cause offense by both the mode of presentation and the content of our message’. With a special focus on cultures that value peace and tolerance, Michael Hart, in ‘Proclaiming an Offensive Gospel in Cultures of Peace’, argues that ‘proactive proclamation and deep relationships are integral to effectively sharing the good news.’ He proposes, first of all, that we work to understand such cultures, then bridge the gap with the people by ‘building plausibility structures—contexts, systems, or frameworks in which someone’s beliefs are credible’, and finally ‘provide the materials and blueprint’ to build these new structures. However, ‘it is important we recognize the building blocks of tolerance, respect, and affirmation in peace-loving cultures’ if we wish to proclaim the gospel effectively ‘by word and deed.’
May we find the articles in this issue valuable in understanding culturally sensitive worship and evangelism and how this approach can positively transform missions around the world.
Lausanne Global Analysis is also available in Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Korean. Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue will be released in November 2022.
Loun Ling Lee serves as the editor of Lausanne Global Analysis. Her previous roles include lecturer in mission at Redcliffe College (UK), training director of AsiaCMS based in Malaysia, mission mobiliser with OMF, and pastor at Grace Singapore Chinese Church.