Today we’re ushering in Donna Williams to introduce our first #BestoftheBestFriday! Fun facts about Donna :
- She once lived in an international dorm where she learned six different ways to make rice.
- She likes long layovers.
- In Mexico, she learned her name can mean “donut.”
- Donna loves that she gets to read stories from global workers around the world as part of her job.
Look out. Your worldview is showing. It happens every time you cross cultures, and sometimes when you don’t.
Three bloggers this month tackle three different Christian traditions: evangelism bead bracelets, Christmas shoeboxes, and the term “The Great Commission”.
Salvation Bracelets in Africa? No, Thanks.
Melanie Clinton, Sub-Saharan Africa
Genius. That’s what I thought the first time I saw a salvation bracelet. Five beads told the gospel message:
black/dark = sin
red = blood of Jesus
white/clear = forgiven/righteous
green = spiritual growth
yellow = heaven/eternal life/return of Christ
You could use this in oral cultures, with kids, anywhere. Simple.
Then I learned that some add a blue bead to the bracelet for baptism; others add purple for worship. Right there, before we even get out of our own American Christian subculture, we see the complications of designing a one-story-fits-all evangelism tool. In this first article, Melanie Clinton offers two reasons why the tool doesn’t translate in sub-Saharan Africa:
First, because many Africans understand colors differently. And second, because beads or bracelets are often believed to be objects of power associated with magic.
Opening Up Christmas Shoeboxes: What Do They Look Like On the Other Side?
Amy Medina, Tanzania
This piece caused such a Facebook storm that blogger Amy Medina has since written a follow-up on the reaction, quoting over a dozen people who had similar shoebox experiences in other countries.
Medina was introduced to the project at an orphanage in Tanzania where she was preparing to distribute gifts from American Christians, packed in shoeboxes, and shipped by Operation Christmas Child.
Right away, I started to realize that maybe our shoebox idea wasn’t so great after all. The kids at the orphanage had no personal possessions. They all shared clothes. They shared beds. I realized they wouldn’t even have a place to keep the gifts we were giving them.
The distribution led to larger questions:
I thought about how Christmas is celebrated in churches in Tanzania. Christmas is a day of joy, and everyone gets together for special food. But children receive new clothes on Christmas–not toys. Children aren’t sad that they didn’t get any toys, because they don’t expect them. So I started to wonder: Do we want children to expect toys at Christmas? Has that tradition produced good fruit within our own culture? Is that a Christmas tradition that Americans want to export to the rest of the world?
Medina’s questions are powerful, as is her extended quote from a Tanzanian pastor, asked for his reaction to a video about a shoebox-related church plant in his country. His partial reply:
While gifts may give us access to difficult places, they should not be the substitutes of the Holy Spirit…My advice always to Western missionaries is not to come to Africa with their strategies…They have to come empty-handed, with the Holy Spirit.Tanzanian pastor: My advice always to Western missionaries is not to come to Africa with their strategies...They have to come empty-handed, with the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet
The article ends with links to other writings on the topic, as well as alternatives to the shoebox outreach. Then Medina’s follow-up post offers some long-term approaches to poverty overseas, with links to groups involved.
Both posts are meaningful reads with thoughtful resources:
51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission
Barna Group, USA
That’s right. Research showed that 51% of the American church is unfamiliar with the phrase “The Great Commission”. But the title doesn’t give the full story. The shock is that another 25%, who did remember hearing the phrase, could not recall what it meant. Only 17% could actually define it. And 6% weren’t sure.
In the study, Barna Group found:
The degree to which an individual churchgoer is personally aware of the phrasing of the Great Commission could be explained by the degree to which their own church denomination or leader publicly references it.
So it’s learned. But what does that mean for the churches which don’t teach this? Does our completion of goals in global work require certain language? Are churches without this term still active in global work?
Spoiler: Barna doesn’t answer these. But the research does look at the term’s use by age, and records what happened when Christians were asked to pick the Commission verse out of a line-up of other Scriptures.
Enjoy these reads! As a bonus, here’s Tripp and Tyler’s parody of US-centered giving from a few years back:
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