Culture and Belief

Interracial Hands 2

“People like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic or class barriers.” – Donald McGavran

This statement by Donald McGavran, probably the premier missiologist of the 20th century, has far reaching implications. As an anthropological fact, there is virtually no empirical evidence that can refute this descriptive observation of human behavior. Some of the implications are:

1.  As followers of Jesus, we are the ones who must cross the barriers …we must go to where people are and not expect them to come to us. Hence the necessity of missionality.

2.  This is a phenomenological observation, not a theological statement. It is a description of reality, not a statement of what should or should not be.

3.  Understanding this principle greatly informs how we help people become followers of Jesus. It relates to those who are not fellow travelers in the Kingdom and who have yet to follow Jesus as King. This is not a statement regarding the ideal way that those who follow Jesus should relate to one another as they grow and mature as disciples of Jesus.

4.  If we “front load” the good news with moral or social requirements rather than the basic decision to follow Jesus as King—no matter what that may entail—we create artificial barriers and most people will not respond. We become, in practice, anthropological pharisees. Such moral front-loading can be indicative of a ethnocentric arrogance which places my own moral agenda ahead of the unique moral agenda and priorities that the Spirit of God may have for another person or culture.


“Understanding Church Growth” (Donald Anderson McGavran)

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