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Communicating and Ministering the Power of the Gospel Cross-culturally: The Power of God for Christians Who Ride Two Horses

Many of the independent varieties of Christianity in Africa and other places have arisen in reaction to the contrast between what they see in the Bible concerning dealing with spiritual reality and what they have received from the western advocates of Christianity.4 Christian preachers talk a lot about a wonderful Miracle Worker who lived long ago. But they usually show little or none of that miracle-working power themselves. The promise of Christianity has not been fulfilled for them and they have become disillusioned.

Many who have been brought up in Christian churches have, likewise, become disillusioned because of the lack of power in the churches. They, therefore, have become vulnerable to contemporary movements (e.g. New Age) that promise and demonstrate spiritual power. A Christianity that talks about and promises spiritual power but leaves out the experiencing in this area that Jesus demonstrated and promised His followers (Mat. 10:1, 7-8; 28:20; Lk. 9:1,2; 10:1, 9; Jn. 14:12; Acts 1:8) is a great disappointment to many. Such Christianity leaves itself open to the problem of dual allegiance.

 

The History

Historically, evangelical Christianity has committed enormous resources to the task of evangelizing the world. Countless missionaries have gone out, supported by countless hours of prayer and countless dollars, pounds and other currencies.

The vast majority of these missionaries came from the western world. And they came at a time in history after the western world had largely ceased to believe in spiritual beings and powers. Even within the church, then, the intellectualism of Reformation Christianity combined with the anti-supernaturalism of secular society to produce a brand of Christianity that found more power in reason than in prayer. Medical advances came to be depended on more than prayer for healing, psychology more than deliverance for emotional problems, what humans do in the visible world more than what God does in the invisible. Church meetings came to be centered around sermonizing rather than worship.

From these kinds of churches, then, came the missionaries. In preparation, the missionaries were sent to seminaries and Bible schools where they received more training in rational approaches to theology than in learning the kind of faith-centered behavior of the early Christians (e.g. the Book of Acts). Furthermore, they usually received no training to enable them to understand such things as the cultures of the peoples to whom they went or the way these peoples understand reality or the needs that motivate them to act.

Enduring incredible hardships, these missionaries brought with them what, in comparison to the Christianity of the Bible looks distressingly unsupernaturalistic. They brought this western brand of Christianity, then, to peoples who, by and large, lived with a very high consciousness of the spirit world. Indeed, those to whom the missionaries came often spent considerable amounts of time and money tending to their relationships with the unseen world of spirits—a world that was strange and incomprehensible to the missionaries. There was little in the missionaries’ background that prepared them to even accept, much less deal with the reality of the spirit world.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2009

About the Author: Charles H. Kraft, Ph.D. (Hartford Seminary Foundation), is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Intercultural Communication, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, California). He has served as a missionary in Nigeria, and professor of African languages at Michigan State University and UCLA. He has published widely both in missiology and in African linguistics, and his books include Christianity in Culture (1979 and revised 2005), Worldview for Christian Witness (2008), and The Evangelical's Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Scriptural Insights and Practical Instruction on Facing the Enemy (Chosen, Feb 2015). His ministry website is www.heartssetfree.org.

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