23 August, 2010

Western and Christian: What's a Mission to Do?

There comes times in the life of a mission where they must ask the question, "Are we promoting Western ideals or are we preaching the Gospel?" There are ways in which the Gospel does transform culture, and thanks be to God for that! But at the same time there are cultural aspects of life where the Church needs to say- this is cultural.

This was experienced in the Chinese Mission of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the 20th century. But it only came AFTER a number of years of work in the field. In 1884 the RP Church began plans to work in China; and it was not until 1921 when the attitude towards Chinese culture changed. The early years of the RP Mission were met with frustration that the Chinese did not want to conform to American ways of life in work or in the home.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ not only changes those being ministered to; but also those who are ministering.

"In twenty years the mission had learned that many Chinese methods were very good methods for them, well adapted to their way of life and to the physical conditions under which they lived. It was not the main purpose of this mission to teach a Western way of life; the purpose was to teach the Chinese that they, like all other humans, were sinners and that their only hope of love, joy, and peace, here or hereafter, lay in acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives. When they accepted him and his salvation, followed his guidance and his principles, it mattered little what tools the carpenters used or what utensils the women used in cooking. When Christianity permeated their lives their social attitudes changed radically, such as the position of girls and women, their idolatry, ancestor worship, polygamous marriage, dishonesty and deceit in business, even the cleanliness of their surroundings. So long as Christians lived Christ the mission felt that they should lead their lives in their own Chinese way." Hoi Moon, 163.

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