The Goodness of God Across Cultures

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Articles, Missions, Resources

I lived among an unreached people group for 2 months in Africa, and this is what I learned. 

What is an unreached people group you may ask? According to The Joshua Project, “An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.” An unreached people group is made up of less than 2 percent evangelical Christian.The group I was with, according to Joshua Project statistics, zero.

However, I know personally that this is wrong! In the last few years, a small group of indigenous people have come to know and believe in Jesus, and it is the result of miracle after miracle! 

Going into this experience, I had a lot of expectations for how it was going to go. Little did I know that I was going to be blown away by God and His goodness over and over again.

No Longer Just Statistics

Living among a group of people that have never heard the Gospel can be overwhelming and quite the reality check. I knew that nearly 42% of the world had little to no access to the Gospel. I knew that 7,400 people groups are considered unreached by the Gospel. And I knew that the place I was going was one of those groups. But suddenly, I was no longer looking at statistics, but instead, looking into the eyes of people with real stories, and families, and lives. They were no longer just a statistic that tugged at my heart. They were now friends that I dearly loved. This broke my heart even more. 

Living among an unreached people group taught me so much about the heart of Jesus. It might sound crazy, but they showed me Jesus in a way that was overwhelmingly beautiful. The Image of God stamped upon them was evident, even though they didn’t believe the message that we brought. 

These people live in darkness. They believe that any hope they have is in their own work and ability to get themselves to heaven. It’s an exhausting game of weighing good and bad deeds and hoping you’ve done enough. It’s hard to witness such a beautiful group of people, many that I now call friends, miss the beauty of the finished work that Jesus has already done. Jesus paid the price, and they are free if they want it. 

Image-Bearers of God

Even in the darkness, these people are kind, and they care for one another so deeply. They commune with each other and they give. Their greatest joy is inviting you over to their house and feeding you, even if it’s all they have. It struck me that as a follower of Jesus, I am often less generous and hospitable than them. 

While as Christians, we have Good News to bring to all people everywhere, we can still learn  from the beauty of other cultures that are intricately woven with God’s common grace. Every culture has its brokenness, and every culture has its beauty. But the beauty will blow you away if you allow it, because God is present in it. 

How Jesus Shared the Good News

When engaging an unreached people group with the Gospel, there are strategies we use that are really important. These strategies are useful for anyone, anywhere, because it’s the way Jesus did it. Jesus lived and communed with his disciples.And while He preached and taught, He also demonstrated what it meant to live a life dedicated to God. 

Robert E. Coleman, in the Master Plan of Evangelism, says this, “One living sermon is worth a hundred explanations.” Jesus lived out his teachings and did life with his disciples. This is what evangelism is about, living life with people and showing them who Jesus is. 

The missionaries I spent time with in Africa were there on work visas, and through their work they met people, loved people, and did life with them. This is how people are reached. We would often do house visits and share our lives with one another, or we would have them into our homes and do the same. It’s easy to share Jesus with people when He is the center of your whole life. If Jesus is at the center, then it’s natural for Him to come up in almost everything you do and say because He is so good!

Practical Steps for Sharing the Gospel

Some things I learned through this discipleship process and strategy are things that translate to anywhere you are in the world. The first one is to make a friend everywhere you go! Relationships that are real and genuine are how people can come to know Jesus, so why not create new friendships everywhere you go? 

When you go to the grocery store, genuinely ask the cashier how they’re doing and have a conversation. It may not end in an immediate friendship, but next time do it again. You never know what the Lord will do with it! There are countless opportunities to look up from your phone and have a conversation with a stranger that could spark something amazing. 

On the same note, live life relationally, not transactionally. American culture asks “what can I get from people?” But Jesus lived a life of service to all people. Let’s start asking how we can serve someone today! 

The UPG I was with in Africa cared deeply about relationships. A conversation on the street is not abnormal, and it’s actually very strange to walk by someone and not say anything at all. I became very fond of these random conversations and was often led to deeper dialog where I could share my faith. 

Before I went, it was very easy for me to separate the mission from the people. But as I grew in relationship with so many, I soon realized that this work is a lot less about “I need to tell these people about Jesus because it’s my job,” and more about “I love these people so much, how can I not want them to know Jesus?”

Simple Truth Statement

Many UPG areas are in sensitive countries. That means you can’t openly be a missionary, so missionaries develop what is called an STS, or a simple truth statement. In order to protect the work that is being done in their country, they have a simple go-to description of themselves that they stick to that is the truth, but doesn’t give too much away. While I was in Africa, I was a student studying the language and learning the culture. All of which was true. 

This STS idea got me thinking about what my STS could be here in the States. Why don’t I live my life as an STS? What does that mean? 

For the last four years, I was a student at Indiana University. If I looked at this as my STS, then that means that I was a student at Indiana University in order to have a unique opportunity to share the Gospel with people that I would not have had access to otherwise. Being a student at IU gave me access to people that my friend at Purdue University didn’t have access to, and vice versa. Because I have a special access to these people, that is my mission field. 

I was one of the only Christians in many of my classes. If I wasn’t me sharing my faith with them, then who was? Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all on me. God could find a way if I was disobedient, but He gave me access to these people because He wants to use me. 

Think about all the  people you have access to that other Christians you know don’t. Maybe you work at a coffee shop in Indiana which gives you unique access to co-workers and customers that others don’t see. Or maybe you have a group of parents that you see a lot because your kids go to the same school. You have a special access to them that others don’t. Think about all the people you have a unique access to, that without your job, or school, or the neighborhood you live in, would not have a chance to hear about Jesus otherwise. God could be using you to reach them. 

When You Say Yes

My time in Africa forever changed my life and view on missions. While living in a spiritually dark place is hard, and sometimes exhausting, it’s also so beautiful, because God shows up in ways you never expect. When you say yes to him, Jesus gives you love for people you never thought you had, and He strengthens you in ways you didn’t even know you needed. Jesus showed up again and again, and reminded me how good He is and how much the world needs Him. Jesus is the best thing I have to offer people, so why would I not go and share? 

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38). 

We are all called to spread the Gospel. How are you doing that in your context?

Anna C

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