Reaching People Across Cultural Barriers

Most Christians have a love for lost souls and rejoice when missionaries are sent to all parts of the world. We enthusiastically support and pray for them as they reach out to people of all cultures and ethnic groups. What is new in recent years, is that God is sovereignly bringing many of these same people to our neighborhoods. Often we no longer have to travel around the world and visit one of our missionaries in order to get personally involved in fulfilling our commission to take the gospel to all people groups (Matthew 28:19). But now we are faced with a new challenge – that of learning how to do first hand what we have up until now done only by proxy. What would it take for us to be able to reach out to the people of different cultures that God is bringing across our path? Could God really use us to reach someone for Christ? What could we do to prepare ourselves to be a witness to someone from another culture? Well, we could start by:

1) Developing a spiritual perspective of people
Walking down the sidewalks of Mexico City one will see men and boys who make their living polishing shoes. As the people walk by, they are never looking up at their faces, they are looking down at their shoes. It is only when they see shoes that need to be shined that they look up to ask if you would like their services. As we look around us and see all the people that God is bringing to our communities, our natural tendency may be to look at them from a racial, social, or political point of view. But as believers, we should ask God to help us to see everyone from a spiritual perspective. Their race, their economic level, their social status, their political situation, all take a back seat to the need of their eternal soul.
2) Devoting ourselves to a genuine love for others
Someone asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor that I should love?” He responded with a story which taught that being a neighbor was not based on who a person was or where he was from, but on the need that he had and on our opportunity to help him. There are neighbors all around us every day who are lost and in spiritual darkness – we must reach out to them in obedience to Christ and with His Love, and share with them the light of the gospel. The Scriptures teach that those around us who cannot see God will be able to know something of His love when it is “perfected” or carried out to completion through our lives (1 Jn 4:12). People who come from a background of manipulation and insincerity will not be influenced by superficial salesmanship. They will come to trust our motives and be willing to listen to our message only as they see the love of God demonstrated through us. 
3) Designing a lifestyle of reaching out to those around us
We will probably never be able to reach out to people who are different from us until we have first developed a lifestyle of reaching out to people who are just like us. Crossing cultural barriers adds a whole new dimension to seeking lost souls. If reaching people in our own culture and language is difficult for most of us, reaching those of another culture will be even harder. As individuals and as churches, we need to first develop the habit of caring about, loving and sharing the gospel with people that are like us. Once this becomes a natural part of our lives, we can build on this experience, taking it to the next level of reaching those who are from a different background.
4) Dealing with the subtle, sinful attitudes of superiority
Besides the personal pride that is an inherent part of our fallen nature, most of us have grown up with some degree of nationalistic arrogance. The idea that our language and culture are superior to others will always conflict with efforts to evangelize other people groups. Our attitudes, if left untreated, will be a hindrance to people from other backgrounds coming to Christ, but a sincere appreciation for and acceptance of the culture of others will help us be successful in winning them to our Savior.
5) Deciding that the souls of men are more important than our comfort
Most all people, but Hispanics especially, respond to people more than to plans, and to friendship more than to programs. If we would love people and reach them for Christ, we must invest in building relationships with them. I’m convinced that is the best way to reach people in our own culture, but in crossing cultural barriers, it is essential. To establish friendships we must give of ourselves to build relationships of mutual understanding and trust.
These things will not happen by accident – we will have to work at them. But think of the spiritual results of allowing God to make a big change in our hearts, and think of the joy and the eternal reward of the expending of a little effort on our part.
by Dan Whitcher, Baptist Mid-Missions, Church Planting Coordinator – North America