Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I LOVE This Time of Year

This time of year always gets me thinking about traditions. Mainly family and cultural traditions. Tradition is usually a sign of established order and gives an individual or group a certain identity. That identity differentiates people making each person unique and special, and who doesn't want to feel like they're special?

Specifically related to this time of year, my family has a lot of different traditions. There's the whole not-celebrating-Thanksgiving tradition, followed by the house-decorating tradition on Black Friday. We have nothing against Thanksgiving, it's just an exclusively American holiday, culturally, we just never really got into it. Celebration of advent is another family tradition, along with weekly Christmas carol sing-a-longs. My favorite tradition by far though is following up Christmas Eve service with a Chinese food dinner and opening presents at midnight.

Recently I was reading an article on cross-cultural mission that also got me thinking about traditions. While the Bible centers on one people - the Jews; and then upon the "New Israel," the church - the world at that time included scores of other ethnic and cultural peoples. Today, our world inhabits about 30,000 different people groups, all with their own traditions and ways of life.

Biblical writers often stress our mission to reach Earth's "peoples." God promised Abraham that his descendants would bless "all peoples on earth" (Genesis 12:1-3). Isaiah declared that Israel was raised up to bring "salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6). Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to "go and make disciples of all nations" reinforces this sacred calling.

Christianity is not the only religion inviting others to join its ranks. Judaism welcomes "Gentile" converts, and Islam is proactively mission-minded. Christianity's approach, though, is different. Judaism expects Gentiles to become culturally kosher, and Islam shapes converts into an Arabic cultural mold. But ideally, Christian mission adapts to the tongues and cultures of the people it seeks to reach. This was actually an official policy in early Christianity, with the decisions of the Jerusalem Council reported in Acts 15. It's voiced in Paul's reflection in 1 Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."

I know for me, there's is little else more meaningful than the opportunity to help plant or advance an indigenous church in another culture. As the Gospel's meaning is expressed in their own language, music, art, architecture  and style, some of these people will discover faith, experience life change, and become agents of hope to their peers - and even to other peoples. And we gain a deeper understanding of the Gospel's meaning through the experience of interpreting cross-culturally than we ever could by staying home.

You know what this makes me excited for?
And that's from....

For those of you who don't know what Urbana is, it is a large scale, empowering missions event held every three years and is a hugely diverse gathering of students, graduates, missionaries, and church leaders from all over the world. I can't do it justice by just writing about it. It's worship with thousands of people. It's a chance to learn and seek what your place is in God's global mission. It's the chance to hear from dynamic speakers from all around the world who have ministry experience in areas like engineering, health, economics and finance, art, church planting and leadership, all with a global perspective. Basically it's a glimpse of Heaven. Urbana is truly a multicultural and multinational experience. And why wouldn't it be? God's global mission is all about drawing all people and nations to Himself.

Urbana 2012 (December 27-31 2012). See you there!

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