Master the thinking

As a Church, the effectiveness of our mission hinges on how well we understand the people who we are trying to reach.

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(Credit: Wes Tolhurst)

My fellow Division president began his report by saying: “You have to master the thinking of the people you are trying to reach.” As I reflected on this wisdom, he began to illustrate.

A tribe in his country had not been reached by the gospel, however some of a neighbouring tribe had become disciples of Jesus. Through that relational link, the elders of the tribe were willing to listen to the Seventh-day Adventist message.

When the mission evangelist began to speak, starting with the trial and death of Jesus, the chief stood up and left, followed by the elders. Knowing no-one else would listen, the evangelist followed the chief, respectfully asking what the problem was. “How can we follow a man who allows himself to be treated like that?” the chief asked. Others chimed in, “He didn’t have a spear? He is weak. We can’t believe the story.”

The evangelist listened. He didn’t argue or try to explain the centrality of the death of Jesus. Instead, he told them that this was not the whole story—Jesus conquered death and rose again three days later.

“Does that mean He is alive now?” the chief asked. The evangelist assured him that it was so. “Come back and I will tell you the rest of the story.” Over a period of time this chief and his tribe decided to follow Jesus because Jesus deals with real issues of human existence.

“Master the thinking of the people you are trying to reach.” Do I really understand the values of post-Christian people around me? Is my church providing resources to help reach the needs of young people, immigrants and others seeking Jesus? Am I trying to relate/connect with those who don’t know Him?

In becoming like us, Jesus mastered human thinking (John 1:14). We can do no less in our disciple-making focus.