The rib cage long forgotten animal graced the bottom of the bowl of water sitting on the table. It was dinner time and I had just spent the last couple hours in the home of our Hmong pastor, who had just lost his wife to cancer within the past few days. Family and close friends had gathered for the week-long funeral services and about fifty people were, in the house as mealtime approached. The grown men gathered around the table to eat first. Being an honored guest I was placed at the head of the table. As I led in prayer over the meal, I could not quite get the picture of skeletal re- mains out of my mind. The bowl of bones was joined by countless plates and bowls of rice and meats and other dishes that looked truly delicious, but the bowl of bones was placed strategically directly in front of my plate. As I prayed, I formed a plan of action. As soon as we were seated, I would simply select a nearby bowl of rice and bypass the bowl of bones, moving it on to someone else. However, my well-laid plans were simply not to be. As soon as I finished praying, and before I was fully seated, our precious Hmong pastor reached over to the bowl of bones and dished me out a large portion of this delicacy. Suddenly, I realized the “bones” were some kind of plant or vegetable twisted in the bowl to resemble ribs lined up in a row. Upon further inquiry, I discovered they were boiled bamboo. In a flash, the seemingly inedible dish was teeming with flavorful delight. While it was a bit bland, I was simply delighted in knowing it was nothing more than another plant from the garden.
Perception and supposition can be unnecessary obstacles to the greatest soul-winning adventure of a lifetime. Often, those of cultures unlike our own have much to share with us and our soul-winning experience becomes a delightful journey of flavor and understanding as we begin to share our world with them and they share theirs with us. Friendship is a wonderful and necessary part of discipleship. The original disciples spent three-and-a-half years with Jesus, learning, growing, and discovering how to follow Him. Jesus was both patient and kind, but always real. We must be the same. Multicultural discipleship is simply bridging the gap to find common ground and friendship with someone from another culture and bringing them into the presence of Jesus in the process. In an age of unprecedented immigration, we have the wonderful opportunity to be missionaries without ever leaving home. The world has come to our doorstep.
Multicultural discipleship begins with an understanding of where a person is coming from. Nearly all of North America consists of immigrants, but obviously most of the population has been in North America for several generations. There are, however, growing numbers of recent, first-generation immigrants. These first-generation immigrants provide a unique opportunity for discipleship. Of necessity, evangelism precedes discipleship. Winning someone of a culture different from our own, who is new to our neighborhood, first involves friendship. Begin with seeking for ways to connect. For first-generation immigrants, there are many ways to make a connection. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are an easy way to begin finding new people in the community. Every immigrant struggles with learning English so this is a great way to begin. Also, frequenting restaurants featuring authentic ethnic cuisine can open doors to people of new languages and new cultures. College campuses present another area ripe for the harvest. All of these opportunities represent efforts somewhat out of the box, but this is not unique to soul winning of every kind. New immigrants are eager for a new lifestyle and a new friend. This accelerates the process and opportunity for evangelism.
Move from the known to the unknown. God loves us! This universal truth is easy to understand and often already accepted among many cultures. With a number of cultures, I have found an underlying faith as yet undefined. Our job is to define that great and unique God to a hungry heart. This was demonstrated by Paul on Mars’ Hill as he declared unto them the Savior whom they ignorantly worshiped with an altar to the unknown God. Paul was indeed involved in multicultural ministry. We have discipled some cultures that had only partially translated Bibles in their language. We are their window into the bright and new world of Jesus Christ.
You can present the gospel of Jesus Christ in simple-to-understand layers as your new friend is able to grasp the reality of your experience for himself. Revelation is powerful. Be careful and considerate relative to culture versus conviction. Every culture is a little different, yet one is not superior to another. Style of music, clothing, preferred food types, and many other elements of life will be different. Enjoy the diversity. Introduce Jesus and then open the door to the gospel. These elements of salvation are monumental by themselves. When the power of the Holy Ghost has begun to impact the life of your new friend, you can present deeper elements of Christian living. Discipling another culture is a marathon, not a fifty-yard sprint.
Embrace a big vision for your new friend. Most often, when you reach into a new culture you have the opportunity to impact an entire group of people. Do not stop with just one. Your new convert may be the key to an entire congregation of new Christians. Look for the opportunity to connect with the friends and relatives of your new friend. Pray for God to open even greater doors. We baptized one fourteen-year-old Slavic boy, and subsequently several Slavic congregations were born. One Hmong man was baptized, and less than two months later he traveled to France and baptized twenty-seven people. From that one man many congregations have been born. These stories continue endlessly. Remember, God has a big vision for you, and for your new friend. Embrace the possibilities and remember that bowl of bones is really just a new vegetable. Dig in to the adventure. You can be a missionary without ever leaving home!
Troy Fair is senior pastor of Calvary Evangelism Center in Sacramento, California.
The above article, ‘Multicultural Discipleship’ was written by Troy Fair. The article was excerpted from pentecostalherald.com.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, ‘Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.’