Friday, August 10, 2007

Christianity Rediscovered

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take the Gospel to an indiginous people group? Having never heard the Gospel you would be the first representative of Christ to them. What would you tell them? What would you show them? Liturgy, Gospel, doctrine, organizational skills for church leadership? I have often pondered this subject, questioning what I myself would say to such a group of listeners. or maybe thats just it. maybe they are more than listeners. maybe I would actually be the listener. now there's a thought. A Western European person or American, whatever, going into an indiginous tribe seemingly knowing everything there is to know about gospel, prosperity and of course community, sitting down and listening to the heart beat of such a culture. Although this opportunity seemed very unlikely in todays world, i have come upon a story of such a westerner who approached the the famous (in particular contexts) Masai tribe who live in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa numbering between 300,000 and 400,000.

Vincent Donovan is a Catholic Missionary who was serving in Africa for a number of years before he had a startling revelation. In his book Christianity Rediscovered For a century the Catholic church had been using their schools as a means of evangelizing the native people of Africa. Drawing the tribal people out of the bush and into the classroom the christians would rename, reform and return the people to their tribe. At first glance this approach to evangelization seems to have be a creative way leading to conversion and transformation. I can see why some would think this approach to ministry would work. Unfortunately, I am a westerner thinking like a westerner though. And in order for successful ministry to be done anywhere, especially a place like Africa, there must be a capitualtion of the western worldview to that of Africa or wherever you are taking the Gospel. In response to this evangelization methodology what was really happening in Africa was the school children would graduate from school and return to their tribe retaining little more than their Christian names and were absorbed back into cultural heritages. Realizing the inability to reach the people of Africa by bringing them into their buildings and christian culture Donovan realized it was time for him to engage theirs.

Upon approval from his superiors, Donovan began making weekly safaris to meet the acclaimed Masai tribes. Donovan made the decision to consistently visit them over the course of a year, simply getting to know them. What he learned was astounding. One of the first things he learned is that the Masai were a highly religious people. Yes they were pagan, but they did give thanks to their god(s) for his provisions. He found them to be very communal as well. This is very important. Keeping in mind the churches approach to evangelism for the previous century, Donovan learned the tribes do not make independent but rather tribal decisions. I.e. if the tribal leader decides to relocate they all did. If he chose to go into another tribe and steal their cattle(the Masai believe all cows belong to them and it is their right to take them) they would. If he chose to follow a particular god they all did.

One day while standing in the midst of the Masai teaching the Gospel, Donovan was asked a direct question about his God. He was telling the story of Abraham when he was asked, "This story of Abraham-does it speak only to the Masai? Or does it speak also to you? Has your tribe found the High God? Have you know Him?" After much thought he replied, "NO, we have not found the High God. My tribe has not known Him. For us, too, he is an unknown God. But we are searching for Him. I have come a long, long distance to invite you to search for Him with us. Let us search for Him together. Maybe, together we will find Him."

Upon finishing this book I have came to a staggering realization of my own ideas of what Gospel should mean to certain people groups. Westerners have the idea that if God is present in a community there should be certain materialistic benefits. I.e. church buildings, prosperity, capitalism and a whole other host of "benefits." The true benefit though, the one I am after, and so few find, even though many claim to have found but make the common mistake of talking about it instead of living it, is Christ's Gospel. And whatever that is, the proclamation of the kingdom for the poor? the direct line of communication to God for all people not just a select few? or simply that following Jesus and not some religious person or organizations systems of thought, is the best way to live? I am diligently on that path as Donovan is to rediscover Christianity. and once I have rediscovered it, I want to rediscover it again.

yours trully,


Lucia said...

Hey Beau! Nice post, Have you seen the movie teh mission? It really portraits the struggle of evangelization in tribes.

Beau Walker said...

no i havent seen it. i will have to watch it now. thanks for the feedback.