A group from our church just returned from Belize this last week. They ministered in an area very near the Mexican border, thus the people's language was mostly Spanish. However, most of them had quite a bit of English and communication could be accomplished.
But the language wasn't the only difference. The very lifestyle of the people was quite a bit different from what we are used to here.
I remember going to Africa on a mission trip. You had to take into consideration the culture of the people there. One of the missionaries told a story to illustrate. He said that a man came to preach from the U.S. He was being interpreted into the native language. In his introduction, the preacher expressed to the people that he was tickled pink to be with them. The interpreter, being native to Africa, had no idea what the man was talking about. He interpreted it as this man has been happy to come here but has developed some sort of rash since arriving.
We laugh about that often, but it does illustrate a very important point. When we build a relationship with someone to share about Jesus, we must take into account that person's culture. This can be true even with your next door neighbor. We can't just plow through, telling them how wrong their ways are. We need to do as Jesus and Paul did.
Jesus taught in parables. Why? He used objects and situations that the people he was speaking to were familiar with.
Paul did the same.
"Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.'" Acts 17:22-23a
Paul doesn't barge in and begin to tell these people they are wrong. He starts out with relating to them, showing them he had paid attention to their ways and culture. Then he moves on to tell them that he wants to introduce them to this unknown God.
This is so important for me to remember. In my excitement, I can't rush ahead and spout out to unbelievers that they are wrong. No, I need to build a relationship and get to know them so I can witness to them on their level.
Not everyone had the opportunity to grow up in a Christian home like I did. I've always known who Jesus was and been taken to church and shown the priority of doing so. But the first time I had a child ask me; "Who is Jesus?" I was floored. This was right here in our own country.
There's a need for Christians to tell about Jesus, but we might need to do a little homework so we present Christ in their "language." It's worth the extra effort to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
Have you been required to get on someone else's level to tell them about Jesus?