Saving God’s face


Jackson Wu is a cross-cultural worker, theologian, and an authority on sharing the gospel in Asia. He will be a keynote speaker AT SUTS 2020.

After I finished my master’s degree, my wife and I were thinking about what the Lord had in store for us. We were driving through a church parking lot in my hometown, when, like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, I got an overwhelming sense that we needed to be in East Asia. That’s it. There was no rationale, no secret dream of moving overseas. Sometimes, you just know that you know. And that carries you through the toughest days.

Thankfully my wife is a bit of a free spirit. She yearns for adventure in her heart. And so she said, “Yeah, let’s do that!”

She and I have always been drawn to do things that are hard, challenging, or different… that’s just the kind of people we are!

In the early 2000’s, we began to serve in East Asia. Most of the time, I taught Asian church leaders in a seminary. Before that, we were involved in church planting and evangelism.

Where I’ve lived, Christianity is not at all the national religion. But the church has grown incredibly. Taxi drivers get evangelised often, in fact, we joke that, depending on how many Christians they drive, they get converted a few times a week!

One particular driver I spoke with was a self-proclaimed atheist. Ironically, he gave me one of the clearest gospel presentations I’d ever heard. This guy could probably teach a class on the subject!

However, the message, as it was preached to him, made no impact on him. Part of the reason concerns the concept of sin. In some languages, for example, sin is translated as ‘crime.’ Consequently, it goes over many people’s heads as irrelevant. They say, “I’m not a criminal. I haven’t stolen anything. I haven’t killed anybody.”

I decided to present the gospel from an honour/shame perspective. I said, “Sin makes God lose face. It dishonours our heavenly father.” Bingo, I saw a light flash on his face and he wanted to know more.

I told him that sin is like publicly spitting in your father’s face. He said, “Yeah ok, well that’s bad!”

I kept pausing to see if he was still interested in the conversation. Every time I did, he told me, “Keep going, keep going! I’ve never heard anything like this! Nobody has ever said this, it is different! This is so Asian!”

After our chat, he was so hungry to get a Bible. That was just one time I saw fruit from properly contextualising the word of God.

At SUTS, I have several questions I want us to answer about how to understand the Bible in our own contemporary context. This is important if we are going to try to communicate the gospel in other cultures. After all, culture and the Bible are far more entwined than people think.

We always contextualise the gospel, whether we realize it or not. The danger is not being intentional about how we contextualise the gospel in another culture. So, we need to examine our own assumptions in order to clearly and effectively share biblical truth.

There is one gospel but so many different expressions of it within Scripture. Some of the articulations of the gospel seem so unrelated. How do we make sense of this and how might this observation affect our ministry and work?

What cultural vantage point do we take when we contextualise the Bible for ourselves?

What are some practical steps we can take to ensure we are effective?

Our traditions are contextualisations too. That doesn’t make them wrong or bad. But it’s so important that we don’t merely contextualise a contextualisation.

Finally, I’m already praying for you. I can’t wait to see you at Summer Under the Son in January! Australians are some of the friendliest people.

Some of the best missionaries I have met are Australians. They tend to be humble and teachable. I look forward to making new friends and learning from your experiences at SUTS 2020!

Please pray for me as I prepare for SUTS, that I may teach the word of God well. Also, please pray for our family’s transition back to the US. We have been overseas for a long time and adjusting can be difficult for everybody.

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