“Gospel messaging” is all about effectively communicating the eternal, powerful, life-transforming message of Jesus to various cultures. While the gospel is always the same, each culture influences its peoples’ ability to hear and understand it. Each culture also presents unique opportunities as well as unique barriers to receiving the gospel once it is heard and understood. We need to translate the good news across these cultural divides, which is what we mean by gospel messaging.
One of the best biblical examples of gospel messaging is the apostle Paul’s speech before the Areopagus on Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34). Paul was in Athens waiting for Silas and Timothy, and as he took time to immerse himself in his surroundings, he became “greatly distressed” by what he saw. He alludes to this process in verse 23 where he says, “… as I was passing through …” The Greek tense there indicates that Paul took multiple strolls through the city. He made it a point to experience Athens, to drink in the sights and sounds, and to hear from the people he was trying to reach. He engaged with Jewish people and Gentile “God-fearers” in the local synagogue, as well as with various people in the marketplace, and finally, with various Greek philosophers.
Paul’s observations and interactions prepared him for the ultimate message he would deliver before the chief philosophers and political leaders at the Areopagus. He was able to use what was familiar to his audience—even quoting from one of their own poets—to explain the totally new and unfamiliar gospel message.
Once we identify our key audiences, we work to have a deeper understanding of how they think and communicate, and what their hopes and fears are. Whether it’s attending events offered by people in our audiences, reading materials they are reading, or just listening to what they have to say, the process called “immersion” helps us know how to explain the timeless truths of the gospel within a given cultural context. And that’s what Paul was doing from the moment he arrived in Athens.
Like Paul, we should be deeply concerned or “provoked in our spirit” by what is going on in the culture around us. We should not allow our concern to alienate us from the very people who need Jesus, but rather, we should take time to listen and understand the culture and circumstances of the people we are trying to reach. We should be ready to practice sharing the good news with as many types of people God brings across our path, and learn from those encounters.
We have been operating on this same cross-cultural level since the beginning of 1992 and want to encourage you to apply these principles in your own witness.
We are so grateful to you for standing with us as we share the gospel message. Thank you for helping us fulfill our calling, and may God bless you as you fulfill yours!