“The struggle lies in learning how to separate the cultural parts of our personal faith, as well as our western worldview from the biblical parts.” – Jeannie Marie
This is one of the many quotable statements Jeannie Marie says in her book, “Across the Street and Around the World.” This book teaches about the importance of culture in a way that I have not thought about in a while. I used to believe that I was sensitive to other cultures, especially being a black woman who used to be in multi-ethnic (mostly white) church, until I read this book. It opened my eyes to my ignorance in this way and has pushed me to think broader about the calling Jesus gave us. To “go ye therefore” (Matthew 28:19) does not mean go to another nation and tell them about Jesus in the way I experience him, through my lens.
This book has me thinking about all my biases. My biases as an American, a Christian, and even a woman have been questioned as I read this book. The quote written above occurs early on the book but it stayed with me throughout my reading. How do I talk to others about Jesus and ignore the things of their culture? It’s so easy to pass judgment on culture and call it Christianity. I’ve done it so easily before with my friends from other cultures. They’ll express way they grew up …things that aren’t especially “wrong” but do not align with who I think God or Jesus to be and I’ll speak out against it as if my way is the bible. I have since apologized to some of them but now I challenged to think of the other people I’ve offended with such comments. How many doors were closed because of my ignorance?
God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not ours either (Isaiah 55:8-9). So my strategy to ministry should be created with prayer and through talking to God. My church is situated in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in Atlanta. People reference it as Sodom and Gomorrah and question why my pastor put a church there. I love our neighbors but I will be honest, I don’t understand every aspect.
While reading this book, I realized the fallacies in my approach. I must truly engage on a person to person level and not a level that is arm’s length. I am convicted in my thinking, are my biases in the way of effective ministry? Am I am too prideful to learn about another culture or way of life that is not similar to mine. As the conversations begin at our church about ministry in 2020, I think about what I learned. How do I reach people who are across the street but views are across the world from mine?
I am also convicted of the American Dream illusion. What am I willing to give up for the gospel? Recently one of my friends asked me if I was willing to look undignified for the sake of the gospel. Originally, I said yes but after reading this book I realized that I said that because it sounded right at the time. I dont think I’ve fully embraced giving up feeling comfortable in even sharing the gospel to my neighbor. How can I give everyone and everything I know and love up to share the gospel. Am I willing to look undignified? Am I willing to give my comfortability to see my neighborhood saved? Am I willing to relinquish myself and even some things for my future family as well?
Jeannie shares a story of not wanting to give up a table in preparation to move to India. At first glance, it seemed normal to me. She loved the table, she should keep it storage. She’ll come back for it one day. But before I could even get to her giving the table away, I am reminded that that’s how I am with many things. I hold on to things and people that will impede the spread of the gospel. I am to let go of the things that bring me comfort to be missional. Sheesh. The mission is more important. Sheesh.
Typing those two statements was hard. I wanted to erase them but they are true. I am to align my thinking with those 2 statements. God is more important than looking dignified. He’s more important than being embarrassed for talking about him too much.
Whether you believe you are called to overseas missions are not (something else she discusses in the book). I think you should read this book. I helped me in practical ways think about going and speaking to those who do not know Jesus. What it takes from me and what I gain from it. If you would like to purchase this book you can using the link below: Across the Street and Around the World.
I pray it blesses you the way it blessed me.
God is good y’all, and I must be more intentional about telling others.