2007-05-16

Discussing What the Dong Need

How important is it for the Dong church to establish its own identity? How important is Dong music, Dong language, and culture-specific Bible teaching?

Some do not bother with all this culture stuff and just skip straight to presenting the gospel in one form or another. The simple fact, though, is that as an "unreached people group", the Dong people, by definition, are going to be receiving the gospel from outside of their own culture. So, there will be cultural adaptation going on, it is just a matter of who does the adapting, how they adapt, and what they adapt.

The Dong Christians to seem to be starting, in the past year or two, do share with other Dong people. For the most part, though, outsiders, whether they be Han Chinese, foreigners, or maybe even other Chinese minorities, are still the primary source of evangelism and teaching to the Dong people. So, before we ask the question of what should be adapted to the Dong culture, we should ask who is doing what and able to do what.
The Chinese Three-Self (registered and legal) church is not the best example of
"church": it has copied many of the bad habits of the Western Church in its forms of worship and authority structures. The Chinese house churches have a lot of involvement with the Dong Christians, and though we can credit them with a passionate heart for God and their fellow man, they do not seem to cross cultural boudaries, but instead have Dong-speakers learning all songs in Chinese and receiving all teaching in Chinese. And of course, the foreigners are not much better, mostly out of ignorance of the local situation.
This is not intended to tear down any of those ministries, for God places us all in unique positions to do the work he has for us. However, we do need to bring up the question of what needs to be done.
The fact is that many (in most Dong areas, around half) of the Dong people do not have good enough Chinese reading ability to read the Chinese Bible. And a great number (though impossible to even guess) would clearly prefer Dong-language songs and teaching over Chinese-language.
We need to start praying and discussing what we can do for the Dong people to help deliver the gospel into their culture, instead of bringing them out of their culture to receive it. Some will come out to receive it, but for most, the cultural jump is just too far, and we should be ashamed that people do not receive Christ for such reasons.
The first and most obvious step in this process is prayer. Let us spend some time asking the Lord--maybe imagining how language and culture are a part of our own churches--what the Dong need. Then, we can start praying for what we can do to work toward reaching those needs.
Questions for Prayer:
  • Would I be content to sing worship songs in another language?
  • (If you know another language) Does reading the Bible in my native language touch my heart more than a another language?
  • If my native language did not have any Christian materials, what would I want?

Please do leave any of your own answers or thoughts for these questions below.

2 comments:

  1. Well, I could not say what it is like for the Dong to have to learn Chinese, and that just seems harder than Spanish or French to me, but I could say that I just feel more "at home" singing in English. Sure, I have sung my fair share of songs in Spanish, but English often feels more personal, just because that is what I have spoken since I was as child, I guess.

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  2. I kinda agree with what is written above and also understand completely how Chinese house churches or foreigners normally use Chinese in sharing and teaching the Gospel. I am from Southeast Asia and from a country where many missionaries shared the Gospel to different tribal people. Right now, these tribal people have their own churches; singing and teaching the Bible in their own languages.
    People have passed down what they learned in their heart language and do not take it for granted, I think that's because early missionaries took their time in learning the local or tribal languages even though it took so much time and no fruit came at the beginning. But you can see the fruit now, and there are no cults.
    Nowadays, people depend a lot on numbers and planning. How many souls do you win? Within one year, how many people have come to Christ? I think that's why many people shift from paying attention to learning local languages and cultures to learning enough national language to get by and to share a simple gospel message and not be able to touch the life of the local people.

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