The Mustard Method

JP: A blog post and an article on cultural awareness.

First: from Darrell Dow

On Street Preaching


I could take off my shirt and write the gospel message on my body in mustard. I could the walk around proclaiming that I refuse to put my shirt back on because I am SHARING THE GOSPEL! But since nobody is going to see anything other than a fat guy covered in mustard my point would be lost. I would not be reaching anybody.

Standing up in a crowded place and yelling is not culturally acceptable in most places in America. All people are going to see is a loud yelling guy and they really don’t get much past that in hearing his message. I’ve seen this first hand as the Ruckmanites stand on street corners and bellow at passing cars. They might as well be using the mustard method.

There are effective methods for witnessing and there are ineffective. We need to be wise about where we spend our energy and how we present ourselves in our cultural context. We already preach a gospel that sounds insane to most secular minds; let’s not compound the problem by acting insane too.

Second: From “Missions Mandate”

Cultural Awareness and Ministry


The world is getting “smaller,” more intricately connected than ever. While there are many possible reasons for this, one outcome, nonetheless, is that certain elements of western culture have made their way into many unexpected places of the world, especially elements of popular culture. It is not uncommon to find youth on the other side of the world from the U.S. who know celebrity sports figures. While certain aspects of globalization can be seen as an advantage by many (as finding Coca-cola in some remote area of Cambodia might be a relief to a westerner, who can confidently satisfy his thirst), too much connection at the popular level may simply help veil the great gulf of cultural differences not easily detected. This presents a problem for those involved in overseas missions work.

It is possible for a missionary to be either completely blind to certain cultural cues or even deny their significance. Experience can be a good teacher, though, and missionaries who have served for several years on a field might wish they could begin their ministry again with their time-earned cultural awareness. While this scenario might still be the case to some degree for missionaries who have been trained in cultural awareness, it is definitely the case for those who visit the field for just a short time to help. The chances are far greater that a short-term missionary might leave a foreign culture, not perceiving that his time on the field was only successful from his vantage. He might even report at his home church all the wonderful accomplishments he thought he and his team made, all the while not recognizing the number of faux pas (like mistaking the smiles and the friendliness of the locals for connecting with them).

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