In this post, Dr Harvey Kwiyani, African Christianity Programme Lead at CMS Pioneer Mission Training, reflects on non-Western evangelists in the West and how not to evangelise! It is republished here with permission from Harvey’s excellent Substack newsletter: Global Witness, Globally Reimagined.
A few years ago, I led a seminar on cross-cultural evangelism at an African church in the UK. The leaders were concerned that they had nothing to show for the 12 years of hard work, having given out tens of thousands of tracts on the high streets of their city. Their church growth had entirely depended on the migration of their fellow countryfolk.
They wondered why they should continue to put money and energy into something that was not growing their church.
One woman in the congregation shared a story of when a young white British man stopped to look at the tract she had just given him. Wondering, he turned around to ask her, “How do I respond to this?”
She was so overwhelmed by his question that her brain froze (and the anointing escaped). All she could say in response was, “Let God arrest you, and the Holy Spirit will deliver you.” (Even I do not know what she meant).
Confused and frustrated, the young man walked away and never looked back. She regrets her lack of preparation till today.
Her story, and that of her congregation, reflects a typical experience among migrant Christians in Europe. They have the zeal to evangelise, but they are using methods that worked wherever they came from even though they do not work in Europe. As a result, they are unable to share the gospel with Westerners effectively.
While this is understandable — context is everything when it comes to evangelism — I wonder whether it is a perfect demonstration of a missed cross-cultural opportunity for all of us.
Many foreign Christians come with the zeal to evangelise but have little understanding of Europe’s cultural context. European church leaders have little understanding of evangelism but know their contexts pretty well — of course, they have cultural blindspots that prevent them from seeing the whole picture. Could these two groups work together?
As one of my elders used to say, “mission is always a joint effort between sensitive outsiders and wise insiders.”
I still believe that the re-evangelisation of Europe will depend, to some extent, on the work of the many foreign Christians working and serving in her cities today. How can we partner around evangelism?