ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Christian missionaries travel across the world to preach Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life. Indigenous people of foreign lands, however, question the bold Christian approach with some calling it "insensitive."
"People asked 'Are you really going all the way across the world to ask people to change from their Buddhist way and become Christian?'" Steve Bailey, associate professor at Alliance Theological Seminary in metro New York, recalled during a seminar last week at Urbana 2006.
Bailey, who served as a missionary in Southeast Asia for 17 years, had asked a native what they thought about Christians.
The Southeast Asian responded, "They're very nice people who never stop talking. Christians know too much."
Missionaries are typically told to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, but many times, that Christian mandate impedes on the other people group's culture and religion.
Hussam Fakhoury of International Fellowship of Evangelical Students is an Arab Christian from Jordan. When Christians preach that Jesus died on the cross or about the triune God to the Muslim world, he says that's being "insensitive."
"Many times we don't model Christ," Fakhoury told a room full of mainly North American students aspiring to serve as missionaries.
Bailey described the way Jesus communicated to the gentile world.
"When we are speaking to brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ … there is every reason to be bold and loud with each other," he said. "But when Jesus and Paul turned to the gentile world you will see that their communication style shifts.
"We need to be concerned about being sensitive because the means by which we proclaim the gospel tells people a lot about the kind of gospel that we want to share with them."
The way to be sensitive to other religions is to follow the way Apostle Paul handled the gentiles.
"Where Paul is very argumentative with the Jews, when he gets to Athens, he stops, he reads, he looks around, he listens, and he tries to reason with them," Bailey explained.
Fakhoury gave four points of advice on being sensitive and tolerant at the same time.
1. Love people
2. Respect the other
3. Learn about the culture and history that one will minister to
4. Be teachable. Don't be Mr. and Mrs. Know Everything
"Being tolerant and sensitive doesn't mean to compromise the truth," Fakhoury clarified.
Bailey left students with words from St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel at all times. And if necessary, use words."
"The power of a Christian life," said Bailey, "is always a sensitive way to communicate the gospel."