My family and I love going to an orchard near our home to pick apples. This is something we have done for several years when they are in season. Now, while I could not tell you the names of the different types of apples found there, which ones are best for baking, or which ones are sweet and which ones are tart, I can tell you that I know the type of apple that I like.
I used to think that all apples were alike, only different colors. Wow, was I wrong! Don’t give me those mushy apples. I prefer those that are firm and tart, if I’m plucking them from the tree to eat. My wife will tell you that I am a picky person when it comes to apples. When offered one, I must first inquire about it. I just don’t like eating any apple. Not all apples are the same. Sure, we call them “apples,” but there are differences.
Earlier this month, Pew Hispanic released a report on the Hispanics in the United States and their views of identity. You may locate it HERE. While there are several excellent findings in this work, for me, it simply confirmed what missiologists (and the Hispanic community) have been saying for a long time. Simply, not all Hispanic peoples are the same.
The Anglo majority in the United States (especially within the Church) is oftentimes quick to assume that if a group of people speak Spanish and have a dark complexion, then they are all culturally alike. Of course, this is not true, and the Church misses the missiological boat whenever we begin to think in such ways.
Unfortunately, we in the Anglo community have created a double-standard. We know that not all white Americans are the same. We recognize that there are cultural differences among different regions of this country. Even where I live in Louisville, Kentucky, most people understand that there are cultural differences among the white population.
As stewards of the mystery of the gospel, we must recognize that there are significant differences among the peoples living around us. Mexicans, Cubans, and Guatemalans are not the same. Even among themselves, there are significant cultural differences. For example, within Mexico alone, there are numerous people groups (including many unreached people groups).
So, why is this an important matter for churches to keep in mind? Because understanding cultural differences influences the methods used to communicate the gospel effectively and the methods used to teach new churches to obey all that Christ commanded. While there is great value in recognizing a common language and physical features, heart issues are much deeper.
When it comes to the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches, we must recognize that we need to know the people we are attempting to reach. We must become students of the people. And when we begin to understand them at the cultural level, we are seeking answers to questions such as:
- What is the general lifestyle/mindset of the people?
Yes, we can read books about the people. But the best source of information comes from the people themselves. So, get out there and meet them! And whenever we do, let’s make certain that we don’t assume that everyone is the same.
We must recognize that in our Father’s world, He has allowed for the development of Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala, etc…. And we rejoice in this wonderful diversity, as we seek to make His name known among the nations!