The Importance of Understanding Context
Kathryn, myself, and our children had a wonderful vacation, visiting my parents in FL over the Thanksgiving holiday. While we were there, we went to the beach. As we were walking to the beach, we noticed that on the boardwalk someone had written in chalk the verse Phil 4:13 and attached a Facebook tag, “Finding Jesus Christ in St. Petersburg.” I was so encouraged.
To help serve this “ministry,” I went to the beach and wrote in the sand, “Jesus saves,” with the symbol of a cross below it. To show this “ministry” that I was supporting their work, I thought I would snap a picture of what I wrote and tag this “ministry” in a Facebook post. So, I looked up, “Finding Jesus Christ in St. Petersburg.” To my chagrin, this “ministry” was no ministry at all. It was a Mormon outreach. Their Facebook took me to a website for “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” I was bummed and angered.
Both Mormons and I pointed people to “Jesus,” but the “Jesus” we pointed people towards is considerable different. Mormons believe in a bizarre, heretical, and unbiblical “Jesus,” whereas I believe in the orthodox, biblical Jesus. Onlookers might not be aware of this, though. My honest efforts to promote the gospel could have encouraged people to become Mormons. How terrible!
My experience raises this important lesson: as we evangelize, we must understand the contexts in which we evangelize. We must be aware of what Scripture teaches and how people might understand Scripture as we present it. We must be aware that the statement “Jesus saves” can and is interpreted differently within our culture.
Now this type of cultural awareness requires a degree of sophistication. And this degree of sophistication requires us to work hard at learning what Mormonism (and other isms) is. But isn’t this exactly what God has called us to!? Absolutely (see Mark 12:30).
To conclude: as you evangelize, be aware of how others understand what you say. Remember that not every “Jesus” is the true Jesus. Understand your context so that your efforts to evangelize lead others to the true faith, not to a false one.