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Cultural Barriers
By Justin Hayes
When missionaries arrive on the field, they
experience a deluge of emotions. First is
exhaustion. They have spent two to three years
traveling around the United States, raising
support in order to fulfill God’s calling on
their lives. Next is excitement. Moving to a
new country brings with it a new culture, new
foods, new language, and new opportunities,
all exciting at first, but then reality sets in. This
is not a vacation. There is no going back. This
is their reality now. On a personal level, this is a
heavy realization that can often bring fear.

discontent with the food and opportunities.

The language is a barrier everywhere they go,
and it is difficult to understand why this culture
does not just do things the way it is done in
their home country. You know, the right
way. At this point, the missionary is at a very
pivotal moment in ministry. What he is about
to do will either hinder or help his ministry.

The ability to adapt is one of the missionary’s
greatest attributes. However, he does not know
if he can adapt until he is in a position where
he needs to adapt.

The real work begins when the missionary
determines to learn how to live and minister
in this foreign culture. All of those things that
once brought excitement are now frustrating
and difficult to deal with. They can become
One of the greatest barriers to the Gospel
a missionary will face is the culture. This
is not just a modern problem. As we study
the ministry of Jesus, we see him adapting
his approach to presenting the truth of the

Gospel when he meets the woman
at the well. He used her Samaritan
heritage and the well itself where she
was drawing water as a way to enter
into a Gospel conversation. Every
time we see Jesus use a parable in his
teachings, we understand that He
is contextualizing or adapting his
approach to presenting the Gospel
based upon who the audience was.

However, we need to understand
that He was not changing the truth
to fit his audience, rather, He used
different methods and approaches in
order to best convey unchangeable
truth. We see this same contextualization
or adapting in the ministry of Paul.

Paul says, To the weak became I as
weak, that I might gain the weak: I
am made all things to all men, that
I might by all means save some. And
this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I
might be partaker thereof with you
(1 Corinthians 9:22–23). Paul was
giving the Corinthian believers
some insight into his ministry
methodology and his desire to
Justin & Grace Hayes
break down man-made barriers to the Gospel. When
he stood at Mars Hill in Athens, Greece, Paul developed
an entire Gospel discourse and approach based upon
what he observed of the Athenians’ character and their
worship, Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill,
and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things
ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld
your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO
THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly
worship, him declare I unto you (Acts 17:22–23). Paul
was not changing the truth of the Gospel; he merely
adapted his approach to presenting the Gospel to the
people to whom he was ministering at that present time.