Understanding the 3D Gospel

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imagesSharing the Gospel across cultures can be very challenging as our world views, personal experiences and definitions can be extremely different. CVM has found the 3D Gospel to be a great tool for building bridges to reach other cultures! In this post, Dr. Fred Van Gorkom  shares his thoughts on the 3D Gospel, as well as Gulzel’s story which is taken from the book.“Gulzel was returning to the city after visiting her mother’s home in the village. When she climbed into the taxi, she saw three male passengers already sharing the ride. They propositioned her and became physically aggressive after a round of vodka. Just then, she spotted her uncle driving towards them.”

What would you say she should do? She should escape, right? Nope. She hid, so her uncle would not be shamed. In her culture of Honor-Shame, personal safety was far less important than family honor.

And the story continues, “A few years later her brother died. Gulzel felt tormented by spirits in the likeness of her brother at night. As instructed, she ate dirt from her brother’s gravesite to appease the spirits.”

Gulzel believes in Jesus. She knows Jesus died for the forgiveness of her sins. Her faith is genuine and real, and she enjoys new life in Christ. But the dimension of the Gospel we usually proclaim in the West often only deals with the forgiveness of sins; it does not always speak to who she is in Christ—adopted into the family of God, nor does it always speak to God’s power over all things. Notice that Paul has all three dimensions in his prayer! In one sentence!

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1: 18-19 NIV)

Did you know? Missiologists have identified three responses to sin in different cultures: guilt, shame and fear. Every culture is some combination of these.
• In western culture, we tend to be individualistic; we sin, feel guilty, repent, seek forgiveness.
• In the majority world, honor and shame within the community are primary. Sin is seen in terms of shame, exclusion from the community or family. The dimension of the Gospel that speaks most clearly to them is about the removal of shame, adoption into God’s family and belonging.
• Animistic cultures seek power over the spirits by rituals, and try not to offend them. If you rebel against the spirits’ instructions, you better be afraid of what they will do. I can assure you from personal experience—the enemy is real, not just superstition. Before following Jesus, animists need to know two things: that He is good, and that He is more powerful than the spirits.

The Bunna used to come to our door very puzzled. “Dr Fred, you’ve done nothing to appease the spirits, but you are getting rain. We’ve done every ritual to appease the spirits that we can think of—and we’re still having drought. You better tell us about your God!”

Planned through history, when Jesus was humbly born in Bethlehem, He brought fantastic, multi-dimensional Glad Tidings for all cultures. Through His death in our place, God forgives our sin—guilt resolved. He adopts us into His family as heirs—honor restored. And His power is over all, even conquering death itself through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The Gospel is more than adequate for every part of Gulzel’s life! And yours!

How one-dimensional is your understanding of the Gospel? Some people are sure their sins are forgiven; but they don’t get their self-image from what God thinks of them, and they are very afraid of what might happen to them in the future. They have a one-dimensional Gospel.

Do you fear to answer God’s call? Are you convinced His will is “good, pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2)? Or do you suspect it might be bad, scary and flawed?

This Christmas, may we all come to know and marvel more and more at the incredible, multi-dimensional Good News: that Jesus was born, fulfilling hundreds of prophecies centuries before—as part of God’s amazing plan to forgive sin, remove shame, make all things new, adopt us into His family, and seat Jesus far above all other rule and authority, power and dominion.

For more information about the 3D Gospel:

Visit the HonorShame webpage.

Buy the books 3D Gospel or the Global Gospel.

Check out this video, Back To God’s Village, a short narrative for honor-shame cultures.

Take the Culture Test!

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