Being culturally sensitive is so ingrained in me that I hardly think about it anymore. For the more than a decade that I have been working and worshiping with Mozambicans there is no other way if you want to touch people in a culture so different than yours. I have made many many mistakes within this interesting African culture in Mozambique. Sometimes I have kneeled and clapped my hands as a way of greeting (works here with the Shona culture) just to find out in southern Mozambique with the Shangaan that they think “this white man is crazy”! Only to get up and try another method in vain. And although Africa has so many tribes there are common denominators.
BUT … there are certain “cultural ways” that are just unacceptable. I have preached, taught and tried my best to warn everyone about certain practices that is just not on. And that includes the greedy, “I own it all” western culture. At the end when we are touched by God’s culture – we change. We leave behind the greediness of a Western society or the superstitious, sometimes fearful, African culture. God brings change.
I read an article by YWAM guru, Floyd McClung as he also warns about a culture that can destroy. And I have to agree when he writes:
It’s not easy when you receive a warning from the Lord regarding false teaching, but the Lord gave me just that kind of warning recently. I was impressed with Paul’s warning to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20) to guard the flock against wolves in sheep’s clothing, and God spoke to me to be on guard against false teaching coming in to our churches.
There is an abundance of false teaching in Africa (ancestor worship, extreme prosperity teaching, witch doctors, multiple-wives, very domineering authority robbing people of their priesthood, witch doctors in the church, “don’t read your Bible” kind of teaching, etc.). Sadly, there is not just false teaching among the African indigenous churches, but there is also a lot of false teaching coming from the West.
To help our African emerging leaders and church members discern truth from lies, we have found it important to put an emphasis on reading the word with a focus on simple obedience, discovering what God is saying in inductive Bible study, then obeying the word as God speaks one’s heart.
By obeying that “one thing” God emphasizes to be obeyed, we see people grow in knowledge of truth and spiritual maturity. We believe and teach that false teaching gains a foot-hold primarily through lack of obedience to the simple and obvious truths of the gospel, particularly as it relates to daily life: how I treat my wife/husband, honesty, sexual purity, taking responsibility for my choices, sharing the gospel, loving one another, forgiving our enemies, rejecting lies about ourselves and God, refusing to submit to witch doctors and elders who practice ancestor worship, etc.
Keep on praying as we continue to serve the people of Mozambique – in every tribe and every language and culture. We appreciate you more than you might know!