If you could have a conversation about the gospel today with one person in your life, who would that be?
Maybe that’s an easy question to answer. What can often be more difficult is approaching the conversation. The spiritual side of life is a huge subject. What’s the best way to transition to a spiritual conversation and talk about the gospel with this specific person?
Learning about their cultural context can help with that. A person’s cultural context is made up of all the different overlapping cultures that have influenced how they view God and the world. This includes their family background as well as the culture of their friend group, neighborhood, school, workplace and any other community, past or present — a soccer team, for example.
So here are two ways that understanding a person’s cultural context will help you talk with them about God.
1. Knowing the person’s cultural context helps you transition to a spiritual conversation
The first thing to do is ask questions like, “Can you tell me about your family?” and “Where have you lived so far in your life?” As the person answers your initial questions, listen carefully. What they say will give you valuable clues that will help you personalize the spiritual conversation you want to have with them.
For example, if your co-worker answers a question by saying she attended Catholic school for 12 years, that won’t tell you what she believes about God. But it shows that she’s likely not new to talking about him. So an easy transition to a spiritual conversation could be to ask about her spiritual experience at the school.
On the other hand, what if your neighbor says he grew up in China? In that case, you might not want to begin by talking about a personal relationship with God. Instead you could say, “I know that in communist countries many people believe God does not exist. Is that true of the part of China you grew up in?” The person’s answer will likely indicate what they personally believe about God’s existence and will give you the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.
Here’s another benefit to listening carefully. You’ll be able to see if the person is more likely to be highly individualistic or defer to other people’s opinions. The other person may also have a different sense than your own of when it’s appropriate to talk about something. Understanding that will help you personalize the spiritual conversation for that person.
2. Knowing a person’s cultural context helps you personalize the way you share the gospel with them
Once you’re in a spiritual conversation, keep your eye out for an opportunity to talk with the other person about what Jesus has done for them. When that time comes, knowledge of the other person’s context will help you decide how best to communicate the gospel and if using a gospel tool is the right way to go.
Remember, the gospel message itself never changes. But personalizing the way you talk about the gospel can help the other person understand it more easily and deeply.
What if you’re talking with someone from a culture that places people in social positions of honor or shame? In that case, you might use the Honor Restored tool in GodTools. If the person lives in a culture with an awareness of the reality, presence and power of spiritual forces, consider using the Power Over Fear tool.
In the end, knowing a person’s cultural context will not help you overcome every obstacle to talking about your faith. But it can help you identify ways to start the spiritual conversation and to personalize the way you share the gospel with that person.