Nomad 49: Carl Medearis and Jesus vs. Christianity

This month Tim and Dave are having a chat with author and missionary to the Middle East, Carl Medearis. Carl has some fascinating insights into cross-cultural mission from his years of working with Muslims, and he believes these principles are just as relevant in our Western context.

Definitely an episode worth listening to (even if we do say so ourselves!).

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We’ve got a cracking interview for you this month. We’re speaking (via Skype) with author and missionary to the Middle East, Carl Medearis.

Carl’s book ‘Speaking of Jesus’ really resonated with me, and articulated what I’d been feeling and experiencing working as a pioneer in Nottingham.

Good communication is not so much about what you say, but what people hear. We can feel we are being very clear and precise in what we’re saying, but our audience can hear something very different.

So the question is, what language should we be using when trying to communicate the gospel in the sub-cultures we’re a part of?

The young adults I hang round with are spiritually curious (in varying degrees) but anti-religion. With only a handful of exceptions, I’ve found that as I’ve used words like ‘Christian’, ‘Christianity’ and ‘church’ to describe myself and what I do, conversations inevitably come to an abrupt end! A recent survey brought this into sharp focus. 85% of people surveyed only had negative things to say about ‘Christianity’, but 100% only had positive things to say about Jesus.

The answer for me seems pretty obvious. To effectively communicate within the sub-culture I’m a part of, I need to stop referring to myself as a ‘Christian’, or an adherent of ‘Christianity’. I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with these words, simply that when I use them people are hearing something very different from what I’m trying to communicate.

In fact the name ‘Christian’ only appears a couple of times in the Bible, and may well have started its life as an insult. Instead the early followers of Jesus referred to themselves as just that, followers (or disciples) of Jesus, and they referred to the faith they were a part of as The Way. People weren’t joining a ‘religion’ they were embracing a Jesus-centred spiritual lifestyle.

So I’ve decided to stop referring to myself as a Christian and instead call myself a follower of Jesus (or more precisely, someone who is trying to follow Jesus). I’ve already found that this opens up conversations where the name ‘Christian’ had previously closed them down.

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