The idea is that for the Gospel to be preached more effectively, we need to understand and appreciate the culture into which it is shared. See the mission and vision statement of my church, Petra Church. In the past, when the gospel was brought from the West into the East, they tend to impose their western cultures and practices into the Eastern population that they were reaching. They condemned the spiritually neutral traditions and practices as demonic and insisted on removing them. (Of course, there were also many eastern practices that were and are demonic. Such traditions and practices need to be stopped.) It ended with creating a Christians subculture and Christianity being branded as Western Religion with the implication that it is not acceptable and should be rejected by the people. Whereas in actual historical fact, the origin of the Christian faith comes from the east and the teachings and practices of Christianity and the Jews are very much like the Chinese. The other religions had done a much better job for integrating the local cultures into their religion. We need to be wise to differentiate the spiritual and spiritually neutral content of the cultures and traditions first before we blatantly proclaim they are demonic. We need to appreciate and connect to the cultures so that the impact of the Gospel can be more effective.
The author is Dick Staub and his book is The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite
While the book is more relevant to the US society, the key points are applicable to those of us in the East. We must always make sure the church stay connected and relevant to the people of different cultures, by race, by age-group, by life-styles, by professions, etc, that we are reaching. One message that touched me most is "Be an artist who is deeply Christian, not a Christian artist. C S Lewis quipped that we don't need Christian writers, we need great writers who are Christian. Instead of creating a separation, we need to connect to influence them and to be adopted.
To influence others come with understanding and appreciating them first. Habit#3, of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is seek first to understand and then be understood. If I don't think you understood me, my feelings, thoughts and need, I don't think I can accept or trust your advice. This is precisely what Paul is sharing in
- 1Co 9:20-23 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; (21) To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. (22) 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. (23) And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Let begins by understanding another culture first and then bring our gospel to them.