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Ram Prasad Shrestha

Nepal is a beautiful country sandwiched between two giant countries:Tibet-China to the North and India to the South. It is shaped like a rectangle where three parts of the border are shared by India, whereas the Northern Border is shared by Tibet-China. It is a landlocked nation with enormous cultural and geographical diversities.

‘There are about 100 ethnic groups, consisting of over 300 people sub-groups and castes. Caste is often as important a distinction as ethnicity in this strongly Hindu culture’ (Mandryk, ed, 2010, p618). ‘Hindu caste system as an impetus the caste discrimination is still widely practiced, particularly in rural Nepal, where people on the lower rungs suffer systematic abuse passed on between generations’[1]. Nepal used to be the only Hindu country in the world until 2008, but it has declared as the Secular Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, granting religious freedom in terms of practicing one’s faith.

According to government census taken in 2011, the population of Nepal stands at 26,494,504, showing a population growth rate of 1.35 per annum. There are ten types of religious categories reported in the census. Hindu is followed by 81.3 percent (21,551,492) of the population, followed by Buddhism (9%; 2,396,099), Islam (4.4%; 1,162,370), Kirat (3.1%; 807,169), Christianity (1.4%; 375,699), Prakriti (0.5%; 121,982), Bon (13,006), Jainism (3,214), Bahai (1,283) and Sikhism (609).

Christianity in Nepal is very young compared to other South Asian countries,yet; church growth is on the high. According to the World Christian Data, Nepal has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world.[2] The country was closed until 1950 to any foreigner, but the door to Nepal opened for outsiders from 1951 and has paved the way for missionaries to get into the country. ‘Church growth in Nepal has rocketed from zero in 1950 to estimated 1 million Christians or more in 2013’ (Inchley 2014,p510)

The First Gospel Era ( 1707-1950) – Hit and Run
A group of monks from the Roman Catholic Capuchin fathers came to Nepal on their journey to Tibet. They were able to mingle with the people, preached, helped and taught them (Hawker, 1984, p18). “For about 60 years (1707-1769) these Capuchin fathers conducted their missions in the towns of Bhatgaon and Kathmandu in the Nepal Valley (Anonymous, 1974, p26).

Christianity Expelled From Nepal
Despite being impressed earlier by the Capuchin fathers, King Prithvi Narayan Shah later became an enemy. Unfortunately an epidemic broke out in the country claiming 20,000 people’s lives. They blamed the presence of the missionaries because they believed their god was displeased due to their presence and that the god has had struck them with the epidemic.

Due to unfavorable circumstances about 60 Nepali Christians along with one father left the country to reside near Bettiah in India in February, 1769. ‘For the next 180 years darkness prevailed in the heart of Nepal, as the Shah and then the Rana regime rigorously enforced a strict exclusion policy towards the Christians’ (Perry, 2000, p14). As Hedlund (1981, p 270) describes There are two reasons for excluding all foreigners and Christians. First, it was suspected that foreign influence might lead to the invasion and occupation of Nepal. Second, local leaders desired the Hindu kingdom to remain “undefiled” and the Hindu Structures of society kept intact.

Era of Silence (1769-1950)
‘For generations the attitude of the government toward Christians and Christianity was hostile. Foreigners were not allowed to live in the country’ (Duncan, et al, p12). The historical record shows that there were almost 180 years of silence between 1769 -1950 before the second wave of the gospel penetration from 1950.

Opening of the Door for Foreigners
A missionary team led by Dr Lily O’Hanlon and Hilda Steele missionaries from the U.K who were working as missionaries in India, came to Nepal once the boarder to Nepal was opened after 1950. They were praying to enter into Nepal to bring God’s message. Finally the answer to sixteen long years of prayer was granted in 1952. Their proposal to start mission work failed on the first attempt. Finally the letter came in November with permission to open a hospital in Pokhara’ with the condition that they should not preach or convert. However, they had asked permission to worship the Lord in their compound. On November 10th, 1952 came a team of 6 missionaries to minister in Nepal. (Duncan at el, p32).

Establishment of the Churches in Nepal
Dr. Lily and her group and some Nepali Christians who came along as a team and were stationed in Pokhara’. They built a thatched and bamboo hut for a church in 1952. The wooden cross fixed on the roof showed it was a Christian building. The church is known as Ramghat Church, which became the first church in Nepal. This church was led by `pastor David Mukhia (O’Hanlon and Hooker, 1957, p43).

A second church was stabilized in Kathmandu called Putalisadak Church on 8th of April 1953 by two missionaries from South India, Mr. Athali and C.G. George. Likewise Gyaneswor Church was established in August 1957 by eleven members, including Rajendra Kumar Rongong and Robert Karthak who went to Bhaktapur later.(Gyaneshwor Church, 2007, pp1,2)

The United Mission to Nepal
Dr. Bob Fleming, with a strong desire to share the goodness of Christ, wrote letters to the Nepali government requesting permission to start a hospital in Tansen. After 15 months they received a letter granting permission in May 1953 (UMN, 1974, p13).They started a women’s and children’s clinic as the first mission work in Bhatgaon (Bhaktapur), nine miles east of Kathmandu on 7th January 1954.

The Catholic Church in Nepal
After the opening of the door to foreigners in 1950, the Catholics received formal approval to establish a primary school in Godavari in March 1951. The Catholic fathers Murphy and Edwin Saxton established a school in Godavari on 1st July 1950. When the students grew in numbers they started St. Xavier’s School in Jawalakhel, Kathmandu in September 1954 and, on the 27th of January 1955 they established St. Mary’s School.

The Nepal Christian Fellowship (NCF)
From the time of the opening of the door of Nepal to 1960, a most remarkable initiative was taken by establishing of the Nepal Christian Fellowship of Nepal (NCF) as an umbrella organization to support and bring unity among the churches. ‘The purpose of NCF was simple: to keep the small group of Christians’ (Pandey, 2003, p43).

The years from 1960-1980 were the era of persecution and development of indigenous leadership in Nepal. During this time, many church leaders and members were severely persecuted and thrown out of their villages. Politically, Nepal was under the dictatorship of the Shah Dynasty, which imposed “Rastra Panchayat” system which tried to crush Christianity. ‘The gospel’s wildfire was spreading and so was the government’s subterfuge to come down with heavy hands against this unprecedented phenomenon of the growth of Christianity in a land forbidden to them’ (EHC, 2008).

The threat of persecution for Christians in Nepal continued in many different ways. Even though the government has officially allowed Christians to meet and practice their faith, there are still Christians experiencing punishment with several years in prison.

The Era of Establishing Indigenous Churches, Christian Ministries and Mission Agencies
Currently, there are two organizations sending cross-cultural Nepali missionaries throughout Nepal and the Diaspora: The National Missions Commission of Nepal (NCFN-linked) and The Nepal Mission Society (Nepal Gospel Outreach Centre). Several individual churches and Para-church organizations are sending tentmaker evangelists to Malaysia and ‘Arab’ countries, but their stories are yet to be recorded (Inchley, 2007, p. 11).

National Mission Commission of Nepal (NMCN)
The church responded to the mission of God in a larger way, becoming obedient to the Great Commission. The churches in a short period of time made a big jump in cross-cultural training, equipping missionaries and sending them to Nepal and beyond. With this vision the National Mission Commission of Nepal (formally known as the Missions Commission of Nepal) a wing of National Churches Fellowship of Nepal (NCFN) was started in 2001. At present it has become independent from NCFN to serve nationally as a collaborative effort of various church and denominational groups.

Nepal Mission Society-Nepal-Gospel Outreach Centre
The Nepal Mission Society (NMS) was established after 1990 with a vision to reach out to Nepal and send missionaries outside of Nepal. They have been running Bible correspondence courses in which some 380,000 people have enrolled. Their record says that they have planted more than 100 churches/ fellowship groups across the country.

Media and Literature
Nepal used to get most of its Christian literature and audio from India before 1990. Bible and gospel tracts were printed in India and brought in to Nepal. But the situation at present is quite the opposite. Within 20-25 years of time, Nepal has been blessed with a multitude of talented and gifted people whom God is using to create and publish new resources in the areas of literature, audio and video. Now, Nepal is supplying literature to India and around the world.

Pandey and Maharjan (2012, no page) say ‘The radio and media have played a significant role in spreading the gospel because the government allowed Christians to air Christian programs after 1990.’ The Gospel for Asia Nepal has also contributed a lot in media and literature.

Bible Colleges and Training Centre
There are more than 45 Colleges and Training Centers in the Kathmandu valley alone. There are almost 75 training centers across the country. These training centers play a vital role in preparing leaders. There are four Bible colleges accredited with the Asia Theological Association (ATA) and 3 associate members.

Bible Society
The Nepal Bible Society (NBS) was established in 1976 AD. It has re-produced two Nepali versions, namely, New Revised Version (1997) and Simple Nepal Holy Bible (2008). It has also produced the New Testament (with Psalms and Proverbs in different sizes and fonts sizes) and portions (such as the Gospel of Matthew-John), Psalms, Proverbs, etc. from the same–NRV translation. (Jilrel, 2011)

Rapid Growth of Denominations
Denominations are caused by doctrinal differences and sometimes clashes over the position of leadership. Whatever the reason, denominational differences are not pleasant or healthy for the body of Christ. Churches in Nepal are not exempted from being influenced by this web of denominationalist imperialism.

However, Nepal has benefited a lot from the arrival of the denominations regardless of the negative impact on the life of the church. It is quite difficult to say the exact number of churches with denominational affiliations because they do not want to disclose their affiliations.

Three Self-Church
Nepal churches are very good at self-propagation. A Nepali is more effective at preaching than people from outside. One of the reasons for the church growth is Nepali Christians are actively participating in preaching. Most converts were young and vibrant. Women are very instrumental in propagation. They would form a group and go to villages to preach, heal the sick, cast out demons. Every Christian plays the role of evangelist. Missionaries always walked alongside the native church leadership. ‘Churches were established apart from mission groups’ (Bradley, 2010,p6). Most of the churches of Nepal which are independent were planted by the locals and are governed by local people.

Nepali churches are in the process of becoming self-supporting churches. It would not be absolutely right to say that churches are fully financed by themselves. There are large and medium Churches with congregations of over a hundred that are doing well in terms of supporting pastors and evangelists but they are still finding it hard to raise funds for a church building and land. However, most of the Christian mission organizations are supported by foreign mission agencies.

Global Impacts through Nepali Mission –Globalization

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. – Acts 8:4 (NIV)

Right after the persecution broke due to the martyrdom of Stephen, the lay believers were dispersed from Jerusalem. Wherever they went, they continued preaching the Good News of Jesus. They were quite instrumental in globalizing the Good News of Jesus beyond their boarders. Jesus Christ has already proclaimed that the Gospel must go Globalization from Jerusalem towards the end of the world.The Church of Nepal has gone through many experiences whether through poverty, civil unrest or persecution. The gospel planted in the soil of Nepal, did not remain within its geographical boundaries only. The Lord stirred the situation via different incidences for the church to leave the country and be salt and light to the rest of the world as per God’s design.

AD2000 Congress on Evangelism
The AD2000 Congress on Evangelism was organized in October 1994 in Kathmandu, Nepal where more than 1200 pastors and leaders attended the congress. The vision for the World Evangelization was birthed in the hearts of the Nepali leaders mainly Adon Rongong. Dr. Thomas Wang, International Board Chairman of the AD2000 & Beyond Movement was the main speaker at the conference. The ‘Kathmandu Declaration’ the vision was cast for extending the call for ‘the Gospel to every person and the church among every people’s the wider Himalayan regions-beyond Nepal’ To continue the fire of mission beyond Nepal, the next Himalayan Congress on Evangelism was held on January 15, 1996 in Silligury, West Bengal of India with more than 2000 delegates. Luis Bush says; ‘Silligruti which is the state of West Nepal of India is strategically located at the northernmost tip of India bordering Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet. Such observation brought consolations and inspiration to take the Gospel unitedly specially to Nepali speaking people group as well as Himalayan nations such as Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling District of India and Bhutan.[3]

The Globalization of Nepal
‘As the world become a Global Village,the Ministry among the Nepali-speaking population is also becoming Global. After the 1990s many Nepali Christian were also globalized; some went to the Middle East; others went to Southeast Asia or to Northeast Asia and started Nepali Fellowship. In USA more than 100 Nepali SpeakingChurches have been planted across the country’.

Labor Migrants
Nepal is a one of the poorest country in the world with ‘GDP per capita 694.10 USD According to Asian Development Bank,

‘In Nepal, the far western and mid-western regions and the mountain districts have poverty rates well above 40%. Poverty incidence is 27% in rural Nepal, compared with 15% in its urban areas. Socially disadvantaged groups such as the Dalits experience substantially greater poverty than the rest of the population’.

Due to lack of job opportunity in Nepal, people started flooding to the overseas to look for unskilled jobs especially in the Arab world and Malaysia. Almost 1500 migrants worker pass through the International Airport of Nepal, ‘having no clue regarding those who make Delhi as their traveling route and to the thousands of those who have gone to India through different border crossing of Nepal-India’)

Political Unrest
Nepal went to severe 10 years of political civil insurgency called by the Moist an extreme wing of Communist party. The insurgency lasted until 2008 when Moist joined the main stream political parties agreeing to resolve the issue by joining the parliamentary government. During the 10 years of insurgency almost 15000 people were killed. Most of the youth and school students were forcefully recruited as freedom fighters. To escape from this fear many young people left the country and went as migrant workers wherever they found the jobs.

Tent Making
Many Christians are mostly serving as Tent Makers to different countries, especially those who have gone overseas to work. While they work in their company or stay togetherin hostels, they preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. There are occasions when they have long holidays, they organize a Gospel Musical concert by inviting Nepali singers to sing and pastors to preach. They also hold sports events to share the Good news of Jesus Christ. Over the course of time, several pastors like Lok Manaen, Pastor Ashok Adhikary, Pastor Lazarus Thulung and other several pastors have gone to Dubai and other cities of UAE.

Migration as Refugees
Nepal’s 10 years of insurgency and life threatening political situation has pushed out many young people to seek either for asylum or to go as refugees. They have gone to different parts of the world such as USA, UK, Canada for and Australia but as soon as they got settled, they started witnessing to the people around especially to the Nepali speaking community and established churches. He further says ‘in 2014 seven people were baptized and eight entered into membership. Manoj Shrestha went to study at Princeton. After his graduation, he felt a strong need to minister the people in Baltimore, USA where he is pastoring a church. Ram Aryal who is ministering to Bhutanese Refugees reports that ‘some 60,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees in America have been helped by UN Refugees Commission. At present about 1500 refugees have settled in Grand Rapid, MI. Now the Church has been established in Grand Rapid where about 100 Bhutanese are attending the fellowship.

With the short history of Christianity of Nepal, it has tremendous way of Christian growth setting up an example as one of the fastest growing nation. Despite the persecution and hardship brought by the government, community as well as extreme Hindu fanatics, the people of Nepal continue to persevere for the cause of Christ.

Due to several reasons whether because of civil insurgency, poverty, voluntary and involuntary migration, those who left the country continue to spread the gospel across the world. There is a huge potential with the Nepal Christians of going global to fulfill the Great Commission.


[1] http://www.persecution.org/2016/02/04/why-nepal-has-oneof-the-worlds-fastest-growing-Christian-populations/
[2] http://countryoffice.unfpa.org/nepal/drive/Nepal-Census-2011-Vol1.pdfhttps://www.lausanne.org/content/covenant/lausanne-covenant
[3] Luis Bush, Mission Frontiers, Jan-Feb 1996, The Bulletin of the U.S. Centre for World Mission.


Rev. Ram Prasad Shrestha is the Director of the National Missions Commission of Nepal. He is based in Kathmandu, Nepal and is working to bring mission awareness to the churches, to provide training in evangelism, and to send trained missionaries throughout the Himalayan regions in partnership with local churches. The National Missions Commission of Nepal trains and sends out new missionaries each year to unreached areas of Nepal as well as to Bhutan, Malaysia and India. Within three years, each missionary is expected to plant at least one church.


John Edmiston

In the 21st century the first touch is nearly always a digital touch.

Long before most people ever meet an evangelical Christian they have heard about evangelicals in the media, seen their gospel Facebook posts, got their earnest emails, downloaded their crossover music and stumbled across their Christian websites. We evangelicals are sometimes present to them digitally, even if we do not know them personally.

Before someone attends your church they will check out your church website. Before they attend the Crusade they will accept the Facebook invitation and watch the brief video. Before they enroll their children in a Christian school they will look at peer reviews of the school online. The validity of your entire ministry (in the public eye) depends on the skill of your digital communication.

The unreached come with many cultural assumptions and very little accurate information. For them digital information is frequently the only information. They can only trust you on the basis of what they know; and what they know is what they find out about you on the Internet, TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and local social media.

Many of the unreached live in urban areas and even in mega-cities surrounded by digital technology.Cybermissions will not reach every unreached person, however it can influence a decent percentage and we should use it in those areas where it will work.

The following four observations guide most of my work in digital ministry:

  1. Information Is Digital (all pure information can be put into digital formats)
  2. Impartation Is Spiritual (communion, baptism, the laying on of hands, prayer etc.)
  3. Formation is Personal (discipleship, mentoring, iron sharpening iron)
  4. Transformation Is Communal (flows from Spirit-filled communities of grace)

Having the correct Information is critical to all the others: accurate Scriptures, right doctrine, good bible-teaching, training, counsel and pastoral care. Much of this can be facilitated via the Internet and via digital distribution technologies such as SD cards or a BibleBox.

Impartation is a much more personal thing. It is obviously less desirable to serve communion online than face-to-face. Baptism cannot be done with pixels alone. There is much to be said for the laying on of hands and for prayer in loving community. However digital invitations to physical realities can be part of getting people to be included in such events.

Personal Formation tends to naturally be a blended mix of face-to-face meetings, phone calls, texts, Skype, emails and Facebook posts among others. We normally know which avenue to use. With some people I disciple I might meet personally only once every few months and use digital means in-between times because one or the other of us is on the road.

Transformation flows from Spirit-filled communities of grace and these can be digital, local or a blend of both. Quite a few conferences such as ICCM (International Conference of Computing and missions) meet annually and have frequent email exchanges in egroups and mailing lists in-between. Some Facebook groups have become specialized places of healing and refuge with prayer for all the members in times of need. The more specialized the group, and the more dispersed its members, the more likely that electronic community will be a good option.

This applies very much to the unreached, who can be a specialized sub-group, a dispersed sub-group or a group that cannot easily meet openly for fear of persecution.

Cybermissions can deliver information in huge quantities and also help facilitate impartation, formation and transformation through creative uses of digital communities. I recently taught a subject on Technology, Addiction and Life-Balance and was astonished at how readily the students bonded in the forums and how they were able to share details of life struggles. Quite a few students reported major life-change as a result of the assignments that got them to examine their personal use of the Internet and of media in their life. All this took place on an e-learning platform known as Moodle.

Most of the time we are not talking to robots online but to real people, with real spiritual needs. We are emailing, chatting with and encountering real people who are in search of the grace of God that is found in Jesus Christ our Savior. That means that the digital touch can be a real touch, a transformational moment in someone’s life.

The path from knowing absolutely nothing about the gospel, to being able to make an informed decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is at least in part, a digital pathway. It might include the Jesus Film, a radio broadcast, a few texts and an article on a Christian website.

People make their socially risky searches online, and conversion is socially risky. Whether the socially risky search is for pornography, or for personal medical information, or for religious information, they open up a new incognito search tab and head to Google. The search for God often has a digital first step with a few words typed into a rectangular box on Google.
Seekers want a highly anonymous, private and expeditious digital pathway between their religious question and the right divine answer. This is especially true for seekers from UPGs who may face social ostracism, or worse.

The social pathway, which involve asking questions of people, talking to people and being discipled by people, is the traditional pathway. This pathway “needs a cross-cultural missionary if people are to hear”. But this method has a whole bunch of problems: a) missionaries are hard for all the seekers to find b) the missionaries are surrounded by existing believers with high needs c) the missionaries are culturally distant d) interacting with the missionaries is an action that can easily be socially observed and thus create tension.

The digital pathway is much easier for the unreached enquirer. It is instant, it is always available, it can be hidden (albeit with some effort), and it doesn’t involve joining a new social group. They can safely and conveniently learn about Christ and the Bible online and then join a church or cell group at a time of their own choosing.

This digital pathway is seen by some as inferior or even as totally invalid; as if a decision for Christ made while browsing a web page is far less “real” than the traditional one where the penitent sinner walks the sawdust trail at the tent meeting.

However, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ and it does not matter whether that word of Christ comes via radio, TV, a book, a tract or via a web page or bible app on a mobile phone.

Salvation is not by the institutional church and its rituals alone. God also calls the outliers such as Abraham or the Ethiopian eunuch. People drawn by a sudden message in the middle of the desert.

The digital pathway is for the dispersed. It is for the scattered flock. For the lost, for the hurting, for those who cannot take another church service, and for those who have no church service in their area. The digital pathway is a very valid pathway for the unreached.

When I went to the jungles of Papua New Guinea as a young missionary in the early 1980’s we still paddled canoes, lived in compounds, had kerosene refrigerators and communicated via single-sideband high frequency radio. You had to be tough, you had to know how to fix things and you had to take risks with tropical diseases. All for a bible class of say twenty national pastors.

Today Cybermissions and its partner organization Harvestime International Network between them see about 1.2 million Christian lay leaders and pastors doing bible, ministry and church-planting training (mostly part-time) through Internet downloads, ebooks and online courses while also supplying curriculum (in 12 major languages) for thousands of church-run ministry training centers.

The cost of distributing the ebooks and courses is minimal, about five cents per student per annum. Admittedly, it is way less glamorous than landing on the airstrip at Mt. Bosavi in a tiny MAF Cessna and we do not feel like “real missionaries” as we are living in Los Angeles and Fresno California (though travelling extensively).

This takes us back to the initial four guiding lights of: Information, Impartation, Formation and Transformation.

The digital missionary does best at the Information part of the equation. It is easy for us to supply material which can be downloaded and distributed. The jungle bible college was much better at Impartation and personal Formation.

However, as a young foreign missionary on the field I quickly learned that I was limited to how deeply I could do impartation and formation. The national senior pastors were much more effective at these aspects with the bible students.

This leads to a blended strategy where the Internet ministry supplies the information, and local leadership do the impartation and formation, which leads to the development of a transformational community that impacts the culture. This blended model is the aim of both Cybermissions and Harvestime and we encourage people to teach our freely provided materials face-to-face in local churches, prisons and bible colleges for maximum impact.

So the digital missionary often exists in active cooperation with other ministries. This is where Phil Butler’s partnership ideas in Well Connected and other books are critical. We each bring to the table our key skills and then partner with a vast array of other ministries to reach the unreached.

The digital missionary has an additional skillset, not an entirely different skillset. They should still have bible college, and they should still be gifted cross-cultural communicators. They should also understand five additional areas:

  1. Appropriate web technologies and mobile apps
  2. Search engine optimization
  3. Content creation (in their preferred area)
  4. Basic computer hardware and especially what it will and will not do.
  5. Basic project planning esp. workflow, SWOT analysis and requirements statements

Most of this can be mastered with around six months of intensive training on a web tutorial site such as Lynda.com and will be like the “language learning” phase that most field missionaries go through. So digital missionaries are not short-term missionaries, though short-termers may be able to do a few specific digital tasks such as video editing.

Generally digital missionaries will need a good computer, internet access and high-end software such as the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. Time and quality issues make the investment in good software very worthwhile.

Other equipment will vary on the project. I find for smaller video projects such as “talking head” training videos a $300.00 Canon Vixia camcorder is quite sufficient and will take an audio input. Quite adequate sound gear can be bought online at sites such as musciansfriend.com and technical colleagues in missions can often show you how to set up a basic studio at an affordable cost.

Most digital ministry teams are small, between 1-6 people with some larger. On the whole, the larger the better, as it allows some to specialize. In some creative access areas you may need a full-time digital security person.

Your team has to suit your context. If your context is online learning in a bandwidth challenged area of Africa then a team based in San Francisco with high-end Apple devices producing high-bandwidth HD video is probably not optimal. The team should at least visit the field and have a deep understanding of the local challenges.

The constraints can often be severe and may include: bandwidth, security, finances, limited IT knowledge, harsh environments, rendering complex local language scripts, frequent power outages, internal politics over the project or its costs and equipment, and how technology is used among the target UPG.
The constraints need to be sourced from on-the ground local partners and listed at the outset as part of the project feasibility study and as part of a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Once they are listed then solutions may be found. Some rather idealistic projects some unglued because a failure to do this right at the beginning. This leads us straight into the next section on the contextualization of technology.

Contextualizing technology is the art of making your project workable and acceptable in the local environment with its unique constraints, beliefs, languages, social structures and its view of what is acceptable and unacceptable.

As John Dyer says “technology is never neutral”. Technology is a cultural artifact that is fitted into a person’s worldview, and which can even change that world-view. Books changed Europe, and TV changes many indigenous cultures. Missiologically speaking, technology needs to be “contextualized” so that Christ is made clear and any unnecessary offense is minimized. This is by no means obvious nor is it at all intuitive.

In 2001 I arrived in the Philippines carrying a Phillips Twist mobile phone that was seven years old and about half the size of a brick. My personal view of mobile phones was that they were ‘just a business tool’. I was a missionary, I didn’t spend money unnecessarily and I was quite happy with it. It would have worked in the Philippines as they used the same frequencies as Australia. I just wanted to change the SIM card. The Filipino salesman refused to sell me a SIM card. To him I was being socially shameful.

Not only that but all my Filipino friends all told me “John, you can’t use that old phone!” So I had to purchase a new Nokia phone that was considered socially acceptable in the Philippines. My good old faithful phone had become a cultural obstacle!

Any technology-in-missions project must be workable under local conditions, practical for folk to use without feeling awkward, and socially acceptable in that culture. In some locations we had to remove the game of Solitaire from Windows XP machines because card games were deemed offensive. And in privacy conscious cultures we had to set up screens around the computers.

Second-hand donated technology may be acceptable in a few places, however some contexts are deeply offended by it, and in yet others it is even considered as illegal dumping. So you have to have deep local knowledge BEFORE you even launch your project.

Since both technologies and cultures are changing rapidly there is simply no anthropology textbook that you can pick up and read and figure out instantly how to contextualize your website, app or computer center for people group X.

You and your team will have to do local on-the-ground research. Therefore I have compiled a list of possible survey questions that you might like to use to jump start the research process. Feel free to add questions of your own, these are merely a guide. You might also want to combine these questions with some qualitative research process such as participant observation. The questions need to be asked gently, respectfully and with a very open mind.

“You” = the local population being surveyed “It” = the technology/project/software etc


  • Will it (the technology you want to set up) work under these local conditions (voltage, dust, heat, power outages etc)?


  • What activities would you use it for?
  • Is it fun to use?
  • Can you afford to use it? If so how often?
  • How easy is it to for you to use? Is it confusing?
  • What do you (the locals) think of its user interface?


  • How does it work? (Testing what they think the technology does, you might be surprised!)
  • What does it do? How does it function in this culture?
  • What do other people here think about it?
  • What do people here like? What makes them jump for joy? How can we incorporate that insight into this project?
  • What do people here dislike? What makes them feel bad or annoyed? How can we avoid doing that in this project?
  • Do you think that it will cause infertility or disease? (e.g. mobile phones being thought to cause brain tumors)
  • Will it offend the deity, gods, or the religious leaders?
  • How could it make things better?
  • How could it make things worse?
  • Does it need to be changed in some way? What do we need to be careful about?
  • Tell me a story that you have heard about it.
  • What sort of people here own it? (bad people, good people, only rich people etc)
  • Who are the most likely people to use it? Men, women, children, students etc?
  • Will people share it? How will they share it? Are there caste, clan or gender issues involved in sharing?
  • How will it affect or facilitate social transactions and conversations?
  • How will it affect or facilitate trade and financial transactions?
  • Is there anything that annoys you or offends you about it?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Is it socially acceptable for a person like you to own/use/be trained by it?
  • Will it cause feelings of inequality, envy or resentment? Will it start fights?
  • What social systems would use it? How will it integrate with village life, urban life, farming seasons etc.


  • How is it named, what is it called, what cultural categories does it fit in? (list of nouns)
  • How is it described, what are its qualities? (list of adjectives)
  • What are its functions? (list of verbs, adverbs and participles)

You may even discover that your project is not needed, or is not desired, will blow up under local conditions or even might be totally illegal and get you arrested. If so you have got some very useful information! You have saved a lot of money, and gained valuable time you can use to “go back to the drawing board” which you would eventually have had to do anyway.

Knowing that it won’t work in that particular location is not a defeat, nor is it a lack of faith. It is just God sending you to Macedonia instead of to Asia (Acts 16).

On the other hand if you do get the go ahead from your survey results then you have to be diligent to carry the project through to completion and that means working with a reliable, faithful and highly competent team of local Christians. Contextualizing technological solutions requires continual input from those who know the actual on-the-ground situation.

For instance in some cultures a large project may create a lot of envy and suspicion and hurt the church leaders in the area who are working with you because opponents of the gospel will be spreading spiteful rumors. In such a case every sensible person will tell you to start small. Listen to them!


  1. Generally two or three very senior local Christian leaders who give their gravitas to the project and who can untangle major clashes with the community, these should be used sparingly as they are very busy people.
  2. Then you should have two of the best technical people you can find who know everything about what can and does go wrong in that area.
  3. Then you want some pastors and local businessmen who have their ear to the ground, and some workers who can make things happen. Businessmen will also know what people are prepared to pay if it is a business-as-mission project e.g. an Internet cafe.
  4. You may also require a translator or linguist and a local graphic artist.

One important point: do not have your graphic art done in the West. I learned this when consulting on websites in the Chinese context. The Chinese seem to like “noisy”, busy websites with many flashing icons. Only a Chinese graphic artist can understand the rules of Chinese website design!

So it is with every people group. The meaning of colors, pictures of people (esp. In Islamic contexts) how words are placed on a page and so on, is so varied that local input and local design is far and away the best choice (Even if you personally don’t like it!) Remember it is not about you it is about the clarity of the gospel.

Branding is another sensitive issue. Conspicuous branding is considered ostentatious and egotistical in many cultures. In Australia or England naming a ministry after yourself is a huge mistake and is only ever done by very “flaky” people. In Japan where self-effacement is a strong value one of the major retail companies there is called Muji which means “no brand” and they have a minimalist “no logo” policy. If there is considerable criticism of your image or brand then you may need to do a major rebranding exercise, or even have a no-brand policy.

Stay out of the way. Local contextualization, when done properly, greatly increases the feeling of community ownership which is key to participants caring about the technology project after you have gone home and back to the office. The more local input the better. The more that local input is listened to and appreciated, the better.

Once the digital resource has been created and contextualized it then needs to be digitally distributed in ways appropriate to the community and to the security needs of the local pastors, missionaries and evangelists.

There are increasingly numerous ways of distributing transformational digital resources and they include: downloading them from a website on the Internet, social media sharing, filesharing via Torrent sites, using email attachments, including them in a mobile app, putting them on servers and bulletin boards, using flash media such as SD cards and USB drives, putting large collections of resources on portable hard drives, the use of kiosks, wireless hotspots, MP3 players, Bluetooth broadcasters and traditional digital media such as CDs and DVDs.

A good on-demand way of sharing a collection of digital resources such as tracts, ebooks and training materials is with a sequential email autoresponder such as Olam Autoresponder which will send out the resources by mail, at set intervals, to people who sign up.

The idea is to have a viral resource that can easily be transmitted between the devices that people own, without the need for giving them new technology. So the resource should be small enough to be easily passed around. Ebooks, PowerPoint presentations, and smaller audio files (less than (10MB) can be easily sent around by common technologies such as email and BlueTooth and readily downloaded from wireless broadcasters such as LightStream or the BibleBox..

Larger files ( such as a 4Gb video file) can be distributed on hard drives, USB flash drives and SD cards. These devices cost money and even though the financial barrier is minimal it still is a factor that reduces the viral nature of the resource in the UPG.

Many resources work better with a trained facilitator who explains the resource and its distribution method to key leaders. So the Jesus Film has facilitators that show the film and who help organize its distribution.

With training resources and bible courses (which are not as intuitive as just showing a film) the training of the facilitators may be the critical factor in ensuring the success of the resource distribution.

It is desirable to build a small movement around an excellent resource. When people get enthusiastic about something such as Super Book, the Jesus Film, the Way of Righteousness or a translation of the Scriptures then it is far more likely that a fruitful and established work will take place.

Building a movement around a digital resource may require a team with a passionate visionary motivator, conferences, training manuals and a method of building camaraderie and reinforcing positive results and feedback.

A management theory known as TQM (Total quality Management) tells us that the only way to achieve a consistently good result is with a good system. If you want a minimum of undesirable variance in output (whether you are washing dishes or landing a rocket on a comet) you require a consistent, repeatable, sustainable and workable system.

Good systems enable us to achieve the same good, desirable results (e.g. clean dishes) over and over again. So systems are essential to Cybermissions. The details are extremely important. It is very easy for technology-in-missions projects to fail and to waste a great deal of money if they are not thought through properly.

This is not to devalue the work of the Holy Spirit or the value of spontaneity is evangelism and discipleship. It is just that technology is, well, technical! You need to know both how it works and how to make it work for you rather than against you!

For instance, say you want a short video to go to all members of a UPG. You will have to sit down and work out how long it should be, what format it should be in, what language or sub-titling difficulties there may be, how many copies you will need to make, how you will distribute it digitally, and how you will distribute through people on the ground. This may seem like a lot of thinking but it can be done in just a few hours and will save you much grief later on.

You will need to have a planning person on your team who is familiar with concepts such as mind-mapping, SWOT analysis, critical pathway analysis, and designing project requirement statements.

The cost of failure can be high and include such things such as a major financial loss or even compromised team security. Cybermissions is certainly not for the badly organized.

Digital ministry has some major advantages and disadvantages when it comes to security. In some countries (e.g. North Korea) security is so pervasive that any electronic form of gospel witness would inevitably be discovered and place many persons at risk. In these areas digital ministry is simply not an option.

In other places digital ministry done from abroad can be a useful supplement when there are insufficient workers on the ground. For extra safety the workers abroad (say in the Philippines) should be completely separate from the workers on the ground (e.g. in the Middle East) and have no knowledge of their identity or exact location.

There are certain security procedures that greatly assist with security. Do not put personnel databases online or have them connected to the Internet in any way. Use hardened Linux servers with SELinux enforced. Use strong anti-malware and virus scanning and use intrusion detection software. Have strict password policies. Have definite rules about photographs, use of names, team identities, social media posts and so on.
The selection of digital distribution methods is critical to security. You may need a method that is easily erasable and leaves no trace of the content once a USB stick or SD card has been removed. Portable apps and the Biblebox would fit into this category.

There is no such thing as total security however cyber-security can be quite formidable when done correctly and keep out casual hackers and “bandit-level” hackers but it cannot defeat sophisticated hostile governments.

The question needs to be asked in each separate context: “Which is less insecure: local workers on the ground or digital missionaries overseas?”. There are positives and negatives to both and a combination may work well. There is no simple answer and security is very context dependent.

The first touch is often a digital touch so having high-level digital ministry skills is very important both for evangelism and pre-evangelism. While some UPGs will be only reached by local workers a significant number of unreached individuals can hear the gospel via their various digital devices, especially mobile phones.

A digital strategy should be in place for most UPGs. Such a strategy has to be a well-planned system that incorporates the four central insights: Information Is Digital, Impartation Is Spiritual, Formation Is Personal and Transformation Is Communal.

Quality drives virality and it is better to have one exceptional resource that spreads rapidly than one hundred mediocre resources that go “nowhere” in cyberspace. Quality is very dependent on correct contextualization so that the digital strategy is fully acceptable to members of the UPG.

There are numerous creative methods of digital distribution and selecting the correct method, that has suitable security is critical.

Digital ministry is very useful when you want to achieve large scale at low cost e.g. ebook distribution instead of printed book distribution. However digital missions needs to become incarnate and local at some point through teams of well-trained facilitators who train members of the UPG in how to best use the digital resource.

Ultimately Cybermissions becomes most effective when it becomes part of a movement, preferably a church-planting movement or a training movement.


Mr. John Edmiston is the CEO of Cybermissions and also teaches courses in Theology of Technology, Mobile Ministry and Emerging Media Ministry. John has been in Internet Ministry since 1991 and was one of the first to do full-time Christian ministry on the Internet. As an expert in technology in missions his projects are as diverse as: bible teaching websites, evangelistic Internet cafes, covert radio broadcasting, resource distribution through mobile devices, cybersecurity, internet radio stations and formal online learning. He is an Australian who has lived and ministered in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and South East Asia, And who now live in Los Angeles with his wife Minda.


Yon Soo Kim

Since the beginning the gospel of Christianity has been aiming for globalization. The phrase “Making disciples of all nations”[1] (µαθητευσατεπανταταεθνη) in Jesus’ Great Commission shows that the commission is not only for all nations, tribes and language groups in the world, and the promise and commandment of the Pentecost, but includes also in its realm as extended to “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”[2] (Ιερουσαληµ καιενπασητηΙουδαιακαιΣαµαρειακαιεωςεσχατουτηςγης). And also the people who were gathered in the Pentecostal Advent were those who came from more than 15 different areas[3] in those days.

We cannot help think about localization in considering the globalization of the gospel. Our Mission should aim for the globalization of all places and all peoples in the world. Thinking and planning more widely, preaching the gospel in international and national languages is like globalization while the appropriate translation of the gospel into local languages, is like localization.

Ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, geographical, and socio-hierarchical factors can be considered as hindrances in the globalization of the gospel. Those factors have hindered the spread of the gospel in all places, all peoples, and all language groups for two thousand years. In one sense, the Christian mission has accomplished the commission throughout by overcoming the hindrances one by one. We have succeeded in some parts, but not in other portions.

In this moment the author would like to suggest a solution for accomplishing the globalization of the gospel for all nations through the Bible storytelling ministry as a method of both globalization and localization.

We can recognize that it is very important to overcome the hindrances mentioned previously one by one for the globalization of the gospel. It is important that simultaneously we recognize the necessity of selecting a method of communication in preaching the gospel efficiently. This has been overlooked for a long time by many cross-cultural Christian ministers.

Seventy five percent of the unreached people are those who are accustomed to communicate with each other orally, that is, they are oral people. The people who live in oral culture use mainly storytelling method for their communication and learning. We have overlooked the fact that they are very unfamiliar to the letter-printing communication method and they need a revolutionary change for their entry to the literary world. However, 90% of cross-cultural Christian ministers have no concern about it or do not consider it seriously.

Not long into the Bible storytelling ministry, I came across a certain missionary in Central Asia whose remarks left a lasting impression on me. After attending the workshop that I had put together, he found himself marvelling over an epiphany of questions that had long beset him. Flushed with enthusiasm, he confessed to me that he had finally found the answer to them. A little over a decade now he had taught Bible classes to local people and trained them as disciples of Christ in groups. All those years he couldn’t shake off doubts about himself and the people he taught. He kept asking himself, ‘Why is it that they seem to learn the Word at the last minute? Why does it take so long for them to get it? Are they naturally slow in their ability to understand? Or is it because they are not as dedicated as others?’ But no, that was not it. He shook his head at the thought of local Christians, many of whom were well advanced in scholarship and social rank, all very dedicated. He could easily name professionals who made a living out of law, medicine and teaching, and yet wholeheartedly committed to Christ. But then he attended the workshop and came to face them for who they really were: descendants of nomads with a strong tradition of orality. Those who were somewhat successful at nurturing trainees followed this tradition; they learned the Bible text by heart before they told it as a story, further explaining what puzzled them. This was a whole new revelation to him.

Clearly it wasn’t about the sluggish rate at which they pounded at the Scriptures. Nor was it due to their lack of zeal. It all boiled down to a method. Whether to study or to communicate the Word, people with predominantly oral heritage will fare better without the printed pages always.

A certain evangelical mission organization carried out a survey on 580 missionaries in Muslim countries. Among them, 280 in 37 countries sat for an in-depth interview. The outcome of both queries showed some 94 ways to evangelize Muslims. Again, a requirement for missionary ministry came down to three that was deemed crucial to planting a church in Muslim countries: use of the local language, method of communication tailored to the local needs, and minister’s fluency in the local tongue. According to the study, the odds of planting a church with the above requirements are 9 to 1. In the case of missionaries equipped with none of the required three, a scant 7 percent succeeded at planting a church. By contrast, those with the requirements almost always planted a church, showing 82 percent success rate. It shows and proves the importance of the method of communication plays in church planting.

A man lives not only for pleasure but also for the meaning of his existence from the belief in something greater than himself: often work or ministry. But once his belief takes hold of his entire person, he is easily caught up in the cycle of underestimating or dismissing the creeds of other men.

I had long cherished the work of Bible translation and still feel strongly about its importance in missions. I do not have an iota of regret for dedicating a larger part of my work to translating the Holy Word into the local tongue. However, upon leaving the field of mission, I came to realize there was something missing; something bigger than my paltry belief in my work of mission. I was so consumed by it. I was unconsciously (and consciously at times) indifferent to what occupied the ministries of other men. What is true is timeless and held in the highest esteem, I do not dispute that. But the method to achieve a goal can vary in numbers as much as the crayons in a box. The question is then to find one’s own method and be the brightest.

During the whole time on the mission field and even after returning, I carried a big burden in my heart which beleaguered all my translating work. I was quite distraught at the reality of the local people of Kwerba, a native tribe on the remote jungle area in Indonesia. They hardly read any of my translation of the scriptures, they just couldn’t. I was in bad need of a needle to get the prick out of my heart. I kept asking, ‘What is it that stops them from reading my translation of the Bible?’ As all my work and ministry hinged upon it, I felt even more guilty when I thought of all the support from brothers and sisters at church back home. Couldn’t they or wouldn’t they? The more I brooded over the question, the worse I got my anxiety. I could only hope that they will one day see the beauty of it and finally learn to cherish it. But even I doubted it.

I made a few more visits to the mission field after my departure. To my despair, I found them still uninterested; unwilling and unable to read the translated God’s Word to their native tongue. The saddest part is that those who used to read it with me no longer did. They simply couldn’t.

Had I not set foot in that storytelling workshop,[4] I would have had to live with the prick in my heart all this time. Just like that, it solved all my problems at one go. There, I learned that the tribal people I served come from an orally-oriented background. Centuries of oral tradition defined their way of communicating with one another, radically different from the way we communicate through written words.

Accuracy is guaranteed when information is preserved in hard-set words on paper/pad. Perhaps the best of human achievements, it aids our memory in quantity and quality to store or to transmit knowledge in a written form. Sad but true though, such a fine (intangible) artifact is fading out into history as two thirds of literate men and women prefer spoken words as a mode of communication.

By 1980, Walter Ong, an American scholar, came forth with an idea that there existed two kinds of people: one from an oral background and another from the written. He suggested that the latter tends to prefer an oral mode of communication in an overwhelming number of occasions.

What does it exactly mean for Christians who are committed to the mission, as well as for missionaries who carry out diverse ministries on the field?

Storytelling is an important method of oral communication and has two distinct features.

Firstly, it should be noted that approximately 75 percent of the Bible are stories. For the divine providence of our salvation and adoption as His children, was it necessary for God to tell so many stories to reveal the truth and manifest His glory? It was imperative to use stories as over 90 percent of men at that time came from cultures whose lingua franca was predominantly in an oral form. And those aware of the excellence of story as a means of communication will no doubt guess at the reason behind His choice to talk to us and teach us through stories.

Secondly, most of our target audience for the gospel truth is the people in oral culture. They are most likely to feel at ease around messages spoken to them as they come from a background of strong orality. At present, 75 percent of those beyond the reach of missionary zeal are nestled in an orally-oriented environment. The remaining few also prefer an oral communication to the written, in acquiring knowledge or passing on information. Thus, a task that attracts urgency to reach out to the native tribes and so complete our mission work seems to lie in the storytelling ministry. You cannot dispute that the storytelling is by far the best method there is to deliver the Bible message (75 percent of which are in story form) to the often illiterate peoples of the darkest regions of the world.

Ever since I was first introduced that day to the storytelling ministry, I visited a number of organizations pioneered by Western missionaries, and was initiated by good trainers there. I also read their books. On top of that, I started studying storytelling in general with secondary materials. Thankfully, though frustrating it had been at times, my years of translating the Bible and studying linguistics paid off. My experience with the native people from an oral background helped, too. Writing my dissertation on Jesus’ parables came a long way in getting an edge on the hands-on training I got from them.

After finishing the training, I tried to sum up in 5 areas what matters the most for an effective storytelling ministry. So I set to work those 5 areas into programs, along with textbooks.

Firstly, it can be used as an effective tool in evangelism. Logic fails and sophistication only complicates things for people these days. Post-modern kids grew up watching TV, habitually interpreting the world as stories and boasting dominant emotional quotient. Recently, a traditional program for an evangelist shed old customs, starting with small talk and finishing with a Bible story, and is doing pretty well. An evangelist would first approach with small talk, digging into their interests and problems in life, further counseling on their desperate needs. Next, he will introduce the gospel by telling an appropriate story from the Bible. I cannot stress enough the importance of picking a good story that not only testifies the gospel but relates to himself as well. As a believer, he also has stories of his life to tell which testifies to His grace and glorifies His name. His personal life is closely connected to the Bible story as the two intertwine in His grace and truth. They, in turn, will have the holy impact on his audience now. As testimonies of God at work, they continue to witness and impact mere acquaintances, frequenters to his favorite haunts, and even skeptics or pessimists.

Secondly, it can be used as a good way to assist Bible-study classes or discipleship courses. To accompany the Bible study, the storytelling can be broken down into the actual telling a story and the Q&A afterwards. The storyteller must learn the story by heart in advance. In class, he tells the story to his audience, and then asks for a volunteer to retell it. Afterwards, he asks a bunch of simple questions for observation and understanding, and then he can lead the Bible study with deep questions he prepared for. Overall, the audience gets to hear the story three times and aided by deep questions for further thoughts. If all the participants prepare well in advance, there is no need to open a book, whether the Bible or a textbook. If only they can learn the story by heart, they will feel as though they were right in the middle of the scene of the story. Studying a textbook by chapter and volume is not the only way to do it. The storytelling method is just as systematic and organized. The Bible is constructed in a way that any random story connects to another in a mysterious way to converge upon a common point of divine message. Know the stories by heart and you’ll gain the full knowledge, in breadth and depth, of a qualified theologian as organized and systematic as can be.

Thirdly, it can be used for teaching kids in Sunday school. Filling out questions is monotonous and in disrepute. It is not only mind-bogglingly boring, it is ineffective through and through. If kids can enjoy the storytelling method, it will be a lifesaver for the future of church all over the country. Teachers must prepare by rewriting the Bible text into a story and think up a bunch of questions for observation. Should it feel burdensome to memorize it in every week, they can just rewrite the story and simply read it out to students several times, encouraging them to retell it afterwards. When students have understood it well enough, questions are popped for further observation and interpretation. A competition of kind or posting their performance on Youtube might be suggested as a way to attract their interests.

Fourthly, it can be used for good theological education. Young generations these days are more and more prone to use an oral mode of communication. The storytelling method attracts uninterested people and keeps them hooked. It has all the essentials of a lesson both academically fulfilling and entertaining at the same time. Not only kids but adults and teens can benefit greatly from this. The Bible is a treasure trove of 500 stories. Select a set of stories under a theme and you have a curriculum of Bible study/storytelling courses. You will come to have a detailed yet comprehensive grasp of the holy text, as organized and systematic as any theological course can offer.

Fifthly, it can be used for preaching. As mentioned above, over 75 percent of the Holy Scriptures consist of stories, which means three out of four Lord’s day a preacher lashes out a story. An effective preacher is also a good storyteller as he delivers the Word and encourages its application to the real life of his audience. It takes the preacher a lot of skill and technique as he tells a Bible story as a narrative. At least in 6 different ways a preacher might tell his story. The simplest way would be to tell it straight off the contents of the Bible, leaving the structure and the sequence of events unaltered. Further interpretation, meditation and application can be added thereunto. Or, in case the audience is quite familiar with the story, he might start off with another episode to bring up the subject, putting back the main story at the later stage of his sermon. Or, he might consider not mentioning the story at all, if it is more than well-known, and instead start afresh with new story under a common theme. Or, he can try knitting several stories together that intertwine nicely into one big story. Or, he can deliver his sermon by running the story style, but adding a zest to a finale with a set of lesson points for applications. Or, he can lay out an expository sermon at first, and then re-arrange the expository sermon as a story type sermon.

I make it a rule to visit different fields of mission each month to provide the Bible storytelling workshop to Korean missionaries abroad. For three days, they learn all there is to know about storytelling and Bible storytelling, and the usage of Bible storytelling. They are also trained to use it for evangelism, Bible study/discipleship course, Lord’s day school class, theological education, and storytelling preaching. But signing up for 3 days workshop would not surely do it for a lot of people. To bring a storytelling process to real life and ministry, a graduate of the workshop is encouraged to follow up with 20 weeks homework program. With others in a group, he is assigned to deal with 20 stories from the Bible. After completion, he might go on to Workshop II where he spends a day learning how to make a story, a set of stories, and a set of questions. For a domestic ministry this is good enough. But for an international ministry where barriers of culture and language often present problems, he might consider joining Workshop III after completing another 20 weeks homework program. It is recommended that he attends them with his local partner. 1 day course trains on the principles of Bible translation, accommodating foreign languages and cultures with storytelling, and the way of bringing storytelling groups to home churches.

In Korea, the storytelling course is given each semester at the same place.[5] On Mondays, a lecture is given on storytelling. Each semester deals with new set of 8 different stories from the Bible. So far, a total of 6 sets of 8 stories were dealt with under such themes as the divine plan of salvation, evangelical stories, life of David, life of Jesus, Holy Spirit on Pentecost and March of the gospel, Missional church of Antioch and world mission. Extra workshops are given at the request of any group, division of church and the whole church, with different emphasis and scheduling according to the needs of the participants/audience.

On the actual field of mission overseas, the storytelling workshop is given to Korean missionaries to be followed up by a storytelling lecture at Korean theological seminary for locals. As the locals often are feebly versed in their Bible and poorly trained in theology, they find preaching quite challenging and even burdensome. But learning the few things about storytelling gives them much-needed boost which, building a momentum, helps with their ministry tremendously.

We are equal to the task equally challenging and at times burdensome. We have the mandate to preach the gospel to 5 billion souls, of which 2 billion is in total darkness where the Light cannot seem to reach. How can we shine in that region? How can we penetrate it with the gospel of Christ? We must find ways to most effectively deliver the message to peoples with different languages, religions and circumstances, but with discretion of the missional strategist. For mission to any culture or background, the storytelling method is not only effective, it is indispensable whether its people are inclined towards words spoken or written. I pray that Korean missionaries will take more interest in a variety of methods that are out there, and in storytelling for one.

The methodology of Bible Storytelling Ministry seems to be one of glocalization. For this methodology is aiming that it preaches the gospel throughout general and globalized storytelling in their languages and in their appropriate storytelling methodologies. Anyway, I expect that this methodology be used as a great tool for accomplishing Christian Mission for the remnant task of globalizing the gospel in the world.


[1] In general, globalization can be defined as the process of international integration arising from the interchange of products, ideas, values, worldviews and other aspects of culture, or as the breakdown of social and technological barriers across the earth toward the creation of a one-world grid of increasing connection, interdependency and homogeneity. Large-scale globalization began in the 19th century and in the late 19th and early 20th century, the connectivity of the world’s economies and cultures grew very fast. The concept of globalization seems to be a very recent term, only establishing its current meaning in the 1970s and became common currency in the early 1990s, generally speaking, which seemed to be emerged from the inter-minglement of four interrelated sets of communities of practice: academics, journalists, publishers, and librarians. Math. 28:19.
[2] Act. 1:8.
[3] Act. 2:9-11.
[4] OS Workshop (Orality and Storytelling Workshop) is held every May in Chiangmai, Thailand for two weeks. It is put together by the One Story Department of WBT (Wycliffe Bible Translators) where I served.
[5] At the second week of March and September, 10 weeks course is given at Nam Seoul Church (in classroom F of new education rooms of Sinbanpo Commercial Building, from 2 to 5 pm). Each semester, a new set of 8 stories are dealt with, alongside lectures and Bible study on storytelling methodology. The seventh Bible Storytelling School begins at 14th Monday, March, 2016


 Dr. Yon Soo Kim was a Wycliffe Bible translator missionary in Irian Jaya,since 1990. He is now serving as KWMA Associate General Secretary for International Affairs, and ministering as Director of Storytelling Movement Institute.


Diane Marshall

In what ways do poverty, hunger, HIV, gender discrimination, racism, human trafficking, poor governance, environmental degradation, and inequitable access to health services, education, land and resources create barriers to the gospel? How should we respond theologically and missiologically? In what ways might we, in our ignorance and through our actions or lack of action regarding these issues, even be perpetuating barriers to the gospel in communities where Christ is least known?[1] While these stretching questions challenging the global church may appear to be new, in various guises they have been disturbing many of us engaged in cross-cultural ministry over decades.[2] Indeed, evangelical missions have traditionally responded to similar questions through medical care, agricultural work and education in various forms, especially among those marginalised by society.

Convinced that no one should live and die without hearing God’s good news, SIM (Serving In Mission), with a history of 123 years crossing barriers to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ, is committed to seeing God’s name glorified where he is not known. In Thailand this has included expressing His love and compassion among those living with HIV through a diverse team of locals and foreigners called Radical Grace. The story of a young woman called Rung[3] with her family and in her community demonstrates the need for “integral mission.”[4]

Rung was orphaned as a child from a displaced immigrant family. As a young woman, she was abused by her husband. She now lives with HIV. In addition, and for her so significant, the barrier of illiteracy always seemed insurmountable. Her goal: to be able to sign her name rather than having to use her fingerprint.

Two years ago Rung was desperately ill and alone. She had approached an NGO for help. There she met Sutin, Radical Grace’s holistic care and support worker. She was so weak that he carried her to the hospital and helped her access treatment. Together with CAM (Church of Christ in Thailand AIDS Ministry), Sutin helped Rung to register as an immigrant in Thailand. Today Rung is excited that her dream of writing and reading Thai is slowly becoming a reality! Radical’s Grace’s goal: that Rung might be able to read God’s Word.

Rung is a diligent learner and she enjoys her weekly lessons with Sutin, Radical Grace’s holistic care and support worker. The Radical Grace team is providing a vibrant testimony to the gospel through character, word and action. Her life is now very different: she is healthier and she takes her antiretroviral medication daily. She is living in good housing. She works at a Christian centre where she prepares rooms, provides care and cooks meals. She is a new believer in Christ and attends church. She recently married and desires that she and her husband walk closely together in the Lord.”[5]

This moving story provides the backdrop for a fresh understanding of the extent of evil, sin, the forces of darkness, and injustice. In a sense, Rung’s story intersects with my story: called by God from another continent and ministry to grapple with a pandemic sweeping millions of people like Rung before it. Her story may intersect with your story. In this paper I suggest a framework that includes both the need for God’s transformative work in the life of individuals and also takes into account the collective/social, structural/institutional and spiritual/cosmic dimensions of our broken world.

At the same time as HIV&AIDS treatment regimes based on ARTs (anti-retroviral therapy) were being proven effective, I was asked to coordinate SIM’s global response to the pandemic. With ARTs, HIV was no longer an “incurable disease”; however lifesaving treatment could not be accessed by the vast majority of those infected, especially in resource-limited nations. Already recognised as a “disease of poverty,” suddenly HIV became a “disease of justice”: those in wealthy nations or with access to resources could look forward to some sort of future, while most were shut out.

For many of those involved in the “war” against HIV&AIDS, it was about a virus destroying the human immune system that had to be controlled by medical and social means until a vaccine could be developed to protect human beings. For others, responding also meant putting a human face on a deadly disease, and dealing primarily with the tremendous shame and stigma attached to HIV: “HIV is a virus and, medically speaking, AIDS is the consequence of viral infection; but the issues raised by the pandemic are far from purely medical or clinical. They touch on cultural norms and practices, socio-economic conditions, issues of gender, economic development, human responsibility, sexuality and morality.”[6] For those of us following Jesus, HIV became a symptom of our broken world with many dimensions. HIV was a “dis-ease” above all of broken relationships: with God, with family, with community, and with self. It could only be tackled effectively by responding with God’s compassion in these many dimensions, in strategic partnerships and by opposing the evil and spiritual forces that allowed it to flourish.

As we review the 35-year history of HIV&AIDS, we come to appreciate that the church has had a vital role to play in turning the tide. However the church has also been on a journey. For many Christians, a kingdom response has meant a shift from rejecting those infected and affected as sinners to opposing the forces that encouraged the stigmatising of those infected and their families. It has meant tackling the many injustices, protecting the vulnerable, strengthening marriages and families, sharing Christ and discipling those who come to faith, and prayer. Many valuable lessons have been learned by churches making sense of good and evil in a journey of serving their communities impacted by HIV.

While we live in a day of great strides in dealing with human problems, yet we are surrounded by indications of growing evil. The gospel is to be good news to people despairing of the brokenness within them and around them, in a world where wars, hunger and diseases such as HIV are both symptoms and causes, where the kingdom of God has come, is coming, and will come. Integral mission begins with the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ: God’s kingdom appearing, God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven, and God reconciling the creation and human beings from every nation, tribe, people and language to himself. “Make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” (Eph 5:16 NIV).[7]

A renewed theological and missiological understanding here will enable us to make more sense of our broken world. We will need to overcome barriers of geography, politics, ignorance, our own sinful natures, opposing social structures and spiritual forces in order to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ, expressing His love and compassion among those who live and die without ever hearing about him. Evil, sin, and the forces of darkness are complex and at work within and across multiple aspects of life: individual, social-collective, institutional-structural, and spiritual-cosmic dimensions. Equally the goodness, mercy and grace of God pervade every dimension. Human beings face eternal consequences for ignoring or rejecting the justice and righteousness inherent in the character of God. These realities should strengthen our resolve to work with Christ and for Christ as his ambassadors in the extension of his kingdom: “But seek first the kingdom of God and its/his justice . . .” (Mt 6:33).[8]

1. Beginning at the beginning
In the beginning was God: eternal, good, loving, sovereign, perfect and just. He created the whole world and it belongs to Him (Gen 1; Ps 33:5-11; Job 1:6-12). Scripture tells us that evil was present in the universe before Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1). But humanity was created sinless as “the climax of God’s earthly creation, bearing his image, designed for relationship with him, and being the object of his redeeming love.”[9] God created our ancestors with the assurance of his provision and with the mandate to have dominion over creation (Gen 1:28).

However with Adam and Eve choosing to reject God’s fatherhood and follow the usurper (Gen 3:4-6), sin and evil entered our world destroying the fullness of life, relationships, community and the created order. “This results in guilt, death and alienation from God as well as the defacing of every aspect of human nature.”[10] All human beings, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are sinners, such that we are equally under God’s judgment and needing his mercy (Is 53:6; Acts 2:38-40; Rom 3:23-24; 6:23; Heb 4:15-16). We share in the fallen state of God’s present creation and the ongoing rebellion of humanity against God (Gen 3:1-8; Mt 24:4-14; Rom 1:18-2:1; 5:12; 2 Tim 3:1-5).[11]

Angels are “personal spirit beings who glorify God, serve him, and minister to his people.”[12] They are created beings possessing free will and knowledge (Mk 13:32). Like human beings, some have used this to rebel against God (2 Pet 2:4). Satan is a fallen angel and the enemy of God and humanity. He is the face of biblical evil, actively at work in multiple dimensions: in and through individuals, within communities, behind social and institutional structures, and at the spiritual-cosmic level. However, Satan’s power is usurped, not absolute; he is the father of lies and deception, a roaring lion seeking to devour, and encouraging sinful humanity in our rebellion (Gen 3:4-5; Jn 8:42-45; 1 Pet 5:8-9).

The forces of darkness, including demons and evil spirits, are likewise created beings ultimately subordinate to God. Together with Satan they are defeated enemies, conquered by Christ, subject to God’s authority, and facing eternal condemnation (Col 2:15; 1 Pet 3:22).[13] Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil, evil and sin through his death and resurrection (1 Jn 3:8; Mt 6:13; Eph 1:18-21). However human beings remain vulnerable to sin’s influence and the work of the evil one in this world. We are unable to save themselves from Satan’s dominion and from sin’s penalty and power.142]

All human beings are implicated in the spiritual-cosmic battle led by Satan and his forces against God (Job 1:7-11; Lk 10:17-20; 22:31-32; Rev 13:5-8). The people of God work with Him to establish his kingdom on earth (Mt 6:9-10) but experience a backlash from Satan and his forces. The progress and outcome of this battle is not determined by human power. The spiritual forces of evil are to be resisted and fought using spiritual weapons (2 Cor 10:3-6; Eph 6:10-18; 1 Pet 5:9-10; James 4:7; Rev 12:11). “As we confront demonic powers in our Christian pilgrimage, we should face them as victors, for Christ has won the victory over them through his blood.”[15]

God hates evil and as judge will punish all who are disobedient to his revealed glory and commandments, and who bring dishonour to his name (Acts 17:31; Rom 1:18; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Pet 4:17). In the words of the Manila Manifesto, “The whole Gospel is the good news of God’s salvation from the power of evil, the establishment of his eternal kingdom and his final victory over everything which defies his purpose.”[16] Salvation involves the deliverance from, and destruction of, evil, sin and injustice along with all spiritual forces committed to these.

Christ the King will one day come again to inaugurate his kingdom in its fullness (Is 65:17-25; Mt 24:30-31; 1 Thes 4:14-17; Rev 21:1-5). “The kingdom is in its present beginnings though future in its fullness: in one sense it is here already, but in the richest sense it is still to come (Luke 11:20; 16:16; 22:16, 18, 29-30).[17] He will return as judge over sinners, Satan, evil, the forces of darkness, and death itself, demonstrating his justice, righteousness, and the rightness of God’s ways (Rom 2:5-16; 1 Cor 15:20-28; 2 Thes 1:7-10; Heb 9:28). Until that time the whole creation groans and waits (Rom 8:19-21).

As our Father, God has given to humanity a social mandate to populate the earth, to live by the values of the kingdom, to care as stewards for the earth and all it contains, to actively oppose manifestations of evil, and ultimately to bring him honour and glory (Gen. 1:28; 2:15; 4:9-10; Ps 50:10-12; Mt 6:26-30; Rev 19:7). Because humanity includes those who do not recognise Christ as Lord over all, he has given to His church an evangelistic mandate to make disciples of all peoples (Phil 2:9-11; Gen 12:2-3; 1 Kgs 8:41-43; Mt 24:14; 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). This mandate is carried out by verbal proclamation, by deeds of righteousness and justice, and by a lifestyle of holiness (Mt 6:33; Col 4:5-6; Eph 5:11-17; 1 Tim 3:7; Tit 2:12-14).

2. Making sense of evil, sin, the forces of darkness, and injustice
Many of us raised or educated in a worldview shaped by the Enlightenment: see the universe through a naturist’s lenses. Even as Christians, we may become anesthetized to the underlying reality of evil and the forces of darkness in our world: evil is impersonal and random. Likewise we tend toward deism, and prayer may become perfunctory. This is an issue not just for those raised and educated in the West; many highly qualified teachers and preachers in the non-West have also embraced this worldview and communicate it to their students and congregations. Plentiful resources from the West – online courses, books, trainings, etc – tend to reinforce this view of life.[18]

Missiologist Paul Hiebert’s model of worldview alerts us to the dualistic Cartesian understanding widely embraced in the West and beyond.[19] It demonstrates the assumption of reality divided into the invisible-supernatural and the visible-material; he further argues that in the West the realm of the “supernatural” in everyday life, including the actions of both God and evil forces, is excluded.[20] Such thinking has strongly influenced the way that evil has been conceptualised in much of the post-Enlightenment so-called “modern missionary enterprise.” Although Western Christianity has rightly emphasized God at work in the individual together with the need for godly living by each person, the biblical reality of God and Satan operating in the collective-social and structural-institutional dimensions of life has often been ignored or misunderstood by Evangelicals. As the Lausanne Covenant states: “. . . we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty.”[21]

The following diagram illustrates the multi-dimensional manifestations of evil, sin, the forces of darkness, and injustice in our world. Likewise the goodness, grace, mercy and justice of God pervade these dimensions. Although it could be debated that this framework retains a measure of compartmentalized Western thought patterns, it is helpful in drawing our attention to dimensions that may be overlooked. It can also move us toward integration in a biblical sense. The gospel is indeed good news of God’s salvation from the very real power of evil, sin, and the forces of darkness, both seen and unseen, across all dimensions, and the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom in its fullness.

Figure 1: Multi-dimensional manifestations of evil and good: a framework

“For although humans knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened … therefore God gave them over to the sinful desires of their heart” (Rom 1:21-25). Suffering and disease, violence and conflict, pain and death all have their roots in human sin: the sinful desires of the human heart, the all-pervasive presence of evil permeating all dimensions, and ultimately of relationships broken between God and humanity, people with people, and humanity with the creation (Gen 3:12; Is 59:9-15; Jn 11:35; 1 Jn 5:18-19). At its heart, this sin record and the injustices it fosters are essentially relational.[22] Note that:

  • Within the individual dimension (above), both God and evil powers are active in the very core of worldview expressed through beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviour. Every individual also experiences temptation, sin and evil in the social, structural and spiritual/cosmic dimensions (Mt 1:18-25; 16:21-24; Lk 12:13-21; 16:19-31).
  • Within the social/collective dimension, of which the individual is an integral part, good and evil are expressed through gender, family, community and ethnic relations (Gen 50:19-20; Mt 12:34-35; 18:1-4; 23:32-33; Lk 10:25-37; Jn 8:1-11; Gal 3:28).
  • Likewise good and evil are present within the structural/institutional dimension of reality impacting economic relations, governance and the environment. Sin is evident in greed, corruption and abuse of resources (2 Chr 7:14; Psalm 82; Mk 11:15-18; Rom 13:1-7; Rev 18:21-24).
  • Spiritual warfare takes place in the spiritual/cosmic dimension which is largely invisible. We may be unaware of the spiritual/cosmic impacts of our actions, or the spiritual/cosmic context of our situation. Prayer and the armour of God are essential tools for spiritual battle (Job 1, 2; Dan 6:10-11; 9:4-23; 10:12-13; Mt 16:19; 17:17-21; Eph 6:12-16; Col 1:12-14; Rev 8:3-4).

These four dimensions are porous in nature with elements of each dimension constantly interacting, interrelating and impacting the others; they are not fixed sets with fixed boundaries operating in isolation. For example when considering the impact of HIV, evil, sin, and injustice as well as good and justice, manifest across all dimensions.

We see this above in the story of Rung, orphaned as a child from a displaced immigrant family (individual and collective dimensions). She struggles with the consequences of poor nutrition and health, and with the lack of emotional support to deal with grief and trauma (individual and collective dimensions). Denied the opportunities offered by education and access to social services, she has limited prospects for employment (structural/institutional). Abused and dying with AIDS and without Jesus, she lacks any hope (all dimensions). She is part of a community “living and dying without hearing of Jesus”; however it is possible that believers around the world are praying for her community (spiritual/cosmic). God intervenes. When desperately ill and alone she encounters the love and compassion of Christ lived out through a support worker who helps her access care and treatment (Spiritual/cosmic and structural/institutional). Integrated into a community of faith, Rung is not only encouraged by models of disciples living out the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, she has support to access health care services that she was previously denied (all dimensions). She has hope for the future (individual).

It is important for us to recognise the presence of evil, sin, the forces of darkness, and injustice beyond what is visible or emphasized by our own worldview. For example, we may be tempted to quickly judge and condemn the moral choices of individuals at risk of exposure to HIV while ignoring social expectations surrounding gender roles and structural injustices, such as limited access to education and health care, or unemployment due to inequitable market forces. The young woman who turns to prostitution may be assisting her family out of debt when a family member with HIV loses his job, or paying school fees to provide a better life for her children.

As The Cape Town Commitment Confession of Faith states: “. . . love for the poor demands that we not only love mercy and deeds of compassion, but also that we do justice through exposing all that oppresses and exploits the poor.”[23] Forms of evil, sin, darkness and injustice are to be identified and rejected by God’s people, and his kingdom of justice proclaimed and demonstrated at every level through integrating word and deed. An effective response to HIV using this framework would recognise that:

  • An integrated, holistic response recognizes the complexity of HIV globally – not one pandemic but many local epidemics with variations in cause and response.
  • At the individual level, clinical interventions are important along with prevention activities addressing behaviour, attitudes and values. We want to see the individual moving toward such healthy attributes in his or her lifestyle, whether they are infected, an affected family member, a neighbour, or a volunteer visiting the home every week.
  • An understanding of, and focus on, the transformation of worldview is critical, involving spiritual warfare at the spiritual/cosmic level. Prayer makes a difference.
  • Simultaneously the collective/social dimension is addressed, including gender, family, community and ethnic relations. Strategies to strengthen marriage and family life are a high priority, along with home-based care for the sick, and the care of orphans and vulnerable children.
  • At the structural/institutional level, initiatives that advocate for improved and equitable access to health, educational, and other community services will strengthen and reinforce activities within the other dimensions. For example, the education of girls will improve the overall health of the family.[24] Income generating activities improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities; they also impact economic structures. Activities within this dimension addressing economic relations, governance and environmental concerns often require extensive national and international networking.

3. The church as God’s instrument of good, light and justice
From the very early days of the HIV&AIDS pandemic, ordinary people and families led the way in providing for the needs of those impacted by illness, death and displacement. Sadly, many like Rung lacked the dimension of family and community. Churches and faith-based organisations were among the first and most prominent non-government organisations working to address the epidemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the church discovered its unique positioning to spread HIV&AIDS education and prevention messages through its extensive networks reaching the most remote areas.[25]

From 2000 to 2015, HOPE for AIDS was the flagship multi-country response to HIV by SIM as an international mission organisation. HOPE is an acronym for Home-Based Care, Orphans and vulnerable Children, Prevention, and Enabling. At its peak, this program involved more than 50 HIV&AIDS projects spanning 12 countries. The vision was to engage and support local church partners in effective, holistic and compassionate responses to HIV in order to transform individuals, families and communities through Christ’s love. This included building capacity: enabling local churches to access the resources and services available through government channels in appropriate and effective ways.

The following story told by a medical doctor and church leader illustrates some of the challenges churches have commonly encountered as they reach out in love and compassion to those living with HIV. Once again, the various dimensions elaborated above are clearly visible:

I can give you my “ah, hah” moment talking with a widow who had a three month old child. She met a man at the AIDS clinic where she was getting her free antiretroviral therapy and he was getting his. She was unemployed and didn’t have enough money to pay the rent, buy food and pay school fees [for her children]. She became dependent on this man to help, as apparently he did at least have a job. When there was no food in the house, he would bring food in. When one of the children was thrown out of school for not having paid their school fees, then he would help with school fees. When she was being threatened with eviction for not paying the rent, then he would help with the rent. It reached the point when he wanted to spend the night with her and she didn’t feel that she could say no. She ended up getting pregnant.
In talking with her, one of the questions in my mind was: If people know what the right decision is to make but they make another decision, why is it? I asked her. I tried to be very non-accusing and non-judgmental. I want to understand. I asked her some rather probing questions like, “When you go to the clinic to get your anti-AIDS drugs, did they ever talk to you about positive living and how to live a healthy lifestyle?” and “Did they talk to you about the use of condoms if you are going to be sexually active and that you are supposed to use a condom every time?” She replied “Yes, yes, they do but you have got a three month old baby so you don’t use a condom every time. Well you know these men. They don’t like condoms. They don’t use condoms”. So I said something along the lines of, “You could say ‘no’ without a condom because you know that you are taking a risk with your own health”. She said, “I know that this is wrong” – and she used that word – and “I shouldn’t do it but I was afraid that if I refused that he would stop helping and he would stop coming and I wouldn’t have help”. But then when she turned up pregnant he left anyway.
In processing through this interview with her later, I realised that she was making a decision that was the most ethical decision that she could make in the face of conflicting demands. Her only hope at that time to provide a safe home environment, an education and good nutrition for her children was to potentially sacrifice her own health and to take upon herself the wrath of God. Of course the church says that is sin. But she was willing to take that chance even if God was angry at her, in order for her kids to get an education. In her mind, this was the most ethical thing to do. She knew that she was acting contrary to the teachings of the church but she did not feel in a position to say no. She was not empowered to say no because of her poverty and of her living circumstances.[26]

As a follower of Christ and a professional care-giver, Dr B^^^ is personally challenged: in the individual dimension, this woman has made a “bad” decision. However in considering her story from a bigger perspective – multiple dimensions – he concludes that, “she was making a decision that was the most ethical decision that she could make in the face of conflicting demands.” An integrated, holistic response recognising the complexity of HIV in the context of poverty, gender relations and shame was necessary in this situation. Dr B^^^ was able to “exegete” the woman’s story in her context with new eyes.

How can we enable the church globally to see with this perspective? For me, a turning point came in 2000 with the courageous action of the Reverend Gideon Byamugisha, the first practising African Anglican priest to declare publicly his HIV positive status. He wrote that, “With little understanding comes silence and with silence comes either distortion or fanaticism”[27] as he set out to “break the silence” in God’s church. As we look back, we can see that courageous actions of many individuals and congregations have encouraged many local churches faced by HIV&AIDS to set out on a journey: from stigma and judgment to understanding, acceptance and Christ-like ministry.

4. Lessons learned
This discussion of evil, sin, the forces of darkness, and injustice, together with a framework to guide our thinking as God’s people in a fallen world, is offered here to enable us to more effectively respond to the God of justice who is in our days bringing in his kingdom of righteousness and peace: “I am making everything new” (Rev 21:4-5). It calls us to:

  • Ensure that ministries of compassion, mercy and justice are well grounded biblically
  • Embrace a sacrificial response
  • Withhold judgment
  • Undertake serious research, including qualitative research
  • Move beyond simplistic analyses and solutions to identify and address complexities
  • Know, understand, and respond to our context, locally and globally
  • Partner and network with churches and other organisations in unity of purpose
  • Address the “fear factor”, including stigmatisation and discrimination
  • Provide a vibrant testimony to the gospel through character, word and action
  • Continually evaluate and adjust to constant changes

I have used the example of responding to HIV&AIDS, firstly because it has changed me, my organisation and our partners.[28] Secondly it has enabled churches around the world to quietly respond with effective ministry in their context. In 2015 SIM decided that HOPE for AIDS had achieved its objective; while HIV still infected and affected millions, churches and organisations at the national level were able to respond as servants of Christ in a broken world.

There are many other “pandemics” today – pervasive manifestations of evil, sin, the forces of darkness, and injustice. What they have in common is the lack of human solutions. As we understand these crises from the individual, collective/social, structural/institutional and spiritual/cosmic dimensions, we will be better placed to play the role God has given us. He calls us to a dynamic partnership with him and each other as incredibly gifted and complementing members of the body of Christ, graciously inviting us to work with him in each dimension of the endeavour – in order to do so, we as diverse human beings need to work together to hear what God is saying and respond in his fullness.


[1] SIM Purpose and Mission Statement (2015)
[2] See Lausanne Covenant (1974), Section 5: Christian Social Responsibility. https://www.lausanne.org/content/covenant/lausanne-covenant
[3] Not her real name
[4] Integral Mission derives from the work of the Latin American Theological Fellowship in the 1970s. See Micah Network’s Declaration: http://www.micahnetwork.org/sites/default/files/doc/page/mn_integral_mission_declaration_en.pdf
[5] Radical Grace Imprint, 2016.
[6] World Council of Churches. Facing AIDS: The Challenge, the Churches’ Response. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1997). P.97. See also: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2014/ReductionofHIV-relatedstigmaanddiscrimination.
[7] Unless indicated otherwise, all references are from NIV®©2011 by Biblica, Inc.
[8] Translated from the Spanish Reina Valera Actualizada ©2015 by Editorial Mundo Hispano.
[9] SIM Statement of Faith.
[10] SIM Statement of Faith. To this we should add “shame.”
[11] Marshall, Phillip. “Towards a Theology of HIV&AIDS” Evangelical Review of Theology, 29/2, Apr 2005. Pp. 136-37.
[12] SIM Statement of Faith.
[13] Nkansah-Obrempong, James. “Angels, Demons and Powers,” Africa Bible Commentary. 1st edn. Ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo. (Zondervan, 2006) Pp. 1,454-5. See also Khatry, Ramesh. “Witchcraft and Demons.” South Asia Bible Commentary. Ed. Brian Wintle. (Zondervan, 2015) P.371. See also SIM Statement
of Faith.
[14] SIM Statement of Faith, 7 November 2006.
[15] Nkansah-Obrempong, “Angels, Demons and Powers,” Pp. 1,454-5.
[16] Lausanne Committee. Manila Manifesto. www.lausanne.org/manila-1989/manila-manifesto.html
[17] J.I.Packer. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. (Tyndale, 1993) P. 194.
[18] As a personal note, I have observed in Singapore a tendency to grab hold of resources from the USA without giving attention to context.
[19] See Hiebert, Paul. Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), especially ch.10 “Toward a Biblical Worldview,” pp.265-305. See also his Cultural Anthropology 2nd edn (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983) pp. 356ff.
[20] For Hiebert’s “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle,” see ch.12 of his Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues, (Baker, 1994) pp.189-201.
[21] Lausanne Covenant (1974), Section 5: Christian Social Responsibility. https://www.lausanne.org/content/covenant/lausanne-covenant.
[22] Wright, C.J.H. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. (Leicester, UK: IVP, 2004) P. 259.
[23] The Cape Town Commitment Confession of Faith, Section 7C: We love God’s World. https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment.
[24] See, for example: https://www.norad.no/en/front/thematicareas/education/girls-and-education/ In the context of HIV, see DFID: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/development/docs/girlseducation.pdf
[25] Green, E.C. Broken Promises: How the AIDS establishment has betrayed the developing world. (Sausalito, CA.: Polipoint, 2011).
[26] Marshall, Diane. (2015) More than telling stories: Learning practice in HIV&AIDS work in sub Saharan Africa. University of Technology, Sydney. https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/bitstream/10453/34447/1/01front.pdf
[27] Byamugisha, Gideon. Breaking the Silence on HIV/AIDS in Africa: How Can Religious Institutions Talk About Sexual Matters in their Communities?. (Kampala, Uganda: Tricolour, 2000), P.18. See also Byamugisha, G., Steinitz, L.Y., Williams, G., and Zondi, P. Journeys of Faith: Church-based Responses to HIV and AIDS in Three Southern African Countries. Strategies for Hope Series, no.16. (UK: ActionAid, 2002).
[28] SIM (Serving in Mission) works in around 70 countries. For more information www.sim.org.

Byamugisha, Gideon. Breaking the Silence on HIV/Aids in Africa: How Can Religious Institutions Talk About Sexual Matters in Their Communities. (Kampala, Uganda: Tricolour, 2000).
Byamugisha, G., Steinitz, L.Y., Williams, G., and Zondi, P. Journeys of Faith: Church-Based Responses to HIV And Aids in Three Southern African Countries. Strategies for Hope Series, no.16. (UK: ActionAid, 2002).
DFID. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/development/docs/girlseducation.pdf
Green, E.C. 2011, Broken Promises: How the Aids Establishment Has Betrayed the Developing World, Polipoint Press, Sausalito, CA.
Hiebert, Paul. Cultural Anthropology. 2nd edn (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983)
__________. Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues. (Baker, 1994)
__________. Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008)
__________. Spiritual Warfare and Worldview. www.lausanne.org/all-documents/spiritual-warfare-and-worldview.html
Khatry, Ramesh. “Witchcraft and Demons.” South Asia Bible Commentary. Ed. Brian Wintle. (Zondervan, 2015) p. 371.
Lausanne Committee. Cape Town Commitment Confession of Faith. https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment
__________. Lausanne Covenant. www.lausanne.org/content/covenant/lausanne-covenant
__________. Manila Manifesto. www.lausanne.org/manila-1989/manila-manifesto.html
Marshall, Diane. Evil, Sin, and the Forces of Darkness, Justice Task Force, 9 Feb 2010
Marshall, Diane. (2015) More Than Telling Stories: Learning Practice in HIV&AIDS work in sub Saharan Africa. University of Technology, Sydney. https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/bitstream/10453/34447/1/01front.pdf
Marshall, Phillip. “Towards a Theology of HIV&AIDS, in Evangelical Review of Theology.” Evangelical Review of Theology. Vol.29, no.2, April 2005.
Micah Network. www.micahnetwork.org/sites/default/files/doc/page/mn_integral_mission_declaration_en.pdf
Nkansah-Obrempong, James. “Angels, Demons and Powers,” Africa Bible Commentary. 1st edn. Ed Tokunboh Adeyemo. (Zondervan, 2006) Pp. 1,454-5.
Norad. https://www.norad.no/en/front/thematic-areas/education/girls-and-education/
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. (Illinois: Tyndale, 1993)
Radical Grace. Imprint (August 2016)
SIM. Justice Task Force (2010)
__________. SIM Purpose and Mission Statement (2015)
__________. SIM Statement of Faith (2006)
UNAIDS. http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2014/ReductionofHIV-relatedstigmaanddiscrimination
World Council of Churches. Facing AIDS: The Challenge, the Churches’ Response. (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1997)
Wright, Christopher, J. H. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. (Leicester, UK: IVP, 2004)



Dr. Diane Marshall, SIM’s Deputy International Director, Asia Pacific based in Singapore, is passionate about nurturing new generations in cross-cultural mission. She has worked in Peru (1986-1999) in theological education, church leadership training and mission leadership, and as SIM’s Consultant for HIV&AIDS ministry (2000-2012) facilitating a multi-country response to HIV in Africa, Asia and South America. Her PhD is in workplace learning: How program managers and staff in faith-based programs in community settings learn in the context of challenging and changing work conditions.


Daniel J. Kim

In this article, I would like to propose a missiological strategy regarding the means of creative arts as cultural bridge to global mission. The focus of this thesis will be to establish the basic biblical theological framework for understanding the nature of art and its implications for mission. The outline of the thesis is as follows: (1) cross-cultural language of art; (2) theological basis for art;(3) redemptive necessity in art; and (4) transformative mission of art.

The significance of the role of creative arts can be best appreciated in the context of globalization. Globalization is the process of “interaction and integration” of economic, technological, communicational, and cultural elements at a global or international scale.[1] Such global “inter-connectedness and movement” of people, products, and information effect cultures to mutually interact with and transform each other through “trade networks, international development projects, telecommunications, education, migration, and tourism.” [2] Here, the arts play a key role in globalization and distribution of ideas and products. A case in point is what has transpired among Koreans in the past decade or two at both national and international scale.

Since the turn of this century, Korea has been experiencing a sort of cultural revolution especially among the younger generation. The movement known as “Korean Wave” (“Hallyu” in Korean) refers to the global diffusion and influence of the Korean culture. What initially began with the spread of K-pop and K-drama across Asia in the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, the Korean Wave has now become a global phenomenon primarily due to transmission of cultural ideas through the internet and social media. The impact of the movement was clearly impressed on the global mind, for example, through Psy’s “Gangnam Style” dance which became an international sensation when its video viewing became viral through the YouTube. Today, the Korean Wave refers to a wide range of influence, not only in terms of K-pop music/dance, TV dramas, movies, sports, and entertainment, but also in terms of language, literature, fine arts, fashion, cuisine, and other aspects of the traditional Korean culture. [3]

In recognizing this phenomenon, the Korean government has committed to strategically promote the movement as a cultural legacy and diplomatic agency. President Park Geun-hye in her 2013 inauguration speech hailed the Korean Wave as the “new cultural renaissance” which would transcend barriers in terms of language and ethnicity, and even overcome differences in terms of ideology.[4] The implication is that as South Korea invests heavily in cultural industry and engages more in cultural exchanges with North Korea, a natural bridge may be established even toward unification.

In the light of such cultural-historic prospect, what then would be the implications of such a movement for mission? First, it needs to be acknowledged that Korean missionaries are experiencing much favor in global community than ever before, thanks to the widespread propagation and overwhelming popularity of the Korean Wave. It is a common testimony among Korean missionaries that at the disclosure of their Korean identity, people everywhere would gravitate toward them primarily out of their personal interest in Korean celebrities, dramas, or fads.

This craze regarding anything “Korean” would serve as a most convenient ground for missionaries to begin gradually ushering people into the gospel truth. In other words, in this 21st century, “Hallyu” has naturally been established as a cultural bridge for Korean missionaries or businessmen to cross over to the nations and connect with the natives in order to engage in their appropriate ministries or businesses.

This is similar to the case of Paul and the early Christian missionaries of the first century who benefited from the Koine Greek language and the Roman road system which provided the common linguistic-cultural bridge and the necessary infrastructure for them to traverse through the entire Roman Empire and to interact with people of diverse cultures and ethnicities. For the 21st century missionaries, Korean as well as other nationalities—who are living in this age of globalization known for its economic, technological, and communication network, as well as cultural (and specifically, artistic) cross-assimilation—there seem to be unlimited opportunities for trade and communication, both material, aesthetic, and spiritual.

Second, it needs to be recognized that now the typical barrier or burden in mission related to language learning may be greatly alleviated. The general notion in missionary training has been that one should become quite proficient in the native language before one can effectively reach out to such people. As a result, besides the basic theological, missiological, and spiritual training, the missionaries in general tend to focus intensely on learning the language and culture of the targeted people group.

According to Ralph Winter’s E-Scale (E-0, E-1, E-2, E-3) of evangelism, the missionary must cross the necessary cultural distances in order to effectively witness to others. Here, E-0 refers to mono-cultural evangelism of unsaved members within church congregation. E-1 refers to mono-cultural evangelism of neighboring community. E-2 signifies cross-cultural evangelism to close, yet different cultures. Finally, E-3 refers to full cross-cultural evangelism to very different cultures.[5] Corresponding to the ascending level of difficulty in evangelism, the emphasis in the past has been on an intensified linguistic/cultural training, as well as strategic methodology. This, of course, would mean that a sufficient delay is necessary in order to properly equip the missionaries especially in terms of language.

Language learning and cultural assimilation are no doubt essential part of training of any missionaries. But we need to open ourselves to other means which can supplement (and occasionally transcend) these conditions in actual missionary approaches. Art is one of those exceptional means. As a matter of fact, from a philosophical perspective, art may be considered a language of its own.[6] As R. G. Collingwood,the philosopher, once commented: “What kind of thing must art be, if it is to have the two characteristics of being expressive and imaginative? The answer is: Art must be language.”[7]

Art has a way of connecting people at a deeper level, whether emotional, aesthetic, or spiritual. When people establish a connection at such a depth, they naturally become more motivated to engage in linguistic and cultural training. In other words, the more you feel connected with people at an emotive level, the more you would desire to know about them, both in terms of historical and cultural backgrounds. This emotive language can be readily found in the creative arts of all types: music, dance, mime, drama, media, design, fashion, and cuisine, among others.

Most art categories, however, tend to be non-verbal in terms of expression, and thus become the means of communication which may require more than words. Ronald Carter comments:

… creativity in spoken language is never simply a matter of words. Words are accompanied by body language and the use of gestures, eye-contact and gaze, as well as uses of silence, and different kinesic and proxemic constraints. And the communication is often even more acute in the case of the listener who, while not speaking much, may contribute even more (creatively) to a communication through channels of non-verbal feedback.[8]

Along this line of thinking, Maeve Louise Heaney considers music—as representative of all artistic expressions—to be the necessary language and mode of communication especially relevant to the postmodern generation, which may be described as “after-word”[9] generation.

My conviction is that music is not only an apt but a privileged mode of communication of Christian faith in the contemporary cultural situation. … Could music be a new “language” that certain fibers of our being, no longer containable in the philosophical and theological frameworks we have understood expressed them in for centuries, are pushing to the surface in the quest for expression and recognition? Could this not be one way in which the Spirit of God seeks to “breakthrough” in postmodern culture, which Steiner so eloquently describes as the time of the “after-word” when words are just not enough?[10]

Moreover, in the realm of visual arts, like music and literature, it is particularly the language of sensuousness with its powerful seductive quality which becomes “a necessity of the human spirit as elemental as spirit and hunger and something so central that not to know it deprives one of part of one’s humanity.”[11]

Furthermore, there seems to be a natural connection between art and spirituality, whereas the language of sensuality and sensitivity may be the common language of both soul and spirit. In other words, art may be considered spiritual in the sense that it can be deepened through spirituality so as to become a channel of spirituality. Rudolf Steiner, the philosopher of science and mysticism, stated it well:

The starting point for a new life of art can come only by direct stimulation from the spiritual world. We must become artists, not by developing symbolism or allegory, but by rising, through spiritual knowledge, more and more into the spiritual world.[12]

Theologically speaking, art must find its biblical foundation in the very nature of God as Creator and Redeemer.[13] The Book of Revelation—which emphasizes heavenly and eschatological perspectives—well depicts this dual theology of God as Creator-Redeemer, particularly through the central vision in Chapters 4 and 5. In Chapter 4, John testifies to his vision of the heavenly throne, with the surrounding entourage of the 4 living creatures, the 24 elders, and the myriad of angels. The common song of worship around the throne is that which focuses on God the Creator:

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Rev. 4:11)

In Chapter 5, John focuses specifically on the central figure of the once-slain Lamb of God, Christ the Redeemer:

And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

The Book of Genesis begins with a grand statement of God’s work of creation: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). It further elaborates the fact that God created the universe by his creative Word and his activating Spirit. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2). This imagery may be likened to a cosmic mother bird covering her young and nurturing them to maturity. John H. Sailhamer comments:[14]

The image of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters is recalled in Deuteronomy 32:11 by the metaphor of God as an eagle “hovering” (yerahēp) over the nest of its young, protecting and making their nest fit for them.

The Holy Spirit was thus brooding over this non-existent state which is described as “formless,” “empty,” and “dark.” Then when God spoke forth his creative Word—“Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3; cf. Jn.1:1-3)—light came into existence. In other words, it is when the Word was spoken, the Spirit dynamically birthed the cosmic elements into existence, and brought forth all the dimensions of light, space, time, matter, and energy. It is then the very nature of God to create ex nihilo (out of nothing) through his Word and Spirit.

Moreover, when God created humans, He did so in a personal and meticulous way—according to Genesis 2—as a potter would form the clay. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). “He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man” (Gen. 2:21-22). These are imageries of God in the likeness of an expert sculptor or potter who would meticulously carve out and mold the image of his creatures.

Thus, God in all his creative and sustaining works in human life, history, and nature is likened to a master artisan and craftsman. Such artistry of God is well described by Vivien Hibbert:

The Lord is the consummate artist. He is a sculptor and potter who made His own clay and a painter who created all the colors (Gn. 1-2; Jer. 18:1-6); a musician who formed every sound and gave us ears to hear with, a dancer, and singer (Zeph. 3:17; Rev 1:10); a poet (Job 38-41); a writer who has written the greatest best-seller of all time—the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16); a story teller and actor (Jesus used parables in the Gospels to convey mysteries—Hos. 12:10, Amp.); an architect (Ps. 90:2; Is. 44:24); a worker of needle and thread—He has woven a garment of light for Himself (Ps. 104:2), and has provided a golden wedding garment for His Bride (Ps. 45:9, 13-14); a creator of culinary delights (Ex. 16:31; Num. 11:7-8; Pss. 3:8; 119:103; Song 2:3); and a perfumer (Ps. 45:8; Song 1:3; 3:6; 5:1; 5:13). In all of these, He is without compare. There is none who can match His artistry, excellence, and genius.[15]

It is thus significant that when God created humans, he created them in his own image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). What then are the human attributes which are likened to God’s own image? Regarding the concept and meaning of the so-called “image of God” (imago Dei), interpretations seem to abound. The general understanding is that humans, like God, are rational, emotional, spiritual, moral, and relational. The nearest biblical context also indicates an authoritative element to the image of God: “Let them rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen. 1:28). Another text indicates a servanthood or stewardship element to the image of God: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Moreover, there are texts which seem to indicate a creative element attributed to the image: “He brought them (animals) to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” (Gen. 2:19). “The man said … ‘She shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23). In other words, God has created human beings in his own image to be authoritative, accountable, resourceful, and creative.

The creation story, then, is filled with comments which address the very creative nature of God and the creative nature of humans as image of God. Perhaps the only thing that humans are not capable of imitating God is the ability to create ex nihilo, which of course is the exclusive right and power of God the Creator. Only God is able to create something out of nothing. We humans can only create something out of something that has already been created. In other words, technically speaking, we cannot actually create anything, nor recreate anything in a redemptive sense. If we are acknowledged as creative beings, then we are creative only in the sense that we imitate or mirror God’s own mind and heart in his creation and recreation. We could only work with the materials and resources given to us to produce such artistic products. We are creative only to the degree that God allow us to be creative. We cannot presume to create independently of God’s provisional means. Because he has given us the inner attributes (intellect, emotion, spirit, morality, aesthetics), as well as the external resources (material, energy, technology), we are able to make usage of them to creatively produce a variety of artistic works, whether composing a song, poem, or thesis, or choreographing a dance, mime, or drama, or designing an artwork, clothing, or building.

There are, of course, various levels of degree and scope of creativity, and the closer we approach the essence-level and/or cosmic-scale of creation, we may somehow be participating in the creatio ex nihilo process of God.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them we may participate in the divine nature … (2 Pet. 1:3-4).

If Genesis 1-2 depicts the foundational nature of creativity, the rest of the Scripture illustrates a wide range of art in diverse forms. We may find precedents for design arts in Noah’s blueprint for the ark (Gen. 6) and Moses’ blueprint for the tabernacle, the sacrifice, and the priesthood (Exo. 25-30). Design artists (architects, graphic designers, interior designers, and fashion designers, among others) can find their inspiration in Bezalel and Oholiab, who were specially gifted by God to design and craft the tabernacle, the ark, and all the furnishings, as well as the priestly garments (Exo. 31, 36-39).

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel … and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab … to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you. (Exo. 31:1-6)

The precedents for music and dance may be found in the various ministries of prophetic individuals whose inspired words were often accompanied by singing and dancing. Miriam was known for singing a prophetic song of deliverance and leading the women in a celebratory dance after the Israelites experienced the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Exo. 15-16). Samuel was known for his association with the procession of prophets who played all kinds of musical instruments (lyres, tambourines, flutes, harps) while prophesying (1 Sam. 10). Elisha was known for having a harp accompanist while he prophesied before King Jehoshaphat (2 Ki. 3). David, undoubtedly, was the most passionate singer and dancer before the presence of the Lord. David was known for his numerous Psalms which comprise a diverse repertoire of songs of worship, thanksgiving, and lamentation. He was also known for his passion for God as he danced with all his might before the Lord’s presence as the ark was being restored to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). Moreover, David was instrumental in mobilizing a company of singers and instrumentalists for the future temple worship during his son Solomon’s reign (1 Chr. 15-16, 25).

David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. … All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the LORD, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king. Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the LORD—they numbered 288. (1 Chr. 25:1, 6-8).

Precedents for mime and drama may be found in the prophetic acts and gestures of the biblical prophets, who sometimes used mime (silent gestures/movements) to communicate God’s word, especially when the people and the nation were hardened in their hearts and ears of hearing God’s word. The following are a number of significant prophetic mimes/dramas in the Scripture, among many.[16]

Hosea’s married an adulterous woman, Gomer, signifying God’s relationship to the unfaithful Israel (Hos. 1:23), and named accordingly the children born to Gomer to signify God’s judgment (1:4, 6, 9).
Isaiah walked around naked for three years, demonstrating the divine humiliation of Egypt and Cush (Isa. 20:1-6).
Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck to depict Judah’s bondage in Babylon (Jer. 27:1-28).
Ezekiel laid a mock siege to signify the Babylonian siege on Jerusalem, while lying on each side a number of days bearing the sins of Israel and Judah (Ez. 4:1-17).
Ahijah tore Jeroboam’s cloak into twelve pieces, depicting the division of Israel‘s kingdom (1 Ki. 11:30-40).
Elijah wrapped his cloak around Elisha to signify Elisha’s adoption as his spiritual son, as well as impartation of his spiritual power (1 Ki. 19:19; cf. 19:13; 2 Ki. 2:8, 13).
Elisha commanded Jehoash to shoot an arrow toward the east as a symbol of his victory over the Arameans, and to strike the arrow on the ground as a symbol of defeating them a number of times (2 Ki. 13:14-19).
Jesus unclothed himself and washed the feet of his own disciples (Jn. 13:1-17) as a sign of humility and servanthood that the disciples are to imitate.
Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:17-20) signifying his new covenant with them through his broken body and shed blood.

Moreover, the precedents for literary art may be found in the poetic materials of Job, Psalms, Song of Songs, and the prophetic books, as well as the narrative stories throughout the Scripture. Among these, the book of Psalms stands out both for its poetic as well as pietistic nature. John Calvin regarded the Psalms as “an anatomy of all parts of the soul,”[17] providing an excellent guide for expressions of all range and fabric of feelings and emotions before God in prayer and worship.

Interestingly, there are also biblical precedents for multi-media art. For example, the Book of Revelation depicts a most fantastic vision of the heavenly throne-room and the cataclysmic scenarios of the end-time through the means of audio-visual presentation (of a mystical order). The visionary experiences of John may be likened to a highly upgraded version of virtual reality—in which the boundary between techno images and actual reality are increasingly becoming blurred. Significantly, what the modern media art is questing for—imaging and perfecting—is already a perfected reality from a biblical eschatological worldview.

The above sampling of biblical motifs on creative arts clearly demonstrates that the Scripture is indeed a book of illustration of diverse expressions of art. This is only natural since the ultimate author of the Scripture is none other than God the Creator, and the Scripture bears witness to the story of God’s people who have been created in the image of God to be creative like him.

Although humans have been created to be creative and artistic like God, and art has been created as means of cultural expression in the likeness of God, both the artists and the arts have fallen just like all realms of human society and culture. Throughout centuries, as much as art has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of life and culture, art has also been used to promote sinful nature. Art has been used to promote ego-centered ideology, licentious mindset, and immoral lifestyle. Although art was meant to be used to glorify God and to allow God’s glory to shine forth in the world, art itself has been vainly and falsely glorified, and the artists themselves became the focus ofworship. This, of course, signifies perversion of art and sin of idolatry—that of worshipping the image instead of God who is the source of the image.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Rom. 1:20-25).

Thus art, like everything else in this fallen world, need to be converted and redeemed. What is called for, then, is the transformation or sanctification of art.
It was Richard Niebuhr, in the early 1950’s, who pointed out the need for transformation of culture by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his book, Christ and Culture, Niebuhr analyzed 5 historical typologies describing the relationship between Christ and culture, which may be outlined as below:[19]

  1. Christ against culture: Christ is opposed to culture in an exclusive way.
  2. Christ of culture: Christ is assimilated into and domesticated within culture.
  3. Christ above culture: Christ transcends culture, yet can be reconcilable to culture.
  4. Christ and culture in paradox: In Christ, we must live in tension with culture.
  5. Christ the transformer of culture: Christ can transform the worldly culture.

It is the final typology, “Christ the transformer of culture,” which represents the view of Augustine and the Reformers, particularly John Calvin. Here, human culture, as a creation of God, was initially good. But subsequently, every part of creation, including human culture, became corrupted by the fall. So Christ came to redeem all creation, calling the church to engage in works of transformation of culture for the glory of God.

The biblical concept of God is that He is both Creator and Redeemer. It is through his Son that God creates and redeems what He has created. Through incarnation, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, entered this world in order to redeem it through his sacrificial death on the cross. However, God through Christ desires not only to redeem the souls, but the whole persons. He desires to redeem not only individuals, but families, societies, cultures, nations, and nature itself.

Significantly, in 1975, three key Christian leaders, Bill Bright, Loren Cunningham, and Francis Schaeffer, simultaneously received personal conviction regarding the divine mandate to bring transformation of the so-called “spheres” or “mountains” of society and culture.They proposed that God’s vision was to mobilize Christians to influence 7 major realms of society and culture: family, church/religion, school/education, media/communication, arts/entertainment, business/economy, and government.[20] The vision seems to be a reasonable conclusion to Jesus’ mandate for his disciples to function as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” influencing the world for God’s glory (Mt. 5:13-16). In other words, the church is called to be the transforming agent of God, penetrating into the world systems with the gospel essence of Jesus Christ. This certainly is consistent with Jesus’ final mandate to the church: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).

Such a call for transformation requires conversion/redemption of all cultural realms, including art.Moreover, redemption of art should begin with the conversion of the artists themselves. Indeed, it is a common sight in the modern world to observe the newly converted artists, celebrities, and athletes using their profession as a platform for witnessing. Such bold act of faith before the public sight, of course, is to be highly commended. The problem, however, is that oftentimes these Christian artists who are witnessing to Christ do not seem to have a high view of art itself as a redeemed venue. Art may be used as a platform for evangelism and conversion of souls, but art itself is not perceived as a realm to be converted.

What is called for in the Christian arts community and the churches in general, then, is an aspiration for a higher view of art—the vision of God redeeming the whole realm of art as holy instrument of ministry in the kingdom. The ministry of art comprises of manifold dimensions, as listed below:

  1. Ministry to God himself: Art as means of worshipping and glorifying God
  2. Ministry to individual selves: Art as means of liberating and activating individuals of their creativity in Christ.
  3. Ministry to the churches: Art as means of teaching and inspiring the body of Christ.
  4. Ministry to the lost: Art as means of witnessing the gospel and evangelizing the unbelievers.

Basically, the redemption of art implies the vision of God transforming art to transform individuals, societies, and cultures.

Redemption and transformation of art also imply something prophetic in nature, which art intrinsically seems to possess. Robin M. Jensen presents 4 usages of art in Christian history as follows: (1) art as decoration; (2) art as didactic; (3) art as devotional; and (4) art as prophetic.[21] Of these, it is the prophetic usage of art which seems to be the most promising prospect for transformation of culture and society. Jensen comments:

In a sense, the prophetic role is related to the didactic role of art, but it goes further and in a particular direction. Rather than reinforcing the teachings, stories, or values of the church, the artist may challenge the church and confront the viewer with disturbing images which raise profound moral questions that religion cannot ignore. These images may be drawn from Scripture, but they are just as often drawn from scenes in the modern secular world. Thus, art can be more than a transmitter of tradition or dogma—it may be a social critic and even an agent of change or liberation. Such art points the viewer not to the transcendent or the divine realm but rather to the human plane, calling attention to contemporary problems. Art in this case has a moral urgency and an ethical purpose.[22]

However, the prophetic role of art needs to be distinguished from its tendency to be used for the purpose of fulfilling the propaganda agenda, as the history of art has shown us. Calvin Seerveld states:

In summary, propaganda is rightly didactic, and can be certain, forceful and convincing. Propaganda has a bias, promulgates a point of view and disseminates specific teachings. Who doesn’t? However, when propaganda is coloured by greed and violence, hate or deceit, it has been perverted and is evil, no matter what the cause which is promoted may be.[23]

Vivien Hibbert suggests that the redemption of diverse arts representative of their cultures and their incorporation into ministry of worship would inspire the unbelievers from all nations to be attracted to the way of God’s kingdom.

Our worship can only be enriched by a genuine effort on all of our parts to redeem the arts from all nations. When we do reclaim the treasures from the nations, a new sound and culture will emerge in the Church that will entice and summon the unredeemed to the Kingdom of God.[24]

Ernest Gentile comments as to how true worship would align us to a proper worldview so that God may grant us a heart for the nations.

This call to the nations is both missionary zeal and prophetic insight. When one worships the true God fervently, the Holy Spirit reveals the heart of Father God to bring all peoples before Him in worship.[25]

Judson Cornwall presents an eschatological vision of the body of Christ in which a truly Christ-centered worship would cause a blending of different cultures.

Worship is the one religious activity that ends itself to such a delicate blending of different heritages, for worship is so Christ-centered and requires such a God-consciousness that participants must look away from themselves in order to worship.[26]

This, of course, is the eschatological vision of international worship which John witnessed before the heavenly throne, as depicted in Revelation 7:9-10.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Art has its origin in the creative nature of God. God has created humans according to his own image to be creative. Art was ordained as a means of worshiping God and ministering to fellow humans. But humanity and art, along with other gifts of God, has been corrupted by sin. Historically, art has often been used/misused for sinful and/or humanistic purposes. So God through the incarnation of his Son Jesus Christ came to redeem human beings, along with all realms of society and culture, including art. By redeeming the individuals, God plans to redeem the people, as well as the society and culture in which people live. By redeeming the artistic individuals, God plans to redeem the artistic realm as well. For only when individuals are genuinely redeemed then can they become transforming agents of God to bringing redemption to the nations and transformation to their culture.

The belief that art has the potential to transform culture and society and that artists can serve as agents of transformation is a common conviction among the visionary-minded art institutions, both Christian and secular.[27] All types of art are recognized as means by which artists can create new possibilities in all realms of society and to enhance the quality of life of people in general. If this is the natural potential of art, then how great would be the possibility of global transformation with genuine redemption of artists (and their artistic means), guided by the Word and empowered by the Spirit of God!

In this modern era of globalization when all factors—people, culture, education, economy, technology, and communication—are truly interactive, integrative, and international—art can play a most critical role of bring creative and transformative elements in such a context of global matrix. From an eschatological perspective, as the world draws even closer to the historic finale in Christ, all things are likely to crescendo into a dramatic climax. It seems that art would certainly play a key role in birthing, cultivating, and maturing the new generations of people, ideas, paradigms, and events in the eschatological will of God. The creative art in tangent with authentic spirituality has the potential to bring forth trueformation, reformation, and transformation of both the church and the society.

Thus art is missional in nature. As both verbal and non-verbal in terms of language, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between the “word”-oriented modern generation and the “after-word” post-modern generation. As both aesthetical and mystical in nature, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between natural sensuality and spiritual ecstasy. As both specifically ethnic and broadly cross-cultural in mode, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between ethnic identity and international diversity.[28] As both creative and redemptive, theologically-speaking, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between creative nature and redemptive grace. Ultimately, as both “human” nature and “divine” endowment—as implied by the concept of imago Dei—art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between the earthly ministry to humanity and the heavenly worship of God. Thus, art needs to be understood as God-ordained means of global mission in terms of evangelism of the unredeemed people and cultures, ministry to the multi-cultural body of Christ, and worship of God the Creator and Redeemer of all human and cultural types.


[1] SUNY Levin Institute, “What is Globalization” in Globalization 101 (The Levin Institute, The State University of New York, 2.
[2] Barbara Miller, Cultural Anthropology in a Globalizing World, 2nd ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008, 2010), 18. “Globalization, the process of intense global interconnectedness and movement of goods, information, and people, is a major force of contemporary cultural change. It has gained momentum through recent technological change, especially the boom in information and communication technologies.”
[3] Dal Yong Jin, “Hallyu 2.0: The New Korean Wave in the Creative Industry” in International Institute Journal (University of Michigan, Fall 2012), pp. 3-7, would further differentiate between Hallyu 1st generation (1995-2007) and Hallyu 2nd generation (2007-present). Jin, 3-4, comments: “Unlike Hallyu 1.0, emphasizing the export of local cultural goods to East Asia between the late 1990s and 2007, the growth of social media has uniquely influenced Korean creative industries, because a few media outlets, such as YouTube and SNSs, have become significant parts of the new Korean Wave (Hallyu 2.0). In fact, online gaming and K-Pop have become the two most significant cultural genres in the Korean creative industries and have initiated the growth of Hallyu 2.0 since late 2007, because K-Pop fans and online game users heavily access these social media to enjoy local popular culture. Hallyu 2.0 is the combination of social media, their practices, and the uses and affordances they provide, and this new stage has been made possible because Korea has advanced its digital technologies.”
[4]Yonhap News Agency, “President Park’s Inauguration Speech” in Yonhap (Feb. 25, 2013)(Online: http://english. yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2013/02/25/95/0301000000A EN201302250150031 5F.HTML). “Fellow Koreans! In the 21st century, culture is power. It is an era where an individual’s imagination becomes creative contents. Across the world, the ‘Korean Wave’ is welcomed with great affection that not only triggers happiness and joy but one that instills abiding pride in all Koreans.This is a result of a foundation created by the convergence of both tangible and intangible heritages of five thousand years of Korea’s cultural splendor as well as our spiritual ethos. The new administration will elevate the sanctity of our spiritual ethos so that they can permeate every facet of society and in so doing, enable all of our citizens to enjoy life enriched by culture. We will harness the innate value of culture in order to heal social conflicts and bridging cultural divides separating different regions, generations, and social strata. We will build a nation that becomes happier through culture, where culture becomes a fabric of daily life, and a welfare system that embodies cultural values. Creative activities across wide-ranging genres will be supported, while the contents industry which merges culture with advanced technology will be nurtured. In so doing, we will ignite the engine of a creative economy and create new jobs. Together with the Korean people we will foster a new cultural renaissance or a culture that transcends ethnicity and languages, overcomes ideologies and customs, contributes to the peaceful development of humanity, and is connected by the ability to share happiness.”
[5]Ralph D. Winter and Bruce A. Koch, “Advancing Strategies of Closure: Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge,” International Journal of Frontier Missions 19:4 (Winter 2002), 17.
[6]Michael J. Bauer, Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life God’s People (Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013), p. 234, affirms that art is indeed a language, and provides some solid rationales. “First, art has certain recognizable elemental properties: line, rhythm, color, texture, character, plot, rhythm, and so on. Second, there is a standard syntax that governs the relationship between these elemental properties. While “rules” of art change from time to time, it remains true that each new style has its own set of conventions that govern how works in that style are produced and how they arrange these various structural building blocks. Third, at least within a given culture, there is a storehouse of common, shared meanings that unite artist and the consumer of art and enable meaningful communication to occur. These shared meanings relate in part to artistic conventions and in part to metaphorical relationships, some of which are stock and well-worn and some of which are fresh and engage the imagination of the viewer, reader, or listener in new way.”
[7]R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938), 273.Garry Hagberg, Art as Language: Wittgenstein, Meaning, and Aesthetic Theory (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), p. 31, comments: “The belief that art is a language, or that it is in a deep sense analogous to language, is among the most pervasive of assumptions in the theory of art. …the notion that art and language are essentially alike in serving as physical expressions of pre-existent mental or imaginary objects.”
[8]Ronald Carter, Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk, 2nd ed. (NY: Routledge, 2016, original 2004), xxviixxviii. Carter comments: “In complex social media, a mid-ground between interactive audio messages, texts that are conventionally written, those which are written-as-if-speaking, body language and other visual anchors such as photographs and video clips may emerge, creating new relationships between language and its contexts of use, and new, unforeseen creative configurations, including new orthographic symbols and innovative punctuation. We can no longer assume that the definition of a ‘conversation’ is anything as simple as a face-to-face or even an audio-visual
encounter unfolding sequentially in real time. Multi-modal corporaare a step in the direction of a fuller breaking down of boundaries between text and context and, in the case of speaking, avoid the separation of speech and gesture.”
[9]Here, the concept of “after-word” derives from George Steiner, Real Presences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 93-94, who defines the present era as “Epilogue” (that is, “Epi-logos, meaning “After-word”) in which the bond between reality and its “sayability,” by which our self-perception and understanding had once been defined, has been severed (around 1870s-1930s) so that our words no longer “say” what they used to mean.
[10]Maeve Louise Heaney, Music as Theology: What Music Says about the Word (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012), pp. 19-22. Heaney, 19-20, comments: “It is true that the transmission of the gospel is not a purely contemporary concern. Tradition, the passing on of our faith from one generation to the next, is an intrinsic part of Christian faith and doctrine, and has been from its birth—the difference is that today, the challenge is that of communicating the gospel to a generation that is in such a rapid process of change that gathering up the heritage of centuries of lived faith and tradition and passing it on seems ever more difficult. However little one has sought to work in the area of faith
transmission, one experiences the daily and double dilemma of feeling you have something to say that is not understood, and of hearing realities new to your ears, a way of seeing and perceiving things alien to your perception. … Furthermore, the issue is not only an external one, of communication from one generation to the next. The difficulty in contemporary western culture is not just that people don’t understand God, the Word of God; they don’t seem to understand themselves or the world either.”
[11]Heaney, Music as Theology, p. 244. Heaney comments:“Precisely because art has a seductive character, sensuous to the core, a discipline of seeing is essential in order for one to be illumined beyond the sensory embodiment. The discipline of seeing, learned by repeated seeing and essentially in no other way, forms the seductive into a discriminating sensuousness that is more than itself. Horizons are stretched, formed, and filtered, as creation’s images are regained in their sensuousness, in their seductive
aspects, precisely for their Creator. Why should we leave seduction only to the devil? The devil has the monopoly on seduction because the demonic requires no discipline of seeing. God’s seductive creation requires the appropriate discipline of seeing. The choice is not between innocent, uplifting objects, on the one hand, and sensuous, seductive art, on the other—as moralists like to describe it. The choice is in how one sees the sensuous, for art is sensuous by nature.”
[12]Rudolf Steiner, “The Arts and Their Mission,” Lecture 8 (8 lectures at Dornach, Switzerland, May 27-June 9, 1923), trans. Lisa D. Monges and Virginia Moore (New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1964) (Online: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA276/English/AP1964/19230520p01.html). Steiner, in Lecture 4 (Online: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA276/English/AP1964/19230603p01.html), comments: “It is here that art enters. It forms a bridge across the abyss. That is why art must realize that its task is to carry the spiritual-divine life into the earthly; to fashion the latter in such a way that its forms, colors, words, tones, act as a revelation of the
world beyond. Whether art takes on an idealistic or realistic coloring is of no importance. What it needs is a relationship to the truly, not merely thought-out, spiritual. No artist could create in his medium if there were not alive in him impulses springing from the spiritual world. This fact points to the seriousness of art, standing alongside the seriousness of cognition and religious experience. It cannot be denied that our materialistically oriented civilization diverts us, in many ways, from the gravity of art. But any devoted study of true artistic creation reveals it as an earnest of man’s struggle to harmonize the spiritual-divine with the physical-earthly.”
[13]In this paper, I will primarily focus on the creative and redemptive nature of God, and the implications for art and mission. However, there is an important theology of art based on the Logos nature of Christ and the incarnate nature of Christ, as particularly expounded in John chapter 1. But I have delimited from addressing these theological themes in this paper, and choose to defer them to a future thesis. It will suffice, here, to simply note the following: According to Jn. 1:1-4, it is “through” the Logos (the divine Son of God) (1:2) that God the Father brings all things into creation. It is “in” the Logos (1:3) that the light and life source of all creation is to be found. Logos (in Greek philosophy) was the rational principle that governs and sustains the universe.The Son as the Logos signifies the mind and heart, wisdom and revelation of God. The Son as the Logos, in essence, represents the perfect expression/image of God (Col. 1:15-16; Heb.1:3). If the Logos articulates the aesthetic ways of God through his creative works, the Logos
ultimately demonstrates the artistry of God through his personal incarnation, according to Jn. 1:14 (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4-7).The Incarnate Logos signifies the divine artistry of enfleshing the very divine essence. Basically, the incarnation placed a face on the abstract concept of the transcendent God. Essentially, the Logos through his
incarnation became the “human face of God. ”The incarnation is the most perfect and concrete expression of divine essence and reality. Incarnate Logos (in attitude, speech, action, lifestyle) most perfectly demonstrated artistic expressions of all dimensions. The Incarnate Logos in his entire human life (birth, childhood, adulthood, teaching,
ministry, suffering, death, resurrection) perfectly exemplified the whole artistic process. The Incarnate Logos in all his symbolic actions (baptism, communion, foot-washing, crucifixion) basically established a prophetic artistic tradition. The person of Logos then signifies the true artistic essence. The incarnation of the Logos signifies the ultimate artistic production.
[14]Sailhamer, John H., “Genesis,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis-Leviticus, Revised edition, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 55.
[15]Vivien Hibbert, Prophetic Worship: Releasing the Presence of God (Dallas, TX: Cuington Press, 1999), p. 257.
[16]These are among a lengthy list of prophetic dramas/mimes as identified in Daniel J. Kim, “Prophetic Authority: A Biblical Theology of Divine Commission” (Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 2002), pp. 294-298. W. David Stacey,Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament (London: Epworth Press, 1990), presents a full-scale treatment of the topic of prophetic drama. Stacey, 60-62, distinguishes “prophetic drama” or “prophetic action” from all other dramatic actions in the life of Israel: (1) Prophetic drama partakes of the mysterious potency of prophecy in general. (2) Prophetic drama was usually performed at the specific command of the Lord.(3) Prophetic drama was an onceforall action.(4) Prophetic drama was deliberately contrived for one particular situation. (5) Prophetic drama was usually accompanied by an oracle or an explanation of its meaning.
[17]John Calvin, “Preface” in Commentary on the Book of Psalms (1557), vol.1, trans. James Anderson (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1849), xxxviii.
[18]This understanding that all aspects of human life and all realms of human culture are corrupted by sin is consistent with the doctrine known as “total depravity,” which was espoused by Augustine and Calvin. This doctrine basically advocates that all dimensions of human nature (intellect, emotion, will, body, etc.) have been affected and tainted by sin since the Fall (See especially John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), ed. J. T. McNeill, trans. F. L. Battles (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960), 2.1.2-3, 9-10, 18-21, 26-27; 2.3.2, 5-6, 8, 10. Total depravity, however, does not mean that there is absolutely no goodness in humanity and that we are utterly sinful. Rather, the doctrine simply affirms that there is not a single aspect or realm that has not be corrupted by sin. Thus, we cannot in our natural fallen state come to God in our own strength or resource, nor can we do anything that is spiritually good which would please God. We are considered dead in our transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1-2). We are enslaved to sin (Jn. 8:34). We are controlled by sinful nature, and thus we cannot possibly please God (Rom. 8:8). Basically all our righteous acts are like filthy rags before the sight of God (Isa. 64:6).
[19]Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (NY: Harper Perennial Publishing, 2001) (original 1951)
[20]Loren Cunningham, “Transcript of Interview of Loren Cunningham on Original 7 Mountains Vision” in 7 Cultural Mountains (Nov. 19, 2007) (Online: http://www.7culturalmountains.org/apps/
[21]Robin M. Jensen, The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 75-100.
[22]Jensen, The Substance of Things Seen, 97.
[23]Calvin Seerveld, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art (Carlisle, UK: Piquant, 2002), 128.
[24]Hibbert, Prophetic Worship, 235.
[25]Ernest B. Gentile, Worship God: Exploring the Dynamics of Psalmic Worship (Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing, 2004),24.
[26]Judson Cornwall, Elements of Worship (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, Inc. 1985), 108.
[27]An example of Christian organization is OM Arts International (“Vision, Purpose, Values,” Online: http://www.arts.om.org/about/vision) whose vision statement is as follows: “The vision and purpose of OM Arts International is to engage, empower and equip artists for cross-cultural global ministry so that the Church can be better equipped to fulfill the Great Commission. We envision transformed artists, transforming lives and communities around the world.”(OM Arts International,) An example of secular art organization is the Chandler Center for the Arts(“Vision Statement,” Online: http://www.chandlercenter.org/about/about/mission-vision)whose vision statement is as follows: “The Chandler Center for the Arts embodies the belief that the arts hold transformative potential. The Center elevates the social culture of our community, empowering citizens
to bridge borders through participation, intellectual exploration and leadership development of the arts.”
[28]Bauer, Arts Ministry, pp. 136-137, concurs that the arts have the potential to cross the cultural barriers and enhance community. He comments: “Outside the western world, the arts are often allied with Christianity. Worship in Africa practically demands dance. Latin America has a thriving visual arts culture. The Christian arts faced a difficult beginning in the non-Western world owing to the oppressive cultural evangelism of nineteenth-century missionaries. The situation is no less challenging today because of the ubiquity and hegemony of American popular culture. Nonetheless, much indigenous music, art, and dance has made its way into the worship lives of cultures throughout the world. From Korean Presbyterians to Argentinian Roman Catholics, there has been an upsurge in indigenous artistic activity during the past century. In the United States, non-Western artistic expression is rapidly becoming a more important part of the worship and cultural life of many mainline churches, including those churches that have little or no ethnic population.”

Bauer, Michael J. Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life God’s People. Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013.
Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559). Ed. J. T. McNeill. Trans. F. L. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960.
Calvin, John. “Preface.” In Commentary on the Book of Psalms (1557). Vol. 1. Trans. James
Anderson. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1849. xxxviii.
Carter, Ronald. Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2016 (original 2004).
Chandler Center for Arts. “Vision Statement.” Online: http://www.chandlercenter.org/about/ about/mission-vision.
Collingwood, R. G. The Principles of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938.
Cornwall, Judson. Elements of Worship. South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, Inc. 1985.
Cunningham, Loren. “Transcript of Interview of Loren Cunningham on Original 7 Mountains Vision.” In 7 Cultural Mountains. Nov. 18, 2007. Online: http://www.7cultural mountains. org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=40087&columnid=4347.
Dillenberger, John. A Theology of Artistic Sensibilities: The Visual Arts and the Church. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1986.
Gentile, Ernest B. Worship God: Exploring the Dynamics of Psalmic Worship. Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing, 2004.
Hagberg, Garry. Art as Language: Wittgenstein, Meaning, and Aesthetic Theory. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.
Heaney, Maeve Louise. Music as Theology: What Music Says about the Word. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012.
Hibbert, Vivien. Prophetic Worship: Releasing the Presence of God. Dallas, TX: Cuington Press, 1999.
Jensen, Robin M. The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004.
Jin, Dal Yong, “Hallyu 2.0: The New Korean Wave in the Creative Industry.” In International Institute Journal. University of Michigan, Fall 2012. pp. 3-7.
Kim, Daniel J. “Prophetic Authority: A Biblical Theology of Divine Commission.”Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 2002.
Miller, Barbara. Cultural Anthropology in a Globalizing World. 2nd edition. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008, 2010.
Niebuhr, Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper Perennial Publishing, 2001 (original 1951).
OM Arts International.“Vision, Purpose, Values.” Online: http://www.arts.om.org/about/ vision.
Sailhamer, John H. “Genesis” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis-Leviticus. Revised edition. Eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008. pp. 21-323.
Seerveld, Calvin. Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art. Carlisle, UK: Piquant, 2002.
Stacey, W. David. Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament. London: Epworth Press, 1990.
Steiner, George. Real Presences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Steiner, Rudolf. “The Arts and Their Mission.” Lectures 4 and 8.(8 lectures delivered in Dornach, Switzerland, May 27-June 9, 1923). Trans. Lisa D. Monges and Virginia Moore. New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1964.
Online:http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA276/English/AP1964/19230603p01.html. Online: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA276/English/AP1964/19230520p01.html.
SUNY Levin Institute. “What is Globalization.”In Globalization 101. The Levin Institute, The State University of New York, 2015. Online: http//www.globalization101.org/ what-is-globalization.
Winter, Ralph D. and Bruce A. Koch. “Advancing Strategies of Closure: Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge.” In International Journal of Frontier Missions 19:4 (Winter 2002)15-25.
Yonhap News Agency.“President Park’s Inauguration Speech.” In Yonhap. Feb. 25, 2013.Online:http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2013/02/25/95/0301000000AEN2013022501500315F.HTML.
*Dr. Daniel J. Kim presented this paper at the Plenary session of the AMA Manila 2016 Convention held from April 18-22, 2016.


Dr. Daniel J. Kim is Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology and Mission Theology at Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission (ACTS) in Korea. At ACTS, he serves as Dean of International Graduate School and Director of Spiritual Theology Program in Korean Graduate School. He also serves as Pastor of English Ministry at Seoul Presbyterian Church. Moreover, he is the founder and director of Imago Christi Studio, a research and training institute for theology, spirituality, and creative arts. Born in Korea and educated in the U.S., Daniel received all his theological and missiological degrees (M.Div., Th.M., Ph.D.) from Fuller Theological Seminary. 

EDITORIAL: Communicating the Gospel in the Globalized World

Timothy K. Park, Editor

The rapid development of technology is one of the factors that has turned the world we live into a global village. Today, any kind of information may be obtained through the internet, and communicating through smartphone and internet is easy anytime, anywhere. Unlike today, in the first century, the gospel was communicated mainly by word of mouth and through letters. Most often through personal meetings. Today, the gospel is also shared by other means such as art, music, and movies, both directly and through the internet. In the 53rd issue of Asian Missions Advance, different methods of communicating the gospel are introduced. We are grateful to our featured contributors by sharing with us their unique experiences and knowledge in using their mission methods in their ministries.

Dr. Daniel J. Kim, in his article ‘Creative Arts as Cultural Bridge to Global Mission’, proposes a missiological strategy using creative arts as a cultural bridge to global mission. He says that “art needs to be understood as God-ordained means of global mission in terms of evangelism, cross cultural ministry and worship.” (p. 10) Dr. Dianne Marshall, in her article ‘Making Sense of Good & Evil: HIV & AIDS in Focus’, deals with issues perpetuating barriers to the gospel in communities where Christ is least known. She says, “A renewed theological and missiological understanding here will enable us to make more sense of our broken world.” (p. 13)

Dr. Yon-Soo Kim, in his article ‘Bible Storytelling Ministry and Globalization in Mission’, asks his readers to seriously consider the use of storytelling in communicating the gospel. He points out that “Seventy five percent of the unreached people are those who are accustomed to communicate with each other orally, that is, they are oral people.” (p. 19) Dr. John Edmiston, in his article ‘Cyber Missions and the Unreached’, reminds us that “The digital pathway is much easier for the unreached enquirer. It is instant, it is always available, it can be hidden… (albeit with some effort)” (p. 24)

Finally, Rev. Ram Prasad Shrestha reports that Christianity in Nepal is very young compared to other South Asian countries, yet church growth is on the high and “Nepal has one of the fastest-growing Christian population in the world.” (p. 29) I praise God for what he has been doing together with His people in Nepal.

I believe that readers will better understand the globalized world and find wisdom for how to communicate the gospel more effectively by reading the articles in this issue. “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.” (Ps. 67:3).