I was craving tacos. It was after 10:00pm on a Tuesday evening and I had just finished a nearly 3-hour conversation with someone about baptism and church membership. They were new to church and had many questions that I was thrilled to answer. After I left their little apartment on Tropicana Boulevard I headed east to catch the Interstate back home. There on right side of the road was Taco Cabana, a glorious world of barbacoa, carnitas, and carne asada.
I stopped in a treated myself to a late night Mexican snack. With a greasy paper bag in one hand a diet coke in the other I backed up against the glass door to let myself out of the restaurant. When I did I almost ran right into a man twice my size nearly spilling my salsa and soda all over his Rocawear jeans and K-Swiss shoes.
“Oh man. Sorry bout that. I almost gotcha there, didn’t I?”
“It’s all right,” he replied.
He walked inside and I walked to my car. There I sat enjoying the late night snack when I noticed him reemerge from the store simply to lean against a wall as if waiting for someone. Then God spoke softly to my heart, “tell him about Me.”
Thus ensued a short but rigorous argument between me and the creator of the universe that included phrases like “I’m tired”, “He’s big”, and “yeah…I don’t think so.” I finally succumbed to the Spirit’s leading and got out of the car and approached the man in front of me. I decided the best way to begin the conversation was to ask him about the interesting teardrop tattoo at the corner of his eye.
I’ll never forget his words, “It reminds me of the person I had to kill.”
At this point I thought I had likely made major mistake and should hand over my tacos, wallet, keys, phone, and ManCard before he decided to take them by force. But aggression was not his reaction. He simply responded with child-like amusement, “why do you ask?” This was my open door and I took it! “I’m a Christian and I believe God wants me to talk with you about Jesus. Do you have some time?”
Over the next 20 minutes I was able to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to a man who listened with great interest and genuine intensity. I learned several lessons from this interaction that I would like to share here.
1 – The Gospel of Jesus is Cross-Cultural
There is no culture where the gospel is not relevant! There are no people-groups, nations, cities, or villages where the truth of Jesus cannot be transformative. Every culture and every subculture can be (no-no-no) must be reached with the truth of God’s love, Jesus’ atoning death, powerful resurrection, and salvific offer.
This became evident to the disciples when Jesus insisted on traveling through Samaria. His goal, later evident to all, was to reach the town of Sychar with the good news. He would do this by having a personal interaction with a Samaritan woman drawing water from a well. Without regard to the clear distinction between Jewish culture and Samaritan culture – Jesus brought the unaltered gospel to this woman.
2 – Cultural Sensitivity is better than Cultural Uniformity
Contextualization means to present the Gospel to a person with an understanding of their cultural point-of-view. This is what missionaries do. They learn to speak the language, celebrate the festivals, dress in the attire, and eat the food of another culture in order to be more effective in their evangelism. This is important but can be overdone. This guy didn’t need me to sag my pants, put on an extra large white t-shirt, or call him esse. He needed me to be me.
So Jesus, in His interaction with the Samaritan woman, was both culturally sensitive (arriving in her town, answering her questions, addressing her concerns), but did not over contextualize. In fact He wasn’t afraid to explain where the Samaritans were theologically wrong. He wasn’t afraid to discuss sin. How far did Jesus go to reach this woman? God literally became a man in order to reach this woman with the truth, but in doing so He never condoned the sin of man. This is a good example for contextualization in modern ministry.
3 – Kindness is King
This man was likely open to my witness because he wasn’t intimidated by this five-foot, six-inch, white boy in Dockers and polo-shirt. More likely, he was open because I was trying to be kind. When I can’t be intimidating, I can be kind. When I can’t be culturally acceptable, I can be kind. When you can’t connect on a cultural level, you can always connect through kindness.
Jesus spoke so gently to this woman. In fact, she was surprised that Jesus (being a Jew) would even take the time to talk with her. But Jesus was kind! And we, his disciples, ought be so too.
4 – Being Direct is Essential
The man opened up about his life. What a mess he had made running from God. He had only been introduced to Jesus through the twisted view of Catholicism and had yet to understand the true meaning of the gospel. So I got right to the point. “You need Jesus man!”
Jesus got to the point. She needed to know that the deepest needs of her soul could be satisfied by knowing the one who stood in her way. He presented himself as the way, the truth, and the life.
No matter who you are. No matter what your past. When God asks you to share the gospel – you can do it. Just attempt to remember these four thoughts.
 John 4:21-22
 John 4:16-18
 John 4:9
 John 4:26