How to… cross cultures with beautiful feet
Rev Sameh Metry, a church leader in west London, shares what he has learned about sharing Jesus in interfaith contexts.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news (Isaiah 52:7).
We are called to bring good news. Yet often people find this nerve-wracking, especially with those from a different culture. So here are some tips I have learned in my context:
1. Speak to God before speaking about God
This is the starting point – asking God for a divine appointment. We see this in Scripture when Jesus meets the woman at the well (John 4). I experienced this on a train in Egypt. The Holy Spirit prompted me to talk to a man sitting near me. I was tired and reluctant, but I eventually spoke with him. It turned out that this man had stopped going to church and was in a difficult situation. Out of our conversation he recommitted to faith. In the end he became like my right hand in ministry.
2. Be led by the spirit
You don’t need a plan or a formula. You don’t know someone’s situation – but God does. It is by the Spirit that we know what people need to hear. Every person is unique and every conversation is a different story. I once met a guy from Sudan. The Holy Spirit encouraged me to speak about being born again. To me, this didn’t seem the right place to start, but I obeyed. The man was amazed, as the previous night he had dreamed that he had been reborn. Our conversation therefore confirmed the dream and he accepted Christ.
3. Find common ground
Try to find common ground – where you are from, a shared interest, current events. This breaks the ice, and you can use common ground to introduce faith into the conversation.
We see this as Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman in John 4. They are both seeking water to drink, so Jesus spoke about water. This led to talking about living water, and from there to who Jesus is. Paul too takes this approach in Athens in Acts 17. He found idols and reference to an unknown god, so he takes this as a starting point to talk about the God who can be known.
Think how often conversations turn to subjects like Brexit; what if they naturally turned to God instead, as the only one who knows what is best in the midst of confusion?
4. Build a bridge
Introducing people to Jesus may be a long process, so we need to make sure that at the end of each conversation there is a bridge for the person to follow up, ask questions or respond. Leave your contact details or another way to get in touch.
I was surprised once when a man came into my church. As we talked, he told me that two years earlier I had given him a Bible. Over that time, he had been reading and thinking about it. Because he had my address and phone number, he came back to say “I’m ready.”
5. Be relational
Evangelism is much more successful when it is based on a relationship.
Sometimes we have a choice to win the person or win an argument. For me, the person is more important and to win them, we need to build a relationship. We don’t want to hurt someone by attacking their faith or worldview. There are ways to disagree without being hurtful, perhaps saying “I see that another way…”
We can talk, offer to pray, follow up – people can be moved more by relationship and love than all the theology you know.
Someone coming to know Jesus is a process. It takes patience, but God is so patient with us, so we can be patient too.
6. Be culturally sensitive
We need to know about someone’s culture to avoid causing offence. We need to know what is appropriate in terms of conversations between men and women, and what the implications might be of eye contact, for example. What we wear can also have an impact on how our message is heard.
Many cultures are represented on our doorstep, making it both easy and important to ask questions if you don’t know what is and isn’t okay. Let people explain their culture to you as you build relationship.
7. Share your testimony
People like stories! Jesus used stories all the time. Telling your own story is great because it is authentic.
Try to learn how to tell your story in different ways with different emphases and lengths. Think about what you can cut: sometimes you can spend an hour with someone and take your time – but if you are in the street in the rain, you need to be quick.
Practise this with others in your church or small group so you can be confident when an opportunity comes – it doesn’t come naturally.
8. Share good news
There is depressing news all of the time. People are in a hard world, where it can seem nothing is certain. We need to be good news deliverers in our smile, our body language and our words. We are not about scaring people, but about giving them hope. Try to make them feel there is hope in what they are going through – that God’s arms are always open and they are welcome, even if all feels dark.
9. Fear not
We experience fear when we don’t know someone, or because we have experienced aggression or arguments and difficult questions. But we need to trust the Lord and resist fear, because fear and love don’t go together.
If God is speaking through me, I don’t know what will happen, or how someone will respond, but I do know that God is with me.
You don’t have to know the answer to everything – be honest and don’t be afraid. Don’t fear but be ready to give reasons for your hope.
10. Use the spiritual gifts
We need to use the wisdom of God and the spiritual gifts we have been given (1 Cor. 12) to facilitate sharing the good news.
Praying for healing can be an example of this. I met someone who was sick and sensed it was the right time to pray for healing. This man then came back to the church and explained that he was feeling better.
Romans 10:14 asks: “How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” The world needs us to be those who proclaim Jesus with confidence – and have beautiful feet in our communities.
Rev Sameh Metry is founder and pastor of Living Water Arabic Church and minister in charge of St Hugh’s Northolt. He is Egyptian and came to the UK because of the persecution he experienced because of his faith. He contributed to CMS forMission training for short-term people in mission.