I found this article very interesting:The Wrong End of the Spear - Christianity Today Magazine. It recaps a discussion between the articles author and the a Missionary from New Tribes. The author recounts the technique for entering a hostile area.
1. Make initial contact with the indiginous people.
2. (If the missionary survives) Learn the tribal language and culture.
3. Build relationships.
4. Meet needs in the community (food, medicine, etc.)
5. Share the message of salvation. During this time behavioral issues are very low on the priority list. "Rather than being 'sin police' the missionaries view themselves as ambassadors of Christ. If they focus on behavioral problems, such as idolatry or sexual sin, it can be very counterproductive.
My question is why? Why is it counterproductive? And, if it is counterproductive, why haven't we in the churches of the United States learned this lesson? The author of the article makes a similar conclusion in regards to the homosexual community. I think his approach is right, but everyone trying to approach the topic from that angle is ostracized.
But I guess a deeper issue is "What is the gospel?" Many would say that it is Jesus' death and resurrection. Others might have one of a thousand different answers. Here is what I think the Gospel is: God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. That relationship is found in the person of Jesus Christ.
I think it is that simple. The rest can filled in as we go. Yet we often lead with the rules. If a person doesn't lead with the rules, then others in the Christian community assume they are selling the Gospel short. Granted, you don't want to soft-sale the Gospel in order to get people to join up, but neither do we want to add to many hoops. The problem is often that there is no effective follow-up and discipleship so the person's understanding of what it means to follow God is simplistic and easy. It is a cheap grace.
Being a disciple of Jesus is a costly venture. It is not cheap and it is not easy, but it begins with the simplicity of the Gospel: God love us and wants a relationship with us. And He provides a way for us to have that relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.
If you want to know what it means to live in relationship with God look to the life of Jesus. I think all of these principles are found in His life. Jesus truly is the smartest man ever.