Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > PE-RC > Evangelization, Proselytism... (part III)


III. Evangelization And Culture
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  1. Both Catholics and Pentecostals recognize the complexity of the relationship between Church and culture. The faith community evangelizes through its proclamation and through its common life: this means that our proclamation and our Christian lifestyle are always embodied in a specific culture. We accept that there is considerable good in cultures, notwithstanding the fact of humanity's fall from grace. Pentecostals emphasize the changing of individuals who when formed into a body of believers bring change into the culture from within. Catholics emphasize that culture itself in its human institutions and enterprises can also be transformed by the Gospel.

  2. Pentecostals and Catholics agree that when the Gospel is introduced into a dominant non-Christian culture, a twofold attitude is required. On the one hand, we have to respect, affirm and support the positive elements in it, elements which will have prepared the people in advance for the reception of the Gospel or which are good in themselves. On the other hand, we may have to try to transform this non-Christian culture from within. To do this the local people may be in a better position than foreign missionaries who may be tempted to impose their own culture as a substitute for the Gospel.

  3. Pentecostals and Catholics also agree that both evangelizers and evangelized need to realize that neither operate in a cultural vacuum. Evangelizers act unjustly toward peoples and cultures if they import political, economic or social ideologies alongside the Gospel. The evangelized, too, must be aware of their own culture and religious history and discern how their response to evangelizers is faithful to the Gospel as embodied in their own religious history and culture.

  4. Pentecostals point out that in recent years an intentional and concentrated focus on "unreached peoples" has arisen. Some Evangelical Christian and Pentecostal movements have targeted the parts of the globe roughly fitting with the longitude/latitude configuration (the 10/40 window) for a significant emphasis of missionary personnel and finances. The 10/40 window includes regions in which the Gospel has never historically made significant inroads and shows Pentecostal consciousness that the so-called "unreached people" have been neglected.

  5. Pentecostals in this Dialogue wish to observe that in some cultural contexts, such as in Africa, or Asia, or even Latin America, Pentecostals have actively and successfully engaged in mission without the benefit of any formal training on issues related to the inculturation of the Gospel. They have actually communicated their Christian spirituality, worship, and forms of evangelization through their local cultures. Pentecostals believe that this process has been facilitated by their emphasis upon the freedom of the Holy Spirit, with their consequent openness to the diversity of forms of expression in the worship and praise of God (e.g. their recognition of dance as a genuine form of spiritual worship). Their missionary work has been effective because they have a missionary model based on the recognition that all members of the community have been given the gifts or charisms of the Spirit necessary to share the full message of the Gospel.

  6. Catholics not only see the need to evangelize persons, but also see the need to evangelize cultures, for example through educational institutions. Furthermore, they have often evangelized through aesthetics embodying religious values. However, the ultimate focus of evangelization is the person. Catholics acknowledge instances of shortcomings in their evangelization, for instance, by insufficient Christian initiation and discipleship formation and by not always bringing parishioners to a personal faith commitment. Shortcomings, however, can often be better understood if concrete conditions, such as poverty, illiteracy a shortage of ministers and the structures of oppression are known.

  7. Both Catholics and Pentecostals recognize that the great social changes in Western society result in secularization processes and consequently a decline in religious practice. We deplore and condemn this secularization process, especially when these attitudes become part of a political agenda which promotes a value-free society in the name of tolerance and liberalism. To deplore and condemn are not enough. More positively, as Christians, we have to understand these new challenges and help our people to find new ways and insights to face them in light of Christian values. The fact is that many people face new challenges without guidelines in the fields of religion and ethics.

  8. For example, over the past thirty years, technological and scientific innovations have radically changed the concrete conditions in which human beings are born and die in the "Western world." Progress in medicine far more than philosophical ideology has influenced our way of seeing the beginning and end of human life. In former times, procreation and the birth of a child depended much more on "chance," and consequently parents placed their trust in Divine Providence in this matter. Today an increasing ability to regulate birth allows a child to be "planned." Well before birth, through the pictures we see, we know whether the child is a boy or a girl. Further, the birth of a child takes place in a medical environment, far from the family home.

  9. In the same way at the other end of existence, no society before has ever seen such longevity such a high proportion of elderly people. And none has taken death away from the family environment to such an extent: some 70 % of all people in western societies die in a hospital, in a medical and technical environment. Such far reaching changes require that we actively engage in these challenges and learn as a Christian community how to respond to them in our preaching, our liturgy and our service. In a way we have to reformulate the everlasting message of salvation in a convincing way for contemporary men and women and not simply repeat it in antiquated language.


  1. Papers were delivered on this topic by Rev. William Menzies, President and Professor of Theology at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Baguio City, Philippines (The Biblical Basis for Mission and Evangelism: An Evangelical, Pentecostal Perspective) and Rev. Karl Muller, svd, St. Augustin, Germany (The Biblical and Systematic Foundation of Evangelization).

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