by missionary Steve Arnold
It was a long warm day at a cultural festival in a nearby town where I had gone to take some photos and video clips as an early part of my new role with US Missions Intercultural Ministries. There were tens of thousands of people in attendance and certainly dozens of cultures and language groups present… performers, vendors, and attendees. What a cacophony of color and sound!
The day before, I had laid out my plan to bounce from one area to another in order to see as big of a variety of cultures as I could. There were musicians, martial artists, traditional dancers, booths displaying the culture and history of various lands, and a variety of foods.
While I have seen a lot over the years in both world and US missions, I knew I would probably discover unexpected things that were new to me. I was not disappointed by the variety, but the thing that did disappoint me was something that was sorely lacking.
It was clearly not off limits for presenters to talk about their religious beliefs. The spokesman for the Native American presentation talked freely about the religious applications of their dances and music. One of the largest booths was designed to present Islamic teachings to non-Muslims. The Indian performances were introduced by the religious significance of the songs and dances. One performance had the dancers bowing to Shiva, “The Destroyer” god of Hinduism. The audience members were encouraged to try to experience the power and peace supposedly emanating from this religious exposure.
I had hoped I would see a presence of Biblically solid churches or Christian organizations among the variety of cultures represented in this large American community. But sadly, after several hours spent around almost every corner of the event, I didn’t see a single booth, display, song, or performance that was dedicated to glorify Jesus Christ or to present the good news of the free gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Him.
The heavy question that remains in my heart and mind is “Where were we that day?” In fact, the question is broader. In this land where we still have much freedom to practice and share our faith in Jesus, when it comes to our communities outside of the church and seminary walls, we need to seriously answer the question “Where are we?”
The church is active in many locations to the glory of God, and many Christians are faithful in bringing the message of Jesus into their daily lives and activities, but the work is not complete. While so much of this world is hurting, lost, and confused may we followers of Christ lovingly and faithfully live out our salvation and freely share Jesus with the world around us… right here in America!