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15 May 2014

Breaking cultural barriers

Breaking cultural barriers

New course helps churches make the gospel accessible for Asians

Almost seven per cent of the population identifies itself as Asian or Asian British. That's nearly 4.5 million people. Many of these people, whose family roots are firmly within an Asian culture or another faith, are asking questions about Jesus.

The Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes course book and resources, produced by the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance and published by the Good Book Company, are designed specifically with members of Asian communities and faiths in mind.

The brand new eight–week course will equip churches or small groups of friends to cultivate discussion with Asian friends and respond to questions in a culturally appropriate way.,

Nearly 200 UK Christian leaders attending the Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes launch, in London on 14 May, the resource saw rave reviews about its timeliness, uniqueness and potential to break down cultural barriers, and reach people from Asian backgrounds in the UK.

"Asians are a vibrant part of our British cultural landscape," said Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, "but many churches feel ill-equipped and uncomfortable about reaching out in friendship to people we should be welcoming."

At the event, David Shosanya of the London Baptist Association, shared with honesty, acknowledging barriers or prejudices: "Even though I had been involved in mission for years I had never actively been involved in the sharing the gospel with the Asian community. Sharing the gospel should not be defined by human experience, but by God's salvation."  

Launch speaker and worship leader Sanjay Rajo from Naujavan - an Asian Christian youth organisation serving 16 to 30-year-olds, said the course: "has come at absolutely the right time and is the missing piece of the puzzle which helps to mobilise a generation to reach out to their Asian friends. It is predicted that by 2050 up to a quarter of the UK will be from an Asian background, predominantly Hindu, Muslim, Sikh. We are seeing more young people, who are born here, confused about their identity and hungry for something spiritual."

"This course would probably attract university students and 20s and 30s, who are interested in going onto a course a bit like Alpha or Christianity Explored but with an Asian edge. It allows us to engage in a unique Asian British way, there is nothing else out there like that."

Rev Canon Toby Howarth, secretary for inter-religious affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: "There is lots of baggage when it comes to sharing the gospel with the Asian community – there is a lot of rubbish in the past that has gone on in the name of Jesus, But Discovering Jesus Through Asian Eyes has been breathed in prayer,"

Steve Uppal, senior leader of All Nations Church Wolverhampton and from a family converted from Sikhism, spoke about how the gospel works and transforms. He urged the crowd to point to the person of Jesus:"People asked 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' We say 'come and see!' The gospel still works. It has not lost its power, it is still full of wonder."

Rev Warren McNeil of Greenford Baptist Course piloted the course in January 2013. "We had non-Asians, a Sikh and a Muslim, come to know Jesus. They were baptised this year. At that point it made us think differently about how to reach Asians. Even our style of worship is done differently, in a more Asian style, so we can reach the predominantly Asian population in our area," he said.

The project is supported by more than 30 partner organisations including Christianity Explored, the London Baptist Association, the Church of England (Diocese of London), Interserve, South Asian Concern, UCCF, the Assemblies of God and the Leprosy Mission England and Wales.

More than 14,000 copies of the first booklet, Jesus Through Asian Eyes, which addresses 16 commonly-asked questions, have been distributed across the UK.

The new Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes website compliments the resource with information, videos and testimonies.
South Asian Forum Discovering Jesus resource launch press release