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Missionaries with 20/20 Vision

reprinted from the Autumn 2006 edition of Essentials

  Did you see the special on TV recently? A three hour show featuring a team of Australian missionaries – and it showed them in a very positive light! It was the first international match of 20/20 cricket, Australia vs. South Africa in Brisbane. This was missionary cricket! And people loved it! David Wright ministers in Adelaide. He still struggles to play the cover drive.
  Why do I call this 'missionary cricket'? And what can we learn from it? I think 20/20 cricket is a great example of cultural adaptation. For the first 100 years of international cricket, there was the Test match (at least 5 days long). From 1977, one day cricket attracted a whole new audience with its coloured clothing, night games and close finishes. However, there are some aspects of the one day game that (like the Tests) could become predictable and boring. And so the one day game has become shorter again – hence the 20/20 game.
  The cultural adaptation of 20/20 cricket fits with our wider culture. It is an 'instant' game made for an instant society (it only took a couple of hours to play). It was 'familiar' with the Australian players wearing their nicknames on their shirts (we're not big on formality in Australia). It involved those watching (the fielding captain had his own microphone and would chat with the commentators between balls). It didn't take itself too seriously (this was a night to celebrate). It was highly experiential; something to be done together that stirred the emotions.  
  Cricket has learnt its lesson well. It has adapted as the culture around it has changed. It is the lesson the apostle Paul knew well. Like the cricket, Paul was a culturally flexible missionary. He was prepared to adapt to his surroundings so that cultural issues would not be a barrier to people hearing about Jesus (1 Cor. 9:20-23).  
  Are we as culturally flexible and adaptable as Paul – or even the cricket? Of course there are some points where the analogy breaks down. Cricket is there to entertain and needs to make money. Paul's cultural flexibility had limits. His proclamation of Christ was not about winning the applause of the crowd or taking their cash (1 Thess.2:3-6). He knew that if he did not offer people the truth of Jesus' death and resurrection, then he had nothing to offer (eg: 2 Tim.4:4-8; Acts 20:13-37; 1 Cor.1:18-25). Paul was both faithful to the content of the message of Christ, yet highly flexible in its cultural presentation.  
  Being faithful AND flexible is hard work. It takes effort. It attracts criticism. Initiatives sometimes flop. But for the honour of Christ and the eternal well being of people we must pray and work. And when you need a breather, put your feet up and watch the cricket.  
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