The Gospel never changes, but it must be clearly communicated for it to really be good news. So, we recently put together a joint leadership conference with other missions leaders in our local area specifically focused on message contextualization in Thailand.
It was the first of its kind in our area and we were happy to be able to come together from different church backgrounds to do this.
We invited Pastor Bantoon and his wife Mili Boon-Itt from the Sueb Church in Bangkok to come and speak to us.
Bantoon is from a long line of Thai preachers and has a great burden to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ effectively communicated to Buddhists. The “Sueb” church is one of the oldest churches in Thailand.
I met the Boon-Itts at a conference in Chiang Mai where they were presenting their teachings to other mission thinkers from Asia.
Our goal in inviting them was to take some of the understanding from that conference and bring it to the Isaan context. The Boon-Itts had never been to the Northeast of Thailand before our invitation! Of course, even within Thailand some things needed to be contextualized for our local area. But Ajarn Bantoon made a good point. He said that even if Thai-Isaan people didn’t know what they really believe, Buddhist thinking has permeated their world view all of their lives, whether they understand it or not.
We have fifty leaders show up from all around the Northeast. Ajarn Bantoon taught about us about the Thai Buddhist mind and how many of our ways of sharing the “good news” just don’t compute to the Thai Buddhist. In one of his examples, he used the often quoted evangelistic verse “John 3:16” in order to demonstrate his point. He broke down how each element of this often quoted verse could be misconstrued by the Thai Buddhist mind and then went on to show how we must be more clear in our message presentation.
All of the leaders had lunch together and we had time toward the end of the day to open things up for questions and answers. Each group thought about how they might be able to incorporate what they were learning and then presented their ideas before the rest of the groups.
I was very encouraged to see different denominations coming together for this event. Our ultimate goal is to see the Gospel more clearly communicated to Thai Buddhists. If we are to communicate effectively, we must understand people’s mindsets and make the adjustments where needed.