By Branden DesCarpentrie

I read a biography of James Hudson Taylor a few years ago.   Taylor was the 19th century British missionary to China who founded China Inland Missions.  God granted huge favor to his ministry which resulted in 18,000 conversions and many other humanitarian efforts.  What struck me about Taylor was his approach.  Rather than forming a little European community in China or subjecting those he came in contact with to his own culture, he did something unique for missionaries at that time.  He immersed himself into the Chinese culture – their dress, their cuisine, and of course, their language – in order to more effectively bring them the love of Christ.

So are these characteristics evident in my life?  As a father and husband: Do I treat my home as a land to conquer or a people to love?   Too often I see myself as someone who wants to impose his own will without taking the time to understand the very people God has given me to shepherd.   Not being willing to listen, understand their language or learn their point of view, I often subject them to my own kingdom.   I am a foreigner at home, teaching my wife and kids – the “natives” – the right way to do things and what they should feel.  I fool myself into thinking God has given me the authority to dictate rather than compassionately lead.

Unfortunately, this is not the biblical model.   Paul writes, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b, NIV).   He demonstrated this very concept at Mars Hill when he observed the altar to an unknown God in Athens in Acts 17.  He took what he observed from their culture and used it to relate to them in a more understanding way.   Ultimately, to more effectively explain the gospel.

To be a Godly leader in my home, and an effective mentor, I would do well to immerse myself into their “culture” to win them over to Christ-likeness rather than subject them into my own kingdom.  But what are some practical ways to do this?  I can really listen to what they are saying and ask good questions to make sure I understand them.  I can focus on the heart issue instead of simply modifying their behavior to my standards.  Bottom line?   I can observe what makes them feel loved and esteemed and put that into practice.