Culture matters. Though the Gospel doesn’t change, a person’s culture and context determines how they receive it, how they identify with it, and ultimately, what they think about God and their relationship with Him.
If you want to share Jesus with someone in a way that resonates with them, you need to understand their culture. During a recent episode of Indigitous CoffeeTalks, we spoke with Jean Francois about how context melds with mission as we reach out online.
Jean Francois, who goes by JF, is director of Je suis deuxième (French for “I am second”), an initiative to engage an unreached people group in Canada. Part of his mission strategy involves developing highly contextualized resources in partnership with local churches. Their mission is to equip all of French Canada to be multiplying disciples – that is, disciples who make more disciples.
Je suis deuxième started as a partnership with the American organization I Am Second. Like the latter ministry, JF utilizes well-crafted video testimonies to help people see what it’s like to have a relationship with Jesus and use that content to build disciple-making movements. From there, JF takes the I Am Second concept and contextualizes it for the culture of French Canadians.
“I was given the liberty to produce something that was entirely indigenous,” JF says. “As being myself a native French Canadian, I understand about the blockages in the culture, how people perceive evangelical Christians. I understand about how they are open to the Gospel but stereotypes block the way for the Gospel to be shared with them. So I built a strategy that would work around that and make sure they would discover Jesus for who he is outside of those stereotypes.”
With Je suis deuxième, JF helps churches shift away from an attraction model to a model where the church is more missional and outward-focused. That includes training people to start church groups within their own homes rather than trying to bring people to a Sunday service at a church building.
French Canadians set apart
Settlers from France were the first Europeans to settle in what is now Quebec and other parts of Canada. After the Seven Years’ War, England took control of the country and most French settlers left or assimilated into the English-speaking culture. Since then, French-speaking Canadians have been a minority people group separated from the dominant culture in Canada. Those who are religious tend to be Catholic, with less than 1% of French Canadians identifying as protestant. That makes French Canadians highly skeptical of any evangelical outreach, often seeing evangelical Christianity as an American thing.
When JF first started partnering with I Am Second, they suggested he take their current testimonies and resources and add French subtitles or translation. But JF knew that wouldn’t work for the French Canadian culture.
“We can’t do that,” JF says. “It shows a different culture. People are coming from a different background. They have a different understanding of God. And it keeps providing fuel for that perception that evangelicals are Americans.”
It was clear to JF that he needed to avoid those pitfalls and come up with indigenous content featuring French Canadians speaking to their own culture. So he went to work creating new content and resources. Je suis deuxième features testimonials and resources by French Canadians as well as tools that connect people to local churches and evangelists. “The vision is to reshape this national French Canadian identity around Jesus,” JF says.
That contextualization seems to be working. There are 8.5 million French-speaking Canadians in Canada and the videos by Je suis deuxième have been seen 3.5 million times.
Part of the appeal is the I Am Second formula for testimony videos, which makes it easy for people to relate to the stories. Each video is deeply personal, sharing about the person’s real life experiences and struggles. “Christianity isn’t common with the average person. We have to tell what we have in common. What we have in common is humanity. Then we tell the human story in which all of the sudden, unexpectedly, the story of Jesus happens,” JF says.
Go and share the Gospel
God wants to save, so much so that he sent his own Son to be a sacrifice for our sins. And as Christians, we know how people can be saved: through a relationship with Jesus. Each of us has the opportunity to make an eternal impact on the lives of the people around us.
Jean Francois encourages all Christians to pray, to believe God, and to go share the Gospel. “Pray specifically that God allows you to have a vision that will equip every single believer to be witnesses of Jesus. This is how we create a movement. A movement can’t be done by a few powerful preachers,” JF says. “The vision we have to look for is to create content and strategy that will equip everyone being a believer to be able to share the Gospel.”