Contextualized Gospel In Thai Society


Protestant missionaries first came to Thailand in 1828 and have worked without interruption to the present. However, the response to the message of the Gospel has been disturbingly slow when contrasted to the amount of time missionaries have been in the country and to the amount of effort expended in bringing the Gospel to the Thai people. There is no doubt that the Church in Thailand is growing. The latest edition of Operation World by Patrick Johnstone estimates adherents to Christianity to be 1.62% of the population now.1 This breaks down to .42% Catholic and 1.18% Protestant. This is a significant community of almost 1 million people in a total population of just
over 61 million. However, a large number of the Christian population is found among tribal peoples meaning that the actual percentage among Thai people is still quite low.

Alex Smith found the following comment from a missionary to Thailand nearly one hundred years ago to be expressive of the feelings of many who have struggled to make Christ known in this land, “I believe there is no country more open to unrestrained missionary effort than Siam, but I believe that there can hardly be a country in which it is harder to make an impression.” Reasons for this difficulty in gaining a response to the Gospel have been discussed in detail by Smith in his book Siamese Gold, which focuses on the history of the Christian movement in Thailand to the end of the 1970’s through a church growth lens.3 Smith points out that the obstacles include not only problems related to the Thai religion and culture but also with missionary methods and practices. Tom Wisely, in his doctoral dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary, reviews the work of a number of the researchers on the growth of the church in Thailand and concludes that Protestant Christianity is a struggling religious minority and that “one of the major factors for its slow growth and its continuing struggle is its westernity”

Inevitably however, discussion regarding the resistance of the Thai to the Gospel returns to the fact that Thailand presents unique difficulties since it is, “one of the few countries where Theravada Buddhism has traditionally been all but de riguer and Buddhist concepts inform the speech and thought-forms and feelings of the great majority, if not all of Thai society.”

Although there are a number of factors involved in creating the feeling among the Thai that Christianity is foreign and the religion of the white man, the tremendous influence of Theravada Buddhism undoubtedly carries a great deal of weight in the matter. It becomes obvious that if we are to avoid, as Frances Hudgins calls it, “reciting conundrums” to our Thai listeners, then we must endeavor to contextualize our message so that the mind steeped in Buddhist thought and culture can begin to understand.6

To read the complete article, click on the link about contextualizing the Gospel in a Thai Society…..

Posted by on Oct 31 2010. Filed under Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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