Discipleship In The Hood Series: Avatar The Movie

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In my opinion, discipleship ministry in the hood (or in any place) reminds me of the movie “Avatar”.

Jake, the main character of the movie, is an ex-marine learning the culture of the Na’vi people. For three months Jake learns the ways of the Na’vi people by “becoming like” them. How does Jake become like them? He “quantum leaps” into a “Na’vi suit” in order to connect, learn, and understand the indigenous Na’vi. When Jake lives in his Na’vi suit, he is submitting himself to the customs of the Na’vi culture.

This example is classic I Corinthians 9:23 where Paul says, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some”. Paul says in verse 19, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. Paul is describing the necessary groundwork it will take to reach people with the good news of the gospel.

Just like Jake learned, embraced, and even loved the Na’vi culture in the movie, we must do the same in discipling others in the hood. Without becoming all things to those in the hood, the hood will not follow or give attention to someone they don’t know or trust. None of us would or should follow someone we don’t know or trust.

Jake eventually earned their trust and led a war with the Na’vi people to victory against the enemy (humans) who were looking to take all of the Na’vi natural resources…the very people Jake was a part of helping at first. If you are following Christ in the hood, He can and will use you to model, show, and teach Christlikeness with them as you follow Christ.

Now, please don’t hear me saying you must love and embrace cultural things that are clearly sinful, which is spelled out in God’s word like fornication, intoxication, idolatry, murder, or adultery. But what I am saying is that one must see and appreciate the many parts of the culture that is good and righteous by practicing with them.

Another observation in the movie you will notice: Jake “sells out” (immerses himself) to the culture in a way that eventually won the Na’vi people. The Na’vi people knew from day one that Jake was different and foreign to their culture, though he “looked like them”. If you are not from the hood, you will stick out like a sore thumb! You will be an alien! Amazingly and thankfully, the clan’s spiritual leader ordered her daughter to initiate Jake into their society. Jake was given the rights to learn the Na’vi culture through one of it’s leaders.

It is wise for the leaders of the hood to give you the rite of passage into the culture. When the leaders of the culture give you permission to join them, what the culture is saying, is, that they trust you. In other words, the Lord has given you favor to be with them.

Now, if your “discipleship” is a ploy to take over the hood with an agenda to make money, exploit, or colonize them to become like your culture (Jake was okay with doing this at first), you will not be able to reach them or influence the culture for Christ’s sake. But if you are becoming a student of the hood, in order to be a blessing to the hood, discipleship can and will naturally flow and have major impact as you trust the Lord for wisdom.

“Go to the people, Live among them, Learn from them, Love them, Start with what they know, Build on what they have: But of the best leaders, When their task is done, The people will remark “We have done it ourselves.” -Chinese Proverb

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