Dr. John A. Otte: A Study in Christian Cross-Cultural Mission Methods in China
Dr. Jonathan Hagood
When a person thinks about missionaries, the common stereotype is the idea of imposing the Western lifestyle on “savages”, the natives of a particular region. If a person takes a closer look at the evidence of the lives of missionaries, he or she might find that this stereotype is incomplete at best, with many essential holes. One case study that can help fill these holes is the life and ministry of Dr. John A. Otte, a medical missionary to China from 1888-1910 with the denomination of the Reformed Church of America. Otte ministered to the Chinese first medically, through the healing of their bodies, then spiritually, as a reference on the Christian life. Instead of making the Chinese adopt Western practices to become Christians, Otte adopted some of their practices himself so that he could appeal to them. Otte could not simply consider his ways better than others’; and he did not do so, but demonstrated immense respect for the locals. Other missionaries’ accounts support that Otte’s methods were appropriate and effective for the people and the time. By being intentional about relating to them, Otte presented the story of Christianity in a truly personal way to the Chinese people that caused them to love God even more than they loved him.
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