As I started my new role as Director of International and Indigenous Ministries at our District Office, a close friend of mine texted me asking, “how is the new job going?” My answer was, “Love it!. I feel that God has thrust me into a new world, and I am loving every inch of it.” The wording of my answer was not premeditated. It was rather spontaneous and began to replay in my heart like a highlight play from a game.
There are moments in our lives when the Lord brings a new set of surrounding circumstances. As exciting as those moments can be, you can only thrive on them if you adjust to it out of a loving heart to serve the Lord that called you.
In a lot of ways, we face a reality of change in our nation. By 2036, Statics Canada predicts that one-quarter of the population’s first language will not be English or French, our official languages. We must recognize that God is thrusting our churches and ministry into a brand new world, one where there is a tapestry of nations, cultures, and flavours. Our local churches, and our Fellowship, in general, must love every inch of the world that God is thrusting us in.
This is the reason why I ask a question that has been asked many times in missions conferences and similar events: “Will you go?” This time I ask it, not to send you away to lands unknown for the sake of the gospel, but I ask it in hopes that you will step into the cultural groups that have moved into our neighbourhoods and to become a missionary to them, and help bring many of them into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I want to share with you a few keys to help you engage in cross-cultural ministry:
Be a Learner
We learn from Scripture that the gospel transforms lives when it unveils the spiritual reality in the socio-cultural context of the individual. Paul declares, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22b). There is no better way to make a connection with someone from another culture than to reach out and want to value what they value and appreciate their cultural ideologies and behaviour.
Our strategy to reach the nations in our neighbourhood must include an intentional approach to learn their culture and appreciate the differences when they, either by initiative or by invitation, come to our churches. The more we learn about a culture and desire to get immersed in it, the more it will welcome us to engage with our faith and values.
Be an Observer
Every culture operates in different values. Some cultures are more individually-driven, and others have a more communal worldview where family, language and history shapes the identity of the individual through the lens of the collective and shared history. Values are important, and they can only be noticed if we observe carefully. Cultural values provide a line upon which we can write and communicate the message of Christianity.
People that have moved into our neighbourhoods have a variety of reasons for doing so, and those motivations point to a need that we as the church can somehow try to meet. If we observe the values and the needs of the cultural groups around us, we will gain a precise framework upon which we can build our attempts to reaching out and loving them.
Be an Enabler
Our churches must become places where our faith can manifest in ways that are according to our socio-cultural values and worldview. Reaching cultural groups cannot be just a gimmick or a checkbox. It must become an important part of our outreach strategy. As we begin to see an influx of other cultures into our churches, it is our responsibility to nurture and enable expressions of worship and leadership that look, sounds and feel different than the norm. Rather than seeing a cultural group as a subset of a larger congregational group, we must see them as an integral part of our congregations that can potentially add a lot of value to the life of the church.
My prayer is that our churches will become mindful of the need for cross-cultural ministries. If you need help or instruction in this type of ministry, I am here to serve.