Episode 2-7: Equipping Pastors for the Cross-Cultural Missionary Work We Must All Do Now

Episode 7 May 31, 2021 00:22:56
Episode 2-7: Equipping Pastors for the Cross-Cultural Missionary Work We Must All Do Now
Thinking Christian
Episode 2-7: Equipping Pastors for the Cross-Cultural Missionary Work We Must All Do Now

May 31 2021 | 00:22:56


Show Notes

Dorothy told Toto, “I have a feeling we aren’t in Kansas anymore.” I’d say what used to be Kansas isn’t Kansas anymore.

No town, large or small, remains unaffected. Our world has changed drastically in the past several decades, so much that church ministry everywhere in both the U.S. and Canada (especially Canada), not to mention the rest of the Western world, has become cross-cultural missionary work. Some of it has to do with new people groups coming our way through immigration, but much of it has to do with transitions in Western culture itself.

Pastors can only remain true to their calling by seeing themselves as cross-cultural missionary leaders. Their work was challenging enough already; now it’s really daunting. No one can change it by hoping it isn’t so, though, so how’s a pastor to keep up? Through teamwork with others, of which I hope to be one. With this podcast and the accompanying blog post I’m narrowing my season-long focus on “Heat to Light: From Cultural Conflict to Spiritual Transformation” even tighter. I’m here to serve pastors as they serve the Lord and his church, specifically through:

  1. Explainers for pastors on recent cultural trends,
  2. Specific practical ministry applications related to those trends, and
  3. Sample sermons pastors may freely borrow from.

That’s the portion of today’s new ministry trends I’m qualified to help with. It’s coming soon, starting next weekend. This episode explains the reasons why. It’s the challenge of cross-cultural missionary work, brought home to us in the United States.

If this is encouraging to you, I strongly suggest you also look at the sample chapter I’m giving away free from my latest book, Too Good to be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality. Download it at ThinkingChristian.net!

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:08 Welcome to the thinking Christian podcast, your weekly guide to solid Christian thinking on culture, science, faith, and Christian confidence hosted by Tom Gilson. Speaker 1 00:00:22 You've heard we're living in a post-Christian world. That used to be true major portions of it. Now are anti-Christian. Once we lived in a culture that appreciated Christianity. Now, increasingly it hates it. When Dorothy said to Toto, Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. She was being amazingly prescient considering, especially that she was probably standing on a soundstage somewhere in California when she said that, but she was being amazingly prescient because you could say it just as well today. Even in downtown Topeka, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. It's for myself. I grew up in Michigan. I could stand in the street corner town I grew up in and I could say, I have a feeling I'm not in Michigan anymore. You could say it anywhere in north America. It's almost as if we're not in America anymore. We're not in Canada anymore. Speaker 1 00:01:18 We're not in the Western world. Kind of almost as if we were in a, in a huge wizard of Oz movie and a giant whirlwind plucked us up off this planet and landed us on a totally unfamiliar one. Well, for pastors, that means that you're not just a pastor anymore. And I say that with full appreciation and respect for how wrong it is even to use the term just a pastor, no one, no one. Who's at least truly following God's call. And God's leading to be a pastor is just anything at all. You are the central person under the headship of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the holy spirit. You are the central person in God's central strategic unit. God's central plan for reaching the world for Christ. And that is the church. You are not just anything at all, but with that in mind and not be little in that one bit, I do want to say you are still not just a pastor anymore. Speaker 1 00:02:21 You are a cross cultural missionary. Now your job description, if you never thought of it as including that. Well, it does, it does. Now the world has changed. You are no longer living in Kansas or whatever state you thought you were living in or whatever province you thought you grew up in. You're not there anymore. The world is changed too much with this podcast. I need to mention this with this podcast and with the blog post that goes with it. I'm actually focusing in even closer on what I've been throughout this year, 2021 with the season that I'm calling heat to light from cultural conflict to spiritual transformation, how to make that transition all along. I've had pastors and other Christian leaders in mind. At this point, though, I am focusing in even more on you, that central person, whom I really want to serve as someone who can come alongside in the incredibly crucial role that you've got no one person and no one office in the church covers all of the bases or fills all of the needs as much time as it takes you to do everything that you have to do everything from, you know, rearranging the chairs and the fellowship hall to leading committee meetings, to solving major problems in personnel, to doing counseling with all of that going on and with the world, changing around you, how are you going to prepare? Speaker 1 00:03:56 How are you going to study up? How will you find the resources that you need to keep ministering effectively in the changing world, in which we live? That's what I want to be helping with really focusing even more than before on pastors and other Christian leaders in this season of, from heat to light cultural conflict, to spiritual transformation, some of it may happen [email protected], the national daily website, where I'm a senior editor we're working, whether that might happen too. And by the way, if you're not a pastor yourself, maybe you're a Christian teacher. That's great Christian leader, whatever. I'm sure you've got a relationship with a pastor too. And I hope you'll pass this information onto, onto your pastor so that they can find out about this new resource it's going to be going on all year long for encouragement and for equipping. So how, how can we focus this in even more, you know, I've seen churches with science on their exit doors, or maybe on the exit from the parking lots that say you are now entering the mission field. Speaker 1 00:05:07 That was a good reminder at the time for church members that as they left, the church grounds left the church building. They were, they were entering into a mission field. Good as that was. And that's accurate as it was. I'm not sure it's fully accurate anymore because the mission field is no longer outside your church alone. It's actually invading congregations everywhere. Some of them are giving into it. They're there, they're there. They're caving under the pressure of culture, really. And we're seeing a whole new trend of, they call themselves progressive churches, churches that are trying to accommodate to the world. But it's not just that overt, obvious stuff. Some of it is in the culture of youth that comes into your church. They can't help carry it in. It's the culture in which they live, they're steeped in it. How could they help us bring it into the church when they come, we have to recognize this and we have to make the appropriate changes that the church needs to make in light of the changing world, in which we live. Speaker 1 00:06:17 I have two major adjustments to me, major adjustments that I think we have to make first. This is a change in mindset. I've already mentioned it. We have to see ourselves as cross cultural missionaries. And as cross-cultural missionary leaders, we're not just serving in a mission field. As those signs said, it's not just a mission field. It's a foreign mission field. It's an alien mission field. It's a mission field where when we leave the church, we're going to a people who are amazingly different from us in, in multiple ways, their beliefs or habits or customs or cultures or morals, their religions, even their stories. It's almost all steeped in, in a religion really that has nothing to do with Christian. So that's the first thing we need to adjust. We need to change our mindset to recognize that we are serving as cross-cultural missionaries, cross-cultural missionary leaders in a foreign mission field. Speaker 1 00:07:24 We've got to see it that way now. And then while we're at it, we have to prepare and equip ourselves and our congregations for the joy of following Christ in a hostile culture, you might hear this as bad news. Maybe you do. It's certainly not good. And when a culture turns away from Christ, it's going to come across as daunting because you've already gotten enough of a job to do. And I'm saying, think of yourself as a cross-cultural missionary to you. Can't change it. If you are going to be faithful to your call as an evangelist, which I believe that God gave you. When he called you into the pastorate, you have to take seriously what it requires in order to be an evangelist in this increasingly hostile and unfamiliar. We are culture. Give it as if you were a missionary, you know, a missionary missionaries got three tasks or three tasks categories. Speaker 1 00:08:26 I guess you might say the first one has to do with their relationship with God and their knowledge of the gospel. In other words, they have to be ready spiritually. They have to know what the message is. I have to live the message. They have to be thoroughly in love with God and in love with the gospel so that they have the truth in their mind and in their heart and their way of life to take wherever they're going to be going. Their second task is related to the post culture. They're going. That is that they need to understand this. Well, first of all, obviously the language, if it's a, if it's a different spoken language, you have to understand the language, the stories, the customs, the, the, the fears, the beliefs, the hopes, the religions, they have to understand the culture to which they are ministering. Speaker 1 00:09:16 Why? Because the third task requires them to translate. Not just words, not just words, but it has to be able to translate the whole message of the Bible, to the whole person, to whom they are ministering. So for example, sorry, fear that the culture experiences, they can recognize that, and they can show how God meets that fear in Christ. Some hope they can show that the Bible is the fulfillment of that hope. Some false story that they follow probably has some seeds of truth in it. And they can say, here's where you, where you can take these seeds of truth and turn them into a, a totally true direction. This is in maybe the, the briefest. And I'm sorry if it's over simplified, but I think it's accurate. This is in very brief form. What missionary work is about starting with the timeless truth and goodness, and greatness and glory of the gospel and connecting it to the realities of the people in their settings and their culture in which they live connecting it in such a way that there is a translation that takes place. Speaker 1 00:10:31 And you can't do that without knowing the language, obviously, but also the rest that's wrapped around it. Well, here in north America, the language is familiar or maybe not. There are how many languages now being spoken as, as first languages by students in major city school districts, it's in the, in the range of a hundred, that would be first languages spoken by students in major cities. So even though assuming that you're speaking in one of the very major languages, which would be English or Spanish, the language is familiar, but the customs have changed. The mores have changed. The stories have changed. The culture has changed. Everything's changed the expectations, the hopes and the fears are different than they were then in the church that most of us grew up in. We've got to get a grip on that. Of course, that's our second task. Our first task like the missionaries is to know, and, and to understand, and to be in love with God and with this scriptures and, and to have that kind of heart that says, I really want to make this known to the world. Speaker 1 00:11:46 That's our first task, but their second task is to understand the culture so that we can make translations from the gospel to the culture. For example, take the common theme in the culture today of, of transgender. There's an incredible push to be something other than what you are. And to say that that's good. There's an incredible push, almost in a sense to say that you are enough of a God, that you can be what you are, and everybody else has to bow down to that. But isn't there incredible loneliness in that too. Can't we do something that's more loving and more United and together than saying, you have to do what I tell you to do about my pronoun. Can't we show love, but we're not going to understand how to minister to the transgender ism of our culture, without understanding some of the motivation behind it. Speaker 1 00:12:40 That's the kind of thing that I'm talking about. We have to understand the culture well enough to minister to it as cross-cultural missionaries. Meanwhile, your congregation is going through these same crazy making culture changes. So this is your second major task. Along with being a cross-cultural missionary leader, we have to, as pastors and as Christian leaders help our congregations live with this in joy live in this enjoy. Some of them you have to know are dealing with crises of conscience work, for example, to I follow Christ, or do I act as if I think my boss has gay marriages perfectly wonderful, like any other marriage, and am I going to lose my job? If I don't pretend at least like, I like it. These are serious crises of conscience for which people need to be prepared. Others obviously, and, and rightly are worried about their children growing up in this very strange new world, you know, tough questions like these. Speaker 1 00:13:47 So are aren't new Christians have faced them since the very beginning. They're just new to us. We're actually, I would say perfectly positioned more than any other Christians in history, not to obey first, Peter four 12, where he says brothers do not be surprised when the fiery trial comes upon you as if something strange were happening to you were surprised. All right, we think it's strange. It isn't really, when you look at Christian history as a whole, the whole world, all the 2000 years since Christ, we've had a good run of it here in the Western world, being the culturally accepted culturally dominant group, but in, in light of the whole sweep of history, it's us who have had the strange experience. So far more often Christians have been the minority or they've been persecuted. So your job as pastor is to maybe I, you could say, bring your congregation into that reality and lead them through it with joy just as first Peter four 12 continues. Speaker 1 00:15:00 It said, remember, do not be surprised when the fire retrial comes upon you as if something strange were happening to you. Well, it continues saying, but rejoice, insofar, as you share in Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. So yeah, I guess you could say there's bad news there, but there's good news too bad news. Again, if you want to see it this way, if you want to see it this way, the bad news is like it or not. You are in a foreign mission field now in alien mission field. And you've got a choice. You can try to reach people as they are, can choose to treat it as if it were what it was 50 years ago with the culture and with the people. Or you could just forget about it. Yeah. So I'm not going to try to reach it. Speaker 1 00:15:51 That would be dilation of your call as God's man in your church. I don't think you want to do that. So I think going to choose to take it seriously for what it is that is that we are living in cross-cultural missions times, even here in north America. I think you're going to deal with that bad news. Well enough and I hope you'll also deal well enough with the even perhaps worst news that members of your congregation, especially younger people are being strongly influenced by this foreign culture so that even your congregation is being tugged. And there's a pull on it to shift in the same alien direction that the rest of culture is going bad news here. The good news though, is you are not on your own. You've got help. You've got help. We're we're a team here. You've got the key role, but there are scholars who can, who study culture. Speaker 1 00:16:53 They're great observers, a culture out there. And there, there are translators who help the rest of us, understand the scholars and can bring that down to the level where it's useful to church members, useful to pastors is useful to you. There are coaches who can help you with your own study and translation work that is studying the culture and translating the gospel into terms the culture can grasp and be excited about and see the goodness of Christ. Am I going to say it's a reasonable adjustment to your work schedule? I don't know whether it's reasonable or not. It's, it's just that you have to do it. If you have any serious interest in evangelism in this new culture, and you have to do it, if you really want to connect with the people in your own church, because they're living in this culture too, you have to do it, but you can. Speaker 1 00:17:50 And whether it's reasonable or not, you can, because there are people who will come alongside you. I'm offering to be one it's something I'm hoping to do through this heat delight series is to provide equipping, which will be in the form of manageable, packaged explainers for you on a host of different issues, dozens of issues that I've got ready with myself or other guests on the podcast, you end up blogging, so on to help as explainers for these issues, but not just to understand them, but also to take it the next step into what do I do about it? How do I minister, how do I explain this to people? How do I defend the faith in light of these kinds of challenges? How do I show the goodness of God in spite of people who say he's not good? How do I do the ministry in light of the explanations of the culture or the challenges? Speaker 1 00:18:46 This is an explanation with a very practical side to it. That's the plan. That's where I'm hoping to go with this series throughout 2021, if not longer. And by the way, too, if you ever want someone to really just sit down with you and do some translation work with you or whatever kind of coaching would be helpful to you as you do your cross-cultural missionary work, I want to do that with you. Sure. My experience is para church. You're in a, in a role that I have admired and appreciated my entire life, but honestly, you got too much on your plate to have time to do the kind of study it takes. My job is to study. I'm a person who's been a student and a minister to ministers, which is what I just, I hope I can do with you through the blog, through the writing, through the podcasting and maybe face-to-face or over the phone or over zoom or whatever that I can maybe in just some way, help make your job more enjoyable and more fruitful for the glory of God, for the advancement of his kingdom. Speaker 1 00:20:00 You know, I love Jesus Christ. That's at the heart of this. All, you know, I've written half a dozen books. Now, one on atheism and the irrationality of the new atheist, some one on homosexuality, but the one I have loved studying for the most and that I loved writing the most and, and really expressed my heart. The best is titled too good to be false. How Jesus' incomparable character reveals his reality and pastor, I would love for you to see a chapter of this book. I've got it available on my blog. All you have to do is go into my blog, sign up with your email and you'll get a free sample chapter from that book talking about Jesus, amazing love. It's astonishing love scholars from JP Moreland at Biola university to Sean McDowell, the apologist and to Lee Strobel have said, this is amazing. This is stuff we didn't even realize about Jesus. Speaker 1 00:21:03 He's great in ways that we hadn't even recognized. And we're seeing it here in this book. So I want to give you that free sample chapter and maybe give you a taste of the book as an idea of what it's like. So just go to my blog, which by the way, the address is thinking christian.net, thinking christian.net. And that's where you'll find this free sample chapter from my book too. Good to be false. How Jesus' incomparable character reveals his reality. I hope you'll do that. I think it'll encourage you in your life in Christ. And it'll give you a, a good sense of why it is that I care so much. It's because I love Jesus just as you do. You don't have to do this on your own. Yes, it's a, it's a huge task. It's, it's bigger than we realized most of us. Speaker 1 00:21:53 When we signed up for a ministry, it's a huge task, but we're a team. We can do it together. The gates of hell will not stand against the church. We will stand together and I hope I can be of help to you standing with you as you minister in this new and exciting and potentially very joyful world in which we have been privileged to live in this day. I hope you'll come to thinking christian.net and download that sample chapter of my book too. Good to be false. And until next time, I'm Tom Wilson for the thinking Christian podcast. Thank you for listening. Speaker 0 00:22:39 The thinking Christian podcast is copyright by Thomas Gilson for more information, visit the thinking Christian [email protected].

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