From time to time questions are sent regarding cultural shifts for a cross-cultural ministry. Wouldn't it be great to be able to share a cup of coffee with someone living overseas and just chat?
In a four-part series, here are recent questions that have been submitted for my viewpoint. Possibly others might benefit from the dialogue.
In starting a church, what difficulties did you encounter due to cultural differences?
Confusing doing church with being the church: holding services is not the same as being the church. The latter is intentional and relational with discipleship as a key focus. Being the church is messy, for you associate with broken people. Holding church services is about a form of worship that may not necessarily have to do with "one another" (a phrased used frequently in the New Testament church).
First generation Christians: I learned that the traditions in Germany, the liturgical background of religious life are not to be underestimated. Conversion to Christ does not mean that people are no longer shaped by their history. For our area (predominantly Catholic), It is still a challenge to get people to bring their own bible to church when they have been told their entire lives not to bring a bible by their previous experience.
Speed: the pace of life is much slower and decisions are made much more deliberately.
Repentance: the conversion process is deeper (albeit slower) than my experience. That shapes the way you do ministry and the patience required.
In retrospect, I laugh at the level of my knowledge in those early years. I was so American. I suppose that what I lacked in appropriate behavior, I overcompensated in boldness. If it had been a cartoon, the caption would have read: Awkward. God has chosen the foolish things of this world to reveal His glory.
Keith, originally from the desert of Phoenix, Arizona, has been planting a church in Aschaffenburg, Germany for over thirty years. Daughter churches have also been started and missionaries have been sent out of the congregation. Annually, he participates in encouraging other European church-planters and frequently travels to visit them in their respective field of service.