It is a new day in ministry. Actually, the day has long been here, but many of us are just beginning to realize it and respond to it. The classic mindset in ministry has been that cross-cultural ministry is for missionaries, single-cultural ministry is for pastors. That is how we have trained people for ministry for quite some time.
Pastors are trained to preach the Word of God and to lead and shepherd within a historic American church model, where most of the congregation is primarily from a single culture, in a community of a single culture. That culture is often the same as the pastor’s. And that local culture has been relatively constant for decades, even generations.
Missionaries, however, are trained to think outside the box. They are challenged to break free from many of their personal stereotypes, to discern between what is biblical and what is cultural in ministry. They are taught to immerse themselves in a foreign culture, find points of connection in that culture with which they can creatively share the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ. From there missionaries are drilled with the understanding that the Great Commission is about church planting, and that church planting involves church reproduction.
But those days are gone. That distinction in the Gospel ministry is no longer relevant. The reason is that pastors everywhere find themselves surrounded by a culture that is far different from theirs, far different from the one they were trained to reach, far different from the one they ministered to decades ago. Reaching modern-day Americans with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is cross-cultural ministry!
The average person in our community was not raised in church. They did not go to Sunday School and hear basic Bible stories or sing classic hymns. They do not have a JudeoChristian worldview, nor do they believe in absolute truth or the inspiration of the Bible. Many of them were not even raised in the United States, and do not speak English. When they have a problem, the church is the last place they will turn to for advice and guidance.
What we need in America (as in every other country of the world) is a mentality of cross-cultural ministry. We need to ask ourselves hard questions and challenge our stereotypes. We need to ask God to help us better discern between what is biblical and what is cultural. We need to be willing to seek creative ways to find points of connection with those in our communities so that we can share the unchanging Gospel. We need to be constantly reminded that the Great Commission is church-planting and that our churches need to reproduce themselves.
It is a new day in ministry. The question is: Will we realize it and respond to it?