Thursday, December 30, 2010

Third Culture Principles

One of the most significant things I have learned in recent years is a new way of looking at missions.  Some excellent mentors—Eliot Roberts, Pat Anderson, Rob Nash, Mart Gray, Steve Street, Mike Young and others--have shown me that we must respect the humanity of those with whom we minister.  I have too often seen ministry as something that I or my group “do for” someone else without any regard for whether they want “to be done unto.”  They are not recipients by partners.

Dave Gibbons follows this perspective in The Monkey and The Fish:  Liquid Leadership for a Third- Culture Church.  If we are to mesh smoothly as ministry partners with others, we must observe certain principles.  Gibbons outlines them in this way.

First, we must listen more than we speak.  This is a skill that is often difficult to learn!

Second, we must believe that “the locals” know more than we do and learn from them.  They live there; they know the situation better than we do and have wisdom to share.

Third, we must understand that Jesus is already there.  In some way, God has already expressed God’s love for these people, even if we cannot readily identify that work.

Fourth, we must be open to redeeming and giving new meaning to cultural practices or customs even if we do not understand them or may be uncomfortable with them.  Much of the “baggage” we bring with us has nothing to do with the Gospel.

Fifth, we must respect the forms and practices of a given culture.  This means learning both the verbal and nonverbal languages of people.

Sixth, we must recognize that the world outside our doors has a much higher regard for Christ than for Christianity, especially as they have seen it practiced by us. 

Although some of these principles may seem harsh and critical, take a few minutes to reflect on them.  If your experience is anything like mine, you will identify ways that you have violated most if not all of these at some time. 

Gibbons seems to be saying, “It’s not all about us.”  There is a great big world of people who can teach us much.  If we will enter into their cultures with humility and love, we can open not only doors but hearts as well.

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