It’s been said that missions is now “from everywhere, to everywhere” in our globalized culture. So, in the local congregation here in Indianapolis, we have sought to train people for cross-cultural ministry to be ambassadors for Christ. We want to reach those from other ethnic or linguistic cultures. We want to bridge socio-economic divides, age gaps, and more. Ultimately, Christians who deal with unbelievers are always dealing with people from a different spiritual society.
Vince Ward, missionary to South Sudan, has assembled a curriculum, under the banner of the O Network (i.e. organic). His desire is to develop and equip cross-cultural mission teams in local congregations, especially in North America, that will be “Discipling Communities on Mission” which will serve as engines for local ministry and to equip saints to go abroad with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The program is designed for a cross-cultural ministry team to run for twenty-four weeks with a vision to grow personally and as a team while focusing on one particular community for ministry to evangelize, establish, equip, and extend. You can see the group covenant, and look at the core material on the website. Vince introduces the material in the following video that was made after our first team completed the program. Below, I describe how this has worked out in our own congregation over the last four years.
One of our elders has quietly led or overseen these teams each year at Second Reformed Presbyterian Church with distance input from Vince. The groups have varied slightly over the last four years, but groups have had about eight people in each. There are weekly meetings, often over meals, with times for accountability, prayer, testimonies of ministry experience for that week, book discussions, and planning.
They have learned the differences between guilt/innocence, fear/power, and shame/honor cultures. Missionary guests have shared their experiences, and there has been a lot of room for practical exploration of how cultures work and how the gospel speaks to them. Participants have found that they are much more able to understand loved ones from other cultures and more fully understand the dynamics of cross-cultural marriages which are increasingly common.
Teams have put feet to the ground in ministry too. They have taken tours of a local mosque together, helped immigrant entrepreneurs in their businesses, ministered to local refugee groups, reached out to international students, taught ESL, served as homestay families, and more confidently reached out to secular Americans who just need the gospel.
Participants have testified to their own growth in the Lord through the disciplines introduced. They have grown in community together. They have expanded their vision for the world, and through reading, discussion, and reporting, they have become competent to reach out across cultural gaps to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God effectively. Many of our participants have gone on to explore missions and be more engaged in reaching neighbors who are different than they are.
The material that has been put together isn’t perfect, and each group has had a little different look, schedule, and pace. But, in our own congregation, the approximately thirty people who have worked through the program have been blessed to expand and deepen their friendships, vision, and ministry skills. If you’re interested in more details, contact us here.