The increasing diversity and complexity of our context has given rise to specializations in pastoral ministry. Due to the increasing ethnic diversity in Canada a further skill set is required – pastoring in an intercultural setting. Northwest Baptist seminary is addressing this need through the Cross-cultural Leadership Development program (CLTP), a one-year undergrad, mentored, experienced-based training program in cross-cultural ministry. See also Why CLTP?
Jarrod Haas writes of how the CLTP experience has impacted his life:
Through the CLTP program, my understanding of cross-cultural relationships has grown substantially…. I have come to see more clearly that the core of practical ministry occurs through relationships with others…. A new understanding of cultural dynamics has made me aware of the importance of learning to speak in the “language” of the other. Whereas before I focused almost exclusively upon acceptance and articulation of truth, I have realized that real relationships involve the contextualization of the self as a messenger, so as to develop credibility and communicate truth from a position of servantheartedness.
With this broadening of my perspective on relationships has also come several more practical insights.
experiential knowledge of other cultures is essential to building solid, lasting relationships
First, I am becoming more aware of the cultural barriers that exist when building relationships with ESL students. Students may perceive relationship with me or other Canadians as being very transitory (so that they are unwilling to involve themselves beyond a superficial level) or as a vehicle for the achievement of their English communication goals. They may also idealize white people or Western culture, or simply be uncomfortable with foreigners and cross-cultural situations. Understanding the baggage that can come into cross-cultural relationships is helpful in maintaining a sober attitude and expectations in ministry and friendships. It is also helpful to know what obstacles exist so that I can pray and seek ways of removing them.
Second, the dynamic between giving and receiving is becoming more apparent. Although we are called to be servants first and foremost, it is necessary to balance this by giving others an opportunity to serve and give back. Continually offering service to another has the effect of placing them in an inferior position. Without giving the other a chance to give in return, relationships can turn into a selfish monologue or dependency.
It is an honour to be a servant in missions for the Glory of God
Third, [E. Stanley] Jones noted that caution was required when ministering in India because of the inferiority complex that existed towards the West. Tension towards the West because of its colonialism and affluence extends to other countries as well. Simply being a white Christian carries a significant amount of baggage that the cross-cultural worker must be aware of. It is particularly important to be conscious so as not to create an attitude of superiority or arrogance. Even seemingly innocent statements of comparison between Canada and other countries can cause people to think that you believe your own country is the standard by which everyone else should live.
Fourth, I have learned that an experiential knowledge of other cultures is essential to building solid, lasting relationships. In particular, I am beginning to gain a small working knowledge of the Korean worldview and how it manifests through expressions such as of high-context indirectness and group-centeredness.
Fifth, in relation to the previous point, I intend to be more conscious of listening to and observing internationals, rather than focusing on influencing them…. Learning the relational language of the other is essential to relating effectively. Furthermore, I intend to be more mindful of differences (e.g. personality types, social status, etc.) that I perceive in relationships. My approach thus far has been to downplay or ignore the various kinds of disparities that can occur, so as to focus on acceptance of the other. That approach does have merits. However, I am discovering that it is important to keep a healthy focus on differences that do emerge because they are important for understanding how to speak and relate to the other on his or her terms, rather than my own.
Sixth, above all else, heavy reliance upon a right relationship with God, prayer, and the Spirit have proven to be the core elements of all relational processes. I have come to see, in practical terms, that no amount of experience or knowledge can supersede the level of integration and empowerment of skills that the Spirit provides while forming and nurturing relationships.
There are, of course, many aspects of relationships that are not on this list. What has been most significant, however, was growth in the understanding that the development and integration of these and other relational skills will be essential to effectiveness in all future ministry…. I am looking forwards with great anticipation to the work that God will do both in Canada and internationally. It is an honour to be a servant in missions for the Glory of God.