Equipping the Church
Updated: Feb 26
for (cross-cultural) ministry through (cross-cultural) apprenticeships.
In an increasingly diverse and polarised UK, the need is particularly apparent for church leaders and gospel workers who are sensitive (people-orientated, humble and compassionate), skilled (equipped and practiced in culturally-aware ministry) and serious (both in zeal and knowledge). The question is, where do you find people like that? How do we become people like that? Is there a training course or seminary programme that can produce that kind of person?
First and foremost we must pray for the Lord to sovereignly raise these people up (Matt. 9:38). Only God can give us the life, heart, boldness, joy and gentleness necessary. But what, humanly speaking, can we do to be part of this raising up and leadership development?
In the last few years a number of agencies have established some excellent training in cross-cultural / inter-cultural / multi-cultural ministry (e.g. SIM, Urban Ministries, Friends International). These are a great step forward and highly recommended. In addition I'd suggest another big part of the answer could be: cross-cultural gospel ministry apprenticeships. Just to define those terms:
Gospel = the news of the Son of God dying instead of wrath-deserving sinners and rising that we can be united to him by his Spirit as forgiven, adopted children of the Father, a rescued people called the church.
Gospel ministry = advancing this gospel – Christ’s Church making disciples of all nations, with the core active ingredient being preaching and teaching Christ crucified from the Scriptures.
Ministry apprenticeships = the Philippians 2:22 model of a Timothy serving alongside a Paul in local church context. This is training in a distinctively relational context with hands-on opportunities to serve and receive feedback.
Cross-cultural = the apprentice is serving in a context outside their 'home' culture (ethnically and/or socially), probably outside their denominational experience, certainly outside their comfort zone.
Cross-cultural gospel ministry apprenticeship is what the Greek-Jewish Timothy experienced with his Jewish mentor Saul-Paul of Tarsus as they travelled hundreds of miles together on mission in Asia and Europe.
Cross-cultural gospel ministry apprenticeship is what Apollos (a native of Alexandria, Africa) experienced in Ephesus (West coast of Asia Minor) with the mentoring of Priscilla and Aquila (natives of Pontus, North coast of Asia Minor).
Cross-cultural gospel ministry apprenticeship is what the French refugee John Calvin experienced in the free city of Strasburg as he was mentored by the German Martin Bucer.
I’ve personally benefited from the cross-cultural mentoring and seen the value of cross-cultural gospel ministry apprenticeships in both the UK and in Kenya. Of course they do not always work well – people are unique, complex, unpredictable, sinful – and the circumstance and people they work with are similarly. But often they do work very well indeed. I’ve learnt many things from African mentors (three in particular) and many stories could be told of brothers and sisters who have been grown in servanthood, sharpness and usefulness for church-based cross-cultural ministry. I would like to put forward thirteen reasons why cross-cultural gospel ministry apprenticeships are so helpful in forming the leaders and workers we need. In this blog you can find the first 3 and tomorrow, the rest will follow,
The act of leaving 'home place' and people group begins the process of building cultural self-awareness and flexibility. It forces the apprentice to reassess the whole idea of ‘home’ and come to a greater experiential understanding of being an alien and stranger in this world (1 Pet 2:11). Leaving home and entering a host culture, being in a minority and facing rejection - all this dethrones home culture, questions where we derive our identity and gives us the ability to empathise (to some extent) with migrants, even to begin to comfort with the comfort we ourselves have received (2 Cor 1:4).
Going to live for a significant period of time in a foreign culture where you are reduced to the understanding and status of a child – unable to express yourself clearly, unable to do simple things without help, constantly making mistakes, unknown and un-respected - is a usefully humbling experience that can lead to a greater experiential understanding of being simply a little child in the kingdom of God.
In particular, going to a foreign culture first time not as a teacher/leader but as an apprentice (a junior, trainee, service-orientated, unprestigious, background role) is a great way to cultivate a submissive posture and practice of listening and learning, acknowledging my own ignorance, rather than arrogantly jumping straight in to deploy 'my expertise' on the 'needy other'.
Check out the next 10 reasons tomorrow!