This is the seventh post in a series discussing a pastor’s personal involvement with international missions. While it is geared specifically to senior pastors, I believe that the principles apply to all leaders in the church. If you would like to start from the beginning and get a feel for the main thesis of the series, click here.
“Because you need to witness what other culture’s churches do better than yours”
Being a pastor, you likely don’t spend a lot of time checking out what other pastors and churches are doing on a personal level. You’re usually a little busy on Sundays. And outside of the occasional vacation, first-hand witness of how another church does things is rare. Sure, you ask around. You listen to the podcast of the church across town every once in a while. You follow the Rainer blogs, and go to the conferences and try to keep up with the trends as they seem appropriate for your church. You
steal borrow! ideas from others and never is there even a hint of playing the comparison game…….… It’s all purely for the edification of the church.
You’re doing the best you can and let’s not forget that you’ve got some pretty great ideas of your own. But even still, you’re humble enough to admit that you’ve got blind spots. You’re not alone in that. There is a whole industry of consultants and church “Secret Shoppers” built around the fact that we want to get better at some of these things.
But you’re also still operating within the framework that the best changes you can make to the practices of your church are to look more like that successful church down the road from you. But they’ve got blind spots too. And a lot of them are the exact same blind spots that you have. They may be more successful in your context (and your context is one of the most valuable things to consider as you shape the practices of your church) but taking a step outside your context will begin to reveal some things the weren’t on your radar. I would (easily) submit that the furthest you could get from “YOUR CONTEXT” and begin to see what you haven’t seen before, is to see what God is doing on the other side of the planet.
Brother pastor, when you involve yourself deeply in the missions efforts of your church, you also surround yourself with brothers and sisters in Christ who come to the table with very different cultures and worldviews. You are given the opportunity to see how churches in a culture and context completely different than your own are working things out in obedience to the scriptures.
There was an era in missions that sought to take the square peg of western methods and philosophies and force them into the round hole of nonwestern cultures and peoples. It’s not an era that we should be proud of. God has worked powerfully—But it should be said that He seems to have done so in spite of us during that period. By God’s grace though, we have seen some of that undone and repaired. However, there is a long road to go. But as indigenous leaders begin to look at the bible and shape their churches in a way that’s consistent with their contextual needs, many of them are shaping themselves very differently than the western church. It is entirely possible that they can miss the mark on some of these things—Wrongly ordered churches exist everywhere. But it is also entirely possible that they don’t have the same blind spots that we do. And putting ourselves in a relationship where we get to see how they do it on a regular basis, will help you see that firsthand. It will cause you to ask questions of your own methods and philosophies.
So get on an airplane once in a while. You’ve got some really great ideas. But none of us are as smart as we think we are. And by God’s grace, His bride has more than one cultural context to draw from.