Monday, January 18, 2010

"They should just learn to speak English..."

I have been thinking about the issues of cross–cultural ministries and a way forward for our Korean children’s and youth ministries. I have been wondering out loud what theological resources we might bring to the discussion.

I was reading Nehemiah 8 –this morning when I read this:
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Carson makes the point that the “book”, the Law, was written in Hebrew but most people spoke Aramaic so it needed to be translated and exegeted. Their response:
12And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
The principle, the gospel should not be hidden by language.

The 39 Articles make a similar point:
Article XXIV
Of speaking in the Congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth. It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.
In our muti-language communities, for those who do not speak English, we need gatherings that speak the mother tongue, after all English is not the heavenly language- my Korean friends tell me Korean is, anyoung haseyo: )

I disagree with those who insist that all gatherings should be in English "They should just learn to speak English and come to our church." To do so is to turn language into an idol. Australians could not be accused of that could they? ..;)

Just wondering what you think?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Where are the holes in this position?

Ok, so I am grappling with the issues of children and youth ministries in a cross cultural setting. Do we go for separate ministries or look at some type of integrated approach. In the last post I wanted to explore how our theology might inform and interact with this issue. One area that I have been thinking about is the role of the church in our communities.

I am conscious that in the debate around these issues, some people do not think the church has a mission. I also recognise that it is possible to over-realise and under-realise your eschatology. To expect to much or expect to little. So for example the words in the Lord's prayer, your kingdom come, will mean different things depending on your ecclesiology and eschatology.

In my own view I think the church does have a role to play in its community. I understand 1 Peter 2: 9-10 to be speaking about God’s gathered people who as a part of their gathering have a role in proclaiming to the world his “excellencies”. I also think that the context promotes this as something that is expressed in word and deed. I see this sitting comfortably with
Jeremiah 29:7 “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile”.
In the end I am convinced that the church/congregation has a role to play in shaping a society ,as a beacon of light for the gospel.

The question is then; In a multi-ethnic society what is the role of the “local” church?

I guess my first thought would be that the God’s gathered people can shape a society and be a beacon of gospel light by being a place where the gospel transforms us so much that being in Christ is more important than cultural differences. Church is the not yet new community pictured in Rev 21 and the now community spoken of in Galatians.

27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

Just wondering what you think of this argument? I know it is not new. Where are the holes? Do you run a homogeneous church? Is this too idealistic? Or perhaps you could argue that there is enough difference already within a homogeneous congregation and to push for much more is a bridge too far? Tell me what you think.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Can you help me develop my theology?

I am trying to work out which way we should go as a church when it comes to children’s and youth ministries and the cross cultural question. One of the issues that always comes up in this discussion is the issue of the homogeneous church (Tim Chester has discussion about the issues involved) :

John Stott is cautious when it comes to the homogeneous church:
“… although there are circumstances in which a homogeneous church can be a legitimate and authentic church, yet it can never be a complete church in itself, since it cannot reflect the universality and diversity of the body of Christ. This being so, every homogeneous unit church should take active steps to broaden its fellowship, in order to demonstrate visibly the unity and variety if the church.”John Stott, The Living Church, IVP, 2007, Pg 42
John Woodhouse approaches the issue differently and by implication appears far more ready to support the homogeneous church when he argues that:
“You are all one in Christ Jesus”, Gal 3:28). This heavenly reality finds expression in this world as the Spirit brings Christians together in various localities (1 Cor 1:10). In other words the unity of which the Christian gospel speaks applies first to the spiritual unity of all, from every place and every age, who are members of God's household. It applies second to the relationships in the local gathering of Christians. ...The question is, how should we express our unity with believers beyond our local congregation? ..The answer will vary according to circumstances.... However we will want to express our love and unity with others to the extent that it is feasible.
John Woodhouse / Briefing #284 / May 2002
While their ecclesiology is different, in both instances it appears there is room for the homogeneous church and that there is a desire to find active steps to broaden fellowship beyond the local church/congregation.

My dilemma is I feel like these positions truncate the whole discussion. Having accepted some role for the homogeneous church and established the need for fellowship beyond the local congregation we quickly move on to a discussion of pragmatics - i.e. what do “active steps” look like? This would be ok if the discussion of pragmatics continued a conversation with theology. It is like we disengage our theological brain. I know I have been guilty of this and am interested correcting this and developing my theology.

So before I continue with the exploration of actives steps, just wondering what other theological resources you would bring to the discussion?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cross cultural ministry-youth and children’s...continued

Andrew Hong from NDCCCS has written to me about my previous post and with his permission I publish his response to my observations of cross cultural ministry:

A big issue, really. Most Aussie pastors would generally want to go with answer (2) - (combined ministries) because they underestimate the long influence of culture.

However (1) (separate ministries) is actually the best - because Korean-background issues will actually keep arising as Korean Christians grow up and move through successive life stages. Such as when they begin a family and begin having expectations on their children, or when their kids marry - all of a sudden issues will unexpectedly arise that would be different from others around them, if they were in a (2) type congregation... and it's better if these can be recognised and confronted...

So I get the issues Andrew raises and I agree with his observations but I still am not sure, I would like to think we could be more innovative in light of the Gospel (I will get back to this).. just wondering what you think?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cross cultural ministry-youth and children’s.

One of our congregations is Korean speaking. Something which I give thanks to God for regularly. I will admit there are times where I feel more at home at a Korean Sunday lunch than at typical Australian BBQ-which is less to do with the food (which is fantastic) and more to do with the way fellowship is expressed.

I have been speaking with our Korean families about the future of children and youth ministry in our church. I have been asking the question, in ten years time where would you like to see your children going to church? There appears to be two views:
  1. In an Australian Born Korean (ABK) congregation.
As a generalisation it appears parents who want this are Korean born and are keen to see Korean culture treasured, they are concerned that their children may lose this connection. Korean church is one of the few places where this can be maintained and therefore church becomes a focal point for maintaining Korean-ness. I am not unsympathetic I know that culture matters and that third culture kids have some particular challenges. I know that the average Caucasian Aussie has no idea what this feels like or appreciates the grief involved in seeing your culture modified beyond recognition -I know I still have lots to learn about this. Indeed the ABK solution seems to have been adopted by many Australian Chinese ministries and by American born Korean ministries.

  • Long term: We plant an ABK congregation.
  • Short term: We resource English speaking Korean children’s and youth ministries that are closely tied to the Korean congregation and keep them basically separate from our other children’s and youth ministries.
  • Greater demand on our resources as we try to provide for different forms of ministry.
  • The long term trajectories need to be embraced.
2. In a congregation made up or people from many cultural backgrounds.

As a generalisation those who are open to this view treasure Korean culture but consider that their children will hold onto their Korean-ness despite being part of a more diverse group. They are happy to see their children integrated into a wider group-even at church.

  • Long Term: We work hard at integrating our existing ministries to children and youth. For example imagine running three morning congregations-each one in a different language but with the children’s and youth programs all in English and all together.
  • Long Term: We look at employing ABK’s as part of our children’s and youth ministries so that the particular needs of culture are addressed.
  • Short Term: We work hard at developing relationships between our various children’s and youth programs-and the parents.
There are at least two other important issues:

Theology of Church and Australian Idealism.. I will get back to them soon… For now, just wondering what you might think?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There is no such thing as an unchurched christian

As part of our series We are all in this Together, we promoting a book written by John Stott called The Living Church.

This is what he says in his opening chapter:

“First, I am assuming that we are all committed to the church. We are not only Christian people; we are also church people. We are not only committed to Christ, we are also committed to the body of Christ. At least I hope so. I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. The church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. …

On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in the future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory. Indeed, Christ dies for us, not only to redeem us from all wickedness but also to purify for himself a people that are his own eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).” John Stott: The Living Church p19-20, IVP, 2007.

In other words there is no such thing as an unchurched christian. Acts 2: 47 comes to mind;
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Being saved and being added to the number appear inseparable. Tim Chester gives the Biblical Theological take here.

All useful for thinking through the vision God has for his church.