Church Planters Train For Cross-Cultural Ministry
All of us interact with people across cultures on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. It might be someone from a different race or ethnicity, someone from a different socio-economic background, or someone from a different region of the country. Our ability to function well, or effectively, between different cultures is commonly called "cultural intelligence."
As you can imagine, the task of planting and leading churches is filled with opportunities to use cultural intelligence. In fact, one of the questions that is regularly asked when a pastor is looking to start a new ministry (be it church planting, church revitalization, campus ministry, or any staff position) is if the pastor will be able to adapt to the community he will be serving. We are asking is if the person will be able to effectively cross this cultural context.
As a church we are trying to pay extra attention to the importance of cultural intelligence for ministry in the city. We have incorporated this into our leadership development programs and have begun to have conversations among our leaders about their own level of cultural intelligence.
Cultural Intelligence Assessment
Last year the Church Planting Center applied and was awarded a grant that allowed me to be trained in helping leaders determine their own developmental level of cultural intelligence. The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) is a tool that measures our current ability to navigate between the differences and commonalities that exist between cultures. More than that, this training also allows me the ability to help leaders develop their cultural intelligence.
The IDI considers cultural intelligence as something we develop over time, with effort and reflection on the cultural experiences we have. It presents a continuum in which a person moves from monocultural mindsets towards multicultural mindsets. Monocultural mindsets see little if any differences between cultures and tend towards a judgmental attitude. Multicultural mindsets are able to identify and respond well to the cultural differences and commonalities that exits between cultures. As a tool it is able to measure both our current level of cultural intelligence as well as where we think is our current level.
The benefit of a tool like the IDI is that it helps us by providing a framework to help people think about how they engage different cultures. For the Church Planting Center it provides us the ability to help prepare planters and leaders to face the issues that will inevitably arise as they plant or lead churches. It also provide them with a framework which helps them reflect deeply on the commonalities and differences they are observing across different cultures.
Alongside of a tool like the IDI we are also beginning to have trainings for our leaders about cultural intelligence. Recently the pastors of Christ the King were able to have a few hours with Dr. Irwyn Ince discussing the implications of cross-cultural competence for ministry in the city. Ince is the director of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Mission (ICCM). ICCM is a church-based research and training entity dedicated to the equipping of current and future Christian leaders for cross-cultural ministry. It is a ministry of Grace D.C. (a church planted by Rev. Glenn Hoburg, a former pastor at CTK Cambridge).
One of the key takeaways from our time together is encapsulated in this quote:
The ministry of reconciliation as demonstrated in the local church by the gathering of people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities is the natural outworking of a rich covenant theological commitment.
Ince challenged us to think of the church as a beautiful community. Its beauty comes from the way it reflects our Trinitarian God, Father-Son-Holy Spirit. In the Trinity we see a unity in the midst of diversity that is supposed to be reflected in the life of the church. To the degree that the church reflects this unity-in-diversity it is reflecting the Triune God. One way in which this unity-in-diversity is supposed to reflected is as “people from diverse backgrounds” come together to worship. It is also reflected by the diversity of the relationships we have.
Ince also asked us to think through the implication of what it means that we are created in the image of God. No one race, ethnicity or people group is able to reflect the sum total of who God is. Only the whole of redeemed humanity, under the Lordship of Jesus, is able to reflect the beauty of unity-in-diversity.
Both the IDI and our time with Irwyn Ince have been challenging me in the same direction. Is my network of relationships reflecting the beauty of the unity-in-diversity that we see in the Trinity?
The IDI reminds us that cross cultural competence is developed as we relate to the ways that we are the same and different from people of another culture. It is when I am spending time reflecting on how I am the same and different from someone of another socio-economic, geographical or ethnic background that my ability to navigate those relationships in a godly way is developed.
Ince reminds us that having relationships with persons from another socio-economic, geographical or ethnic background is what it means to be the church. The beautiful community is a diverse community because no one group can reflect the unity-in-diversity of the Triune God by itself.
One way to begin to address this is with a question: “Who are the people we are inviting into our home?” If they are like us in more ways than they are different from us, then there is a good chance that we are poorly reflecting the beauty of God. Who has God already placed in our lives that could help push us to a broader network of relationships?
Omar Ortiz is the Leadership Development Director for the CTK Church Planting Center. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.