Posted by justicetabernacle on June 27, 2011
the more i’m out and about in this crazy city in which i live, the more i come to this realization… while some christians may look at a city like berlin and immediately begin to discuss how ‘dark’ it is- or how hard it is for ministry to take root in a place like this, i have begun to find a major positive in it all.
because the church is so irrelevant in this place, and in a lot of ways has really been neutralized, there is great potential. i have come to the conclusion that because the church, and a body of Christ-centered people is so rare in the culture, that it is much easier to talk about it in normal conversation. basically, because the church is more ‘neutral’ it is far less polarizing on the surface. so when you bring up the word christian in normal superficial-conversation, you very often will not get any kind of push back, and there is not an immediate wall that you encounter. people may find it ‘odd’ but there is not a violent hostility toward it.
this is a very tricky place to live out faith. on the one hand, it is encouraging as you do not feel a lot of immediate persecution. on the other hand, you can also, if you are not mindful and careful, float along in this place of ambiguity for a while. you can almost be wooed into a lackadaisical faith- one that is not challenged directly, but also one that is not invigorated. the positive is that there is a low bar, easy entry kind of thing that happens- the danger, is that things do not go deeper and there is a lack of general true commitment to anything.
this is why, even as i meet together with my team for the project, that i consistently talk about how we have to have to create a place where the doors are flung wide open… so that all are welcomed in- experience life and love. but also, that we ourselves, have to be well equipped and strong in faith. that we have to challenge ourselves to go deeper and anchor ourselves in truth- being connected and guided by the Holy Spirit- so that in the place of ambiguity, we can have substance.
berlin will not chew you up and spit you out (unless you are a moron that antagonizes people on street corners) but it can lull you to sleep- or gently lure you away from your path, in the most friendly and damaging way.
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Posted by justicetabernacle on June 15, 2011
ministry in a cross-cultural context is a topic that i thought a lot about in the past year- i even took a course on it- and part of me thought it was silly for a few reasons. first of all, i didn’t really see germany as that ‘foreign’ of a place, given that i had lived here for almost 5 years in my 20’s. on top of that, in my worldview of thinking that we are all part of a ‘global citizenry,’ i tended to always downplay our differences and focus on the fact that we are all human and have very similar tendencies and longings; and that in the end, we are all created in the image of God.
while i still hold true to most of those things, especially the latter part, i have indeed encountered some moments where i felt the distance of nations and language. this was made especially clear to me yesterday, as i was talking to a mentor. we were discussing a recent struggle i had encountered in trying to explain a deep theological conviction of mine to a group of germans. i was telling him how frustrated i felt about not being able to aptly communicate my idea to them- now you have to understand that i am usually intensely grateful to the Lord that i am able to speak german so fluently, and often talk about how important language is- and how it’s important to be able to communicate at a deeper level… so as you can imagine it was even more frustrating to me that i was not able to do it.
and the response i got from this mentor of mine was insightful. he said: ‘this is great- you are finally beginning to inculturate your spirituality.’ hmm. i had not really thought about this before. you see, because of my past experience living in germany, i had very few problems getting situated in language, cultural norms, etc… but one thing that i never experienced before in all my years living here, was doing full time ministry. this time around, is the first time that i have had to truly incorporate my spirituality and theology. and this experience i recently had, was just that- it was a matter of integrating my theological convictions and my understanding of God into the cultural context in which i am living.
so i am grateful for the objective view on a situation that i thought was just frustrating. it is why it is so important to have people in our lives that can look in on things to see the true value and help us realign our perspective. so now, something that seemed just annoying, actually was an important step in an ongoing process of inculturation.
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