Ian the cross-cultural missionary

I’m writing this five hours before many of my readers will see it posted! How strange is that? You see, I am in America, five hours behind England. I’ll explain how I got here some other time, but I will suffice to say that it might have involved a TARDIS. Yeah, I’m sort of a Time Lord.

Speaking of Doctor Who, would you believe many people have not heard of it over here? Much less seen the wonder of David Tennant in the long brown coat? It’s not exactly mainstream. In fact many aspects of British culture aren’t mainstream. For example: Did you know Muse aren’t a super-band over here? Last year they had to ride U2’s coattails on a tour. No-one has heard of Mumford and Sons, either (but I promise to change that). Cars are all automatic (go-karts) and driving is more different than I expected. I mean, there aren’t speed limit signs everywhere and no speed cameras.

In sum, this is a completely different culture to that of home.

Into this very different culture I have been sent to serve Christ and his Church. I’m not the first. Two thousand years ago Paul wandered around the Mediterranean serving the newly formed Church. His wisdom is a blessing to me at this time. He first shared these words with the fledgling church in Corinth, describing how he ‘does ministry’.

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

So, to borrow the langage of Paul: To the Americans I shall become American. Except I haven’t got an American passport or accent, or social security number. I wonder how successful Paul’s endeavours were. It’s all well and good, being as one not under the law, but he was still a Jewish man from Israel. His culture, language, ethnicity and social background would have been as inescapable as mine. Hopefully I can at least learn something of what it means to be one with this culture. I’ve begun with small steps – Gas stations, sidewalks and “make a left”. I’m here to share the Gospel, not tell people how to spell ‘colour’. So by the grace of God I swallow down the urge to talk about America joining the Commonwealth.

I can’t escape form the fact that some people have no idea what I’m saying (what’s new?), or that I don’t really enjoy eating fast-food all the time, or that what they call ‘tea’ wouldn’t pass the grade in merry old England. I can, however, try to become a part of this culture in order to glorify God in their sight. Maybe if it worked for Paul, it can work for me?

I guess we’ll see.

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7 Comments

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  1. well there are no blue prints so what worked for Paul might /might not work for you … but it IS the same Spirit and He wants to free His people 🙂

    this bit made me laugh

    there aren’t speed limit signs everywhere and no speed cameras

    there are speed limits. And on the freeways (motorways) they are lower than in the UK (and finland) and they do give out speeding tickets. So watch out!!!

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  2. Depending on where you drive, there are speed cameras (more in Baltimore city) but plenty in Balto. and Howard counties, too (especially around schools). 🙂 My husband would disagree about all cars being automatic. He drives a “standard” or “stick shift” and the car he had previously was also a stick shift. 🙂 You’ll find more spelling issues than “colour” vs. “color” (especially in some people’s writing). And a few of us have heard of Dr. Who, though we haven’t actually seen an episode recently. Anyway, I can’t wait to meet you. I wasn’t at CCC today because I’m on vacation (“Holiday”) with my parents and sister in Mississippi.

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  3. Watch out for the food Ian! http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/aug/20/deep-fried-america

    Apart from that, I’m really looking forward to reading “Finally Human in America!”

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  4. Well, if you need any help blending in with the culture, just let me know. I’m an American expert. 🙂

    Welcome to the USA!

    P.S. I know what Doctor Who is!

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  5. LOL.. when I went to England for a mission trip.. I felt the exact same way… what’s a round’a’bout?
    Why is there no ice? You sure do have tea a lot… oh, tea doesn’t mean the liquid kind necessarily… why are all the serving portions so small… what is a loo… and well so forth and so on lol.

    I love the English culture, so gladly bring it here 🙂

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  6. HAH! England is pretty special. Walk on a pavement. Put petrol in your car, etc etc.

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