Educational Ministry of the Church - Lesson 14

Obstacles and Commitments

Effective teachers know their audience and avoid attitudes and expressions that would create obstacles to communication.

Gary Parrett
Educational Ministry of the Church
Lesson 14
Watching Now
Obstacles and Commitments

Congruence: Whom do we teach?

Part 2

VI.  Obstacles to Overcome

A.  The use of phrases like "youth culture," "Gen X," etc.

B.  "Being color blind"

C.  "That's not my concern"

D.  If we consider ourselves to represent the "cultural norm"

E.  Our own prejudicial attitudes, words, and actions

F.  Misuse of the term "American"


VII.  Commitments to Reaffirm

A.  Great Commandments

B.  The Great Commission

C.  Ministry of reconciliation

D.  Be more honest and faithful in our interpretation of Scripture

E.  Healthy cultural self-knowledge

F.  Understand the culture we are ministering to

G.  Love and respect individuals as individuals

H.  Be in relationships with people of other cultures

I.  Be stretched beyond our own cultural comfort zone

J.  Revisit these commitments

K.  Teach in culturally appropriate ways

L.  Be the xenos

  • Seven questions that provide a framework for choosing and implementing curriculum.

  • Our misconceptions about Christian education can cause us to choose poor or inaccurate content and use ineffctive strategies.

  • The three essential tasks of the Church are worship, outreach and teaching.

  • Christian formation focuses on the process of becoming more like Christ.

  • Instructions for spiritual education from passages in the Old Testament and New Testament.

  • History of Christian education from the early church to modern Sunday school.

  • The Heidelberg Catechism provides essential elements for a Christian education curriculum.

  • The Torah contains the essence of what God wants us to know. Jesus clarifies and exemplifies the Torah.

  • A CORE curriculum should be Comprehensive, Orthodox, Reforming and focused on Essentials. Delivery systems may include bible studies, small groups, Sunday school and sermons.

  • The Ten Commandments are the basis for Old Testament Law and the core teaching of the New Testament.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • A key element for effective education to take place is for teachers to know their students relationally.

  • Effective teachers know their audience and avoid attitudes and expressions that would create obstacles to communication.

  • Asking the right questions about the curriculum and the audience can help you identify what information to emphasize and how to present it effectively.

  • How you define teaching determines content and strategy.

  • Effective teaching engages the whole person.

  • When preparing curriculum, an effective teacher will take into account both the content and the audience.

  • Many people fill the role of teacher in your life at different times and in various ways.

  • Christian education involves recruiting, training, modeling, organizing and supporting people who volunteer to teach.

  • Being trained in skills for conflict resolution helps you to have realistic expectations and gives you the tools you need to effectively resolve situations as they arise.

Through this course, you will gain a deep understanding of the educational ministry of the church, its foundations, principles of teaching and learning, and the development of an effective educational ministry. You will also explore strategies for different age groups, including children, youth, and adults, and learn how to address contemporary issues such as cultural relevance, technology, media, and special needs inclusivity.

Educational Ministry of the Church 
Dr. Gary Parrett 
Obstacles and Commitments 
Lesson Transcript


So as we think about our ministry and cultural sense, we have a lot of we have a lot of work cut out for us in wrestling with some difficult issues. I want to talk about it under two heads. First of all, some obstacles that we must overcome to be faithful in ministry in this regard as pastors and teachers and Christian educators. And at this point, honestly, I'm not talking only about the whom question. I'm talking about the fact that this touches all seven of our questions. So there's going to be some overlap here, but there's a number of obstacles we need to overcome for faithfulness. One of them is the ongoing use of phrases like the youth culture or the millennial generation or the postmodern generation or the whenever we do something like this, we're taking something that may be helpful and turning it into something unhelpful. If I think I know all about the youth culture, it's extremely likely that I'm going to be guilty of over generalizing a stereotype. The reality may be that I'm going to go into a culture of a certain church in a certain part of town, in a certain state, and encounter a group of people who are nothing like all the books I've read on the youth culture. I know that because that's what I experience for much of my ministry. I was ministering to American teenagers who happened to be Korean American teenagers, and I found over and over and over again that what they were telling me in the youth culture books didn't fit my kids. I bought one book for Sunday school.


One of those bad choices of curriculum use. I was desperate. We were running up against deadlines. I needed something for my 200 kids. So I run to the bookstore and you look for the most intriguing cover you can find. And didn't take the time to read carefully through and just grabbed it off the cover off the aisle. Hot Buttons. 12 Burning Issues for Today's Youth and Took it home. Boy, this sounds relevant. I want to be relevant. Take it home to our church. Start working with our teachers over it. We're only two or three weeks into these lessons when we realize this is not relevant at all to our kids. If I had stopped and taken the time to think about what are 12 burning issues for my youth group, maybe one of those 12 would have shown up. The others had had very little relevance to their world. So one did. I was so excited about that. It was a it was a chapter on prejudice, racial tension in the country. I thought, okay, this one, this one will speak to my kids. But when we walked through the chapter, the whole chapter is basically about trying not to be guilty of prejudice against other people. While the reality is in midtown Manhattan, the kids I was working with felt themselves the victims of prejudice day after day after day after day. But this chapter didn't confront it that way. So back to the idea of people sending me curriculum saying I'm so relevant, I'm still relevant. I'm still relevant. Our materials are the most relevant. I started asking the question relevant for home, relevant for home, relevant for someone You've called the youth culture and that's not my kids. Keep this in mind, especially when you're thinking about curriculum materials that you may use from somebody else.


All of them are written in Colorado Springs or Elgin, Illinois. They're not written by anybody who knows your people. Nobody knows your group like, you know your group. And this is, again, part of the reason why there's no substitution for just hanging with people. So in a curriculum level, that means if I borrow anybody else's materials to use in my group, I'm obligated. I'm really obligated to do some adaptation of those materials to make them fit my group. That's a cultural congruence. So I like on this level, for example, I like to speak about youth cultures, plural, plural rather than the youth culture, or at least be aware of the fact, even if there's something about the youth culture, the more I say that, the more I'm alienating some, the more likely I'm going to be engaged in stereotyping. At least I have to use it consciously. One of my Christian education colleagues at another school says he likes to think of the youth culture as a mile wide, but only an inch deep. It may be there, but it's so shallow underneath the surface of it. There's so much differences which are part of somebody's life. If I go back to that list we had previously someone, maybe an American teenager in the year 2000, but they're also from a particular family, from a particular socioeconomic background, particular gender with a particular geographical part. New England is very different than Southern California from the from the South. So think about that and use that kind of terminology carefully. Here's another one that I think we have to overcome in the evangelical church in North America today is the all too common attitude that when a. The issues of race and ethnicity. I'm colorblind. This is usually a very well intentioned idea.


I'm colorblind. I don't see your race. I don't see your ethnicity. It's usually well-intentioned, but it usually doesn't have that good of an effect. We especially have encountered this in our move to New England. I told you, I've been married 23 years. My wife is Korean-American. We lived most of that time in Seattle with a great deal of ethnic diversity. And in New York with even more. Although New York was far more segregated than Seattle was when we were there. But coming to New England, our first experience at New England was at this nearby Christian college where 93%. Which I loved. Actually, going to college was a wonderful place to be. But it was very challenging for us. 93% of the student population is white, and most of them are New England people. So most of them had never even had a relationship with a nonwhite person. And that was really hard for us. It was hard for my wife, too, to be there. It was hard for some of the students. If you're part of the 7% down there, it's a challenging thing. But sometimes this is what people would say, Oh, I'm colorblind. I don't see your ethnicity race. Well, in a sense, if that my ethnicity is part of who I am and you tell me you don't see that, that's not a very good example of love, your neighbor. This is part of who I am. I want you to see that God did this on purpose. And this is not accidental or incidental. That's part of who I am. And if you want to really know me and understand me, you better come to grips with this. There's some good value here. There's something well-intended here. Even Martin Luther King Jr talked about the idea of man being judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin.


Certainly that applies. Don't judge me based on the color of my skin, but don't ignore this and don't ignore my reality any more than I would want My other aspects of all those other things on my list. That list, I wouldn't want those ignored either. I don't want you to ignore my spiritual background. I don't want you to ignore, you know, those kind of things. So pay attention to this. I heard an African-American woman preach it that way. She said, Don't tell me you're colorblind. God wants you to see me as I am and deal with that. The attitude that the issues of ethnicity and culture are not my concern. Here's another obstacle worthy of overcoming. Sometimes we are guilty of thinking, but this really is not an issue for me because after all, our church, we're basically here. We're one we're one kind of ethnic group here. We don't have anybody in our community that's from a different ethnic group. And so we don't have to really wrestle with that. You know, maybe I'm a church in the Midwest and I think I don't have to wrestle with it or I'm a church like I appreciate. Last Sunday, a Korean-American church in Flushing where probably 99.9% of the people are Korean-Americans. And they think, well, that's really not my issue. I don't have to necessarily wrestle with other people, but in fact, no. Go back to Matthew 28, and I think we do the situation. So all of us are to be concerned about these issues and pay attention and especially wrestling with questions like what does it mean to live in a world in North America that's seething with racial tension? What does it mean to live in that world, in a world where across the globe there's tribe against tribe, there's hundred years long ethnic animosity in Europe that just rips and rips and rips and the terrorism carries.


What's it mean to live in such a world? What's it mean to live in such a world as a minister of reconciliation, as one called to be a peacemaker? I can't ignore this stuff and be faithful. Another problem is seeing ourselves, whoever we are, as representing the cultural norm. Here's the idea that says, depending again where you're at in any given country, for example, there may be an ethnic group that represents the majority or a group that represents the majority. And then whenever they raise the issue of culture, the tendency is to think of culture as everybody else. And I don't have a culture. This is just this will. This is who I am. Interesting thing here about this that shows up in a funny way. There's a couple of good books from Christian education perspective that I can recommend to you. There's a couple of books that have been written on Multicultural Christian Education, one by Barbara Wilkerson, and it's a good book. Wilkerson. It's called Multicultural Religious Education. And another book called What Color Is Your God by Breckenridge and Breckenridge, where husband wife team from Oral Roberts University. They're both good books. They both wrestle with some practical ideas about what culture means. And what it means to minister in culture. And then they all have they conclude with several sections, specific sections on ministering in African-American context, ministering an Asian-American context, ministering an Hispanic American context, ministering a Native American context. But guess what chapter they don't have ministering to white American context. Why not? Because that's seen as the cultural norm. And sometimes what that means is I don't have to think about culture. I don't have a culture. It's funny if I ask the question in a given group of people.


So tell me a little bit about your culture and ethnicity. Well, depending on what the group is, it's much easier for some people to answer that question than it is for others. Some people just have a hard time even answering that question because they never wrestled with the issue of culture. Someone might say, I'm Irish-American and they refer to that as ethnicity. But it almost has been a part of their life as kind of a, you know, a sort of interesting hobby. I can explore my Irish roots and put a bumper sticker on the back of my car. That's a little tattoo that's big today, right? But it's a little different. It's a little different for someone who gets confronted in a society with their ethnicity every day or has to wrestle with it a different level every day. So the thing I'm concerned about here is thinking of myself, that I'm sort of culturally neutral. And back to your point about the scriptures and going to that split rail fence and thinking that, okay, there's the word of God, there's you and your culture. And I help you make the connection. I better wrestle with the fact that I have a culture, too. And I read the Scriptures through my own cultural lenses. I better pay attention to the uses and abuses of the term American. One of the issues on the matter of American that comes to my mind, I know a lot of people have a hard time in this country wrestling with people using hyphens. Why? You know, why Korean American? Why Africa? Why can't you just call yourself American? That's the struggles for a lot of people. I was playing basketball one time, my Korean American church out in Seattle.


We play basketball every Saturday morning. Well, we noticed right across the parking lot was another church, primarily white American group. They were playing every Saturday morning, too. So we thought, let's get together. You know, God loves basketball almost as much as baseball, so let's play that. So we played basketball together and we had a great time. We had some wonderful time sweating on each other. And as we're walking off the court, the leader of the other church said to me, No, this is great. We should really do this more often. I wish we could. So I wish we could just get rid of all those, you know, something American, something American, and just be American together. And it sounded nice. And I said, you know what? But I minister to people who every day of their life, almost every day of their life, somebody reminds them that they're not quite American. How do they get reminded of that? Well, someone to look at them and ask them, Where are you from? I'm from I'm from Seattle. No, no. Where are you really from? No, I'm a third generation from Seattle. You see, if you come from Europe and you live in this country, you know, one generation later, you can just call yourself American. No one would ever ask you where you from? In the same way. But you could be a fifth generation Japanese American Chinese-American. And people say, Wow, where are you from? Or you speak such good English. And I know this because I've experienced it. I've seen it. And the people I've ministered to have felt it week after week after week. So it's one thing to say we should all just be American, but it's insensitive not to pay attention to what other people have experience in life.


That's another place where I think practical application of love. My neighbor comes in. Some people get bugged that people in one group want to be referred to by a certain name, and they say, Well, and here we go again. Well, wait a second, what's wrong with that? And I don't want someone else putting names on me if I want to name me myself or if I want my my cultural group wants to have a name. Isn't it just sort of basic love me by letting us do this and learning what we like to be called? So yeah, there is an act of insensitivity. Kristi Yamaguchi I don't know if there's any ice skating fans in the room, but my wife has made me one. Kristi Yamaguchi was a gold medalist as well, an ice skating Japanese-American one time, won four big events. She was competing against Midori Ito, who was the Japanese champion from Japan. And one of the interviewers before the event asked her, is that you feel a little bit tense about this, that you're having to go up against this champion from Japan. And Kristi Yamaguchi was kind of taken aback. She finally she said, You know, my family's been in America as long as the Kennedys have been American. What's the deal here? So, you know, her her perspective is a little different, at least in our ministry. We have to recognize this is a part of the reason. Again, why don't tell me that we can just be colorblind. We have to least take this into account as part of reality. What's your background? Who you are is part of who you are. I want to be sensitive to who you are. Finally, our own cultural insensitivity and prejudicial attitudes.


Part of the reason why is not typically a good thing to say I'm colorblind is because it's usually almost untrue. Almost always it's untrue. You're not colorblind. You see it and you are. You're affected by it. You pay attention to it. Consciously, unconsciously, subconsciously, we all see these things and we're all affected by it. So we better come to grips with the fact that we have our cultural sensitivities. We all make blunders and we all have prejudices. It's reality. What we don't want to do is deny it A and B, we don't want to enter into a shell of fear that says, I'm afraid I'll make a mistake. Therefore, I don't want to get into a relationship with you because I'm afraid I'll say something wrong. That's not the answer either. But we better come to grips with this. We're all culturally insensitive. I've learned the hard way. I'm learning to say this. I've learned the hard way just how culturally insensitive I can be. I've learned it through all kinds of blunders. And let me summarize all of this stuff under under this head of this is basic. Putting some legs on the idea of I'm called to love my neighbor as myself and try to think about how someone else may feel so that I can minister sensitive sensitively. These are some of the obstacles. I'm sure that there are others, but let me look at some of the commitments that we must make or reaffirm. In the area of culture and ethnicity. First, we just talked about it. I make a commitment to the greatest commandments. Sometimes we say the great commandment, but I'll say the great commandments. Love the Lord your God with heart and soul. Mine is strength and love your neighbor as yourself.


And as I think about love your neighbor as yourself. Again, I'm always struck by the fact that when Jesus had the dialog with the scribe and the scribe wanted to justify himself, the scribe asked the question, Who is my neighbor? And he thought, there is the question that will stump him and put an end to this whole thing. But Jesus tells the story, of course, And in the story, the hero winds up to be a Samaritan whom the questioner who is my neighbor. He would have regarded Samaritans as dogs and less than dogs. And yet in the story, this is this is the heroic person who is willing to cross ethnic boundaries, not even ask the question of whom it is that he's going to minister to. He's not going to let us come. He's not going to stumble over that. He's going to minister to this person, even though his cross is an ethnic boundary to do it. He crosses all kinds of boundaries. To do it crosses the boundary of his own inconvenience, the boundary of potential danger to minister to this person. The boundary of the cost that's involved in ministering to this person. And he does. And the hero turns out to be the Samaritan. But at the end of the story, isn't it interesting when Jesus puts the question, So tell me which of these three, the Samaritan, the Levite or the priest, which of these three acted as a neighbor? And what is he saying? What he doesn't say? The Samaritan, I think he can't even bring himself to say the one who showed mercy and go and do likewise. But I think it's not without significance that Jesus made makes the point in the story that, well, whatever the answer is, be prepared.


It's going to be uncomfortable. It's not the people you think it is. The fact is, Jesus says elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount, it's not only the people who think it is Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said, You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemy. Pray for them, Bless them for if you only love those who love you, what is that going to tax collectors do that there's nothing there that sets you apart. Is love the one unlike you? Loving our neighbor certainly includes those like me and near me. But the point of the commandment is that I need to regard every person as my neighbor and I need to learn how to love them all. So the Ministry of the Great Commandment comes to mind. Also, the commitment to the Great Commission, as we saw ministry to the Great Commission in both of these heads. Under both of these thoughts, let me add Matthew 25 again. Matthew 25, remember? That famous passage of the ministries to the least of these, my brothers. Jesus says, I was naked and you called me. I was hungry and you fed me. Well, all of that is talking about getting out of our comfort zones to love our neighbor. But one of those statements was I was a stranger, and you invited me, and the word strangers sent us. We get our xenophobia from it. For example, fear of the alien, the foreigner, the stranger. What Christians are called. Not to xenophobia, but xenophobia. Where to love that stranger and invite that person into our midst. And that's part of the great commandment. As part of the Great Commission, where we're sent to all the nations of the world to make disciples.


Number three, recommitting to the Ministry of Reconciliation. Recommitting to the Ministry of Reconciliation. Normally we think about this, especially with our evangelical minds. What's moving is reconciliation. Which direction? The vertical, right? And that's fine, and that's appropriate. And that's primary. That's what we have in second Corinthians five and Colossians one and first Corinthians 15. When we look at those passages, that's what it's about. It's primarily about reconciliation this way. But notice when you're in Ephesians chapter two, we talk about the reconciliation work of Christ, that it's also on the horizontal plane that Christ has abolished, the middle barrier, the barrier that separates the Jew and the non-Jew divided that are here. Abolish them, demolish that. So the Ministry of Reconciliation, I think, includes the fact that not only has God reconciled us to himself, but he's reconciled us to one another in Christ. Therefore, in price, there is no East or west, male or female slave nor free. By the way, there's a verse that can easily be abused in this whole regard. Sometimes the issue of racial ethnic understanding is stamped out too quickly by saying, But wait, we're all one in Christ Jesus. So don't raise your diversity issue to me. Actually, at a nearby Christian college, once there is a film shown to student leaders to try to raise some of these issues and it was met with tremendous protest. Don't bring this multicultural garbage on to our campus. We're all one in Christ Jesus. Sometimes we can abuse scripture here. The point is, when it says there is no male or female in Christ Jesus, what does that mean? Well, I, for one, praise the Lord that it doesn't mean male and female cease to exist as categories here and now.


Personally, I'm glad for that. Every time I go home and kiss my wife, I'm glad that male and female are still here. What it means is the ground has been leveled. The value is equal that society set this up as unequal. That man was somebody and a woman was nobody. That us free man was somebody. A slave was a nobody but in God's sight. Now they're equal. And we are in fact, moving toward a glorious oneness that's going to boggle the mind. But it doesn't mean that here and now, male and female cease to exist. Nor does it mean that Jew and Gentile ceased to exist as categories. It meant that in spite of those categories, God brought oneness and brought God brought love. So again, it's back to the colorblind idea here. In a world seething with racial tension in a world full of ethnic strife. I think we have to be mindful of this. As ministers of reconciliation, we can't hide our heads in the sand here. Even back to the Beatitudes, blessed are the peacemaker. They will be called Sons of God. Part of the application here clearly on this level for us, a commitment to be more honest and faithful in our interpretation, application and teaching of the Scriptures, a commitment to be more honest and faithful in our interpretation and handling of the Scriptures. Basically, all of the biblical tools of interpretation are critical and important. Paying attention to the language and the historical background, but also paying attention to the cultural realities of Scripture. Scripture wasn't written into a vacuum. Scripture was written into cultural situations, and we read Scripture through cultural lenses. So back to those previous comments, we have to pay attention to read a scripture carefully and meditate and linger there for a little bit and ask yourself the question, Do I tend to read the Scripture a certain way because of the ways lenses that I have? Or are there some scriptures I refuse to read? And really wrestling because of my cultural blindness.


There was a time in India before the the turnover of power back to the Indian people. There was a time when the governing authorities forbade ministers from preaching on certain texts because they believe it would incite the people to rebellion. For example, something so something as risky as the Magnificat from Mary Lou Chapter one was forbidden at some points from being read because in In The Magnificent Mary Song of Praise, she says Mary says for the Mighty One has done great things for me. And Holy is his name is Mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm is scattered the proud and their thoughts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones is lifted up, the lowly is filled, the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. And some of the governing authorities told the churches, Don't preach. From that text, are there scriptures that we don't preach from? Because they challenge the culture that we're comfortable with, honest handling of the Scriptures. Do we wrestle with the fact, for example, that Jesus was a Jew? Do we wrestle with that? And do we pay attention to the fact that he was incarnated into a specific culture in a specific time and a specific age? If not, we may be guilty of having our people that were educating Christian education, having them think that Jesus looks just like me and thinks just like me, and shares my values, our values and the community. But we need to let them see who Jesus is related to. All this, of course, is a healthy cultural self-knowledge. Commit yourself to a healthy cultural self-knowledge. If that's an important component of my teaching of the Scripture is to see my own set of lenses.


Then I do need to figure out who I am. Now, remember, ethnicities. It may be a tricky thing, but culture simply speaks about those patterns of behavior, the value system. We all have cultures. We all have a culture which is a complex of many things, and we are wise to unpack ourselves a little bit, figure out who you are. Don't assume that you're culture free, that you're neutral. You're not when none of us are. So what does it mean for me to look at Scripture from the perspective of the year 2000 living in New England? And that means a lot. How does that affect my understanding of the world? My understanding of scriptures. Come to know yourself. Pay attention to yourself culturally. By the way, if I wanted to offer one suggestion to how to do that, I can't think of any better way to do that than be a relationship with someone unlike yourself. I became more aware, a little bit more aware of who I was culturally after I spent time in Korea when I went to Korea as a Christian. I remember the first time I went there in 1983, spent a month in Korea, six weeks in Japan, and in Korea especially, I was dazzled by attending churches with 80,000 people, and that was pretty dazzling and phenomenal movement of God in Korea. But I was also struck by how much the culture and the faith have been intertwined. And I was I had never seen this before because I lived in a church environment that was there was only not one nonwhite in my previous church that was my wife. And so I hadn't ever seen another culture at work here. And I looked at this culture and I was struck by this.


I said, Honey, look what they're doing in the church. That's not Christianity. That's that's Korean culture, isn't it? And I told her, before we leave Korea, I'm going to write a book on the errors of the Korean church and have it published here. My wife, much wiser than I, calmed me down and said, No, don't publish the book there. So I did. But I began to see something I'd never seen before. While the net result was not long after that, I'm back in my own culture and suddenly my eyes are wide open. I see it everywhere. We had done the same thing in my little rural white American church. We had wrapped God up in the red, white and blue, served them with apple pie. And, you know, we were just as culture bound as anything I'd ever seen in Korean. How did I get to see that? Only by really being involved in another culture. I don't think there's any substitute for healthy cultural self understanding, a commitment to understand the ethnic and cultural influences upon the people whom we are ministering, among whom we are ministering. So I do need to do this, whether or not it's people just like me or people very different from me. If I'm called a minister to them, I need to know the culture that we're dealing with here. How do I get to know that? Again, I think relationship is the key. Not necessarily tuning into the media. That's our gut response. We think that's the best way and it's probably helpful, but probably no substitute for a relationship. Somebody once said about Mother Teresa, she never watches television, She never listened to the radio, she never read the newspaper. Therefore, she really understands what's happening in the world.


And why? Because she lives on the streets with real people. She lived on the streets with real people. A commitment to love and respect each person as an individual. Here's something that we definitely need to add as a highly asterisk caveat to all of our discussion. Whenever I come to understand about a culture, the individual will still be an individual, and I never want to be guilty of taking what I've come to understand about this culture that I'm ministering into and just painting that individual with this broad brush and saying, I know who you are because I've read the books and I've studied the culture, I know that person will still be unique. Remember our list? Some of the things that we put on that list are absolutely individualized. What is your family experience? What struggles have you gone through in life? That's you and it's only you and it's uniquely you. One person that I spent some time in ministry with years ago I use as an example because it came up in I'm thinking about that situation. Her name was Patty. I wanted to describe who Patty was culturally. What would I say? Well, she was Korean-American, so maybe I'll say Patty's Korean-American. But if I said that's who Patty is, that would not be fair to Patty, whose Korean-American. She was also 17. She was also a female. She lived in Seattle, which is very different than New York City, where I come from. When I met her and she said that she was a Christian, she was from a family that was very tight, well knit family. And although there are a number of Korean-American churches in Seattle, she said her group had its own unique culture. It was different from every other Korean-American youth group around.


So who was Patty? That's not an easy question to answer in the end. Patty is a complex of all of those factors, not just any but Jesus commitment to love his sheep. That speaks to me here. Richard Baxter, I hope, will speak to us on this level as well. Know the individual. And if you forget this, pick up Richard Baxter and read it again. Number eight a commitment to building relationships with and being informed about people from other cultures. I just mentioned that in passing a minute ago, but just to offer some further suggestions. Relationships, yes, But also I think it's good to read things from different voices, maybe hear preachers from different backgrounds. And one of the reasons I like to use more of a don in this class, for example, is because not too many people in seminary would typically you won't read somebody like Amar Bardon, who represents some significant difference from where most of us are coming from. She's a woman. You don't read a lot of women authors here at seminary and she's a Lutheran. You don't read a lot of contemporary Lutheran authors here at seminary. She's a physically handicapped or limited person who's gone through all kinds of suffering. You don't get that perspective very often either, as one of the reasons why I like to assign that book. But how many of us in our own leisure will pick up a book written by someone who is significantly unlike ourselves in some respect, not just culturally, but I would challenge you very much theologically here as well. If you've already identified yourself and fit yourself tightly into the reformed camp, don't let that make you think that you don't have to read Pentecostal. You don't have to pay attention to what they have to say.


I think go back to this idea of disequilibrium, cognitive development, personal growth. If I don't get some challenges, I'm not going to grow. And one of the great ways challenge is by experience with someone unlike me. So I love to read people that make my head spin. In fact, I like to be listening to speakers and I sit and I listen and I'm and I'm going like this a lot. I like that because that's going to generate some thought in my head and it's going to make me grow and process and think so wrestle with that. But again, bottom line, relationship, relationship, relationship, relationship, no substitute and try to move beyond the surface to the significant. I didn't do a lot of things right when I was in seminary. I'm ashamed to say I'd love to go back and do it over. I was so young and young people just don't know how to handle themselves very well in seminary, typically. I was only 25 when I graduated. That's probably too young. Too young to have an MBA. I really think so. I wouldn't mind if they didn't let you had an M.D. until you were 25. Personally, in our culture at this time and age, anyway, I was too young. I did a lot of things poorly. But the one thing I'm glad that I did well is I built relationships. At Region College, there were people from all over the globe. And some of those friendships were really shaped, shaped me and were very significant. That's to say you have an opportunity here at the seminary to do that, and you may not have an opportunity like this again. Most of us will come out of seminary and go back for the rest of our ministries to a comfort zone.


Most of us will back amongst people just like yourself. Don't miss this opportunity. A commitment. Number nine I just preempted myself to be stretched beyond my own comfort zone. That's what I just said. And a commitment. Number ten, to revisit these commitments as often as needed. So from time to time, when we move from one setting to another setting, we're going to need to revisit these commitments, go back to them and pay attention to them on a deeper level, especially if I change my ministry setting. I need to do this. Let me just add a couple of thoughts. Sometimes I will be called to I'm going to add to number ten here, any 11 to 12. Number 11, a commitment to teach in more culturally appropriate ways. And that has implications for all kinds of aspects for teaching. This is really what we mean by achieving cultural congruence in our teaching. Finding connections between the word and the reader. And then number 12, a commitment to be the Exynos. It's not only that we need to receive the Exynos. The stranger. The alien. The foreigner. But I think invariably God will call us to be the exynos. Let me expand on that point by just reading one verse from John, chapter four. But I'd like you to have it open because we'll look at it a little bit together, but turn to John Chapter four, verse three of John, Chapter four Jesus leaves Judea and He starts to Galilee. And then verse four. I had to go through summary of John four four. There's sort of a there's an interesting point just about that verse. We the fact that we feel like we have to read more says something because there's a lot of little verses.


There are a lot of little things that we read in Scripture all the time, and we just skirt right by them and look for the next big thing. But I think verse forward is very worthy of meditation. What do you mean? You have to go through some area. It could just be a statement of fact that the course from Judea to Galilee led him through Samaria. Could be that. But we know that, in fact, a lot of his contemporaries would have bypassed Samaria. They would have crossed the Jordan River, gone through Paran, the capitalists, and then gone back up in the Galilee because Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. And it was mutual hostility. They hated each other. So on a strictly a geographical plain, yeah, it makes sense to go through some area. But he didn't have to go through summary that way and many of his contemporaries didn't. So we could leave it at that. But I think it's it bears further meditation. I think I take John four, four and other verses jump to mind from the Gospel of John, especially John. 519 I only do what I see my father doing. I always do it. My father commands. I think the imperative here is from the relationship between the father and the son, and the father has directed him to go through scenarios. So therefore you had to go through scenario. Why? Well, maybe a couple of reasons. First of all, there's a woman there and God has a divine appointment for this woman in mind. And secondly, there's a community there, and God is going to touch this community. And thirdly, God is going to read. Train the very disciples of Jesus. So they go in, they know the conversation, the woman at the well living water.


He gives her living water by giving himself and the Holy Spirit and the community her access to the eternal God through the wonder of worship. The community. Is going to be touched, too. But look down a little bit later, John Chapter four says, Verse 27 The disciples came and they were astonished that he was speaking with a woman breaking another taboo. But no one said, What do you want to her, or Why are you speaking with her to him? So she left her water jar, went back to the city, said to the people, come and see a man who told me everything I've ever done. He can't be the Messiah, can he? They left the city and they were on their way to him. And meanwhile the disciples were urging him, Rabbi, eat something. But he said to them, Oh no, I'm very full right now. Thank you. I just have been eaten up a storm here. I have food, you know nothing about my food is to do the will of him who sent me to complete his work. And then look at verse 35. Don't you say four more months and then come the harvest. But I say to you. Look up. And see the fields are right ripe for harvest. This is a little playfulness on my part, I suppose, but I, I think perhaps when they looked up, they might have seen verse 30. They saw a whole village walking toward them. And Jesus says, It's harvest time, boys. It's harvest time. And much to their shock and dismay. For the next two days, they harvest in Samaria and they bear tremendous fruit. They thought of themselves as ministers to the lost sheep of Israel only. And you remember what they thought about the Samaritans? Another occasion.


John and James wanted to do a little light show with the Samaritans. Remember, the Samaritans weren't very receptive on this occasion. And John and James said, shall we call them thunder or lightning from heaven and put away these folks? That's what the disciples think of the Samaritans. They didn't offer the lightning show in any of the other towns of Judea or Galilee that I'm aware of. But in some area they were ready to do it. Thinking back to Elijah and the First Kings. But here's the question. When I read this thing, I think that, yes, Jesus wanted to meet her and change her and transformer. And yes, God has a heart for this village and Samarra, and he wants to change them. But the teacher shaping the disciple, that's what stands out most to me in this passage to shape the disciples, he sends them through Samaria. Why? Because they're being trained for a global ministry. And as Jesus wrestles, our Jesus trains his disciples this way I want us just to close our thoughts today by thinking about ourselves as his disciples and ask the question of ourselves. Do we have to go through summary? You can think about Somalia, a little bit different plan than the uttermost parts of the earth, I think. Uttermost parts of the Earth means crossing the ship or getting on a ship or plane and crossing the oceans and go to some people totally disconnected from ourselves. Sumerian, on the other hand, these were the neighbors. Right next door. They just happened to be very different. And there happened to be a history of animosity. Sometimes in the church, I think it's easier for us to get on a plane and cross an ocean than it is to get on our feet and cross the street and ask the question of ourselves, Do we have to go through some area? Well, in fact, Jesus didn't have to go through there.


There's other ways around it. Unless he had to obey his father. And in fact, for us, even in the church today, there's probably ways that we could avoid scenario very well. You can live in this society and this country, for example, or your place on the face of the earth. You can live in your society without ever knowing your neighbors. You could without ever touching some area. You could do it. Who can do it. Do you have to go through scenario? No. Unless. You're really serious about following Jesus. And doing the role of the father. And I suspect you probably will have to go through all of this again and again and again. I've been challenge myself on this area because although first ten years of my life are all in a white American context, the next 15 years were primarily in Korean, American context. And I found myself again being very narrow and too comfortable. In a Korean-American situation. And that contributed to my decision at the end of December to leave the Korean-American church right to ministering because I felt like this is just a little too familiar for me and I'm a little too comfortable here culturally, by the way, I identify myself as Korean-American, not ethnically, not racially. And I don't always get accepted that way by other Korean Americans. But in terms of culture, that's the culture I'm most familiar with and comfortable with. But I found myself too comfortable and have tried to challenge myself to be stretched again prayerfully, not just capriciously, but perfectly. I think that's what I was called to do. So I'm still trying to figure out what Sumerian means for me and try to live faithfully to that.