Specialized Ministry — October 2007
Teaching in Other Lands
By Jeanette Chesser, Associate Missionary in Russia
The Apostle Paul aptly describes the formula for effective teaching in a foreign land in his epistle written from prison to the church in Philippi.
Philippians 1:9-11: “And this I pray that your LOVE may abound still more and more in KNOWLEDGE and all DISCERNMENT, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be SINCERE and WITHOUT OFFENSE till the day of Christ, being FILLED WITH FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (NKJV).
LOVE: If we could place the attributes in priority needed for ministry in another culture, “love” would be at the top of the list; a love that gives others the feeling that you esteem them. It cannot be a rote expression or planned mannerisms.
The Enemy is a good duplicator, but one thing he cannot duplicate is genuine love. Love breaks barriers and opens doors. When we feel a burden from the Lord for a special people group, correspondingly a love for those people starts developing within us.
When I first went to Russia (without knowing their language), as my interpreter translated the words, my smile and eye contact expressed desire to connect to them.
KNOWLEDGE: Love must be coupled with knowledge for effectiveness. Living in another culture will have inevitable mistakes with limited knowledge of do’s and don’ts. Some mistakes are laughable, others embarrassing.
Although some knowledge can be attained before leaving home, specialized knowledge will grow exponentially as we spend time with the local people, live like they live, eat what they eat, and gain insight into their values in life.
This was made clear to me through association with an elementary school. In the mid 90’s, I had established headquarters in a large city near the border of Siberia. A new church had been started and many beginner Christians asked for counseling. The need became voluminous and permission was granted me to use a teacher’s lounge in a nearby elementary school three mornings a week for counseling purposes.
When a short-term mission team from the USA came for a visit, they wanted to see a typical Russian school. The principal gave them permission to come to this same school. That day brought a lot of excitement in an auditorium packed to capacity. The opening remarks were unexpected. “Jeanette is the first American that ever placed a foot in this school, and the first American any of us had ever seen in person. As a result, we judge all Americans by her. Because of watching her behavior every week, we now gladly welcome you.”
As I had daily gone about the business of helping to develop new converts, the citizens were observing a lifestyle. Never underestimate the need of integrity, sincerity, morality, endurance, and steadfastness as well as respect for the culture where you minister.
DISCERNMENT: The Holy Spirit, our Helper and Teacher, will give discernment of traditions important to the people and how to embrace them. His nudge and warnings may come with a strong impression to the mind or in some other way. He wants us to be effective even more than we could ever want that for ourselves.
Expecting discernment from the Holy Spirit is as natural as expecting His power to resist temptations in the life of a believer.
SINCERE WITHOUT OFFENSE: To be sincere without offence must be a daily prayer. In one of the churches where I worked, we had several visiting teams from the USA. One of those groups included an evangelist whose preaching style included exaggerated gestures, loud volume, use of overly emotional illustrations, and obvious crowd dynamics.
The church of several hundred watched without response. They were bewildered; quieted instead of stirred. Their cultural concept of spiritual expression was a devotional style in quiet surroundings. The evangelist was sincere but offensive. More expressive worship later did become more acceptable in charismatic services.
FRUITS OF RIGHTSEOUSNESS: If we do not keep the flesh under subjection to the Holy Spirit, we will have fruit of the flesh or fruit of busyness. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18 that we should “be filled with the Spirit” meaning to “stay” filled, which is daily a surrendered will to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in contrast to being self-absorbed.
The fruits of righteousness will be a result of our knowledge of scripture and adherence to them. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance the things that He had said. Consistent reading of the Word of God will get these promises down in our spirit.
When you are afraid, you remember that He promised to “never leave nor forsake you.” When you are sick without medication or another person to comfort, you remember that He who “heals all our diseases” is aware of your current problem.
If discouraged, the Holy Spirit is faithful to redirect your attention to a sense of fulfillment, a byproduct of knowing you are exactly where the Lord wants you to minister at that moment, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, NKJV).
NO COMPLAINTS: Philippians 2:14, 15: “Do all things without MURMURING AND DISPUTING, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (NKJV).
Paul adds to the formula in Philippians 4:8, that “…whatever things are true…noble…just…pure…lovely…of good report…MEDITATE on these things” (NKJV).
MEDITATE: Not on home, convenience, nor comforts. You make a choice to think of the good things of God, and the Word of God. Pity is an indulgence you cannot afford. Never forget that God knows and cares about you, even your emotional needs.
One year in the month of December I was in a dismal small town bordering Russia and Finland. They had only one industry, Russia’s largest paper mill. In addition to the ever-present unpleasant odor, there were only four hours of daylight. Each afternoon we walked a mile in the darkness to a small wooden house used for services.
My interpreter and I were lodged in one tiny room shared by the owner of the apartment, where we three dressed, ate, and slept. The door was kept closed at all times as other people occupied another room. Once a day she left to prepare something warm to eat which was brought back to us. The windowsill served as refrigerator as needed.
The middle of the week was my birthday, which I expected to be another nonevent as so many others. Upon awakening that morning, I turned my face to the wall to gather positive thoughts. Suddenly the door opened and my interpreter entered with a flower, birthday card and pair of socks that she had knitted prior to the trip. I had not even awakened when she left the room earlier that morning. Not only had she remembered, she walked a long distance in extremely cold conditions to purchase a surprise for me.
Lastly, I would add DETACHMENT: When we have settled in our prayer closet that it is God and not our own compassion that propels us into ministry in another culture, the Lord accompanies it with a gift of “detachment,” not necessarily a permanent abandonment. Most assuredly you will get lonely, or dream of a favorite food or long to be with a loved one. There is no merit in suffering by our own design, but when it is from God He gives grace to endure.
Some persons may be motivated to minister in another culture out of curiosity, or simply have an adventuresome spirit and God may indeed use those very characteristics to get you there. Remaining there for a long time requires willingness to relinquish convenience and comfort if need be, as you “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, NKJV).
Lingering at the table of memories of home will surely dull the appetite to remain where God has placed you in a different culture.