by Captain Shannon Martinez
There are many reasons—excuses—we give for not engaging in intercultural ministry. We falsely believe we must have the right background, language skills or talents, but the truth is we are all called to share the Gospel and meet human needs indiscriminately.
While I don’t know everything about intercultural ministry, I have learned from my experiences and have found my excuses to be moot in light of God’s calling. Many things I thought I needed to be successful in intercultural ministry simply aren’t essential.
Here’s what I think you don’t need for intercultural ministry:
• An intercultural ministry degree: Degrees in theology, divinity or other areas of ministry are absolutely worth obtaining. There are many wonderful pastors with healthy intercultural ministries who have degrees. However, there also are great, thriving, anointed ministries with leaders who have zero fancy diplomas.
• To be bilingual: Intercultural ministry is about much more than language. While speaking a second language is helpful, it does not guarantee greater success. To bridge the gap, I make bilingual or multilingual friends who help by translating, and I let my actions speak more than words.
• To be a minority: There’s not an “image” we need to fit in order to be used by God or to serve others. I could never fully comprehend the challenges and injustices from simply being born with a darker skin tone. However, I believe God will use anyone for intercultural ministry who is open to His leading and willing to learn.
• Intercultural experience: The only way to gain experience is by diving in. You’ll make mistakes, but that’s part of the learning process.
• All the answers: Just when I begin to think I know what I’m doing, I realize I need to make adjustments, learn something new or let go of things. It’s impossible to have all the answers, so I stick to the basics: love, listen, learn.
Self-awareness, humility and patience go a long way. Having a teachable spirit, being open to change and letting go of personal preferences in favor of advancing God’s Kingdom are essential. Most importantly, a core leadership team that reflects the diversity of the congregation and gives everyone a voice facilitates ongoing intercultural ministry.
Approach intercultural ministry with grace. Rely on God to bridge the gaps left by our imperfections, and resolve to work toward unity with Christ at the center. I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can say confidently that God will work in your heart and in your ministry if you seek Him first.