One of my favorite parts of working at the QuestCare Clinic is getting to spend time daily with men and women from drastically different backgrounds and cultures. I love watching as imaginary lines and barriers get chipped away, as we serve the community together.
As I seek to understand others across cultural barriers, one particular pitfall that my middle-class, American upbringing has plagued me with involves how teaching takes place. It’s easy to believe that teaching from the Bible means talking at someone for 45 minutes and always having an answer to every question.
So when someone at the clinic approaches me with a problem or another opportunity arises, I tend to find myself jumping into a monologue… while they sit there and nod. And while there are certainly times to share in a lengthy way, I began to notice that this method doesn’t tend to work with my international friends, or with those who didn’t grow up in an environment where schooling or teaching in that format was culturally common. While someone might sit and listen and nod along, I couldn’t help but feel like what I was saying wasn’t going much further than that immediate conversation. The truth I was sharing was politely received but not always applied.
Luckily, I got to take the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class at Watermark last fall, to learn many things about God’s work in the world.
One particular thing I was able to start applying immediately was a simple yet effective way to study the Bible across cultural and socioeconomic lines. In this method, the "curriculum" is straightforward (the Bible itself!), and the teaching method is rather unassuming. Here's what you do:
Ask fellow students three questions.
The day after our instructor went over this method, I walked into the QuestCare Clinic and found a fellow believer from a very different upbringing struggling with a decision involving her son. Everything in me wanted to “preach” the biblical wisdom on how to handle such a situation and to point verses out to her for this issue.
But with my new simple method in the back of my mind, I fought that urge, and we sat down and opened a Bible together to give this new method a shot.
Something remarkable happened. The Holy Spirit used Scripture to show this friend of mine how to handle her specific situation. I didn’t have to tell her. I didn’t have to give her ideas. I didn’t have to build a case for why my way was right. Rather, Scripture’s way became her way as she sought what God had to say about the issue.
And the true success in utilizing this new method came at the end of our time together. My friend took out her phone, snapped a picture of the verses we read, and sent it to her son – so he could read and tell her what he thought he should do. Suddenly I wasn’t the only one teaching – now she was, as well. The message of truth had multiplied because I had paused long enough to let my friend learn from God’s word in a way that made sense to her and allowed her to apply it immediately. And so the learning method was easily replicable; she didn’t have to fly her son into Dallas to hear me talk. She was able to teach, because it was her truth now too.
In many of our ministries we find ourselves serving across cultural and social lines. The world would continually push us to separate from these people, because it’s easier to understand and affiliate with and teach those who think and act like you do. But as followers of Christ, we break down barriers and have the opportunity to see God do beautiful things as we seek to understand one another. This is a simple encouragement to die to self on the method and make God’s word ultimate as the message - I hope it serves you as you serve across lines in our city.