You cannot take the religious practices and customs of one culture and impose them on another culture. Trying to do this is the quickest way to failure. This is one of the most important lessons early foreign missionaries learned. Success in the mission field required the missionaries to understand the culture, be able to speak the language, and respect the differences.
Pastors and church leaders need to think like missionaries. We haven’t moved to a foreign country, but a foreign culture has come to us. Foreign in the sense that our culture is much different day than just a few years ago. Most of us pastors even young ones where trained to do ministry in a much different culture than which we live in today. Therefore, instead of trying to do ministry designed for a culture that no longer exist, we need to understand our current culture, be able to speak the language, and respect the differences.
Christianity in the early years of our country grow and spread through camp meetings and the great orators of the past. The expansion happened primarily through worship and preaching. However, that approach will not be why the church grows today and into the future. Unchurched people aren’t sitting around wondering where they can go to hear a great sermon, rather they are wondering if anyone cares about them and their struggles.
Our communities are full of people struggling; they are angry, afraid, and in despair. They are struggles in their relationships, struggling with their children, struggling to raise their children while caring for aging parent, struggling to pay their mortgage/rent, wondering if they will have a job today. They aren’t looking for a theologically sound sermon that is appropriately entertaining and at the same time meaningful. They are looking for someone to authentically care about them without an agenda. They are looking for someone who will walking with them and support them through their struggles.
Unchurched people in our communities are skeptical of the church and don’t trust the clergy. No sermon will change that attitude. It will change through patient authentic caring about people in your community. The world needs more missionaries than pastors today. Our communities need people both lay and clergy will we try to understand the culture, speak the language, and respect the difference. I pray God calls you to be a missionary right where you live.