Teaching an International Congregation

Teaching the Bible to an international audience is a wonderful opportunity. By effectively communicating the Word of God to multiple nations/cultural backgrounds simultaneously, one is able to spread the truth of God’s word internationally. Those globalized individuals, whom you have taught, will naturally share what they have learned with the nations from which they have come. However, it is difficult to communicate with more than one culture at the same time. Being effective, doing so, will involve following biblical principles of relationship and communication.

While I believe what follows to be consistent with God’s Word, it is important to emphasis that this is not the only way to minister in cross-cultural situations. Rather than critiquing other approaches, I hope to simply share my insights from many years of ministering to various cultures in the same teaching time.

Know the Participants: It is important to become thoroughly acquainted with each individual within the multi-cultural congregation. Reading background information may be helpful, but personal interaction is essential. Extending friendship with the goal of truly knowing and understanding your fellow-made-in-the-image-of-God sojourner is the foundation of edifying communication.

Make the Goal Communication: This may seem obvious, but, often times, we Bible teachers become so excited about what God is teaching us, that we forget to make sure we are communicating on the level of our congregants. Watching the clock, we tend to speed up our delivery, thereby losing contact with those whom we are trying to communicate. Our goal should be to communicate truth, rather than complete an outline.

Interact Continually: By paying close attention to the congregation and by asking life application questions, the lesson will come alive, and the congregation will grow together around the teaching of God’s Word. Life questions are different then academic questions, which tend to exalt those with Bible knowledge. Life questions help apply biblical principles to daily living.

Be Nimble not Rigid: Some times a congregant will ask questions which are more important than the prepared material. It is essential to have mastered the main truths of God’s Word well enough, and, likewise, have gained a comprehensive understand of the congregant/congregation, so that we can discern when it is wise to change the direction of our message.

Prepare the Field: In our context of ministry, many of the those who become congregants have also studied introductory Bible survey lessons with members of the church family. Inevitably, those lessons/stories are referenced in the Sunday lesson time. What helped an individual become a Christian is then expanded upon in the discipleship ministry of Sunday morning. Notice that the Sunday morning message is an extension and expansion of the evangelistic ministry of the church.

Reap the Harvest: Following up the morning message by clarifying certain aspects of the message or by answering questions raised by the Sunday teaching is a good way to solidify what has been taught. This may be done in a follow-up service (we have at times done this in a brief after Sunday lunch service), a separate small group get together or by means of social media.

Simplify the Service: Sometimes the complexity of a service detracts from the teaching of the Word of God. It may help to simplify the service schedule: Prelude, Prayer and share (30minutes), Singing understandable songs, and the teaching/preaching of God’s Word. This may be followed by sharing Sunday lunch together. I have found that praying together and eating together are very important elements in developing the life of the congregation.

Prepare the room for interaction Study/Worship:

As you arrange the room for study/worship, think in terms of communication both between the teacher and the student, but also between the student and the student. This allows for better communication on various levels, and makes a more friendly atmosphere–more of a relational atmosphere, which more closely reflects our Trinitarian understanding of fellowship.

I hope to follow this blog post with more information on the biblical principles upon which the above points are based. In addition, it would be helpful to illustrate how our practice has actually worked out on Sunday mornings.

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