MINISTERING CROSS-CULTURALLY

(ACROSS THE CULTURAL BARRIERS)

BY DR. JOFFRE P. VIVONI

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Foundations Publishing P.O. Box 8068 Jacksonville, FL 32239-8068

Ministering Cross-Culturally © 2003 Dr. Joffre P.Vivoni All rights reserved including the right to reproduce, photocopy or to translate this book or any part thereof

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Comments Greetings my dear Brother Vivoni! I often recall our many wonderful years of ministry service we have enjoyed together in the office of Cross Cultural ministries in the Church of God. I recall the contribution you have made developing the Cross Cultural Concept. Much of the success is contributed to your untiring efforts. …It is my opinion your book-let should be in print and distributed to all State and Territorial Church of God Leaders and other church leaders also. God bless you and your dear wife with health and ministry success. Dr. Billy J. Rayburn, former Cross-Cultural Director of the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee.

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Ministering Cross-Culturally: By: Dr. Joffre Pascal Vivoni – He is the Senior Pastor of the Jacksonville Hispanic Church of God and Cross-Cultural Center, and is also the president of Southeastern Theological Seminary. Dr. Vivoni has served as District Overseer and Coordinator for Hispanic Ministries in the state of Florida Church of God denomination, he was a member of the National Cross-Cultural Board of the Church of God denomination, Cleveland Tennessee, for 22 years. He has been used by many as a consultant for the establishment of new multi-cultural churches through the United States.

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Introduction: The United States has become a multicultural nation. The need to minister to the ethnic minorities has become evident with the changes in the ethnicity of the neighborhoods. I believe with all my heart that unless we reach out to the Cross-Cultural harvest, congregations will cease to exist and some denominations will die. The window of opportunity is here, let us move in and tap into the harvest. I have been working with Cross-Cultural ministries since 1984 and I am writing this booklet for the purpose of helping pastors and congregations in the establishment of effective ministries to the ethnic harvest. I know the concepts I will be presenting in this booklet are not the only ones that work, but I will be speaking out of my experience in the field of Cross-Cultural ministries and really believe that if you follow this principles they will be a blessing to you and to your ministry.

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What needs to be done before starting? Before we begin a Cross-Cultural ministry we need to do several things: 1. In prayer examine your motives, in other words, Why do you want to start a CrossCultural ministry? The reason I point this out is that many pastors see a Multi-Cultural ministry as an attraction, and an opportunity to show off their ministry. They enjoy having other pastors look up to their “kindness”. Other ministers see MultiCultural ministry as an opportunity to share expenses with another congregation. Needless to say, if you see this type of ministry that way, you are doomed to failure because the attraction will be gone in a few months, and as a new born baby the new ministry will, start generating expenses and require attention. In reality most of the CrossCultural churches require more time than “normal” in order to be self supporting and be able to pay its expenses. The real commitment comes when you see the need, and see this type of ministry as an opportunity to bring the Gospel effectively to the community you are ministering to.

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If you want to share expenses you should, instead, try sharing facilities with an already established ministry who has reached the self supporting stage. 2. Present the need to your congregation, especially to the pastor’s council. Make sure they are in agreement with you. The worst thing that can happen to an ethnic ministry is for them to be meeting in a shared facility or to be part of an Anglo congregation and feel the discontent of the Anglo people or the non-Christian attitudes of a council member expressing their open discontent. Nobody likes to feel rejected. You need to remember that, no matter what type of ministry you are going to start or host, the pastor, or even if it is the leader of the ethnic group is working for the same boss with the desire to minister the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to his people. If the people do not feel welcome in your church, they will just leave and you might have lost an opportunity. 3. Evaluate your community and decide which ethnic group needs to be ministered to the most. There are communities where the pastor is struggling to build and maintain a congregation, yet

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the congregation keeps decreasing in numbers. If we really examined the situation it is not necessarily the fault of the pastor, he might be doing everything he knows how to do and doing it well, it is the fact that the community has changed. If this is the case, then, the pastor or denominational leaders, instead of eventually burying the congregation and selling the building to some other denomination or congregation, they should evaluate what is the ethnicity of the community, if it is a Hispanic neighborhood, start a Hispanic ministry, if Haitian, a Haitian ministry, etc. A bilingual pastor or leader should be used to start these services. Eventually and somehow both congregations could merge and a “mega church” could arise from a dying church. This advise is for denominational leaders, the idea that you can sell the building to an ethnic congregation that is under your office is the same as if a pastor had to pay for his appointment. An ethnic pastor should be given the same opportunity as any other pastor in acquiring the use of any facility.

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4. Determine how much are you willing to invest in the new ministry. To start a congregation requires investing time in doing research and requires investing financially in materials, promotion and ministerial expenses. If your congregation does not have the finances to pay for a full time minister, you might want to start a Sunday School or a Cell-Group instead of planting a church or a local ministry. The other possibility is if there is a pastor who would like to be able to use your facilities. In this case the investment, will be minimal, you might spend more in electricity, in water, in supplies, but you will be reaching out and preaching the gospel in a more effective manner. 5. Determine clearly what would you like to do, what area of your facilities are you willing to use for the new ministry, and then select adequate leadership? Put yourself in the position of the new ministry. The group, or ministry that you are going to start needs the stability of having a fixed place that they can meet. If you do not have a steady place where they can meet, and every time there is an activity from your congregation they either have to moved or

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cancel their service, it will create uncertainty, and it will make them feel un-important. Eventually you will loose the group. It is better to have a steady smaller room than to be moved around every several services. Another thing that happens when you assign a room for their meeting is that the local host congregation will realize that there is a ministry being started, that this ministry is important for you as the pastor and that they are being instrumental in reaching out to fulfill the great commission. Another thing that happens is that the new ministry will look at the host congregation with a new perspective, they will feel “They back us up… they care.” 6. Select the pastor or leader carefully. When you are sharing facilities, starting a ministry or simply a cell group or a Sunday school class, you must: a. Be certain that there is mutual trust between the senior pastor and the leader of the ethnic group. Without trust the relationship will not last long. Both the pastor and the ethnic leader need to trust and treat each other as friends so that the relationship can be effective and both ministries can work

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together. (if the leaders are not united, how can you expect the followers to be in unity) b. The vision must be clear in both the senior pastor and the ethnic leader. Are you both clear about each other’s vision for this new ministry? I have found that if the vision is different, sooner or later you will have problems. Amos 3:3 “Can two walk together, except they are agreed?” I would recommend for the pastor or leader of the ethnic group to be bi-lingual. Between ethnic groups there are always cultural differences which might result in “misunderstandings”, if you add the language barrier you are just inviting disaster. Constant communication must exist between you and the ethnic leader. Concerns, questions, misunderstandings, problems, etc. should be worked out before they become a burden. If you are in a denomination, you might want to call your state office to request for mediation if there is anything that needs to be clarified, If not you might call another bilingual friendly minister to help you. Whatever you do must be done “in love”

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7. Everyone involved should be clear in what is the vision for this new ministry and should work as a team for it to progress. I have found that many problems arise when there is a difference in what is expected between each other. Sometimes the new ministry grows and expects to become a separate ministry while the host church expects for it to always be a “ministry” of the local church, other times the ministry wants to be a ministry and the mother church wants it to “leave home” in either case resentment and hostility can develop. All of this needs to be addressed before you start. Another problem that may arise is “what to do with finances? . If every income goes to the “host church”, every expense should come out from the “host church” including a salary for the “ministry” leader. If the ministry is allowed to keep the income they generate, the host church should still be able to help financially until the ministry is self supporting. Remember it takes more time before an ethnic ministry can be self supporting than it would a normal Anglo congregation.

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If there is a problem, you should be careful on how you approach the ethnic leader, many misunderstandings happen because of cultural differences and some expressions, or words could be offensive in some cultures. After all of this has been done, what is the next step? After all of this has been done, plan to have a commissioning service were the Anglo congregation will have an opportunity of meeting the ethnic pastor or leader. Make it a special occasion where a sense of unity is reflected. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Anglo pastor to show his support for this new ministry. Tell the Anglo congregation why this ministry has been started (show the need) let them feel a sense of accomplishment in having this new ministry in their facilities. Encourage them to fellowship and to see this as an opportunity to reach out to the community, provide for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus, and for the strengthening of the local congregation.

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Combined activities should be coordinated and done frequently. If there anything that needs to be done with respect to repairs or remodeling, include the new ministry in your plans. Combined services should be programmed sporadically, if this is the case, participation should be encouraged from both ministries. Do not expect integration immediately, there might always be resistance from both groups, but trust and mutual respect will grow eventually. Remember that the reason why you saw the need to start the ministry was to reach out to the ethnic group. Never make the ethnic group feel that they are strangers or intruders in your facilities, after all, remember it is not your church or facilities, they belong to God. You are just the steward of God’s ministry. The Anglo church should be constantly informed of any progress in the new ministry. Both ministries should feel the importance of what they are doing. Both ministries should work together as a team, and both must keep the feeling of mutual ownership of the accomplishments of the other. In other words, it is not we and they; it is all of us doing what we can to reach out to others.

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Be open and ready to do adjustments if necessary. Every ministry is different and as it grows problems and new opportunities will arise. Be ready to modify the strategy of ministry according to the need. If your heart is right, God will guide you to do the right thing.

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