Enjoying Your Host Culture

One crucial thing to church planting is developing a love for the people and a love for the culture within which you’re working. The fact is if you don’t love the people or their culture, you’ll wear out fast. You’ll end up going through the motions to stay busy or find some way to leave. Paul said that a lack of love will make you sound hollow and be practically useless (1 Cor 13:1-2).

I’m not saying that you have to love everything about the culture. There are many things about many cultures that I don’t like. I don’t like mayonnaise, cottage cheese, or sour cream; but that hasn’t stopped me from gaining weight at a Russian table.

But in difficult times, it helps to remember the miracle of being able to work among a different people group. A couple of years ago, I made a list of “miraculous” experiences that God has given me. You can read it below. I’d encourage you to make your own list, and take time to praise God for each gift- each experience that He uses to make you a better acclimated church planter.

10. Taking in the contrast of the view on the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg or Peter the Great’s gardens in Peterhof on a bright, sunny day and the mellow hues of a Moscow underpass late at night.
9. Feeling -37 degrees below zero with a wind chill of -45 degrees. No amount of clothes keeps you warm enough.
8. Preaching & teaching in Russian & Reading a Dosteyevsky book in Russian. To actually understand another language (regardless of your own grammatical errors).
7. Eating Sala (pork fat) and Holodets (meat jello) made by some village ladies and eating caviar right out of a salmon from the river. Who would have ever dreamed?
6. White water rafting on a 3-day fishing/camping trip on a river on the Kamchatka Peninsula with some Russian Baptist leaders.
5. Running the St. Petersburg White Nights 10K and the Moscow International Marathon of Peace 10K.
4. Having a Russian best friend, a best friend for life.
3. Feeling my first Banya in a Russian village. I cried like a baby ever time the wet birch branches hit my skin!
2. Seeing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) dance on an Arctic winter sky in Murmansk after riding on a Russian train for 54 hours. It was worth the ride.
1. Leading a Russian neighbor to Christ in our apartment. Some things you can’t plan for. Some things you never forget.


Shoot Son Dang Girl Alissa said...

I am not a church planter, but this post really encouraged me today.

(And who doesnt love meat jello? we tried it a few weeks ago! very interesting.)

Glenn Smith said...

Buck, great post. The culture issue is relevant everywhere you are, even in American suburban culture. There are some things about every culture that reflects the image of God, and there are some things about every culture that is a result from the fall. I love Jesus' words in Jn 17:15. I think we will (and should) discover things in every culture that we not only enjoy but that reflect the image of God. (Of all the places around the world I've visited, Russia is one of the places that I enjoyed most.) However, sometimes we love the culture too much and miss the reality of the fall that is present there. Sometimes we struggle with that in suburban America. We have the privilege of taking the gospel into a variety of host cultures. I think the key is to see whatever culture we live in as a "host", and not our ultimate home! Thanks again for your post. Very encouraging.

Buck Burch said...

Thanks, Allisa. Who knows? Maybe you'll be a church planter before you know it. :)

Buck Burch said...

Hi Glenn, coming from you, this is a huge compliment. I once heard a Russian preacher use the Matt. 28:19 passage to identify the material from which disciples are made- ethne or cultures. He went on to describe the beautiful quilt that the Holy Spirit is crafting out of the redeemed material of mankind's diverse cultures. It was really a good image.

Joe said...

Thanks for this reminder! Having spent almost 10 years of the last 16 in the former SU, I have my own set of experiences that drive me to continue to fight the good fight! God is good!

Buck Burch said...

Thanks, Joe. Yes, He is- All the time!