A Different Kind of Engagement

At the core of what we do in the classroom is the desire to love our students and point them towards Jesus. This looks different for each of us depending on the subjects we teach, the age of our students, the context of our service. One thing that remains the same, however, is this Biblical truth: out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks[1]. Our own spiritual walk and our own process of sanctification provides the framework for how we interact with and love our students. If we aren’t undergoing the process of transformation ourselves, how do we expect to show our students what transformation is all about?

This is not new territory for many of us. We know that we must cultivate our own spiritual roots in order to be equipped to serve the Kingdom in our classrooms. And so we set aside time to be in the Word, to pray, and to worship. We find fellowship with other believers, even if we serve in a context where this is hard. And we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to move through us to reveal himself to the students we interact with on a daily basis. We offer up our lives as a living sacrifice and expect the Father to use us as examples to draw others—our students, especially—to Himself.

I was thinking about all these things the other day and remembering the story that one of our colleagues tells about the first-grade student in her school who believed that God only spoke in English. And about the conversation I had with one of our national directors about the hurt that many believers in his nation felt when the missionaries left after the material resources dried up. And I started to wonder if maybe there isn’t another layer in our own spiritual growth that we’ve perhaps overlooked—not out of neglect, but out of our own blindness.

Most of us serve in contexts where at least a portion (if not the majority) of our students come from a different cultural background than we do. And yet I wonder how many of us have read—or watched or listened to—theological (or devotional) works by authors (or pastors) from these other contexts? I know my exposure to these different perspectives has been limited. And I suspect I’m not alone in this.

I wonder if without intending to, we are missing out on rich soil which might nourish and challenge our own spiritual growth? What if part of imitating Christ is following His example of incarnation, entering into another culture even to the point of learning from the theology of local believers? What if our concept of Biblical worldview is actually colored—or even distorted—by our cultural background? How would it affect our ability to connect with our students if we found ways to engage with different cultural perspectives about the Gospel?

If you are like me, this all probably sounds a bit daunting. You might wonder where you would find resources to help you engage culture in this way—especially if you don’t know what you don’t know! Or you might wonder about finding the time on top of your already busy schedule. Or how to bridge the language divide.

I’m not suggesting you add another “to do” onto your plate. I know that as teachers in cross-cultural settings you have plenty of those already! But I would challenge you to start to think about these things. Maybe start a conversation with a local believer in your context. Or check out the resources at The Global Church Project[2]. Perhaps invite a colleague to pick up one of these books and discuss a chapter or two when time allows: Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, Global Humility: Attitudes for Mission, or The 3D Gospel.

Just as we nurture other aspects of our spiritual growth, I would encourage us to nurture this intercultural aspect. Who knows how the Lord might use this for his glory?

“The kings of the earth will bring their splendor into [the New Jerusalem]…The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.” Rev. 21:24,26

Becky Hunsberger, M.Ed.
Coordinator of Teacher Education Services
TeachBeyond Global

[1] Luke 6:45 (ESV)[2] I’ve been challenged by the recent series of blogs that highlight female theologians from non-Western regions of the world. I had no idea what I didn’t know!

Photo Credits: Cityscape. via Shutterstock. Prayer. via Shutterstock. Iglesia. via Shutterstock.