Culture shock.

What is this phenomenon, and what should we do about it?

It happens simply because things are so different from what you're accustomed to back home. In many of the places you visit, you'll find that the people live in great poverty. The roads and means of communication are often not nearly as sophisticated and efficient as what we have. You may feel frustrated because of this. You may tend to criticize or compare to what you're used to back home. This is normal - but watch out!

There are some things you need to be careful about in the midst of this "shocking" experience!

1. Be careful not to judge people! Jesus commanded us not to do this (Matthew 7:1). Often our tendency is to take pride in what God has given us, as if we have done it or made it all ourselves. In other countries things may not be on our high level of material and technical sophistication. This does not mean, however, that the people there are less valuable as human beings, or that we have nothing to learn from them!

2. Don't get caught in the comparison trap! We are all made in the image of God, and there is something in every individual and every culture that reflects His glory in some form or fashion.

3. Be careful not to force your own values upon the culture to whom you're ministering! We certainly don't want to accept things in other cultures that are unbiblical or ungodly. And we do very much want to share with the people the "new culture" of biblical Christianity. But sometimes we can confuse our own ways with gospel essentials, and this is not a good practice! It is important to make a separation between the outer form things take and their inner essence. It's not the "outer form" of their church government style or their views on certain political issues that is important. We have not come to change all that. We have come to bring the good news of Christ and to offer our service to them in His name. They must follow Him as obedient servants and disciples in their own cultural context - they're not called to become just like us!

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