If your ever in the bustling metropolis of Winston-Salem on a Monday night swing by a coffee shop named “Crankies” and you will find a group of ten college students having a Bible Study. It’s led by Rick Clinard an old friend who currently teaches at the Christian school and oversees the Young Adults ministry of Salem Baptist Church. During my furlough in 2009 I attended these studies and the Lord placed a burden in my heart to reproduce groups like it in the coffee shops of Australia.
After returning to Melbourne 2010 I began working very hard on these cafe Bible Studies but they never really took off. This isn’t to say Australians Believers don’t care about Scripture; I am discipling two young men from the Church as well as a married couple, and we have a mens Bible Study every other week. The problem wasn’t lack of interest in Scripture but attempting to use a program or process from the American culture when ministering to Australians.
A very important part of missions is studying the culture and developing relationships with the people that allow us to learn what methods connect with them. Those who take the time to do this experience “aha moments” that reveal what’s works in America does not always work here (shocking I know).
I can remember my first aha moment in 2009. One of our young people was quite introverted and rarely said more than one word during Sunday School or the morning service, but while playing Halo he started talking and wouldn’t shut up. We where honestly able to learn more about him in one hour of video games (during which I died 100 times) than a whole year of Church services.
That moment along with others taught me that “mentoring” is the best way to teach young people in Melbourne. It involves doing things with them (movie, golf, bowling, etc.) followed by a coffee and discussion about their walk with the Lord. That time allows me to learn what they are struggling with then share Scripture to help meet their needs. Over time mentoring also leads helps people approach me with their fears, frustrations, and struggles.
Last Saturday I was able to spend some time mentoring two young men from a local church in the area. We watched sports, ate junk food, played Call of Duty, laughed hysterically when I died for the one-hundredth time (does anyone else see a pattern here?), went to see The Avengers movie, and had a coffee. During that time we wrestled together over what to do when we are lonely, how to be a better witness, our relationship with unsaved friends, and what God wanted us to do with our lives. We could have covered those subjects during a Bible Study but they would have responded to the discussion questions like a dog that hears a high-pitched whistle.
My point is there are many wonderful books, programs, and websites to help us reach the unsaved or build a Church. However it’s necessary to make sure we are fitting our methods (never the message) into their culture instead of forcing them to become like us. And if your called to Australia do yourself a favor…work on your video game skills