Ministry in the U.S. takes on many forms, whether it’s volunteering through church organizations, soup kitchens or discipling neighbors, co-workers or friends. Cross-cultural mission in the U.S. is growing and there is a unique opportunity arising. The nations are coming to us. “God is bringing the nations to our American cities, and we have the opportunity to speak to people who have never heard of Christ or what he did right in our own cities or even on our own street!” says One Challenge USA Director Bob Rasmussen. “One in five international immigrants is in America. That’s 20% of the people who have moved from their country to another have come to the States. This is an unusual opportunity to be doing mission right here, cross-cultural mission without getting on an airplane or without having a passport.”
Ministering cross-culturally and educating churches on how to embrace multiple ethnicities is Bob’s primary ministry. Bob oversees One Challenge USA teams in Seattle, south Los Angeles, and Colorado Springs, focusing on intercultural ministry. “The intercultural ministry piece is definitely something that I’m passionate about, and everyone on our staff has a heart for the nations, a heart for bringing cultures together.” Bob says the need in this area is great because it is often an overlooked piece of ministry. “Even many pastors who are pursuing a multicultural church are not yet delving into the issue of how do we help people become more culturally adept and curious and even eager?” says Bob. “They have different worship styles and different cultures represented. That’s a good first step, but it really isn’t yet going to the cultural savvy element of how do we actually come to appreciate other cultures and become more skillful in making friends with those of other cultures?”
Ministry in a Multi-Cultural World course
Bob co-developed a course called Ministry in a Multi-Cultural World, which focuses on educating believers on the need of understanding and appreciating other cultures. “It goes all the way from God’s heart for the nations to a couple of weeks on different cultural lenses and how to appreciate who you are culturally and how others may be different.” This 10-session course delves into tough subjects and celebrates the multi-ethnic people groups which live in American cities. One area of difficulty is the issues left by the Civil Rights era that many churches have not dealt with. “For two weeks we get into the whole racial power struggle and leftover issues from the Civil Rights era,” says Bob. “We have two pretty tough weeks on that issue, because we feel it’s an area that the church wants to sweep under the carpet as if it’s all fine and dandy. But it’s not.”
After exploring some of the hindrances in creating a multi-ethnic church, the course gives examples of ministry models. “We talk about how churches are reaching out, teaching ESL, Alpha course, Talk Time, etc. Then we have a week on multi-ethnic church; just some basic principles on how a church can become more intentionally welcoming of other cultures,” says Bob. “And then we have a week on sharing your faith cross culturally and what are some things we should be aware of as we try to share our faith with someone who is Muslim or a Buddhist or whatever they might be.”
So far, Bob has organized this course in the Northwest but hopes to expand it into other cities across the U.S. “We’re looking for a local group of believers who want to bring the course to their city. We have the entire process prepared for them to use. They find local instructors to handle the topics. And we walk with them step by step through the planning process.” The website www.MMCW.info provides more.
Cultures at the Cross program
In order to cover all the complex areas of cross-cultural ministry in the U.S. Bob says OC USA “has its fingers in a lot of pies.” Another facet of Bob’s ministry is training church staff to be intentional about welcoming the nations. The program is called Cultures at the Cross; the first one was run earlier this year. Bob also works in partnership with an Ethiopian pastor in the Seattle area who has the passion to help with training back in Ethiopia. “This is a good example of how we can help bridge the gap between these visionary leaders in the States who still have a heart for their homeland, but they need the resourcing,” says Bob. “They need teachers and trainers to go with them. People who have been sitting in Sunday school classes and reading commentaries for thirty years, and they really would do a good job going on some of these trips to help teach.”
The ministry opportunities, especially the cross-cultural ministry in which OC USA works, are abundant. Clearly the Lord is at work and Bob says he hopes for more people to join the teams. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen in Los Angeles, hopeful for something to come up in the Front Range, and we’ll see what the Lord does,” says Bob. “We’d be looking more for people who have this mission heart already, they either love cultures or are curious enough to learn.” If you would like to know more about the work OC is doing in the U.S. please visit onechallengeusa.org.