Episode One - Understanding Your Culture

As a pastor, transitioning to a new church is a difficult move in life. Often, you will uproot your family from the community in which they are a part and settle in a new home, new community, and new church. The temptation is to simply continue doing what you have been doing. After all, the church hired you after being witness to what you were already doing. They saw or heard you preach in your present context. They listened to you in interviews describe your current ministry context and then called you to be their pastor after witnessing these things. It would be easy to take those facts and determine that you should simply keep doing what you are doing. That, however, would be a false and potentially catastrophic assumption.

This wise pastor enters a new context assuming everything will be different from where he has been and begins a meticulous process of interpreting his new surroundings. He holds loosely to those things which he has done before and becomes the anthropologist studying a new culture. He will surely find that the community he now lives in is different from his own. The church he has been called to lead is a different lot than those he previously served.

Should he fail to do this, he will find it difficult to fulfill his calling. He will be pastoring the church he wants, instead of the one given to Him by Christ. He will be pastoring a people that either do not exist anywhere in reality, or if they do, they certainly do not exist at the same place he is pastoring.

Let me leave you with one word of clarification. This caution does not apply to essentials of the faith. There are some things that a pastor cannot comprise on. We should all be clear about this before we accept a new church position and uncompromising once we arrive. The Lord has set parameters for our ministry and the location, traditions, and expectations of one church do not change those parameters.

The church must also walk through this process, and that will be the topic of my next article.


Micheal S. Pardue