Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Greatest Shock of All

The children of missionaries usually face the hardest Culture Shock of all. No, not when they move with their parents to a “foreign country” as a child. At least not since most sending agencies began to limit the age of children being sent. The hardest culture shock of all is experienced by those MKs that return to the States to head to college after living in a different culture for so many years. And, it is not necessarily the return to the United States culture that is so difficult, even though that is a genuine culture shock. Most MKs have learned how to deal with the ins and outs of cultural change through experience. The hard part to adjust to is re-entering the church culture in the United States.

There is a lot that does not make sense to MKs about church in the states:

How do churches justify spending as much as they do on the things that they do? How do they even justify doing some of the things in the first place?

How do you get used to a place where Evangelical Christianity is more culture than belief? In many places in the world, the minority status of evangelicals ensures that participation is by choice and belief rather than just popularity and cultural acceptance.

Why don’t churches in the states practice Biblical discipline? Why does belief not impact and change people making them different from nonbelievers? And the flipside of that question: How can they be so legalistic when they essentially live like the rest of the world?

Of course, all of these questions and others are tainted with the perception filter that is culture shock. Not all of the issues are quite so pervasive or extreme, but it might do the church some good to tap into the resource of returning MKs. It sometimes helps to hold ourselves up to the mirror of outside perception.

That—and it could help a lot of MKs if more people understood why they seem so negative when returning to the states.

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