So if you guys are just coming in, we’re going to invite you guys to take the post it that was given to you guys and follow the instructions on the screen. So that would require you guys to come up here. If you haven’t made it to the map in the front, then we invite you to. And if you guys would like to move a little bit closer, this is a very large room – we would like to see your nice faces so we’d love to have you guys move forward if you’d like to.
Alright, so if you guys are just walking in or just finishing putting your post it on the map, we’re going to get started. Feel free to continue putting stuff on a map, or you can write the information on the piece of paper you guys got.
So welcome to our seminar, it’s called Starting a Cross-Cultural Evangelistic Bible Study. We have the prize for the longest seminar name, probably. A couple of things about us – my name is Allison Schafer, and I’ve been on staff for the past 7 years working among international students. I’ve been working in a graduate context for five years with graduate students, and as well with undergrad students. I was an international student in Spain and my favorite newly discovered food is the belt noodle which is from Shaanxi, China, which is a three-foot noodle and is awesome.
And my name’s Brian, I’ve been on – this is my fourth year on staff with InterVarsity. I was also an international student in the country of Japan, and you can ask me afterwards if you’d like, but I once had a tiger in my basement! So if you’re curious to know more you should come find out about that. We’re really glad you guys are here today.
Alright, so just so you guys know where we’re heading with the seminar, the first thing that we’re going to look at is why international students? So there may be a variety of you guys in this room, some of you guys might be from Canada, some from the US, some of you guys may be international students, some of you guys may not be students at all. But we hope that you catch the vision for why reach out to international students. Next we’re going to look at seeing Jesus through your friend’s perspective, a key, key part to starting a bible study, a cross cultural bible study. And lastly we’re going to give you guys some practical tools – how to actually start an international bible study.
Introduction to Internationals Students in America
So there’s huge increases in international student enrollment across North America. The sheet that you guys were given at the door is called Open Doors and it’s statistics from the past 10 years of international student enrollment. Those are only statistics from the US. Those are from 2010-2011. Currently in 2012 there are over 764,000 international students in the US. The US is the top host country for international students in the world. In Canada there’s more than 250,000 international students, and people are expecting- and universities are expecting that enrollment will double within the next 10 years.
International students – if you guys look at the map, these are your friends (which probably represent the statistics) that come from all over the world to study in North America. Currently in the US, China is the first country that sends students here, then India, and then South Korea, and this year Saudi Arabia actually jumped to the fourth place, which if you guys look at the stats for 2011, that has made an incredible jump. So Muslim student enrollment has increased incredibly. Five years ago Saudi students weren’t even accepted into universities in the US.
So I’m going to share a couple of stories with you guys. This first guy is Pol Pot. Raise your hand if you know Pol Pot. Yeah. So Pol Pot, he was actually an international student in France in 1949, and he was from Cambodia. He actually went back home to his country and became the dictator and led a revolution which led to the genocide of more than 2.5 million people. So Pol Pot was an international student. He was a very influential international student. Devastatingly influential. This next woman – this is a more positive story – Wangari Maathai. Anyone know her? Raise your hand? She actually has an amazing story. She was an international student from Kenya in the 1960s and she was enrolled in Kansas which, anyone know where Kansas is? Californians know where it is? Great. She was a student in Kansas and she was an environmentalist and political activist. She went back home to Kenya and she actually led a movement to reforest Kenya by employing women in poverty. She was actually the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her impact. So Wangari Maathai was an international student in Kansas, and she had an incredible impact on the environment and on women in her country, and had an incredible position. This is my friend. I’m from St. Louis, so I work on staff and I’m 20 minutes away at a university called Lindenwood, and we will call my friend B. He is from an unreached country. And he was actually in my bible study this past semester, and we actually studied the great invitation, or the great banquet. And he told me, he’s like, “Allison, I actually feel like Jesus is inviting me into the banquet. But I haven’t, I haven’t gone in yet, and I haven’t said yes to Jesus.” And I was like, wow, that’s great! B, he still hasn’t accepted Jesus, but he just graduated. And I wonder what impact he’ll have. And I do hope that he will say yes to Jesus. And I wonder, all these people – all these names that you guys wrote up here – I wonder what impact they will have on their countries. So I think through all these people’s stories and thinking of your friends, international students are very influential. International students are in transition. They are going to go back home or stay in North America or go to another country and be in positions of influence and power. And I think our invitation is that I think that Jesus is inviting us to be part of influencing their story.
So we’re going to invite up Rutendo. She is a former international student from Zimbabwe, from Lindenwood University, and she’s going to share what was her experience like as an international student and what she would’ve wished that North Americans knew about international students.
Comments from an international student
Thank you. What I wish Americans knew. When Allison asked me to share I was like, “I don’t know,” but then I’ve come up with a few points that I’m going to share with you today. The first one is an important one. You can invite a bunch of Africans to any bible study or small group or any get together if you tell them there’s going to be cake after. Or any kind of good food. We’re going to show up most of the time. I think it’s going to be beneficial to just show some pictures of the bible study that we have going at Lindenwood right now. That first picture was that first semester that we had the bible study going we went bowling and a lot of the people who went bowling, it was their first time to bowl, ever. That was really fun and funny for people had gutter balls all around. And the second one was a couple semesters after that - it was another fun night and we had the most people in attendance for one of our fun nights. I think we had 20-25 people attend. So just some background information on these fun nights. We have them spread out throughout the semester, we have about 3 each semester and we hang out and we invite people who don’t normally come to bible study and just to show them that just because we’re Christian doesn’t mean we don’t know how to have a good time. So we hang out, that third one, was just some time after one of the bible studies that we had, and that fourth one as well. And then this one I think we had just shared something on peace and love that I think we need to reshare because there’s some fist pumping and I think that poor girl is supposed to be a rugby tackle, and I think that message may need to be reiterated in a way that we’re going to understand a little bit more.
Okay, so back to the way that I wish Americans knew about international students. So the first thing is that as you come here, the international students are very eager to learn American culture, to learn the domestic culture here, because they’re going to be here for four years so it’s imperative that they understand how the culture works here. I mean, a simple thing like going to Wal Mart is like navigating a minefield when you first get here. I remember the first time I was in a Wal Mart I was like, “Oh my gosh” and it’s a different experience. They’re eager to learn, we’re eager to find out how people relate in church here, how people relate in Wal Mart, people interact together in a college setting, they’re eager to learn. But the prerequisite for that is the willingness to embrace where we come from, to embrace where the other person is coming from, to seek to understand before you can then share the American culture. I’ll give an example – my first week here as a freshman we had freshmen meet and greet and I met a young from Azerbaijan. And I had never heard of Azerbaijan before and I told him this and he was so offended, like “Oh my gosh, you have never heard of Azerbaijan”. And I felt so bad. Our conversation didn’t quite flow very well after that. And I went back to my dorm room and I was on my laptop and I googled Azerbaijan and their history and their neighbors, and I was like, “Man, if I meet another person from Azerbaijan I’m going to be ready!” Funnily enough, I met – like two days later – I met another person from Azerbaijan, and I was like, “Azerbaijan! I know Azerbaijan” and I started listing all the things I had found out about their neighboring countries. And it is amazing, the guys face just lit up and he was like, “You know, a lot of people don’t know about Azerbaijan.” I was like, “I know, it’s horrible.” But it gave him a sense of being understood, and he started to ask me where I was from and I started telling him I’m from Zimbabwe, and we got dialogue going. We were able to communicate from a place of understanding, so that’s very important to seek to understand where people are coming from.
Third thing: other countries are important too. As I have interacted with American students and international students, what I have found is when international students share the countries they are from some American students are like, “I hear there’s hunger there. I hear there’s suffering there. I hear there was a genocide there, or people die of AIDS there.” You know? And it’s – all these things can be true, you know, in reality but that’s not a good way to start to build relationships with international students. These things can come up with, along the way after you’ve built up the relationship and can discuss these more serious issues. So respect where people are coming from, I think, is what I learned in that aspect.
Culture shock. My goodness. Like I said, Wal Mart it was like a minefield. In Zimbabwe, we don’t – the price that you see on the tag when you go to the store is the price that you’re going to see when you go to the checkout. So in America, it was my first time, you know, I had a budget, my mom had given me some money, and you know I was calculating, I was calculating, and I got to the till, and there were taxes and it was like whoa, where did money come from? So you know it’s a huge culture shock, different foods, different ways to do things, so extend grace to international students. Some of them it’s the first time they’ve ever flown away from home and to be immersed in this completely different environment – cut them some slack and respect the caterpillars that they eat. *Cough*Allison.
And the fifth thing, I think, for me personally is just core. If you’re going to take away a couple of things, this one has to be your takeaway. Number five. As you wait. Can I get a drumroll please? Thank you, thank you. Africa is a continent! There, I said it, I said it! And it’s not a country. There are like, 50 countries, over 50 countries in Africa there. It’s a continent. I have, when I’ve told people and interacted with people, that I’m from Zimbabwe, they’re like, “Oh, that is so cool! I have a friend in Nigeria, (and they mention his name) do you know him?” Lord give me peace and patience. And I explain, like, if someone lives in New York and I – it’s different. We all don’t gather in Kenya in the marketplace and know everybody.
So I guess to conclude that, it’s just – interact with people. Learn where they’re from. And in learning where they’re from you might find out something about yourself that you weren’t aware of. It’s really cool getting to know people from different cultures and learning to exchange ideas and to think in ways that you hadn’t thought before, and to share the gospel when that opportunity brings itself up.
In our bible study we have people from Ghana, from Nigeria, from Mexico, from Kenya, from Zimbabwe, and a couple of Americans as well, so it has been really, really cool. And I think that’s all I have to share, thank you.
Thank you Rutendo, that’s really great. I just want to take a couple, may be two comments from the audience – what did you guys notice from what Rutendo said? What seemed important to the experience of international students from what she said? Mutual respect! Yes, when you’re in a new place, don’t know what’s going on, feeling respected can restore dignity to you. I think that’s been a theme for this conference for me. International students often times are disrespected, and if you’re the first person to respect them, you’ll have instant clout in their mind, and they’ll think I want to be with that person again.
Second one? What else did you guys notice that she said? You need to work on building relationships with them. Yes. I think sometimes we have different expectations of relationships in different countries. In many countries outside the United States to be someone’s friend involves a lot more than maybe what we understand it to mean, and also a lot more time or interaction or all sorts of things. Last one? To be curious but not assume. Yeah, that’d be great. Interested in learning about other people. That’s good.
Differences in perspective
Okay. We’re going to go on to the second part of our presentation. Before we start talking, we’re going to show you a film clip in a second. So the – before we start talking to guys about how to start leading a bible study and the practicals of interacting in an evangelistic bible study with someone you don’t know, we felt like it was imperative to talk to you guys about differences in perspective. So you heard some of that from Rutendo. But I wanted to kind of delve in a little bit deeper and sink our teeth into what does it really mean for someone to have a completely different worldview than our own, and how do we interact with them and hope to introduce them to Jesus? Right? Cause that’s the end goal of our bible studies – that people would interact with the living God and respond to him.
So how do we do that with someone that thinks completely different from us? I’m sure if any of you guys have had conversations with someone who comes from a different perspective, sometimes you reach this point where you say, “Well surely you think this, right?” And they say, “Well, ah, no I don’t.” Oh no. That was like my whole argument after that was going to follow and now I’m in deep trouble. So we’re going to talk a little bit about perspective. And to help us think about that we’re going to show a short film clip – take special notice of the differences in perspectives that you see. So this movie is a movie called Outsourced. I cannot vie for everything that’s inside the movie, but I think the movie itself is interesting, as a man, Todd, is sent to a foreign country, India, to manage a call center there that has been outsourced to sell American paraphernalia. So we’re going to watch this film clip.
So what did you guys notice that was happening in this encounter between people from different perspectives and different countries? Todd was offending them. Yes. How was Todd offending them? Thanks for cluing us in, for those of us who may not have necessarily known this, in India, cows are considered sacred or highly revered. And he was talking about holding down baby cows and searing them with a red hot iron, and oh dear. Yeah, so if you guys didn’t hear that: he didn’t know anything above what his mission was. He just kind of assumed, of course everyone knows what a Packers cheesehead is. We just do it? Why wouldn’t you do it? Maybe time for one more comment? So the suggestion at the end – yeah, you want to say something? Someone was gracious enough to tell him that he needed to change the way he was acting. Yeah, so eventually someone clued him in. So they were kind of being like, oh no, I’m so embarrassed for him, and finally someone said I think you really need to stop and learn about India, right? He was kind of coming in assuming that he was in a position of power and that he could teach everyone, and it was not going very well. That’s great.
So when we think about perspective, I would like to give you guys a little image. I think about perspective and our identity like a tree. There are things above the surface, like our group norms, our social roles, what we expect in different situations, maybe religious practices, our customs, our concept of self – any number of different things that we could see on the surface where we say, “Oh, that’s different. You guys care about cows and we burn our burgers with our initials in them. That’s kind of strange.” There’s just all sorts of different external things that we see above the surface.
Underneath is things that have shaped those things. They’re cultural experiences. Some of those are individual, so maybe the food that they ate growing up, the family that they were in, it might be their language or their geography. There might be corporate experiences of an entire nation, maybe it had had a war or maybe there was a famine. Any number of different things that had shaped the experience that these people had been soaking in that is different from ours. I think the most important for me when I’m thinking about someone is: what is their history and their people’s narrative? How do they see their story playing out? What is the ideal lifestyle? What are their problems in the world, if there are? Right? How do we understand the narrative that the person already sees themself in?
One of the biggest problems that we have and have had as a Christian people is that oftentimes we expect someone to encounter Jesus through our own perspective. We say, “Surely everyone has had this experience that I have had, and I can explain the gospel to them through that experience.” What we need to understand is that a central truth of the gospel is that Jesus is for all nations. That he is gathering to himself a people for all nations. Which means that Jesus is relevant to every person in every part of the world. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that every perspective is correct. That’s not what we’re saying. But what we are saying is that God has been seeking people from every nation from the very beginning of the world and therefore my Japanese friends don’t need to adopt a Western perspective in order to encounter Jesus. Jesus is already pursuing them. He’s already saying things that make sense to them. And we have to begin to think about the way our friends are thinking and how Jesus might be already pursuing them if we’re going to understand how to communicate the gospel to them or with them.
Rob your friends
So a couple pointers on how we can learn perspective, and I think this is really key. We already learned some of them from Rutendo, but there’s three things that I’d like you guys to take away with. And the word I’m going to leave you with is that you need to rob your friends. So please rob your friends. There’s three way that you should rob your friends.
First is that if you want to understand a perspective, please research it. Do what Rutendo did on Azerbaijan. Look it up on Wikipedia. See what’s happening there now. Who’s the Prime Minister? What do people care about? Are there any social movements going on? What happened in history a long time ago? What did people think? What do they eat? What’s their dominant religion or worldview there? What do people see as the ideal life? Research it.
Second is observe them. So we can learn lots of information about a people, but until we actually enter in to a community, it will be different for us to understand it. I can learn the five tenants of Islam but that doesn’t mean that I know my friend. And the best you can do is that if there is a people group that you’re seeking to get involved with, show up to their meeting. Odds are, there’s probably a gathering somewhere on campus and usually they’re trying to promote their own culture to the campus – which means that if you’re not from that cultural group, you’re welcome. Because they want to promote that culture to someone other than themselves. If you’re already part of that cultural group then you’re definitely already welcome, but that means everyone’s welcome. So you should just show up. Try to observe some things. Notice what people care about. How do they interact with each other? What matters in the community? What’s important to them? Try to pay attention.
The last thing – be a friend to people. You’ll never understand fully until someone welcomes us in. If you want to understand Japanese culture, have a Japanese person teach you. If you want to understand India, seek to make a close friendship with an Indian friend who can say, “Oh, don’t do that. That’s so embarrassing when you do that,” or “Yeah, that was great when you did that. You’re doing a good job.” Have someone interpret for you and be your guide. It’s really important.
So I want to give you guys a practical story in how this has played out in my life as I’ve worked with international students, because sometimes it’s difficult for us to wrap our heads around what it means for us to understand someone’s perspective until we hear it come to life in a story. There was a friend of mine, his name is Nicolas (he told me it was okay to say his name here so I’m going to). He’s from Argentina. He’s been attending our graduate international student fellowship for off and on the last two years, and he started becoming really involved just this last spring. He came to our Friday night bible study and we were working our way through the whole biblical narrative, and we were at the story of the crucifixion, nearing the end. The pastor was a Korean man who came and brought a tract. And the tract was entitled The Top 10 Reasons that Jesus Christ Came to Die. And he read them off, one at a time, all of the reasons that Jesus came to die. And then he broke us up into groups and said, “Read the top 10 reasons, and tell your small group what was the most motivating, compelling reason for you.” And so we all sat down and started to talk through, and it was kind of interesting to hear what everyone was saying. I felt like I was really motivated by Jesus’ desire to take away my sins, to forgive me of the guilt that I had. And my friend Nicolas looked around and said, “None of these are very motivating to me.” I said oh no. What do we say now? “What’s most motivating to me is that Jesus Christ was willing to go and obey the father even to the point of death.” He was willing to go all the way, for the sake of following Jesus. That wasn’t on the list, but he found that very compelling about God. And I found that really interesting. That I, as a western person, from a legal background that travels back to northern Europe in my history and my cultural roots, that I cared about the fact that Jesus had forgiven my guilt – but that was not motivating to my Catholic and Orthodox (he’s actually a blend) Argentinian and South American friend. What he found compelling about Jesus was that Jesus was willing to obey to the point of death. That was motivating for him. Now that doesn’t mean that either of our perspectives were necessarily wrong. Jesus did obey to the point of death, and Jesus did take my guilt away. But what we have to understand is that when we interact with our friends we need to start developing eyes to search for what is motivating for our friends. What matters to them? Do they care about shame? Are they deeply feeling a sense of shame about themselves? Jesus removes shame. Do they have a deep sense of bitterness within their hearts? Do they care about their community and their family? What motivates our friends? Because we know that Jesus is motivating. We just have to know how they’re motivating to our friend.
So I’m going to ask us a question now, and we’re going to break up into small groups to discuss this. You guys wrote the name of a friend down on a little sticky note, and it’s on this map when you came into the room. If you didn’t do that, that’s okay, just think of a friend while I’m talking. I want you guys to turn and pair with two or three people around you and talk about that friend. How might their perspective be a little bit different than yours? How do you think then that Jesus might be relevant to them with that different experience and that different perspective? And if you don’t know, that’s okay. Spend some time praying and see if God might have something to say or if you might have some ideas about how you might begin building that relationship and that perspective. Does that make sense? Great. Break up into two or three small groups – groups of two or three – and we’re going to debrief that as well.
Alright, I’m going to pray for a moment for you guys and your friends, and if you guys want to listen to God with me while we pray, that’d be great.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you do want to seek each of our friends from all these different countries. Thank you God that they do not need to become something that they are not in order to hear from you, but that you want to speak to them and transform them into your son’s likeness, into his kingdom from the place where they already are. That you are seeking them, that they do not need to become western or American just to hear your voice. Lord I pray that each of these people in this room, that you would put someone specific on their mind, that you would grant them deep cultural insights, but also your Spirit God, to teach them what it means to hear from you and to speak the gospel to their friends. Lord we pray that you would empower them and send them the Spirit. We pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
So if you want to take a few quick moments – if there’s anything that stood out to you in that breakout session. I realize that time is limited, we only have an hour for the whole thing and we want to leave time for questions at the end. But if you want to jot down a friend or something that you think you might be invited to do by God to learn more about a friend or that God might be inviting you into, now is a good – we’ll give you 30 seconds to do that really quick.
Now let’s come back together as a group. I would like to hear just from a few of to see if the Lord was speaking anything, if there was anything that stood out to you that the group might benefit from hearing. I’ve been asked if you have something to share, raise your hand and the mic runner will come to you so that they can record that for the records. Did anyone have something they thought they might be able to share with the group, maybe something that your friend had experienced that you hadn’t thought about before that might change their perspective by comparison? Or how Jesus might be relevant to them? Or just something that you felt like you heard from God in prayer?
So I have a friend in Rwanda and he’s hard-core atheist which is something you don’t see very often in Rwanda. And he was talking to me and he was all, “You know what, I hate all Christians” and I was like, well, here we go. And he told me a story, when he was little he went to church with his family and they got there early but then older people came late. He was forced to stand up and they sat down even though he was there early. And I was like, well, you know, that’s courteous for older people. And he was like, “No, they’re my parents’ age, it’s not fair.” And he was just like, “I just hate how Christians do that.” And it was interesting because on one hand I’m all – well if you go America that’s not going to happen, that doesn’t happen in my church. And so it was very interesting because I’ve never even thought about that and didn’t know exactly how to respond to it.
Interesting. So there’s a difference in perspective, that resulted in some sort of breakage between him and trusting Christian community. That’s interesting. I wonder what’s going on? Another one?
Hi. So I have a friend from South Korea. She’s very active in InterVarsity at my school and she thinks that InterVarsity’s very welcoming for her to be part of the community but at the same time she can’t accept that Jesus being the forgiving God that he is is letting poverty and injustice happen in the world. And I find it very hard to explain to her how I think Jesus, even though there’s injustice in the world, is still a fair God and at the end of the day still provides. I think it’s hard for her to understand that – and also for us in InterVarsity being in a North American culture it’s hard to reach out to her. So that’s why I’m here as well, to kind of restart a small group for international students, cause a lot of the Christian communities in so many groups where I’m from is reaching out to American students or people who have…so, yeah.
That’s very interesting, for a desire for justice in the world. And she feels as though her perception of God is that he’s not meeting the need for justice, right? That’s interesting. Let’s take one more over here.
I learned a little bit about perspectives when I went to China, I had a roommate there and she – I was with her for a month and she one day, she had to go do something and I had to stay with the group and she was going to go off into the town. I joked with her and I said, “Oh, I can’t believe you’re leaving me!” And she left and we just walked on but then a couple of days later I found out that she thought that I was really upset with her. She didn’t see that I was joking. So I just think back to that often whenever I interact with international students now because I feel like we don’t realize when we’re joking that their perspective is different so they don’t always understand from an American perspective that we’re just joking with them. So I think back to that about how I messed up and how I should be more careful.
Where are the international students in the room? How easy is it to understand American humor? So there we go! So just from the sound of that, humor is one of the hardest things to engage with in a foreign culture. What’s funny, what’s not funny, that’s an easy way to hurt someone’s feeling. We all want to laugh together. Interesting. I’m going to turn things back over to Allison just to make sure we respect our time. We’re going to move on to some practicals of how do we – knowing about perspective, how do we start engaging with beginning a study?
Engaging in study
Great. So I am the practitioner and we’re going to go through an abbreviated version of the back side of the paper that you guys got. So that’s a tool that you guys can feel free – there’s a couple exercises you guys could do. Some of you guys may be on point 7, some of you guys may be on point 1.
So the first encouragement for you guys as you’re thinking about how to start a cross-cultural bible study is to pray. One of my students who went to China with me this summer, her name is Emily, she -- This summer she was like, “I long to start a bible study this fall among international students in my dorm. There’s very few Chinese students at the particular campus that I’m at. She was praying this summer, she got to school, during freshman move in 3 Chinese international students just happened to be down the hall. And God has been answering her prayer and she’s going to ask them into starting a bible study this semester. So pray. We really need to pray. Especially if there are people that are skeptical about Christians, maybe their country or their people have had bad experiences with Christians or with people in the West.
Second is find a partner. And one thing I want you guys to hear from this is that there are many international students that come from unreached countries, but there are also many international students who are followers of Jesus and who have come here and they’ve offered themselves. They want to be a missionary on their university. Find someone. Find an international student who wants to be your partner to reach out to a certain community. Find someone who will minister with you.
Next is assess who. You guys could potentially do an exercise where you draw a map analyzing who you connected to on campus, what connections you have, what groups do you know. Like Brian and Rutendo said, do some research about the community. Figure out what does this community like? What does this group dislike? Where do they hang out? What grocery store do they want to go to that will make them feel like home? What foods do they eat?
Engage in spiritual conversations from the very beginning. Sometimes we think we need to pass a certain threshold of relationship before we start talking about Jesus. Some of your friends don’t want to talk about it. One of my friends is from Iraq that I’ve been getting to know. And from the very first couple of weeks that I’ve been getting to know her, I started to share “Oh yeah, I had a prayer time this morning” and “I read the bible and this is the thing that I learned.” And she’s actually a very committed Muslim and she said, “Oh yeah, I actually had my prayer time this morning too and this is what I learned as well.” So start spiritual conversations so that it’s a natural part of your relationship with them. And then pull if there’s spiritual interest.
Some of you guys might be asking the question, “What if I don’t have any international friends? What if I don’t have anyone that’s interested in studying the scripture?” I encourage you to develop relationship. Pray and find spaces for relationship. Take risks. Stephen, who’s actually here in the audience, he’s a student at my school, (do a little wave, Stephen) so Stephen wanted to start a cross-cultural bible study this semester, and he and his co-leader, actually Sam, right next to him, they were asking, they were like, “We don’t know who to invite. We don’t know who to invite, we don’t know where to start.” So they started praying. They started brainstorming. And they thought, oh, most international students at Lindenwood, they sit in this area of the cafeteria. They were like, what if every week we just sat in that area of the cafeteria? One day they met a French student, had an amazing conversation, invited her to bible study, and she brought three friends to bible study. They had an amazing study that night. So take risks. Do things that you might feel foolish doing to meet people. Do fun things together. I do a lot of sports, culture outings, I cook with my international friends, go to grocery stores together. And if you don’t know what to do, just walk around campus and pray and offer yourself to God and ask him to open your eyes to where he’s moving.
Some of you guys might ask, “What if I don’t have anyone? I know a lot of people, but no one seems to be interested in spiritual discussion about Jesus.” One thing I do every fall before the semester starts, I pray and I say, “Jesus, would you introduce me to people that are really open to you. Would you make that connection.” Pray that Jesus would introduce you to people that are ready and open, who their soil is good.
Some of you guys just need to start. Start light and fun, have a party, introduce the bible study, a lot of times I say I’m going to have a spiritual discussion group about Jesus – it’s a beginner study, we’re going to study every week. We’re going to read a part of the bible. You don’t have to have any knowledge about Jesus or any background, and we’re going to just discuss our honest opinions and we really want you to come and show up.
Continue inviting. Never grow tired of inviting. A student actually came up to Brian last year at the end of the year and she said, “No one, no Christian has invited me to bible study, so I just assumed that I wasn’t invited.” And she was actually super curious about Jesus. But no one had invited her! And she totally called Brian out, she was like, no one invited me. So there are people out there, I promise you, that want to be invited to a bible study.
Pick material based on you think is going to come or who is coming. What are their spiritual needs? What spiritual questions are they asking? We’ve noted a ton of resources at the bottom of the tools, so some of those are great, some are actual bible studies that we’ve prepared for you guys. You can find them in the bookstore. Some of those are also if you want to research more about a certain culture. But pick material based on who’s coming.
Studying scripture with my international friends. A couple things to be mindful of. Some international students – English will not be their first or second language. It’s really helpful if you are aware of this and if you print the scripture in their language, so you could have it right in front of them. Be cautious about using Christianese words like ‘righteousness’ and ‘mercy’ and all these things, try to explain things in everyday language.
Keep in mind their perspective. A lot of times, particularly with Middle Eastern students, I’ve learned a lot about scripture because the bible is written more for their culture. So keep in mind their perspective as you’re studying.
And lastly, keep in mind their background. So would it be better to do something more guided or less guided? Would it be better to do something written where they have a piece of paper, or actually something where you sit in a circle and you orally tell a story about Jesus and talk about it?
This is something that I always challenge students to do. So if you are thinking to start a bible study, a lot of times we focus so much on the preparation, and so much on the actual bible study and getting snacks there and all that stuff. And then we actually get there and no one has shown up! I challenge you guys: spend time building relationship. Spend time applying scripture together, which Brian is going to talk about. Spend time in prayer.
So Brian’s going to wrap us up, and then we’re going to have some question and answer time.
The last practical I wanted to request from you guys is to remember to apply scripture to your friends. So it breaks my heart every time I see a beautiful bible study laid out in front of people and then there is no application offered to them. It’s kind of like taking a really great, warm, loaf of bread and waving it in front of your friend’s nose and then kind of taking away the good part. Okay? Application is like the sweetest part of bible study. It’s when we actually see the change that was working in people’s hearts come to fruition. Okay? In preparing to have a good application from scripture, remember to read from your friend’s perspective. Think about what’s going to be meaningful for them ahead of time. Then, identify a relevant and obtainable challenge. One of the problems that we have in bible study sometimes – I think it’s really good when we invite our friends to follow Jesus. Sometimes people need an invitation to follow Jesus. But sometimes we invite them to follow Jesus and they say no. We invite them to follow Jesus again and they say no. We invite them to follow Jesus again and they say no. We haven’t done something that was actually a challenge that they could do or were ready to say yes to.
One of the things I do in my bible study is I take things that I know everyone wants to have happen in their life and then we talk about it together and talk about how that happens when you’re following Jesus. Everyone that I know does not want to have bitterness stored up inside of them. Everyone that I know experiences anxiety at some point and wants to be set free from their anxiety. There’s nobody that I know that wants to sit around and think to themselves, “That person, I will not forgive them.” Maybe they’re experiencing that, but no one thinks that holding a vendetta forever is going to be great for them. We need to take people to the parts of scripture that actually make them fall in love with the person of Jesus, and then do that with them. I’ve been dating a lady now for a year and a month and I led a bible study with some of my Korean friends who were sort of re-experiencing or experiencing Jesus for the first time, and one of the things that I talked about all the time with them was my relationship. I’d say, “Ah, I’m having so much problems with this conflict right now.” Or “Ah, I really felt challenged by Jesus that I needed to forgive this person this week.” And then they began to say, “Yeah, me too.” There was one day in particular that I thought of, a bible study that we read about comparison. And the first thing that went in their minds was oh yeah, comparison is a big problem. I struggle with comparing myself to other people all the time.
One of the tools that I want to give to you guys to do that in the back, you guys will find in addition to some of the cross cultural bible studies and things you guyscan use for yourself – you can buy them in the bookstore if you want them, you can’t steal mine – but there’s some sheets back there that’s missional application diagrams. They have three columns: the first is a value, the second is a scripture, and the third is for an application. So when you’re thinking about what to study with your friends, think about something that they might want to see have happen in their life. Do they want to be set free from shame? Do they want to lose bitterness from their heart? Do they want to lose their anxieties? Think about a scripture that moves in that way and teaches about that and what Jesus has to say. And then, think of an application that you can do with that. You can write your whole bible study for a four week set in probably about half an hour if you spend some time in prayer.
In short: Your invitation
Okay. So in conclusion, there is a huge opportunity on campus. There’s 700,000 international students just in the US. 200,000 more in Canada. So just in North America there are 1 million international students. These are the people that are going to go home to influence their countries, probably become world leaders, and they’re people that oftentimes are not being reached where you cannot send missionaries to their countries. Many of them are already believers and are looking for a place to be sent as a missionary and want to be partners with us. And many of them are ignored and are not put in places of authority. Many people are not being recognized or being given dignity from the university and other students. There is immense opportunity for the gospel to move forward. I always see things inside of the bible with people in transition, and God meeting people in transition, and international students are in transition.
Second, there are cultural differences in perspective, as we saw in our movie clip, as we heard in some of the experiences that people were having. Cultural differences are a reality of international community, but they’re not going away. The future of the world as I see it, as we globalize more and more, is that the church is going to have to live inside of these tensions and difficulties that cultural differences bring. But Jesus is not afraid of those differences and he believes that he can be relevant and winsome to anyone on the planet.
Last, we should try to develop our understanding of these perspectives through relationships with other students. Find someone who can work with you, and ask God to provide a partner for you who can help you enter into the place and the people who you are trying to reach.
So our question for you guys is, where are you at? We have a lot of different invitations and a whole different spectrum of where you guys might be in your process right now. We’re going to invite you guys to just spend some time in prayer and thoughtfulness about what God might be inviting you into right now. Some of you guys, maybe you’re thinking about making your first international friends. Maybe that’s God’s invitation for you, to suddenly take notice of the people who are around you. Some of you guys know international people, but have still felt a little bit nervous when it comes time to talk about something spiritual. Maybe that’s God’s invitation for you. Some of you guys have gone there. People are talking to you about spiritual things, but you’re still thinking to yourself, “Aw man, how can I introduce them to Jesus? That sounds terrifying.” Maybe that’s God’s invitation for you, to depend on his power that way. Maybe God’s inviting you to pursue Jesus with your friends, rather than just being a teacher over them, but to seek to practice obedience together with them. Or maybe God’s calling you to a specific population, and you feel a burden in your heart for a specific place in the world that God’s sending you to, and you should get involved with that student organization on your campus or that area of the community inside your city. I don’t know what God’s inviting you to. But we’re going to spend a couple – just one minute now, in prayer and reflection, thinking about what God might be inviting us into, and then we’re going to take some time for question and answer. So take whatever posture you feel most appropriate, but just spend some time in prayer and listening to the Lord.
Jesus we just pray that you would help us to be good hosts, whether – even if we are a guest in this country or whether this has been our home for a long time. Open our eyes to the opportunities to reach the world around us. We just pray this in your name, amen.
We thank you guys for coming.
(No formal Q&A)