Newbold College

Department of Theological Studies





  Presented in the Fulfilment

  of the Requirements of the Course

 BIPS 216 Foundations of Pastoral Ministry




  Allan Falk

November 2004




 Statement of the problem

        People with different cultures, often have difficulties worshiping together in the same church. The difference can relate to ethnic background, but it can also have other causes, for example change of culture from one generation to the next. How can the Pastor bridge the gab, and create harmony?


 Purpose of the Study

        The purpose of this study is to find some guidelines, which can be used by Pastors, when they meet the great challenge of creating harmony and grot in a congregation with members divided because of generation gab issues.


        Significance of the Essay

         I am making this essay out of private interest, and because it is widely seen in churches, that more knowledge about this issue is needed.



         This being a small paper, it is limited to differences due to generation gab, and it is concentrating on the Pastor mainly not the congregation.


 Basic Assumptions

        The basic assumption for this work is, that the Bible is God’s true word, and that the reader has some understanding concerning cultural differences within Church congregations.



         The task of this paper is accomplished in five steps:

1.      In chapter 2 different cultural issues are introduced.

  1. 2.      In chapter 3 the problems connected to the generation gab are analysed.
  2. 3.      In chapter 4 the role of the Pastor is analysed.
  3. 4.      Chapter 5 summarises.




        It has always been a challenge for religious groups to handle cultural differences,1] even at the time of the Apostles it was an issue.[2] During the last two hundred years much of the problems have been caused by racial or ethnic differences. Colour has been a dividing factor, but not the only one. In the beginning of the Adventist Church in America it took several years to start the evangelisation among the Germans or Scandinavians, even if the colour on both sides were purely white.[3]Today in Denmark, Danish and Romanian members of the Adventist Church find it difficult to worship together, and in Germany the Russian immigrants complicate Church life.


        Another very challenging issue is the change of culture in society in general, which is influencing the youth in the Christian Churches. Culture changes so rapidly, with the effect that the young generation have a totally different view on how Church life should be performed. The result is, that the young and the old generation can not easily be comfortable together.


        Culture has always been a dividing factor, every decade has its own challenges, and the future will for sure reveal new differences in between people. Some predict that one of the next challenges might be class.[4]




        When the writer of this essay describes the changes in culture within the last generation, he is in particular portraying the changes within the Adventist Church in Denmark. There has always been changes from one generation to the next, but not as radical as the ones happening during the last ten years. The changes are seen both within the practical arrangement of Church life, the practise of worship, but also within the attitude of individuals.

         On the practical side, the major change is seen in the way the church room is arranged, the old fashioned straight rows of benches are out, and small tables with chairs are now arranged neatly like a cosy café.  The main elements on the platform are no longer a pulpit and an organ, but a set of drums and an electric synthesizer. Then the time for worship is changed from morning to afternoon hours.

        When it comes to the worship it self, there are two major changes. First of all the stile of music is totally changed, from High Church stile appreciated by the elderly generation to contemporary stile enjoyed by the young generation.  However the greatest change have probably taken place within the worshiping individual, the elderly generation only worship with the brain by singing, the younger generation worship with their feelings using their entire body. The two stiles obviously do not go very well together.  

         The two last changes in culture the writer wants to bring to attention, are the way people dress, and the way strangers are received. The elderly generation always dress neatly on Sabbath, to show respect to the Lord on his day, the younger generation do not really care about their appearance. When it comes to the aspect of receiving strangers, the younger generation is more open to strangers, receiving them more warmly even if they are in a miserable state, poorly dressed and behaved.

         All this cultural differences can easily make it difficult for a congregation to function and achieve their mission. Any Church  wishing to build up its members, and at the same time attract new converts, must be able to worship culturally relevant and at the same time be Christ centred.[5]       




        When the Pastors challenges in a cross – cultural setting is being analysed, it most be in the light of the mission of the Church, which was given to the first disciples, it is found in  Matthew 28:19-20

            Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

        These verses with Christ’s own words, could be interpreted like this. The mission for all believers is to bring the gospel to all humans no matter what culture they belong to, and then to make them mature spiritually under the care of the church family.

        There might always be exceptions, but with the mission in mind, it is difficult to see how the church will achieve its goals if it is monocultural. In other words, a church wanting to reach out to people in all ages and cultures most accommodate everybody from the smallest child to the most elderly.

        With this background in mind, the question can be presented. How should a pastor handle a cross – cultural situation

        The writer wants to suggest, that the answer should be divided in three parts. 1) What kind of person should the Pastor be? 2) What kind of attitudes should he try to promote within the congregation? 3) What kind of practical arrangements could he plan for?

        Looking at the Pastor himself, it is obvious that he should be loving and caring, with  interest in all kind of people, regardless of colour, age or social status. However that is not enough, he most also be able to plan and part take in events, which is not falling within his own preference in regard to stile or culture. To give examples, he most be able to listen to music and sing songs which he does not really like, he most also be able to eat strange food together with people very different from himself. In other words he most be willing to serve the church, giving their needs, culture and life style higher priority than his own preferences.  A really humble servant of Christ.

        Planning for harmony in a cross – cultural Church, the Pastor most try to help all members young and elderly to develop a Christ like character, because oneness is only found in him. The young people most adjust and learn from the elderly, and visa versa. Members from different age levels most learn to live together and respect each other, just like in a marriage. St. Peter comments on this issue in his Gospel in 1 Peter 5. 5,

            Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

This verse appears to tell the young people, that they should just do things the way the elderly want things done, but read more carefully, it says: ´all of you be subject one to another´. In other words, within Christ’s family everybody most be willing to humble himself, and accept ideas from others, even if they are younger than them self.

        Looking at the practical aspects of arranging a congregation of believers, the Pastor should in some cases consider to form a Church with a monoculture. There might be circumstances where a youth church, can do better in the ministry for its own members, and at the same time be more culturally relevant for the society in general. Likewise is it possible, that the Pastor should plan special arrangements for the elderly, if there is a need.    




         I therefore conclude, that a Pastor with the challenge of handling a cross – cultural congregation, can only be successful, if he allows the Holy Spirit to educate and humble him. Without that preparation he will not be fit for all the practical and cultural challenges which will meet him. In addition he most encourage and motivate the entire membership of his congregation to unite in oneness, as the body of Christ.[6]



 Appleby Jerry L., Urban Cross-Cultural Church Planting Models,(, 1986).

Baker, Delbert W., Make Us One, (Ontario: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1995).

Clark, Peter Yuichi, ´Exploring the Pastoral Dynamics of Mixed - Race Persons´,Pastoral Psychology Vol. 52 Nr. 4 (2004) pp. 315 – 328.

Congar, Yves, Diversity and Communion, (London: SCM Press, 1984).

Gallagher, Michael Paul, Clashing Symbols, (London: Longman and Todd, 1997).

Hayes-Bautista David E., Rodriguez Gregory, The process of Cultural Assimilation,


 Jackson Allen, Is Your Youth Group Engaged in Cross-Cultural ministry?


Luzbetak, Louis J.,The Church abd Cultures, (Techny, IL: Divine Word Puplications, 1970).

Maynard-Reid, Pedrito U., Diverse Worship, (USA: Inter Varsity Press, 2000).

Niebuhr, H. Richard, Christ and Culture, (NY: Harper Colophon Books, 1975

Pierce, Seth, ´Pop! Goes the Culture´, Adventist Review, July 15 (2004) pp. 8 – 12.

Pollard, Leslie N., ´Culture Matters´, Adventist Review, Feb. (2004) pp. 20 – 23.

Zachary, H., ´Meeting Them in Their Culture´, Adventist Review, July 8 (2004) pp. 8 – 11.


 1] Baker, Delbert W., Make Us One, (Ontario: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1995), p. 80.

 [2] Acts 10:34-36

    Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: [35] But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. [36] The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)

[3]Baker, Delbert W., Make Us One, p. 61.

[4] Jackson Allen, Is Your Youth Group Engaged in Cross-Cultural ministry?


[5] Maynard-Reid, Pedrito U., Diverse Worship, (USA: Inter Varsity Press, 2000), p. 40.

[6] 1 Cor. 12:27

    Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Del siden