Why Returning Cross-cultural Workers Need the Church

A couple weeks ago we considered why the church should minister to returning missionaries. In this post, I want to talk directly to those who are returning to their home culture and possibly their home church. When you return from living overseas, life is crazy. It feels like a whirlwind and you are just trying to find stability and enjoy seeing all of your friends again. One thing that I was not prepared for were my first interactions with my home church and the way that we, as an American church are used to doing things.

The loud music, the amount of people, the lack of genuine care for me and for the Bible (or seemingly lack of). It was all so overwhelming. As someone who had gotten used to having a small, quiet house church on Sunday evenings with dinner to follow, going to church on Sunday morning with thousands of other people was going to take some getting used to again. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. And then there was my small group. It had changed drastically over the time that I was gone. There were new members, a lot of others had left, and some people moved on with their lives. Our relationships were different. It felt weird. Since then I’ve talked with others who also shared this same experience.

All too often it seems like returning missionaries have a hard time fitting back in to the church life in America and they begin to question it. Is it okay to have this many people in a church? Do they even care about the Bible? Do they value their time here or is lunch the only thing on their minds? Do they truly value prayer like I do? Have they forgotten how amazing God is? What’s wrong with them?

Well that seems very judge-y you might say, and I would have to agree with you. But unfortunately it is part of the process of figuring things out again. During this time the most important thing to do is realize that the American church is not the enemy. Both you and the people who remained at home have changed. As a returning missionary or someone who has lived abroad for other reasons, you have seen some intense situations and gone through some pretty amazing experiences. Church was probably different in your host culture so you aren’t used to the American way of church anymore and that’s okay.

During this time the most important thing to do is realize that the American church is not the enemy.

During those times of questions, remember this thing called grace. We all need to receive it and we all need to give it. Seems easy right? Well, when you are passionate about something, it can be easy to question others and forget about compassion. So as you sort through your questions of the church, keep three things in mind as to why you still need the church.

  1.   The church is your family. As a believer, Jesus has placed us together in order to love Him, love one another and share that love with the world. We are a community of brothers and sisters. Jesus said that by our love the world will know we are his followers (John 13:35). Do not be afraid to put in the hard work of getting to know your family members that the Lord has blessed you with.

  2. To promote your spiritual health and the health of the church. Without community, we can easily become embittered and enslaved to the sin that we hate. If we do not turn to the family of God and His word for support and love, we will turn elsewhere. More often than not, that elsewhere turns out to be a place of isolation. In order to promote your own health and the health of the church, stick with it even when it gets tough. You have experiences that can help the church grow and the church has the ability to come alongside you and love you through thick and thin, helping you grow as well.

  3. It is a ministry opportunity. Just because we’ve returned home doesn’t mean that our ministry has to be finished. As someone who has experienced the church in different settings, we can give new life to old ideas, encourage our brothers and sisters within the church to continue praying for the nations and share new things we have learned with the body of believers. Who knows, the church may use some of the things you’ve learned!

As people who have experienced so many challenges, hardships, and joys, we need the church to help keep us grounded and point us back to Jesus when everything feels like a struggle. So remember that the American church is not the enemy and the Lord designed the church to be a family that builds one another up in spiritual health and ministers to the world.

Samantha CouickComment