Author: Jose de Dios
I found myself chuckling and nodding in agreement as I saw these videos because it mirrors so many situations I have experienced. As I watched, I tried to focus on a reaction instead of trying to over-analyze. Cross cultural partnering initiatives are fast becoming the de-facto mode of operation for global mission and church initiatives. The situation described here dramatically depicts the complexities of facilitating and participating in multicultural partnerships. I think it merits more reflection and extended conversation.
With the increasing participation of the Global Church in Mission, partnership facilitators must be trained and experienced in cross-cultural issues. In the North African scenario, there was an inherent complexity in having participants from 8 different countries, different native languages, denominational/doctrinal and age backgrounds. Although the facilitator assumed--consistently with his culture--that people would have read the agenda in advance, that was not the case. It was also assumed that since no issues were raised by email, that it meant the proposed agenda was accepted by all. Their minds were quickly changed as objections were immediately raised. I believe that the facilitator’s experience and cross-cultural skills helped him to react wisely and to seek a solution that was spiritual in nature.
The participants were such a diverse group it would be difficult to expect that one way of working would be accepted by all. A difficulty was they didn’t know each other, so trust was almost non-existent among them. However, they shared two important things that brought them together: their experience and their commitment to "kingdom outcomes." This highlights the importance of the facilitator’s role in establishing trust with each party in advance, and doing what he can within reason to make sure the right participants are invited to the table.
Facilitators in a partnership environment have to be good listeners and better learners. They must remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit and not too committed to a specific way of doing things. This is most dramatic when the participants in a given partnership come from different cultures. Few things could derail a multi-cultural partnership effort more than a facilitator who is not aware of her own cultural grid or unable to transcend it in order to facilitate.
We must not forget that Kingdom partnership efforts are ultimately in service of the King. We shouldn’t wait for crises or potential crises to give priority to the work of the Holy Spirit in cross cultural partnerships. In this scenario, the tension that developed, and the facilitator’s brilliant insight at a critical moment opened the group to the influence of the Holy Spirit and saved the day. The lesson I take from this is that praying together, and focusing on the Lord need to be an integral part of our partnering efforts. Time in the schedule, and prominence in the agenda must be given to seeking the Lord together.
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