A Tale of Two Cultures: A Cautionary Tale

Two years into our life in Germany, and I’m still having “aha” moments.

I had an “aha” moment last week in our home group, and it may forever change the way I prepare for Bible studies.

When doing ministry in a foreign culture (read: that includes anyone who has not been thoroughly churched), be ready to be hit with perspectives that you’ve never considered. Heck, you better be ready to be hit with perspectives that no one you know has ever considered.

Allow me to set the stage.

The Woman at the Well — The Traditional Take

We were discussing the story from John 4 where Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. He gives her a little ribbing for having been married 5 times before finally giving up on the whole enterprise and moving in with her boyfriend, but then Jesus gives her the good news that he is living water, and that whoever believes in him will never thirst. This is all a spiritual metaphor, of course. The woman runs immediately to town and tells all her other Samaritan friends what she had seen and heard, how Jesus knew her in a way no stranger could. The people were amazed and many of them believed on Jesus that very day.

The way I have heard this taught 100% of the times I’ve heard (or taught) it, the end of the story is a great victory! Oh, the power of a personal testimony! What an amazing account of Jesus winning people over by displaying the power of God amongst people! All the woman had to do was tell people what happened to her and say “come and see.” Evangelism can be simple!

You might see where this is going.

I prepared for questions I thought people would have (i.e. What is a Samaritan?). I was ready to push people toward seeing that Jesus is living water, that he knows us and loves us. You want application? Love across borders and demographic lines! I was ready to go.

Then I wasn’t.

The problem was that I was thinking like a Christian. Here’s the way some of our friends read this story.

The Woman at the Well — Take Two

The first part was pretty straightforward. Jesus is at the well. There was a woman (What is a Samaritan? — I was one for one. So far so good.) and that woman talked with Jesus. He did some amazing thing and told her about living water. Check. Check.

Where things diverged was the attitude toward the village people (and to a lesser extent, the woman herself). There was almost universal agreement that the people had behaved foolishly when they believed in Jesus.

“Why would you not investigate the claims for yourself?”

“It seems irresponsible to change your whole world view because of someone else’s experience.”

“What silly villagers! Even the woman should have been more discerning.”

The story that had always ended in triumph was now one of embarrassment. It represented something foolish and silly that modern people are now too smart to fall for.

Disclaimer: All this was to say nothing about the value of whether or not Jesus is worth following, just that the people had no way of knowing on the small sampling of data with which they were provided.

How I should have responded

I spent a week mulling this over. It doesn’t change my view. I still think this is a great victory for the gospel and the power of personal testimony. But what is the best way to answer challenges like this? Here are some things I could have said:

  • How do we know (since it isn’t apparent in the text) that the people didn’t spend some time debating and considering the ramifications of their decisions?
  • How else could Jesus have known those things about the woman? After all, there were no paparazzi or media, no way to stalk someone on Facebook and learn their secrets before meeting them. What other explanations could there have been?
  • What would an appropriate response be if you were to witness the power of God? What about if you were convinced someone you know had witnessed His hand at work?
  • If a testimony doesn’t cut it for you, what would be the threshold of proof that you’d need to make a decision to follow Jesus?

The Woman at the Well — Take Three (third times the charm?)

All of these would have been better than how I did respond, which was with a “uh huh. It’s really interesting to me that you all think that, because it’s so different than how I have always viewed this story.”

I was so blindsided that I really had little-to-no response, other than to share my side of the coin. That wasn’t all bad, because it was diplomatic and gentle. But it left something lacking.

But then…

After rolling this around for a solid week, we decided to put off our next lesson and just hang out in this story. I wrote down the questions above (in German, of course), printed them for the group, and just explained that our prior discussion was really interesting and we’d like to go further with it.

We asked our questions, and it went really well. The conversation that followed allowed room for honesty and questions about each other’s testimonies, and it turned out to be a really great night.

The Takeaway

Why am I writing this? Because I think it is good to get out of our comfort zones and let people challenge us. But also because it is always okay to not have the answer you think you need right on the spot. It is okay to leave a topic and come back to it, as long as you are diplomatic and don’t burn bridges along the way.

We are formed (for good and for bad) by the way we were raised. Experiences like this will change the way you read scripture and prepare for discussions. They expose blindspots and help us figure out why we believe what we believe.

Go. Interact. Get humbled. Grow.

Bis zum nächsten Mal (until next time),

Nick

 

HOW TO: Start a home group in a post-Christian culture

We did it! After almost two years of learning and volunteering, we have finally set out to start our own home group. In our own home. With our own friends, some of whom are Christians, and some are not.

The work is LONG from over, but we feel like this group has gotten off to a good start, and we want to share what we are doing with you, as a resource and an encouragement.

What it looks like

One of my good friends likes the saying, “Meeting without eating is cheating!” Every Wednesday night we meet at 5:30, which is early enough for most people to get home from work and head on over. We provide dinner for the evening so that no one has to worry about cooking or feeding their kids. This is a great way to start each meeting, as it just loosens everyone up and gets people talking about our weeks in an informal setting.

Speaking of kids . . .

We have recruited a member of our church (we are the second home group that makes up the church) to help with children’s programming. What does that look like in this setting? A (VERY) brief lesson related to our lesson for the night, and the kids all playing in our kids’ room while the parents chat. It is great for allowing the adults to have some sustained discussion.

What we study

We decided, based on our context here, that we really want to spend this year talking about who Jesus is. What is at the core of his ministry? What did he set out to do? And, most importantly, if this Jesus character was real and was who he said he was, what does that mean for me in my life?

Keep in mind: Discipleship begins LONG before conversion, and it is good to teach people to follow the teachings of Jesus before expecting them to give their lives to him.

To accomplish this, we are covering stories from the Gospels that touch at this theme. Here is a brief list of the passages we have used (or will use soon), as well as the key point that we’ve distilled out and would like to communicate to people.

  • Zaccheaus (Lk 19) – God is not looking for the big crowds, but wants to dine with the one.
  • The Bread of Life (Jn 6) – Jesus describes who he is with the ultimate metaphor for fullness and satisfaction.
  • Jesus heals a man born blind (Jn 9) – We are given our circumstances to bring God glory.
  • Jesus washes his disciples’ feet (Jn 13) – The servant is not greater than the master. Jesus’ call is for us to serve others selflessly.
  • Laborers in the Vineyard (Mt 20) – God gives generously to all who come to him, regardless of the circumstances surrounding that decision.
  • Jesus’ Mother and Brothers (Mk 3) – Those who “belong” to Jesus are those who follow his commands.
  • The Light in You (Lk 11) – The things we focus our lives around affect our hearts. If we want to be lights to the world we need to focus our hearts on the One who is the True Light of the world.
  • The woman at the well (Jn 4) – We are sometimes not honest with ourselves about the state our lives are in. But Jesus knows us. And he offers us a relationship despite our shortcomings.
  • A Sinful Woman Forgiven (Lk 7) – Jesus wants our love and devotion, not in a desperate attempt to be liked, but in an honest response to who he has proven himself to be.

How to do a Bible Study without being a Bible Scholar

You don’t need to be an expert in ancient languages to have a Bible Study in your home. We are using a study outline known as “Discovery Bible Studies,” which aim to offer meaningful discussion based on a given passage and that alone. Discovery Bible Studies ask questions such as:

  • What stands out to you about this passage?
  • Based on what this passage says, what can we learn about God and his character?
  • Based on what this passage says, what can we learn about mankind?
  • Based on what this says, what is something I could do differently in my life this week?
  • Who do I know that should hear this message this week?

Each week we offer a chance to share experiences from the last week (living out our challenges), and a prayer for the week to come.

You can do this!

We are not doing anything special with these “Hauskreis” (home group) meetings. It’s not anything (frankly) that we even came up with ourselves. Nonetheless, once a week, we are leading friends into discussions about Jesus and hopefully challenging them to change their lives based on the truth Jesus offers.

You can do this. With your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, and your relatives. You don’t need someone’s approval. Go do it. And start making disciples of all the nations, starting where you are.

When you get down to it, that’s the name of the game.

Tschüss!

Nick

 

2018 Vision Casting

Looking forward to the future

What a ride the last year and 7 months have been! Before we share our 2018 plans, we want to thank you for your steadfast prayers, support, and encouragement. Thank you for being patient with us as we learned German and adjusted to the culture. Thank you for your excitement over the little and big things that we have shared. It means more than you know, and we are so thrilled to be part of how God is growing his kingdom in Germany!

With that being said, here are the three big 2018 announcements!

1. An official commitment

Three years ago, we met Eide Schwing on a Skype call. During our last year in America, he and his wife, Helga, mentored us and agreed to continue doing so once we arrived in Hannover. At the time, the Schwings had just planted Christus Gemeinde Laatzen, and it was a small home group with a handful of people. Fast forward to today, and the home group has grown to 15-20 regular attendees whom we have seen grow radically in their faith. That may not seem like many people, but considering most churches here average about 30 people every Sunday, it is really quite a large number!

After a lot of prayer and counsel, we have decided to officially join the Christus Gemeinde Laatzen team. That means we will stay in Laatzen for the foreseeable future, serving this suburb of Hannover and working to reach some of its 50,000 residents.

2. Starting a second home group

The next step in growing the church is starting another home group and trying to reach a new set of people. God has blessed us with so many relationships here, and we are praying for those friends to be part of a new home group we are starting in January. We plan to meet once a week with the people God will send us. Right now, the idea is that we will have a community dinner together, followed by a conversation around spiritual topics. One of our big goals was to be able to serve families, and an amazing woman from Christus Gemeinde Laatzen has agreed to come every week and do a kids’ Bible lesson and watch them while the parents talk. God is already opening doors for our group to be successful!

3. Quarterly worship services

This was one of the ideas we were most excited to share with Eide and Helga during our vision casting meeting a few weeks ago, and we were so excited that they were excited! Basically, there is a lot of excitement on our team! In 2018, Christus Gemeinde Laatzen will host four worship services to bring the two home groups together and to give the people in our community an opportunity to see what a worship service that truly honors Christ looks like. This is a HUGE step for the church, and we know God is going to bless those services and use them to reach new people in Laatzen.

It’s safe to say that 2018 is going to be a year full of change and growth, and we are looking forward to being a small part of that in our corner of the world.

What else we’ve been up to

The last couple of months have been really busy for us in the best way. Here are some highlights:

  • Nick has preached twice in the last month and will preach again on November 19 at Christus Gemeinde Hannover.
  • Mallorie took on the role of leading the children’s program at Christus Gemeinde Hannover for the rest of this school year. She leads the program 2-3 times a month now.
  • The Alpha Course, an introduction to spiritually and Christianity designed to reach non-believers, begins this month, and two of our friends, M and A, have committed to taking the course! Nick met M and A in language school, and after inviting them to church, they are now regular attenders and are having conversations with Nick about what it means to be a Christian. We are praying for them to accept Jesus as their Savior and be baptized! Please pray for them and all of the people who will come to Alpha Course. Nick will also be a part of the team hosting conversations each week.
  • Nick travelled to Wüstenrot to visit Kontaktmission’s headquarters for the annual German church planters meeting. This was a revitalizing time for him, and he came away with some great ideas.
  • We travelled as a family to Dresden at the beginning of October to help our friends and fellow Kontaktmission missionaries, Ryan and Elyse Dillon, open up Cafe Story. The vision of Cafe Story is to reach people in the community for Christ by offering a safe, unassuming place to encounter him. They have already hosted some cool events like a family pumpkin carving and worship evening, which brought in several new families from the community! Cool stuff happening here!

A humble request

First off, thank you so much to those of you who have given faithfully to our ministry. We are so grateful for you.

If you haven’t already, we need you to become a monthly supporter. Donations from people like you make our ministry here possible, particularly as we move into 2018.

As with any growing ministry, more influence in our community means more financial needs. Please become part of our ministry support team today by clicking here, and help us continue reaching Germans for the gospel!

One more time!

Thank you so much, friends! We are so thankful and blessed by you. If we can pray for you, just respond to this email and let us know how.

Your brother and sister in Christ,

Nick and Mallorie Burczyk

The Art of Losing Myself

Your will above all else;
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing you praise

I have always liked this song—and this line in particular (at the 1:40 mark in the video below)—and I think I have figured out why.

There are lots of things in life that need to be “nailed” to the cross. We need to “crucify our old selves.” Our old selves need to die. All that is true, and biblical, and important. But that’s not what this line says. Read it once more, this time written as a sentence:

Your will above all else; my purpose remains the art of losing myself in bringing you praise.

Our purpose is to LOSE OURSELVES in bringing him praise. So much so that it should become an artform!

This doesn’t just refer to music (though it is sung in song). The times in my life when I have had the most satisfying relationship with my King are when I have literally lost myself, getting wrapped up in bringing him glory.

They’re the seasons when I don’t have time to pursue foolish or sinful or fruitless things because I am spending the days serving him.

I used to stress this with our youth: the “secret sauce” of gospel living is not in trying to focus on being better. It’s focusing on serving Christ and pursuing him. All our other struggles will, over time, simply fall away. It’s what Jesus means when he says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). The “these things” Jesus is referring to here (in context) are the worldly things we think we need to provide for ourselves. They are the things that “trap” us.

But rather than focusing on all those things, our purpose is the art of losing ourselves in the act of bringing God praise. I don’t need to worry about not sinning, because in those days I have lost myself—my old self—in the wonderful feeling of meeting the purpose that I was made in his image to fulfill.

We serve an amazing, wonderful, magnificent, powerful God. And he calls us his children, and claims us as his own.

Let’s get lost finding ourselves in that identity.

Mach’s gut!

Nick

What Heaven Will Be Like

Way back in the day, when people all spoke the same language, they decided to build a tower to the heavens by their own power and craftiness. And God scattered them by confusing their language, because of how great we inherently assume we are (Genesis 11).

Thousands of years later, the spirit of God allowed the first disciples to understand and communicate in many languages, signaling that the church age is one where the message of the Gospel is meant to reunite all the nations of the world under one Kingdom, this time rightfully understanding our dependence on God (Acts 1-2).

We are here this week in the Kontaktmission Headquarters in southern Germany, and we are reminded of how spectacular God’s tapestry of nations really is.

The event this week is a once a year new member orientation. And this year’s 18 new families are encapsulated in the following chart:

2016-11-10-10.42.36.png.png

In addition to the four languages on this chart, we also had Portuguese and French represented, but not spoken in the room!

ALL of this diversity is represented by just 18 missionaries (12 different families represented).

In the room, we have German as the primary language, and English being translated up front. Behind me is a Spanish translator speaking into a headphone system, and to my right is a Polish translator sitting between a Polish husband and wife, translating live as we go. It’s a loud room, but it’s amazing.

 

We are reminded here why we wanted to partner with Kontaktmission to begin with. This map shows all the places KM has sent missionaries (blue), what countries have sent missionaries to Europe through KM (green), and where these other KM outposts (like KMUSA), have sent missionaries on their own (in red).

 

This terrible shot of a powerpoint slide, this RIGHT HERE, is Kontaktmission in a nutshell. BLUE LINES = Missionaries sent FROM our Germany office. GREEN LINES = Missionaries coming TO Germany FROM other parts of the world, and the RED LINES = different arms of KM in different nations, sending their missionaries to other nations!

Even since we came in March, they have added Spanish as an official language (to the already-official German, English, and Russian). This is only possible because the presence in South America is growing so rapidly.

 

A Good Reminder

This whole week is simply a good reminder if how international—and universal—the Gospel is. We come from a very strongly Christian country in America, but we do not have a monopoly on the Gospel. In fact, we are commanded to take that Gospel to other nations! And that command doesn’t come to us as Americans, but as Christians!

It is such a blessing to have such unity in the Kingdom of God. And it is a good reminder of what heaven will be like.

But also, it’s snowing.

It’s definitely going to be snowing in heaven. 🙂

Mach’s gut!

Nick