Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Cross Cultural Opportunity

I will be attending a meeting of pastors and lay people in Minneapolis in the near future. The meeting is for the purpose of discussing responses to the recent changes in the governing documents of the Presbyterian Church USA. These changes provide for the elevation of people, who are openly practicing sinful behavior and refuse to repent, into leadership positions within the church.

So that I might be better acquainted with the discussions surrounding this event I have joined in on several online discussions. These discussions are, quite naturally, dominated by very skilled pastors. I have found myself in a new culture. The culture of the ordained, educated, and career pastor. I am not yet sure what to make of this new culture I am rubbing up against. Being new to the culture I fear misunderstanding what I see and hear and, I fear being misunderstood.

Being in a new culture isn't that remarkable. We all do it everyday. We move from through the cultures of our family's, our work environment, our schools, our communities, etc.on a constant and continuous basis. Sometimes we move into a culture for the first time and we realize that things just aren't exactly what we thought they were. I feel this way when I step out of my predominantly agricultural existence, other professions have their own cultures.

I feel like the proverbial "Bull in a China shop". I tend to say what I think on the strength of my own thinking and support it with nothing but the quality of the thought itself. My words are not measured and weighed for balance and substance against the writings or thoughts of others. They rise and fall on their own merit. This is a stark contrast to the online discussions I have been following. I suddenly find myself in the world of theological academics.

I look forward to this experience because I enjoy people and observing how they think, communicate, and make decisions. This conference will provide many opportunities to interact with people that know nothing of the world of agriculture and where food comes from. Since many of the people I meet will be very gifted and experienced communicators, they are career pastors, I hope to gain alot of understanding of how to approach commuicating agriculture's story to a non-ag world.

Already I am seeing things that contrast with what I am used to in the agricultural world.

Brevity and pointed, undefended, personal opinions seem to be avoided in this culture. I wonder if the defense of personal opinions leads to the death of brevity? Brevity is the stock and trade of the farmer. We are people of few words. Personal opinions are just that, personal. They don't need defending.

Money or finances seems to have a different twist in this world. I haven't quite nailed it down yet. I am used to openly discussing financial arrangements and trying to create the famous "Win Win". Money/finances can be used as a fearful weapon but in agriculture the discussions usually revolve around the good and productive side. In the pastor's world I am hearing most of the discussion revolve around issues of money as weaponry.

Thinking of money as a weapon first and for most is in contrast to hearing the hopefulness and creativity of the farmer when finances are discussed. Farmers see economic danger all the time but it is overcome with visions for bright opportunity just around the corner. If risk is one side of the coin, opportunity is the other, tends to be the mindset in the farmer's heart.

These are just a couple of my observations so far. I am trying to refrain from jumping to conclusions until I am more familiar with the culture.

As a person that loves to study people and how they think, this conference promises to be an interesting time. I would describe it as a "target rich environment" for the attentive observer. It should be fun to learn more about this culture, a non-ag culture, and consider what lessons can be gleaned about communication from it.

Thanks for thinking with me.

1 comment:

  1. I would find this conference a hard one to attend when there is an opinion of "elevation of people, who are openly practicing sinful behavior and refuse to repent, into leadership positions within the church" and "money as weaponry". The ones with those opinions are usually the most vocal. But you are probably more understanding and forgiving than I am. And you have starting at a better perspective as an observer.
    judi @