EFP Week 2 Post

My name is Kevin Miller. I’m currently based in Edmonton Alberta working with Calvary Baptist Church while taking the immerse Masters of Divinity program. I’m preparing with my wife Micaela for long term missions to Pakistan.

  1. What are the cultural tensions and structures that work against an empowering orientation in your setting? What are the cultural values and priorities that can be leveraged towards empowering relationships?

I have two cultures to consider with this question. Canada, where I am now, and Pakistan, where I’m going. In Canada one of the biggest obstacles to overcome to empower is busyness. People are so focused on productivity and doing lots that it can be difficult to engage on a level where character insights and real trust can take place. Surface level friendship is easy to come by but deep and meaningful friendship takes much more work and pursuit. Canadians for the most part believe in the power of individuals and in helping their fellow man. So, if presented with a vision that can show how they can make a difference for the benefit of others they would readily look for how to empower others.

Evaluating Pakistani culture is more difficult for me as I still have not spent significant time there.  From conversations with other missionaries and people who know the culture better there are a few cultural tensions/structures that could work against empowerment. One tension is that Pakistan has a hierarchical structure. People tend to evaluate how they should respond to you based on whether you are higher or lower status than them. There can be difficulties when people feel they have a role that they will not want to empower others out of a fear that the people they are empowering will take their role and status. Another tension is that there is fear and distrust between different cultural groups. Pakistan has many distinct cultures and some of these would be considered “lower class” there is also a significant amount of fear from Pakistani Christians of Muslim groups, so even if a Muslim converts they may not be trusted by some Christians unless they were to change all of their culture as well. Pakistan does however have a much more relational society where forming close relationships can come much easier so that you can build trust quickly in order to empower.

  1. Consider Lingenfelter’s chart on p. 48 (Table 3.2 Cultural and Kingdom Values in Partner Relations). What are your strengths and weaknesses that relate to empowering others?

I think my greatest strength is my ability to serve others. In the last CICA module I did on cross-cultural servanthood I realized that for the most part I practice service in a way which is accepting, open, and understanding. I think tied in with that I have an ability to deny self, to put others before my own desires and goals to see people flourish. The areas for the kingdom values that I struggle the most with are releasing control and trusting God for the ends. Although I believe on a mental level that God is in control and that the results are his responsibility practically I live as though the results are entirely dependent on my actions. In Chapter 10 on Responsible-to Leadership I realized that I was quite guilty of feeling responsible-for1. I tend to bear a great deal of stress and anxiety because I act as though I am responsible for the people which I am empowering rather than being responsible to them. I forget that the ends are in God’s hands rather than mine. I find it extremely difficult to practice emotional detachment in regards to my role and results2. This can lead to wanting to have more control over how others are growing in their understanding and empowerment rather than empowering and trusting the vision and call that God gives them.

Sherwood G. Lingenfelter, Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), Kindle Edition, 130.

Ibid. 133.

itskevinmiller

About itskevinmiller

I'm 29 and living in Edmonton, AB. My wife Micaela and I have recently been accepted into full time missions with Fellowship International. We hope to go to Pakistan in Summer 2019. In preparation for missions I am enrolling in the Immerse Masters of Divinity program at Northwest Baptist Seminary.

17 Responses to EFP Week 2 Post

  1. Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for the analysis of cultural tensions that work against empowering in Canada and Pakistan as well as those elements that can be leveraged for empowerment. I think you have accurately identified some key areas.

    You mention that deep and meaningful relationships take work in Canada. Do think that it is a necessary goal to have deep and meaningful relationships for empowering others? Wouldn’t that expectation limit your effectiveness and the potential for making a difference? Is it a felt need? Is it possible to empower someone (eg coach them for success in a specific area) without necessarily having that “deep relationship”? Perhaps such a relationship could be one potential result, but not necessarily an expectation? What do yo think, could that be an adequate approach?

    The idea of “vision” is, I believe, key. If someone has a vision but not the “pathway” to fulfill the vision, then being empowered (mentored / coached) by someone to fulfill that vision would be welcome and appreciated. How would you go about discovering the visions people have and then empowering them to fulfill those visions? Alternatively, how would you go about helping people discover the vision of ministry that God wants for them? I am assuming here that a pre-requisite of empowering is the sharing of a vision. Would you agree?

    In Pakistan, because you can build relationships and trust as someone outside of the cultural dynamics and biases you describe, you are in a position of privilege where you can empower others. How would you use that leverage to help people cross those barriers and work with other groups? Do you see any potential dangers from empowering others from a position of privilege?

    I appreciate your self-evaluation in considering your strengths and weaknesses. The trap of being responsible-for is an easy one to fall into. Do you have some strategies or tactics you can take from Lingenfelter that will help you avoid that danger? How do you hope to maintain focus on your own goals while mentoring others to fulfill their goals? Do you see any potential struggles there?

    Thanks Kevin. I hope these questions help you as you work through the empowering dynamic of your comprehensive project of developing a program for disciple makers. I think that Lingenfelter’s book gives you some important aspects to include.

    • AdamP AdamP says:

      “You mention that deep and meaningful relationships take work in Canada. Do think that it is a necessary goal to have deep and meaningful relationships for empowering others? Wouldn’t that expectation limit your effectiveness and the potential for making a difference?”
      – I’m interested in this Mark. Isn’t building trust foundational to building deep/meaningful relationships? If so, doesn’t that take considerable time and energy? And do you mean effectiveness and potential for making a difference as efficiency? If not as much time is being invested to build trust, more time can be used with others who have potential to lead?

      • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

        Thanks Adam,
        What I am suggesting, particularly in light of the levels of relationship found in Canada and the boundaries that have to be crossed to get there, that “deep and meaningful relationships” take a lot of energy and time because they are more holistic, comprehensive and require vulnerability. Yet, there are examples of trust quickly built because of our tendency to compartmentalize. For example, I can trust a mechanic with my car without having a deep relationship.

        Furthermore, we are limited in our capacity to have “deep and meaningful relationships” and they take time and emotional investment. We can only have these with very few people. Yet, we can empower people with trust and significant, yet limited, relationships. I have often been empowered to succeed in learning skills and fulfilling visions by people that I have little relationship with outside of a narrow mutual interest.

        Re. efficiency vs effectiveness. I suggest we work backwards from the end goal. If I have a clear mutual purpose with someone (such as an Immerse student 🙂 ) then I can think about what role and level of investment is needed for my protege to succeed. In a sense it is a posture of wanting to be used, rather than needed.

        Does that help?

        • AdamP AdamP says:

          Very interesting. Makes sense Mark. I tend to think that I need to invest fully in someone for trust to surely build. The mechanic example makes sense. We compartmentalize, but still can trust certain people with certain things (not all things).

    • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

      Hey Mark,

      These many questions gave me a lot of food for thought! I’m still not entirely sure where I land on some of them but here’s what I think so far:

      In regards to whether it’s a necessary goal to have deep and meaningful relationships for empowering others. I would say yes and no. I definitely think it is possible to be empowering others quickly and early. For example how quickly Jesus empowers the woman at the well as we discussed in our last CICA module. I do however think that there was a significant difference between how Jesus inspired that woman versus how he inspired the disciples. Ultimately I would disagree that vision is the key. I believe the greatest vision that Jesus gave the disciples was of relationship and that relationship is key. What relationship with Him looked like, what relationship with the father looked like and what relationship with each other looked like. I think because of the vision that Jesus gave us of relationship with the Father that the more we can draw into relationship the more we can point to relationship with Jesus and the more inspired that vision can become. I think that there is a reason that Jesus only had 12 close disciples and that we cannot have that level of intimacy with everyone but I think his close relationship with those 12 and the expansion of the church that came under their leadership is testament to the effectiveness of that level of relationship. However I also think quick empowerment and commissioning also has it’s merits and is demonstrated in scripture with the woman at the well, legion, etc. I think to focus either entirely on quick empowerment or entirely on empowerment through deep relationship would be too narrow and would reduce effectiveness. I think prayer and discernment in the Spirit are the only ways that we can fully know which type of relationship is necessary for any individual.

      I will say that I think in Canada one of the dangers of empowering quickly is that there is so much available in terms of conferences and materials that for many Canadians doing something no matter how informative or empowering could easily and quickly be forgotten. Since deep relationships are so rare and harder to come by here then having authentic relationship can be unique and provides more insight to help develop vision which is in line with what God is speaking to them. One of the dangers of only trying to empower quickly is that if you are only trying to help people establish a vision in a short period of time then it is much more likely that you will be trying to help them establish a vision of your own making rather than one which is truly unique to them and God’s work in their lives.

      All that to say I agree with you that deep relationship is one possible result and should not necessarily be an expectation for all relationships. But I do think that it is essential to have some relationships that are on that deeper level.

      I think the way to go about discovering the visions people have and empowering them is through asking questions, listening to the ways which God is already at work in their lives and in encouraging them in the ways that you see Him at work in them. In both the story of the woman at the well and the story of legion Jesus empowers them by talking to them, listening to their story, and bringing healing and purpose into their story and brokennes. We may not be able to bring physical healing as miraculously as He did (or we may if He’s willing) but we can point them to the one who can. With each of them the greatest vision Jesus offered them was love and acceptance that pursued them in the midst of their brokenness. I believe if that is the vision we share then you’re right that is the pre-requisite for empowerment. But I think it’s that calling to transformational and incomprehensible relationship that is empowering rather than simply any vision. I believe that transformation works itself out in different visions and that these visions are secondary and less foundational. These are the ones that we must encourage others in finding for themselves and we must recognize that God will give others visions that are different from our own but that first vision is the one we must point people to as a foundation for empowerment and for new dreams. In terms of how I would help people find those visions and empower them in them I think exercises where they consider the story of God in their lives are quite powerful. I’m still working on ideas for how those get lived out though 😉 if you have any more suggestions on how that empowerment could take place, especially in Pakistan, I’d love to hear them.

      I think as a person of privilege I would be able to have status to connect with both the higher levels of society and the lower. This could give me the ability to connect people from both and treat them all as honorable rather than some as more honorable than others. To be honest this is one area of Pakistani culture that I am not quite sure how to navigate. Ideally I would like to connect people from different levels of society and different cultural groups and have them interact as equals. But I still have so little knowledge of how something like that could be done there. I would like my home to be a place where all could be treated as equals if I had a gathering there. I feel like I still need to know more about Pakistan to be able to answer this question well.

      I definitely see a few potential dangers to empowering from privelege. One is that people may simply want to draw near to you and buy into your relationship to be close to you to elevate their status. Another is that they will agree with you in hopes to gain something from you. Another is that your status may make it so that people will be more inclined to tell you what they think you want to hear rather than the real vision God is placing on their hearts.

      The biggest thing I got from Lingenfelter on how to avoid falling into responsible-for mentality is emotional detachment from my role and results. Practically this means I need to continually remind myself to submit my concern for results to the Lord and surrender my actions and the people I’m leading to Him. It means reminding myself that just as I couldn’t work enough for my own salvation I can’t work enough for others. God brought me to Him and He will do so for others. I think the best thing I can do to maintain focus on my goals is to remind myself that the greatest thing I can achieve is to abide in Christ. All other goals I may have are secondary to simply being in His presence and basking in the relationship that he brought about. If I remember that and set my sight on the beauty of the cross then I can better set aside my goals to help others reach theirs without feeling the weight of responsibility for them. I see potential for struggle when I believe that my efforts are more important than that relationship with Jesus. So long as I am not prioritising that time of reminder then I am caught up in striving and forget that my actions are not where responbility lies.

      Hope all that makes sense! Those sure were some tough questions.

      • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

        Thanks for your reply, Kevin,
        I just noticed it now.

        I would suggest that perhaps some clarification of terms and narrowing the focus of their purpose might be in order. I think that it is helpful to separate personal transformation and the development of character from “empowering.” That is, the goal of empowering is to provide pathways for a person to fulfill the ministry that God has granted them. Within the empowering paradigm, relationships serve as the means to the end of creating a servant of God, rather than an end in itself. For example Paul empowered Timothy and Titus so that they could be servants in God in places far away from Paul. Within the relationship that they enjoyed, Paul empowered them to serve without him.

        Recognizing that I have a role of empowering does not mean that I no longer value relationship, only that, for the sake of empowering the other, my concern is that the person becomes the person they need to be in order to impact others with the Gospel message.

        As an analogy, think of working side by side rather than facing each other. Facing each other is a focus on relationship (going “deep”). Working side by side is a partnership that focuses on an object beyond the relationship, but requires the relationship so that the empowerment can happen. The goal becomes the development of the skills and ability of the protege and the relationship facilitates that.

        Another example. A person may come and say “teach me to pray”. I can pray with that person, I can teach the person a prayer to say, I can model prayer. But then I would likely say, “Find someone else to pray with. Teach them, pray with them, model prayer.” That latter is empowering which cuts short my relationship with them to multiply the impact of the body of Christ with others.

        I hope this makes sense in the context of this module.

  2. Cathy Yinger Cathy Yinger says:

    Hi, Kevin! I am so excited for you and Micaela. Will you be able to go to Poland in August? Would love to talk more and hear your heart as you look forward to what God is going to do. Have you been able to meet and get to know some Pakistani people in Edmonton?
    You mentioned that you struggle with releasing control and trusting God for the ends. We have learned in our time in Spain, even more so than during our years in Chile, that the more impossible the task, the more freedom we feel, because it is so clear that it cannot depend on us. Everything that happens to move people closer to King Jesus is a God story.

    • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

      Hey Cathy!

      Yes we will both be in Poland. Looking forward to meeting you in person! We’ve been able to connect and work with many muslims in Edmonton but not as many Pakistanis specifically (although a few). Currently I have mostly been working with muslims from Syria and North Africa. We are trying to make more connections with Pakistanis and specifically Sindhis here in Edmonton though.

      Thanks for the encouragement about trust and releasing control. It is an area I feel like God has been working on in me and helping me realize needs to change. There have been more and more things that have happened that have shown me that my worry is in vain and that He provides. I have many things that I should be able to look back on and remember that is the case but it is often harder for me in the moment. Right now I just need to continue to pray for God to help my heart to change and to grow in trust! I do feel he’s bringing about healing and growth in me though.

  3. AdamP AdamP says:

    Thanks for your response Kevin.

    From what you know, how would you (generally) classify Pakistan: responsible-to or responsible-for?

    How do you think your strengths and weaknesses affect your service in Pakistan specifically?

    • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

      Hey Adam,

      Thanks for your great questions! Not easy ones 😛

      To be honest I’m not 100% sure about whether Pakistan is more responsible-to or responsible-for. Based on what I know so far I’d say it depends. From talking to those who have done missions there it sounds like an employee/employer relationship there is viewed much differently and you are expected to be responsible for them as an employer. Someone working for you would likely have a low salary but they would expect that you would provide for them even after their time working for you is up. I have heard that even if someone is fired they may still expect you to be taking care of them. But I have also heard that in some areas people in general just do not feel responsible. For example few people feel any sort of responsibility for the trash in the streets and cleaning it up. But beyond a few examples I’m not sure I would be able to nail down which the culture would tend to lean towards.

      I think my service and ability to deny myself for others will help me to be able to empower others and help them to determine the vision that God has for their lives rather than trying to enforce or direct them towards my own agenda for them. I think I can recognise the vision of others and empower them in that without feeling like I need to be the driving force.

      I do however struggle with feeling that the amount I am able to equip them and set them up for success will be what is contingent on their success. So I think the biggest danger I have is of passing on that same tendency to believe that it is me and not God that determines success. Maybe Mark is right and the key here is to empower quickly so they can get some of my good tendencies and aren’t with me too long to get the bad 😉 But seriously I think I will need to be careful to communicate that God is responsible for the outcomes and will need to remind myself of that same fact.

      • AdamP AdamP says:

        “For example few people feel any sort of responsibility for the trash in the streets and cleaning it up.”
        – Wow, my thoughts went straight to japan and how the streets are super clean because of the communal responsibility. Much different in Pakistan, I suppose.

        “I think my service and ability to deny myself for others will help me to be able to empower others and help them to determine the vision that God has for their lives rather than trying to enforce or direct them towards my own agenda for them.”
        – I can relate to this. I think for the two of us, as we’re preparing to serve in contexts much different than our current ones, our ignorance can actually be seen as a blessing. Because we genuinely don’t know all the cultural nuances and interpretations of things, we need to rely more on the locals, and in extension, the visions that God has given them.

        • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

          Absolutely. We have a great excuse to ask lots of questions all the time. Ignorance is a great tool for us!

      • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

        Thanks, Kevin and Adam, for this discussion about responsible to and responsible for. I would like to suggest that the key for empowering is to avoid, as much as possible, getting into a responsible for situation. Responsible for occurs when the person is working for YOU. That is, they are under your authority and direction. Empowering puts them in the driver seat. You become the person who helps them succeed in THEIR vision and desire. So the key is motivation. If a person is motivated and passionate about following Jesus, then empowering looks like creating pathways so that person can succeed. Then they will not look to see if you approve (a responsible for orientation), but they will grasp the opportunity because they can see how it will help them in their goals and it is their choice.

        However, if a person is not motivated by a vision, then the goal should be to help them discover and embrace that vision so they own it themselves – that is also empowering. At the same time, it is very easy to respond by creating a way for a person to help you with YOUR vision so they just need to cooperate, but that undermines the empowering dynamic.

        Does that make sense?

        • itskevinmiller itskevinmiller says:

          Hey Mark,

          Absolutely, I think the main reason Adam was asking was to determine what Pakistani culture would typically default to or fall into. I don’t think it was thinking of whether you should go into one or the other when entering the culture. Although, is entering into a “responsible-for” relationship (at least in their eyes) entirely avoidable? If Micaela and I were to hire someone to help us with keeping the house clean, for example, in order to focus more on ministry, that person would very likely view the relationship as us being responsible for them, correct? I do see how this would definitely complicate the relationship to also want to empower that person when we’re seen as the authority figure.

          • Mark Naylor Mark Naylor says:

            Yes, you understand this well. Whenever you hire someone in Pakistan so that they are under your authority in one area, that role is maintained in all occasions – even after they retire. It is a patron-client relationship, rather than employer-employee. It therefore complicates the relationships, but empowering can still work in that scenario. The key is that the person owns a vision you also believe in and that you can use your position in an appropriate way as patron to empower the person so that they fulfill their vision. However, great sensitivity is needed since our assumptions about the relationship can easily be different from what they are experiencing.

            You can read a brief intro about patron-client relationships here:
            http://honorshame.com/the-meaning-of-faith/

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