A number of our congregations are attempting to serve people of their respective communities, and that is a good thing.

If you are trying to establish relationship with others, you may run up against some barriers. These barriers exist when crossing class lines to serve. We have congregations planted in very wealthy communities, and congregations planted in very poor communities. Most of the LCMS is middle class. Attempting to communicate across cultural and economic lines is not always an easy thing. To illustrate the gulf that separates, take a look at the following to see how well you "fit in" with or understand those of a different class.

I know how to use food stamps or an electric card for benefits.
I know how to move in half a day.
I know where the free medical clinics are.
I know how to live without electricity and a phone.
I am good at trading and bartering.
I know which grocery store garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.
I know how to get someone out of jail.
I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.

How well did you do? If you are attempting to serve and understand those living in poverty, those are things they know how to do. Now try these:

I can read a menu in French, English, and another language.
During the holidays, I know how to hire a decorator who will identify appropriate themes and items for use in my house.
I support or buy the work of a particular artist.
I know how to read a corporate financial statement and how to analyze my own financial statements.
I know how to host parties that "key"people attend.
I know how to enroll my children in preferred private schools.
I know the hidden rules of the Junior League.
I am on the board of at least two charities.

Did you do any better? If you are attempting to serve and understand those living in wealth, those are things they know how to do.

If you felt any discomfort because you couldn't identify with either of these sets of abilities, you may understand why it is not easy establishing the necessary relationship with them in order to share the Gospel. Like a foreign missionary, you need to understand the culture in which you wish to serve. In the United States, just because you don't have a lot of immigrants in your town doesn't mean you are all the same. Knowing those whom Christ is sending you will help you serve them in a better fashion.

(My thanks to Pastor Michael Phillips for providing the questions, gleaned from a teacher's manual at the Lima Public School System.)