No, this book did not speak to me

I still think that Ministering Cross-Culturally had a few useful things to say. Mostly, though, it did not connect. (And the more I think about this whole idea of, “you must take care of everyone else before yourself,” which was repeated at least once more, the worse it sounds. I know that putting myself in situations where I do not have enough food or enough sleep is likely to result in a meltdown. Ignoring these basic needs when I’m in a stressful and unfamiliar situation full of strangers — especially since ignoring food needs might well result in becoming physically ill — does not, in any way, sound to me like a good idea. I’m not good for anything in meltdown mode.)

Besides that, I think I’ve isolated my two main issues with this book:

1) The whole idea is an “incarnational” model of interacting with foreign cultures, that you need to learn the new culture as if you were coming to it as a child. That I’m okay with. Where I begin to have problems is “incarnational model of ministry.” Perhaps I’m reading things into the text that were not written there, and bringing a lot of baggage with the term “minister” in this context. All the same, I don’t see how one can enter a culture as a child, and yet have some kind of corner on Truth. Doesn’t clinging to our own religious preconceptions — especially if there is some intention to share them — hinder a person from fully engaging with the new culture?

2) The whole book is divided into sections of different cultural/personal ways of addressing concepts or occurances (event focused vs. time focused, person focused vs. task focused, status focused vs. achievement focused, etc). Aside from the fact that I felt like the authors were forcing complex issues into dichotomies that were not useful analyses of the patterns I see in the world, I had real problems with the going-back-to-the-Bible sections at the end of every chapter. I felt like most of the chapters concluded by saying, “This is the way Americans tend to view these issues, but if we look at the Bible, we see that Jesus had this focus, which aligns more closely with the way the third-world country you are going to views this issue. Therefore the viewpoint of the third-world country is valuable and you should take it seriously.” I agree that the Zambian viewpoint is valuable — but Jesus had the cultural outlook that he had because of the culture he was in. I figured out a long time ago that Jesus did not have the viewpoint of a 21st-century American. It wouldn’t make sense to have a 21st-century worldview in the first century; the cultural viewpoint was necessary to deal with the culture he found himself in. I don’t think I feel that Jewish culture at that time is inherently applicable to my life, just because Jesus lived in it.


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