When cross-cultural ministers don’t attempt to learn about culture, they might miss some important opportunities or become blindsided by unexpected challenges. When urban missionaries aren’t attentive to learning about culture, they are more likely to overlook their own cultural assumptions when communicating the gospel to someone representing a different worldview. When the church’s mission programs aren’t sensitive to cultural differences, colonialism has a tendency to cast its shadow over the work.
This is why in mission studies one the more important topics of conversation is on contextualization. That is, when we attempt to bring the various works of the gospel into the cultural context in which the ministry is taking place. If a missionary from South Korea travels to the jungles of Brazil, they are going to be entering a different cultural context, or if an evangelist from suburban Nashville attempts to reach out in “Little Kurdistan” a fifteen minute drive across town, they are going to want to learn about the culture of origin as well as the experience of migration.
So can the average Christian dare to reach out cross-culturally? Yes! And they should. The first steps are simple. Cross-cultural relationships begin with the self-awareness that we don’t know or understanding everything. We are willing to learn. If each disciple of Christ will learn to ask questions, suspend their judgment, and really listen to their new friends from another culture, they can better learn how to communicate love and good news to their newest neighbors from around the world.
If you would like to learn more about cultural contextualization, check out this 24 minute podcast episode here.