Imagine this: A surgeon steps up to the operating table, picks up a scalpel in his white-gloved hand, smiles confidently to the nurses around him, and says, “I’ve heard about how to do this surgery before.” A concerned nurse speaks up, “Wait, Doctor, are you saying you have never done this surgery? And you haven’t researched it?” The surgeon replies with a nonchalant smile, “Oh, no, I’ve never done any surgery at all. I’ve never even been to medical school. But don’t worry, I know what these tools are, and I’ve watched a lot of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ ”
Good intentions are important, but are they enough?
No hospital board would allow a person to do surgery on another human being simply because he has caring motives and a lab coat on. And no church should send a believer to the foreign field before he has had cross cultural missionary training.
The Challenges of Cross-cultural Ministry
Missions is a life and death situation. People all over this globe are dying without the life- giving news of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. Our job, our mission is to be ambassadors of this vital gospel to the lost and perishing.
Along with adequate Bible training, cross cultural missionary training is also an important piece of this equipping.
We must think about what we are doing when we seek to bring the gospel to a cross-cultural context.
People in different places think and see the world differently than we do.
We are going to another culture, another language, another people group. They are human beings, real people with intelligence, history, feelings, thoughts, customs, and minds; and like the uneducated surgeon, our good intentions alone will not be able to enter into their world to help them.
We need training to understand how to interact with them in even the smallest of ways. What is the proper way to greet these people who are so different from us, and yet created in God’s image, just like us? How do we buy bread in the store or marketplace from these people who function in ways we’ve never seen before? Why do they do the things they do, which seem so strange to us, and yet are so normal to them? How do we even begin to have conversations with these people, whom the Lord loves?
We need to know how to communicate truth in the way they will understand.
We will need to be able to skillfully evaluate and comprehend someone else’s worldview in order to connect with them.
This alone is a huge job, but now throw into the mix our need to grasp their language – not just to speak and hear it, but to really get it with all of its inferences, euphemisms, maxims, and expressions. Remember also that we will need to thoroughly understand their customs, rituals, and cultural events or rules. They have reasons they do what they do, just as we do.
The Benefits of Taking Time to Get Cross Cultural Missionary Training
Missions is a difficult path, but not an impossible one.
We go because the Lord has commanded us to go, because He loves these people, and because He is too good not to share with them. He will lead us and never forsake us as we seek to reach people in cross-cultural contexts. He wants this work accomplished, after all!
And the Lord wants us to do the work well. He wants thriving believers in growing churches who are grounded in truth that has been clearly communicated to them.
Receiving thorough cross cultural missionary training in all of these areas will provide you with the skill set and awareness to be able to tackle these obstacles as you partner with the Lord in His work in any culture.
Take time to learn how to tackle and grasp another person’s worldview.
Learn the basics of linguistics in order to be able to learn the heart language of whatever people group you are trying to reach.
Seek out teaching that will enable you to enter another person’s world, and really “get them”, not just know about them.
Receive training that will prepare you for the arduous, yet rewarding road ahead.
New Tribes Mission has sought to create centers that provide such missionary training. At both the missionary training center in Roach, Missouri, and Emanate, in Durham, Ontario, New Tribes Mission trains North American believers who want to pursue missions. They instruct them in how to recognize and evaluate worldviews, prepares them for linguistic and cultural challenges, and teaches them the importance of understanding the people group they are working with. The principles learned at these training centers will be a huge investment towards successfully and correctly communicating the Gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
Don’t go into this with only good intentions, much needed though they may be. Be prepared for the mission.
Anna Wishart is a graduate of Ethnos360 Bible Institute, and continues to seek ways to be involved with missions through writing. She currently lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys biking, art, friends, the mountain views, and serving at Fellowship Bible Church.