Summary: HOW TO COMMUNICATE ACROSS CULTURES
TIPS FOR CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATIONS
When Hudson Taylor was director of the China Inland Mission, he often interviewed candidates for the mission field. On one occasion, he met with a group of applicants to determine their motivations for service. "And why do you wish to go as a foreign missionary?" he asked one. "I want to go because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," was the reply. Another said, "I want to go because millions are perishing without Christ." Others gave different answers. Then Hudson Taylor said, "All of these motives, however good, will fail you in times of testings, trials, tribulations, and possible death. There is but one motive that will sustain you in trial and testing; namely, the love of Christ".
A missionary in Africa was once asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. "Do I like this work?" he said. "No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse...But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ’Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us."
Our Daily Bread.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE ACROSS CULTURES
1. From the model above we must see that our goal is to get the preacher’s & audience to adapt their message to the Bible. The difficulties are numerous however. Many people interpret the Bible through the perspectives of their preacher, his culture, his filtering mechanisms, his channels, & his message. Many times this can distort, confuse, or cause the audience to reject the Biblical message unnecessarily. The key is learning how to let the Bible to communicate directly to the audience as possible. Let us examine how we can successfully communicate over, around, under, & through these cross-cultural barriers that exist between the Bible’s culture, the preacher’s culture, & the audiences’ culture:
A. Study the needs of your audience’s culture & begin to speak to these concerns directly from the Bible. The needs may be in terms of marriage problems, financial problems, relational problems, extended family squabbles, social struggles, political infighting, youth-elder power struggles, sickness, anxieties, fears, hopelessness, loneliness,tribal disagreements, childlessness, demon oppression, harassment by outsiders or insiders, etc. Begin by discovering what the priority needs of the people are & begin to minister to them from the scriptures.
B. Search for an indigenous source who can train you on the audiences’ culture.
He or she can teach you about how the culture views family, kinships, marriage, children, money, politics, leadership, relationships with neighbors & outsiders, work, education, religion, history, traditions, folklores, proverbs, stories, God, Christ, The Holy Spirit, spirits, demons, salvation, heaven, hell, sin, Satan, forgiveness, truth, ancestors, The Bible, etc. . .
One of the main advantage of working through an indigent source is the developing of a trust bridge with the audience. Choose a host tutor who is trusted, credible, & look up to by a majority of the audience.
C. Involve yourself with the audience as a participant-observer. Many missionaries have succeeded in learning to communicate across cultures by living, associating, & involving themselves with the everyday activities of the people they wish to reach. By working, visiting, & studying the host culture you will also gain a deeper sense of credibility in the eyes of your audience. They will feel that you really want to become one of them. Jesus gave the supreme example in coming as an INCARNATE Christ who lived among us. We should follow his example.
D. Seek to adapt your culture & the culture of the audience to the essential messages not the culture of the Bible. It is unrealistic to expect some people to give up their cars & start riding donkeys as they did in Christ’s culture. Similarly, it would be unfair to expect everyone to learn Greek, Hebrew, & Aramaic in order to appreciate the truths of the Bible. Instead, we should seek to communicate the essential messages, principles, & lessons of the scriptures in their original contexts. For example, a pastor should preach as Christ taught the woman at the well in John 4. He said, ``It does not matter if you worship in Jerusalem or on the mountain that your fathers worshipped. Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit & in truth.’’ Jesus down played the unessential cultural aspects of worship & concentrated on WHO we worship AND WHY we worship! We must learn to major on God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, Heaven, the judgments against sin, & the maturity of believers & the qualitative & quantitative growth of the church.