Biblical Multicultural Teams: Applying Biblical Truth to Cultural Differences

William Carey International University Press, 1539 E. Howard Street, Pasadena, CA 91104, 2011, 178 pages, $9.55.

Reviewed by Marcus W. Dean, associate professor and chair, Department
of Intercultural Studies, Houghton College; former missionary in
Colombia and Puerto Rico.

I am always looking for more ideas for teaching students about cultures
and how to serve meaningfully in them.  Sheryl Takagi Silzer helps us
understand our reactions to and feelings about other cultures by taking a
proven concept for understanding culture from anthropologist Mary
Douglas. This can be compared to how Sherwood Lingenfelter—from whom
Silzer learned of Douglas—uses the concepts to explain how to introduce
change into a culture (Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian
Mission, 1992).   

When reading this book, it is important to grasp three ideas in the
Introduction before heading to Chapter 1. The first is the definition of
a “Culture-based Judging System”—a useful tool that explains why we
respond as we do to cultural differences. The second is the
juxtaposition of four cultural types—based on Douglas’ ideas—and
biblical truth explored throughout the book. The third is the connection
of the first two with the title of the book. This connection is stated
in two places.

Admittedly, I missed the first and only caught it when I got to the
second in Chapter 10. I would have understood the book better on the
first read if I had grasped that “the main purpose of this book is to
foster biblical multicultural teams by helping them to recognize how
their Culture-based Judging System (CbJS) works and applying biblical
truth to cultural differences” (p. 4).  

The book is loosely divided into three parts. Chapters 1 and 2 present
the underlying concepts of the book. Chapter 1 develops the biblical
truth of “what it means to be created in God’s image” (p. 9) and how its
distortion by culture leads to cultural misunderstanding. Chapter 2
explores how the CbJS works in relation to the four cultural types:
individuating, institutionalizing, hierarching, and interrelating.
Chapters 3-9 explore aspects of our childhood that Silzer sees as
forging our CbJS and how each interacts with the four cultural types.
Finally in Chapter 10, Silzer briefly ties together the application of
the previous ideas. Each chapter also includes exercises to help with
the learning and application.

I encountered a few things about this book that I felt were detracting.
For me, the tie to multicultural teams was too implicit, thus leaving a
sense that the title was misleading. Also, I found that I had to refer
back to the charts on pages 32 and 33 to keep track of the nomenclature
for the cultural types used throughout the book, as the usage seemed
inconsistent. Even with these limitations, I find this to be a useful
book that adds to our understanding of cultural adjustment for both
teams and individuals.  

Check these titles:
Lingenfelter, Sherwood G. 2008. Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant
Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership.
Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Baker Academic.

Livermore, David. 2010. Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success. New York: AMACOM.

Plueddemann, James E. 2009. Leading across Cultures: Effective Ministry
and Mission in the Global Church.
Downers Grove: Ill.: IVP Academic.


EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 114-115. Copyright  © 2013 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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