Intercultural Communication for Christian Ministry

by Frank Tucker

—Reviewed by Alexander K. Zell, adjunct professor, Lincoln Christian University, Lincoln, Illinois, former C&MA missionary in Brazil.

Self-published, Adelaide, South Australia, 2013, 376 pages, $18.00.

Reviewed by Alexander K. Zell, adjunct professor, Lincoln Christian University, Lincoln, Illinois, former C&MA missionary in Brazil.

In my second year in a small town as a missionary, I was shocked to learn that my national brother thought that I was deliberately keeping him at an emotional distance. What was his reasoning? I scheduled my visits with him instead of just dropping by unannounced, especially around dinner time. Using my own cultural grid, I thought that I was communicating respect for his right to privacy, his family time, and valuing him as a colleague. My colleague, using his communication receptor, thought that I only wanted a business relationship.  

How can we, as missionaries, read the unwritten rules of speaking to people of another culture? One way is to learn what could get short-circuited in our social interactions. This book is Frank Tucker’s response to that need.  We must be aware of how to connect in order for the message to flow. There are hundreds of secular books on intercultural communication. However, Frank Tucker writes as a missionary for missionaries on the subject. He knows what we need to understand because he’s been there. This book is filled with helpful information.

Tucker introduces the reader to interpersonal communication theory, symbols, and meanings. His experience in Irian Jaya and Australia helps him to focus on interpersonal relationships. He includes both verbal and non-verbal communication skills. He addresses culture, anthropology, worldview differences, social structures, and contextualization. It might have been better to bring a few less peripheral concepts to add more room for explanation, but Tucker wants the reader to be ready for anything.

One strength of this book is its fifty pages dedicated to modern media. Tucker advocates for a variety of communication forms, demonstrating how performing arts, mime, puppetry, cell phones, music, dance, drama, radio, television, and the Internet can communicate across cultures.    

As this suitcase is unpacked, there is a great deal of helpful information to try on. Tucker utilizes thirty-eight critical incidents in actual ministry to show the need to learn a new concept. For example, he shares how a medical doctor asked a chief in Zaire for a favor so that the chief could receive eye glasses without incurring shame (p. 101). Tucker also incorporates twenty-two case studies to make connections to the reader’s own ministry setting. Although this work provides keys to unlocking intercultural communication theory for mission professors, it can be useful for any missionary practitioner in the field.  

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand and apply cross-cultural communication theory. In my opinion, Intercultural Communication for Christian Ministry is an essential piece of luggage for your cross-cultural mission trip.  

EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 251-252. Copyright  © 2014 Billy Graham Center.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.


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