Assessing Intercultural Sensitivity
I read with interest Dan Sheffield’s article in the January 2007 EMQ (“Assessing Intercultural Sensitivity in Mission Candidates and Personnel”).
Assessing Intercultural Sensitivity
I read with interest Dan Sheffield’s article in the January 2007 EMQ (“Assessing Intercultural Sensitivity in Mission Candidates and Personnel”). Yes, better assessment tools are needed; however, I was concerned that he so quickly dismissed the “criterion-based” models in favor of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) which assumes that the more ethnorelativistic person will be interculturally competent. Although this is a logical assumption, to my knowledge the IDI has never been field-tested for correlations with intercultural competency.
However, valid criterion-based evaluation instruments do exist. Daniel Kealey’s research on qualities that correlate with intercultural competency in the field provides the basis of the Interculturally Effective Person (IEP) described by Sheffield. Kealey, with the Canadian Foreign Institute (CFI), has now created the Intercultural Living and Working Inventory (ILWI) that evaluates IEP qualities. The CFI is also developing a training manual to assist administrators to develop IEP qualities in their recruits.
My Intercultural Competency Scale (ICS), based upon Kealey’s ground-breaking research, is an online, shorter and cheaper evaluation instrument. The ICS underwent extensive field testing in thirty countries and correlated at a significant level with supervisor assessments of intercultural competence. For trainers, I am now fine-tuning a set of skill-builders aimed at developing these well-researched criterion-based qualities in missionary recruits.
—Muriel Elmer, adjunct professor, doctoral educational studies program, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
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Wise as Doves and Innocent as Serpents?
“Wise as Doves and Innocent as Serpents? Doing Conflict Resolution Better” by Kelly O’Donnell (January 2007) is a great article, but I fear that many people will miss it. As a member care consultant, I glanced at the title and settled in to read another typical “conflict resolution” article. I soon realized that Kelly was dealing with something much more important: What can we do in the minefield of dysfunction?
We all like to assume that everyone in the conflict is nice, is playing fair and would like to reach reconciliation resulting in a “win-win” solution. In some situations, it is nice people playing fair who can reconcile with everyone feeling good. However, Kelly is dealing with what to do when faced with dysfunctional people and/or with dysfunctional organizations where some people are not nice, not playing fair and want to “win” at any cost. Both people and organizations may have consistent patterns of relating in hurtful ways toward others, sometimes in ways that are blatantly sinful.
The “Ten Suggestions for Dealing with Dysfunction/Toxicity” are incredibly valuable as is the thirty-two item scale for “Assessment of Organizational Practices.” Hats off to Kelly for giving us such wise and practical advice to use in situations where people and/or organizations do not want to reconcile, where confrontation and Christian discipline are needed. Thank you for talking about what to do when the usual methods of conflict resolution just do not work because of the particular people and organizations involved.
—Ron Koteskey, member care consultant, New Hope International Ministries
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The Later Years for Missionaries
I enjoyed the January 2007 issue of EMQ, especially the articles proffered by field personnel. In particular, I found Dan Schmidt’s piece, “The Later Years for Missionaries: Six Suggestions to Make the Transition,” very helpful. Too often we are hearing from mission agency management, seminary teachers and home staff; instead, we should be hearing from missionaries who are making or who have made this transition and their church constituency. Dialoging with transitioning missionaries and the churches and denominations that support them might help us to come up with practical solutions to add to Dan’s six suggestions.
—Rev. Gregory Miller
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Brian McLaren’s Contextualization of the Gospel
I was excited when I saw David Hesselgrave (“Brian McLaren’s Contextualization of the Gospel,” January 2007) took the time to thoughtfully consider some of the seminal works of Brian McLaren. At last, I thought, a contextualization guru is going to enter this conversation from a missiological standpoint. My excitement quickly dissipated as Hesselgrave permeated his writing with the sentiment, ”Although changes there must and will be, the future of Christian missions will depend more on changes that are not made than it will on changes that are made.” Wow! That’s not what Hessegrave’s writings have taught me in the past about contextualization!
I was most surprised by his harsh critique of McLaren’s “missional mission.” In contrast to McLaren’s dialogical approach (and it surprised me Hesselgrave didn’t at least acknowledge that McLaren has company in missiological circles, e.g., Joshua Massey and Lesslie Newbigin), Hesselgrave calls for an approach that sees missionaries’ primary role as being “sent to take Jesus and his gospel to individuals.”
I have no business speaking for McLaren or the Emerging Church. And I part ways with some of where that conversation has led. But one of the things that really engaged me in this conversation in the first place was the missional corrective being called for by people like McLaren. A colonizing approach with the gospel that says, “We’ve got this thing figured out and we’re here to download it to you” is linked to the recurring critiques of North American missions from the Southern Church. For example, Ugandan bishop David Zac Niringiye says we often act like “the future belongs to us…The process of gospel transmission, the process of mission—all of it is on our terms, because we are powerful, because we are established. We have a track record of success, after all.”
Might it be that McLaren is trying to challenge this conquistador mentality by calling us toward an enlarged view of God that believes he is already working in the people to whom we’ve been sent? While the kingdom is often veiled by culture, why not make our starting point looking for where we can embrace its presence and joining God’s work there? We’re not bringing Jesus anywhere. He’s already there!
Hesselgrave has consistently called us against converting people into “cultural Christians.” So I’m quite sure he’s thought this through at a deeper level than his article demonstrates. But I fear for those readers around the world who take his expert perspective as the last word on the fresh missional wave that is surfacing in places all over the world. Surely not all cultural expressions of the gospel are equally valid, but may we not let the fear of what’s emerging keep us from the exciting, challenging, messy work of contextualizing the gospel in community with the worldwide followers of Jesus that span the globe.
—Dr. Dave Livermore, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
Hesselgrave Response to Livermore
My sincere thanks to Dr. Livermore for responding to my article on Brian McLaren’s contextualization of the gospel (January 2007). It allows me to put that evaluation into the much larger (though sketchy) context of my personal experience and thinking. As a philosophy major in university, I studied under world-class faculty. I was fascinated by the subject matter, but thinking philosophy to be impractical, I changed my major to communication in graduate school.
I was right about communication but wrong about philosophy. Arriving in post-war Japan, I found myself in the context of Shinto mythology and Buddhist mysticism. Christianity in Japan had long since been adversely impacted by universalism from America and Higher Criticism from Germany. Sub-orthodoxy and neo-orthodoxy were firmly entrenched. I regularly encountered the proposals of Barth, Bultmann, Brunner, Ferre, Tillich, Altizer and their predecessors. Early in the twentieth century, conservative theologians and missiologists had successfully challenged modernism and championed biblical truth. Their works contributed immensely, not only to the conversion of my parents out of backgrounds of universalist and modernist churches, but directly to my salvation and missionary call and indirectly to our small part in the establishment of the Japan Evangelical Free Church.
Recently, churches and missions in America, Japan and elsewhere have been impacted by a postmodernism that is more powerful and pervasive than we might think. Concerning Christian students, InterVarsity’s director of evangelism, Terry Erickson, writes in the September 2006 issue of Christianity Today that they are more “grace-oriented than truth-oriented”—a situation he says can be fatal to missions if not addressed. Concerning younger “emergent missional leaders,” Jay Gary writes that they are no longer interested in binary logic, assertive processing or deductive arguments, preferring rather story and metaphor. That too can be fatal if not addressed!
Dr. Livermore, after sixty years of ministry I am convinced of three things. First, in and of ourselves, neither you nor I nor Brian McLaren nor either of the illustrious missiologists you cite, has any message of eternal consequence for our twenty-first century world. Second, being more pronouncedly (and often subtly) epistemological, the problems presented by postmodernism today are often greater than those presented by modernism a century ago. For example, while modernists denied certain doctrines, McLaren also denigrates doctrinal statements; while modernists reinterpreted mission, in McLaren’s “missional” approach, theology is made subservient to one’s view of mission. Third, of course contextualizations for postmoderns will differ from those of the past, but the starting point must remain the same: contextualizations worthy of the name “Christian” must begin with “true truth” as uniquely personified in
Jesus Christ, inerrantly recorded in sacred scripture and responsibly interpreted and applied by those called to serve Christ and minister his Word.
It is on this basis that I attempted an evaluation of McLaren’s contextualization of the gospel and that I concluded that the future of Christian mission depends more on changes we do not make than on changes we do make.
—David J. Hesselgrave
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A Ten-Point Plan
This is in response to J. Keith Bateman’s article, “A Ten-Point Plan for Producing Better ‘Indigenous’ Churches” (April 2006). In 1992 a Nigerian brother made this comment to me: “Brother Sam, we are here to gather the bread crumbs from the table.” When I asked him to clarify, he replied, “We are like Lazarus in Luke 16, gathering the pieces from a rich man’s table.” This was not the polite response I was hoping to get. After being raised in a Muslim convert’s home in Pakistan, seeing missions from a close proximity and watching my father struggle in his ministry, I believe I can offer a national’s perspective.
During an evangelistic campaign in the late 1970s, my father had a disagreement over a certain strategy to reach a village. The local Western missionary was part of the team. When he heard a different suggestion from his own, there was a somewhat heated exchange. This man told my father, “This is our money and we will use it as we wish.” To that my father replied, “This is my country and these are my people and if you do not wish to cooperate and work together, take your money and go home. We do not need you or your money.” I saw this happening and prayed to God, “For how long will we face this kind of treatment from our missionaries? Is it because we are not well educated, are poor and do not have resources to reach Pakistan?”
This was a turning point in my life, and I prayed that if God, in his own sovereignty, would grant me an opportunity, I would study hard and help my own people. I hoped a day would come when we would not depend on our Western friends to give us handouts, or “bread crumbs.” Reading Bateman’s article has brought back old memories and it is not a surprise that many may have his opinions. Here are my fears, should Bateman’s article be taken seriously:
• Some mission pastor in some town in America would stop supporting their compassion child in Kenya because it is a reached country. $30 a month is mere breadcrumbs!
• Christian colleges in the US would stop accepting international students.
• Indigenous churches would suffer.
• National church leaders would lose the fellowship they have been experiencing at conferences.
• We would have under-trained and under-equipped national leaders and they would have no way of supporting themselves and their congregations.
• It would give a poor example to other reproducing national churches as to how to support their church plants.
Here are my suggestions:
• Strike a balance—increase the accountability, but meet actual needs freely.
• Support our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas.
• Reform the American Church first! Our pocket change can build churches and change lives.
• Understand that there is no ten-point plan. Each case and scenario is different and requires careful thought, prayer and counsel. You simply cannot make all-or-nothing rules from the US to not support national churches.
• Understand you will not stop nationals from helping their own people. We are all interdependent on each other.
• Allow for the leading of the Spirit. We need to be good stewards, but we need to pray to receive God’s plan of action.
The world is changing and we in the West and missions must recognize that nationals are hoping for a better understanding of true biblical partnerships—not just lip service. Let us treat each other with respect and put aside the “us” and “them” mentality. Share with one another for the sake of the cross. Increased accountability will help, but ultimately the Lord will be the judge of those who squander and trample our generosity and service.
—Samuel Naaman, professor of missions, Moody Bible Institute
Bateman Response to Naaman:
I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to Sam Naaman’s comments. Indeed, we are largely in agreement regarding his suggestions. Our point of disagreement would be with some of his “fears, should [my] article be taken seriously.” Actually, I should preface my response by noting that I never intended that my “Ten Points” be taken seriously. The purpose was to stimulate discussion on how to improve how we do missions.
Having said this, I would like to focus on Dr. Naaman’s concern that “indigenous churches would suffer.” Indigenous churches would not suffer precisely because a truly indigenous church (the focus of my article) is largely independent of outside assistance (and its accompanying sometimes negative influences). I emphasize the word “largely” because every church requires assistance from time to time. The Jerusalem church needed assistance in Paul’s day. But it was not ongoing for a hundred years! Any church that continually requires outside assistance cannot be considered a healthy church if for no other reason than there is a propensity toward the kinds of stresses and strains that Dr. Naaman describes in his opening paragraphs.
I would like to be able to respond to each of Dr. Naaman’s concerns, but space does not permit. The bottom line in this debate should not ultimately be the welfare of the national churches or its leaders; nor what may assist or hinder students coming to America to study; nor whether or not national church leaders will, or will not, be able to attend conferences and seminars. The bottom line is: What is in the best interest of the gospel, and producing healthy, reproducing disciples and churches? That’s what it is supposed to be about, isn’t it? To this end, I would humbly suggest that it is time for both missionaries and national church leaders alike to be less offended any time someone raises questions about how things are done in modern missions, and begin looking at the problems, and how to solve them.
—J. Keith Bateman
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