It is needed for effective communication and connection with people who possess a different set of values and perspectives than you. With communities becoming more diverse all around the world, anyone could benefit from being a cross-cultural learner. As human beings, we represent a grand mosaic of cultural expression.
It’s a beautiful thing. Challenging, but beautiful.
When it comes to spreading the knowledge and glory of God among the least reached of the world and making disciples of all peoples (cultures), authentic relationships and effective communication is needed. For this reason, cross-cultural learning is vital to the Great Commission.
The training team at Encompass run a cross-cultural training intensive in Atlanta, GA called Engage 5. For five weeks, the trainers present knowledge and skills that are essential to effective cross-cultural ministry with opportunities for practice. The ultimate goal of the course is to encourage lifelong cross-cultural learning.
Every Encompass Global Worker completes the five-week course before they are sent out. Many mission organizations offer this service to their staff because of how valuable the training is for cross-cultural ministry.
Until recently, the Encompass cross-cultural training was limited to U.S. teams.
Last fall, Encompass trainers, Gary and Linda McCaman along with Ted Offutt, conducted a one-week condensed version of Engage 5 for 30 Mexican church planters and leaders in San Luis, Mexico. This was the first time Encompass trainers taught cross-cultural ministry concepts to another culture in another country.
Many of the Northern Mexican attendees were planning on doing ministry in the southern parts of Mexico, which was very culturally different than the north. Wanting to be effective in reaching the southern community, they hung onto every word Gary and Linda said during the sessions.
One of the most powerful moments was during one of Gary’s culture illustrations. He brought out a pair of glasses with the Mexican flag painted on the lenses. He explained how everyone’s culture influences how they see the world. So, in order to do cross-cultural ministry well, a person needed to take off their glasses and put on the glasses of the those they are trying to reach.
According to the McCamans, it was one of the best groups they have ever taught.
Again, cross-cultural learning is not solely a Global Missions activity nor is it only a U.S. need. It’s a relational investment that’s valuable for everyone around the world in a variety of different contexts. If you care about anyone from another culture, why not learn how they see the world? Why not seek to understand their customs and values?
You don’t have to be a missionary to benefit from cross-cultural learning.
Pick a culture you have seen represented in your neighborhood and learn more about it. After that, go and talk to someone from that culture. I promise you won’t be wasting your time.