Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Servanthood may be the best Christian book I’ve read on the concept of working in other cultures.
He combines practical and theoretical to create an easy reading book on the why and how of working in cultures different from my own. Perhaps what I like best is that he isn’t afraid to step on some toes. The back cover has this bold quote, “Missionaries could more effectively minister if they did not think they were so superior to us.” Then I opened the cover and started reading a number of true but painful words that led me to several conclusions, a few of which I list below:
- I can be a person who serves or I can be a servant. One is something I do, and the other is who I am.
- Withholding acceptance from a person is rejecting a creation of God. It is a sin against Jesus. (1 Corinthians 8:12)
- Trust can take a long time to establish but very little time to break.
- I will not have meaningful relationships or effective communication in another culture until I can assemble their seemingly illogical, random actions, and reasoning into the framework of their root beliefs – their world view.
He helped me realize that it may not be prudent to jump right into a new culture and start serving. He believes several factors need to be considered before I step through culture boundaries to serve: openness, acceptance, trust, learning, understanding.
He opened my eyes to one of the most logical, godly forms of leadership, a style he called “Traditional Tribal Chief”. (I’ll let you read about that in chapter 11.) And I admired his critique on Christianity’s infatuation with the topic of leadership. Here are five thoughts on leadership that I gleaned from the reading:
- The Bible talks much more about serving than leading.
- I can expect good and bad leaders.
- Knowing Scripture doesn’t make me a good leader.
- God alone gifts and appoints leaders. People who are trained as leaders, but not gifted and appointed, cause problems for everyone.
- Sometimes I may lead uniquely, but I need to lead Biblically at all times.
I’ve gone on too long. Suffice it to say that I liked the book. The time spent reading it was a good investment.
My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog. Look for “Cross-Cultural Servanthood” as you scroll through the box.