The Culture Barrier

We need to understand that there is more than just a language barrier between us and the people to whom we minister. Cultural differences make relating to others very difficult- first, we need to recognize our own culture, then we need to learn a lot about theirs, and then we can begin to understand what translation would involve. Think of Lottie Moon, a great missionary to China in the 1800s. She recognized that her typically American way of being direct and confrontational was offensive to the Chinese. No one would listen to her message because they were offended by her delivery of it. Lottie, realizing the necessity of relevance, immersed herself in the culture. She gave up her western clothes and started dressing like the Chinese. She learned the language- not just enough to get by, but well enough that her accent no longer distracted her Chinese friends from what she was trying to say. For some reason, we see it clearly in the cases of the heroes of international missions, but we are blind to the cultural differences around us. Out of fear or pride we retreat from the world and create our own cultures and subcultures. Within these circles, it takes no time at all for us to lose the ability to relate to those around us.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.