Presentation on theme: "A Definition of Culture for Future North American Missionary Pastors."— Presentation transcript:
A Definition of Culture for Future North American Missionary Pastors
Culture is a society’s system: of thinking and believing; that produces rules for attitudes and behaviors; that establishes a “foundation for expectation”; that provides guidelines for achieving individual success; and that seeks to provide for the long term cultural survival of that society.
Generalizations about culture are possible and allow for an analysis of that culture because…
“Every person is like every other person.” “Every person is like no other person.” “Every person is like some other people.” Dr. William Kessel
Our brief consideration of culture here will focus on how “Every person is like some other people.”
Culture provides a “foundation for expectation” that members of a society use to make sense out of daily life. MK Mayers Christianity Confronts Culture
This foundation consists of behaviors you have been taught by your culture to expect in a certain situations. If you deprive someone of what they expect in a situation, that person will feel anger. If you exceed what someone expects in that situation, the person will feel shame or embarrassment.
For example: What will be their immediate emotion? How will they respond? They will be angry because… The next time you meet a WLS professor or classmate in Piggly Wiggly, do not wave and do not say hello. Pretend they are invisible.
You did not play by the rules! You denied their foundation of expectation. You did not greet them as people who share their culture are expected to greet them.
Or try this maneuver: Judging from their red face, what emotion are they experiencing? If you see a WLS prof or classmate in Piggly Wiggly, greet them with a loud kiss on their cheek.
They are embarrassed! You did not play by the established cultural rules. You exceeded their expectation. This excess produced shame and embarrassment.
Anger and shame do not provide the foundation necessary for the relationships a missionary wants to develop! If we do not play by the rules… People will avoid us.
Culture Sets A Standard! Culture states what should be; What might be; What steps are necessary to make change happen; and, Who must be involved to allow change to happen.
Another task of culture is to define: Who is “in” and who is “out.” Who is moving “up” or “down.” What is “good” and what is “bad.” What is “right” and what is “wrong.”
So a society’s culture equips members of that culture to achieve status and success in their culture… Or at least to find a place in that society
Because you want to establish relationships in a target community and communicate with people in that community, you must understand the standards of the community. Otherwise, you may do something that would cause people to write you off as a nut or as a bad person.
As a North American missionary pastor, you must learn the rules taught by another man’s mother… Or you will not know how to behave in a way that would allow people to respect you enough to listen to your witness.
Culture establishes a foundation for expectation. Members of a society also have adopted ways and methods to protect their culture so that their culture can endure. Culture provides guidelines so that members of a society know how to succeed in that culture.
Four possible reactions to one culture’s attempted interaction with another culture: Clem Robyn Imperialist – This reaction opposes or dominates the other culture to deny interaction. Defensive – This reaction adapts to the interaction rather than be overtaken by the intruding culture. Transcultural – This reaction allows the new culture in but does not adapt to it. Defective – This describes a culture that seeks intrusion and willingly accommodates to alien cultural elements.
Outside influences force cultures to adjust constantly their “boundaries.” Ethnic boundaries range from rigid to porous. Cultural boundaries are affected by population shift, war, disease, politics, economics, crisis, urbanization, etc. Cultures redefine the rigidity or openness of their boundaries in order to survive. Survival may mean dominate or accommodate depending on the power of the intruding influence. On boundaries, cf. F. Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries, 1998: Waveland Press, Inc.
All of this is to say… Observe what God is doing in and with your target culture to see whether he might be preparing the way for your witness! The stress that a culture might be experiencing could be making it “porous” enough for you to be received and heard.
This assumes of course that you have learned how to gain an audience in that culture. Even a porous culture does not easily abide “outcasts.”
People and peoples come to America to “avoid failure.” Their dreams, however, are often shattered. Cultural “failure” might become the gospel’s victory!
Asian outreach in America, Thailand, and Laos is a case in point!
Culture: seeks to describe “normal” for a society; seeks to show people of that culture how to achieve status; seeks to protect itself by rigidly rejecting outside influence or to some degree adapting to it. We enter into and engage a new culture to learn their rules so that we can determine how to carry ourselves and how to present our witness.