NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Cultural differences, including language, food, beliefs and values, can create big challenges when trying to minister in other countries, a consultant with the International Mission Board said.
And Americans, especially those who have not traveled outside their own country, can be way off the mark when attempting to understand, relate and witness to people in other countries, said Bron Holcomb, who works for the volunteers in missions department of the Richmond, Va.-based Southern Baptist entity.
Holcomb led a conference on “Confronting Cultural Differences” during the National Creative Arts Festival, Nov. 8-10 in Nashville, Tenn.
For example, Holcomb said, if only 100 people lived on earth, seven of those people would possess 59 percent of the world’s wealth.
“And all seven of them would be Americans.”
The fact that most of the world’s wealth is possessed by U.S. citizens makes it difficult for Americans to understand the hardships people in other countries experience.
“Our worldview is not in line with the reality of the world’s situation today,” Holcomb said. “And that makes it difficult to minister effectively in the world.”
Sticking with his 100 people example, Holcomb said 70 of the 100 are people of color, while 30 are white. Eighty live in substandard housing; 70 cannot read; 60 suffer from malnutrition; and 50 have never made or received a phone call. One has a college education and one owns a computer.
And an alarming 90 of 100 are not Christians, meaning only 10 are, he added. The opportunity is there, but the cultural understanding is not, he said.
Differences in beliefs, values and worldviews contribute significantly to the cultural quagmire, he said.
“When something is different and we don’t understand it, we can stereotype or categorize it to protect ourselves. Worldviews can sometimes be very confined and very small.
“And, I think Americans might be the worst,” he said.
Worldviews often come from parents, spouses, friends, churches, work and areas of the country in which we live, Holcomb said.
But worldviews should come from Christ.
“The most important worldview is how Christ views the world — how Jesus would see the world. ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ is a good way to see the world,” he said.
The LifeWay Church Resources Division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored the National Creative Arts Festival.