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					                                Ministering Cross-Culturally
Learning a language is but one of the primary 10 message systems that are found in everyday
culture. Here is the list of the other nine:

   1.   Attitude towards time, routine and schedule
   2.   Space and property
   3.   How we use and share resources
   4.   Family and community
   5.   Different modes of speech, dress and conduct
   6.   Humor and games
   7.   Observation and instruction
   8.   Work and labor
   9.   Health procedures, social conflicts and beliefs

Learning a language opens up only a tenth of what we can learn in a total lifestyle or culture.

Example: What do you think of when I say the word, ‘chair?’

There are many different pictures that can form based on our perception: We can think color,
folding, rocking, stool, plastic. There are many different types of chairs and the variety is
multiplied when we add chairs from other countries.

Because of our differences in cultures, when we cross over into another country, we are bound
to run into some tension and disagreements. This is not only the case when we cross over into
other countries, but from family to family and even person to person as we will see in this

There are twelve key elements that make up our basic values (proposed by Marvin Mayers),
and each of the twelve, are broken down into six pairs of contrasting traits that make us different
from one another:

Time Oriented versus Event Oriented
Task Oriented versus Person Oriented
Dichotomy versus Holistic
Status Focus versus Achievement Focus
Crisis Oriented versus Non-crisis Oriented
Concealment of Vulnerability versus Willingness to Expose Vulnerability

In this lesson, we will be covering 4 out the 6 differences of personality traits.


The concept of being late varies significantly from one culture to the next. As mentioned earlier,
not only culture, but even from individual to individual. The difference in how we treat time
produces tension. Those who don’t believe that starting on time is so important cannot
understand why those who do get so angry.
See Chart on Power Point – North Americans will begin to experience tension maybe after 15
minutes of waiting. (We can become very irritated standing in line at a grocery store, bank, a

There are some cultures however, that will not experience hostility until the expected party is 3
hours late. Those who believe that time is very important are considered, ‘Time Oriented,’ but
on the opposite side of the pendulum are those who are ‘Event-Oriented.’

People who are time-oriented express great concern over punctuality, the length of time
expended and the utilization of time to its maximum potential. People who are event-oriented
show concern that an activity is completed regardless of the length of time required, and
emphasize unscheduled participation rather than carefully scheduled activities (See


There are two distinct orientations in thinking patterns:

   -   Dichotomy
   -   Holism

Dichotomy – is a pattern of segmental thinking that exhibits great concern about the particulars
of any problem or situation, with the tendency to come up with a right or wrong option. It
examines and sorts the details on the basis of perceived ordered relationships between them.

A person with this thinking pattern likes to do crossword puzzles, play scrabble, they enjoy word
studies and outlining and diagramming.

Holistic thinkers have a pattern of thinking that does not separate out of context from the larger
picture. They insist that the whole is greater than the parts and reasons on the basis of
relationships within the whole.

A person with this thinking pattern likes to play checkers or chess; they have study techniques
such as memorization, imitation, and learning by participation.

America is made up of both types of thinkers (see chart)

Those who are reluctant to judge a person by a specific behavior and prefers to evaluate a
person’s total behavior would be considered a holistic thinker.

Those who judge only specific behaviors are considered Dichotomistic. They are black and
white in thinking. If a person makes a mistake, that mistake has tainted any good that was done
in their past. Judgment is based on a single act. The person now receives a label based upon
his/her good or bad act.

A holistic thinker evaluates a person who has made a mistake under the basis of looking at the
whole picture and believes everyone will fall one time or another. A failure at one point of a
person’s life does not ruin his career or character. They will withhold approval or disapproval
because a holistic thinker will always be suspicious of people because they believe that
somewhere behind every person are faults.

Crisis Oriented versus Non-Crisis Oriented (See chart on Power Point)

Those with a non-crisis orientation tend to take things as they come. They do not expect or look
for problems.

Those that are crisis-oriented tend to examine every activity for potential flaws or problems.
The non-crisis person tends to be more optimistic and the crisis oriented person is more

Crisis oriented persons embrace what is called ‘declarative lifestyle.’ In their view, crisis should
be avoided when at all possible and careful planning done to anticipate problems. Declarative
people seek advice and are single-minded in applying that advice when they face crisis. When
a crisis does arise, they work rapidly to resolve the issue. Once they have identified an efficient
procedure, they use it repeatedly rather than try something new or different.

Non-crisis oriented people follow and interrogative lifestyle. Their crisis management is
experience oriented, choosing from multiple procedures and options. They decide between
alternatives that emerge from each new situation, and their style or management is open-ended.
They can tolerate considerable ambiguity in their lives and do not push people or situations to
an early resolution of conflict or decision. Because they see that they are qualified by their own
experiences to manage each situation, they are skeptical of experts. They have a lot of
optimism that everything can be done with the present staff and resources. They ignore both
potential and real problems.

Crisis oriented people shake their head at the lack of planning and predictability. When crisis
arise, they rebel at the lack of preparation and unpredictability of the situation.

When national church leaders and foreign missionaries attempt to work together, the difference
in how a crisis is handled can cause problems in relationships and create distance and tension
between two groups of people that should be working hand in hand with one another.

TENSION OVER GOALS (see chart on Power Point)

                     Where was Jesus’ Priorities? (According to Luke 4 – 9)

Task Oriented

       1. Declared that no prophet is accepted in his hometown (4:24 – 30)
       2. Declared that He must preach in other towns (4:43)
       3. Refusal to see His brothers and mother – declaration that those who hear his Word
          and practice it are His family (8:19 – 21)
       4. Settlement of the argument as to who is the greatest – whoever is least (9:46 – 48)

People Oriented

   1. Healed the sick and demon possessed (4:31 – 41)
   2. Called Simon to be a fisher of men (5:1 – 11)
    3. Healed a leper (5:12 – 14)
    4. Healed and forgave a paralytic (5:17 – 25)
    5. Ate with sinners (5:29 – 32)
    6. Stated that as guests of the bridegroom the disciples did not need to fast (5:33 – 35)
    7. Picked grain on the Sabbath (6:1 – 5)
    8. Healed a centurion’s servant (7:1 – 10)
    9. Healed on the Sabbath (6:6 – 11)
    10. Raised a widow’s son (7:11 – 15)
    11. Forgave a sinful woman (7:36 – 50)
    12. Healed a demoniac (8:26 – 39)
    13. Raised Jairus’ daughter and healed a chronically ill woman (8:40 – 56)
    14. Fed the five-thousand (9:10 – 17)
    15. Healed a demon-possessed boy (9:37 – 43)
    16. Refusal to curse hostile Samaritans (9:51 – 56)


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