MD 032 Cross Cultural Mission Studies

Cross cultural Mission

Culture plays an important role in the extension of gospel. Many misunderstood culture and suggested it as a barrier to mission. But to the core, Bible itself is a cross cultural document. Number of illustrations from Bible is given as a tool to use it for cross cultural mission.  For those engage in cross cultural mission must have very clear understanding about how Bible deals with culture, and how Jesus crosses culture to save the nations or people. The Indian continent is a witness for vast varsity of cultures. So In a country like India, as a missionary one has to undergo various problems related to culture. Considering the mission in India, from the very beginning itself it is cross cultural. When missionaries from West came they understood culture in a very different sense and introduce new horizons in mission. Robert De Nobili, a pioneer is well known for his adaptation policy. The Christians in India founded many ways to interpret gospel in terms of culture and there arose samajas, ashrams etc. Since most of the cultures are not adopted by Christians there is a tendency to criticize Christianity as foreign religion. On the whole culture is changing as time passes and gospel crosses every culture, even in this century. Every culture must be respected and not all culture are to be accepted. 


The main agenda for teachings this course is to understand Bible as a document for cross cultural mission.


To help those who engage in cross cultural mission to be a success in mission field.

To equip cross- cultural missionaries, so that they will receive more fruits in their mission field.

To understand cross cultural mission in the light of biblical narrations.

To overcome the barriers in cross cultural mission.


1.Defination of the term ‘Culture’

  1. Importance of Culture

3.Elements of Culture in the Bible

4.The Book of Missions- Old Testament

4.1. Blessing All Peoples Through Israel – God’s Claim on Other Cultures

4.2.The Nation Israel – Chosen for Cross Cultural Mission (Missionary Mission)

4.3.Joseph – Administrator Missionary

4.4.Naaman’s maidservant – A Woman Cross Cultural Missionary

4.5.Jonah- Misunderstood Missionary

4.6.Daniel –Imperial Missionary

4.7 Temple- Centre for Cross Cultural mission

  1. New Testament – New Paradigms in Mission

5.1.Jesus- Heavenly Missionary

6.Book of Acts- Book of Mission Strategy

6.1. Pentecost- The Day of Universal Mission Plan of God

6.2.Philip – Co-Passenger Missionary

6.3.Peter- Dishearten Missionary

6.4.Cross Cultural Mission Church – Antioch

6.5.Paul- The Strategist Missionary

6.6 Synagogue – Place of Cross Cultural Mission

7.Book of Revelation- The Book of Eschatological Mission

8.Missions in India is Cross Cultural

9.Barriers in Cross Cultural Mission

9.1.Limitation in Cross Cultural Mission field

9.2.Limited Understanding of Other Culture

9.3.Limitation of Language

9.4.Limitation of Written Scripts (religious /secular – Scripts)

9.5.Limited Understanding of Other Faiths

9.6.Cross‑ Cultural Differences

10.Do Missionaries Destroy Culture?

11.Characteristics of Cross Cultural Mission Workers/ Missionaries

11.1.Strong Basic Christian faith  



11.4.Ability to Face Challenges

11.5.Respecting Other Faith and Other Culture



11.8.Care Concerns

  1. The Role of Cross-cultural Training

13.Dialogue and Cross cultural Mission




















There is no gospel without mission, and there is no mission without the gospel.

Prof. Alex Deasley, Nazarene Theological Seminary

  1. Defination of the term ‘Culture’

The word “culture” derives from the Latin “colere,” which means to tend the earth and grow, or cultivate and nurture. Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of people, encompassing language, religion, Dress, cuisine, social habits, music, arts, beliefs, values, laws, weapons, tools, symbols, forms of communication, customs, distinctive group patterns and relationships, and any capabilities or habits acquired by one as a member of a certain group.  It is shared by all or almost all members; it shapes their behavior and structures, their perception of the world.  All these ways of living, was built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. According to Cristina De Rossi, an anthropologist, “Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with loved ones, and a million other things.” Edward B. Tylor defines “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and practices acquired by man as a member of society.”

2.Importance of Culture

Culture exists to assist a group of people to adapt to their environment and perpetuate themselves. Every group must learn through trial and error how best to manage their community. For example, take five different groups located in a desert region, rain forest, artic, Pacific island, and a high barren mountainous area. Each group would need to develop the best survival means suited to their resources and environment. They would need to develop common values, methods, tools, and carefully cooperate together to continue to exist. The best methods to solve their unique problems are then made into rules, enforced, and handed down to the next generation. Deviance from following the rules is punished, because it is a threat to the survival of the whole community. So, when a missionary plans to go for other state or to preach the gospel to other religious faith people, he should understand what other traditions are all about. It will help him/her to succeed and survive in the mission field.

3.Elements of Culture in the Bible

The Bible is a cross-cultural document, a member of any culture can use it safely to relate both to God and to fellow humans. Ted Ward, a missiologist, said that commonalties outweigh differences among people. The image of God rests on all people (Gen. 1:27, James 3:9). The principles of Scripture are intended by God to be used by persons of any culture in relation to other persons of any other culture. The Christian message recorded in the Bible will be understood by people of all cultures only if that message is translated into the idioms, ideas and concepts of that cultureThe Christian message has to be translated or incarnated into our own thought forms. The living God has acted historically, so God is therefore connected to culture but he is not identical with culture. God acts in and through cultures. He has graciously revealed himself in the scriptures through a particular culture, the Jewish culture. Jesus born in a particular culture share his message to other cultures.

Jesus said to, “make disciples of all the nations” (Mt 28:19). The word “nations” (Gk. Ethnos) means a nation or people. It is a group based on a unique socio-political-cultural community. It includes common core values and language. For Paris and Howell “the word translated ‘nations’ (ethnos) refers to the culture of a people, an ethnic group.” They directly equate ἔθνος with culture and helps us fulfill the Great Commission by preparing Christians to go to all ethnē and speak and live effectively.” The ethnocentric view of the world, tend to view and judge other groups through the values and customs of one group. You may think that all other ethnic groups should do things as you do, but that is wrong. Other groups have taken centuries to learn what works best for them in their circumstances.  Every culture has good and bad in it, one should be very wise before mocking and changing other customs. Some have devolved into; some very wicked practices. Romans 1:18-32 paints a vivid picture of societies that have rejected God, and descended into very vile and self-destructive customs. Jerusalem council (Acts 15) mentions about the controversy between Jews and non- Jewish cultures. Mosaic Law or Torah suggests that all the Jews must be circumcised. When Gentiles accepted Jesus Christ, gentiles were imposed with Jewish culture by Judaisers, which ended far against Jewish Christians. 

4.Old Testament – The Book of Missions

Mission in the Old Testament is Cross Cultural Mission. Mission is rooted in the words of Genesis 1, where the missionary enterprise germinates. The declaration that God is Creator of all is the seed for proclaiming God’s wish to be worshiped by all human beings. Mission does not start with human beings getting burdened about spreading the Good News. Bible is full of references to God’s desire that all nations would know and worship Him. Again and again the Bible speaks of the ends of the earth hearing of God’s glory and of His wish that all peoples be reconciled to Him. Psalm 117, begins with the words: “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.” God, by choosing one nation belonging to a particular culture, engaged it to his mission to other cultures. God attempting to communicate and to reach Adam after his fall, itself was a proto- mission in which God wanted to bring back the fallen man and to have fellowship with him.



4.1.Blessing All Peoples Through Israel – God’s Claim on Other Cultures

 “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3; cf. 18:18; 22:18) was God’s covenant with Abraham, it was about global mission, i.e. cross cultural mission. God promises to make Abraham into a great nation. God tells Abraham that he will be blessed and that his name will become great. Missiologists say that Jesus’ Great Commission becomes most significant when it is seen as a reiteration of the human responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant. Changing Abram’s name to Abraham in Genesis 17 further emphasized that the blessings promised in Genesis 12 would reach out to future generations in ever-widening circles, crossing the cultures. When God told Abraham that he would have a new name, “father of many nations” (17:4, 5), God also told him that he was being offered “an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants” (v. 7). God choses and blesses Abraham belonging to one culture, to share his message and blessings to other cultures.


4.2. The Nation Israel – Chosen for Cross Cultural mission (Missionary Nation)

The Genesis narrative keeps emphasizing that the promised blessing of all peoples was not limited to Abraham’s time. To Abraham’s son Isaac God proclaimed: “Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (26:4). When God renewed the Abrahamic covenant with Isaac’s son, Jacob, He added the phrase about “offspring” that He had earlier said to Isaac: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (28:14). God’s election of Abraham and Israel concerns the whole world. He deals so intensely with Israel precisely because He is maintaining His personal claim on the whole world. To speak to this world in the fullness of time, He needed a people. Israel was clearly being asked to play a key role in God’s cross cultural mission.


All these passages and narrations point out about the cross cultural mission that God plans through a nation Israel. It can be found out that Israel’s, very nature even in exile or bondage is to share the salvation of God Almighty to other people or their masters, who belong to other culture. There are numerous examples in Bible where God used his people to show his love, guidance and plan to other people.

4.3. Joseph- Administrator Missionary

Joseph Lived in Egypt as a Cross Cultural Missionary Egypt and its culture were forced upon Joseph and he has no choice in the matter of being adopted.  Pharaoh dresses Joseph as an Egyptian, one of the highest rank, then he gives him the second chariot in which to ride and asks the people of Egypt, to acknowledge his authority. Then Pharaoh bestows on Joseph an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife the daughter of a pagan priest, where Pharaoh is imposing his culture. After this union, Joseph adopts Egyptian culture can be seen in the naming of his two sons; his first son, Manasseh: “God has made me forget all my hardship and my father’s house”, second son Ephraim: “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”  It seems that Joseph has settled in Egypt as his new homeland. When Joseph, his brothers and his father are finally reunited (chapter 45), Joseph in his address toward his extended family always speaks of them as separate from him. Joseph (45:7) speaks of his family and the preserved remnant as separate from himself as if he no longer considers himself a part. This is observed in the setting up of a dwelling place for Israel in the land of Goshen. Joseph is keeping himself separate from his Hebrew family, choosing instead to dwell with the Egyptians. Joseph never ever dwells in the land of Goshen, even after he has finished with his grain distribution duties. The final notion in Joseph’s transformation into an Egyptian takes place at his death. While Jacob was buried in Canaan in the Cave of the Patriarchs, Joseph’s remains are embalmed and kept in Egypt. In the land of other culture God used Joseph to explain about the dreams, plan on the future etc and made him a great leader.

Note: Joseph had a hope of a future promised land

4.4.Naaman’s Maidservant –Cross Cultural Woman Missionary (2 Kings 5:1‑19)  

The OT contains a large number of God’s faithful servants engaging directly or indirectly in sharing the truth in foreign lands. There were individuals whose faith left the mark of their understanding of God’s mission in the OT on other culture/other faiths. In the passage above a servant girl, who had been taken into captivity was made a slave to Namaan, a commander in Syria is mentioned. Being a servant girl and captive who has belief in God requested Namaan to go to Israel and meet the prophet. Irrespective of culture and belief in other religion, Namaan went to meet the prophet. Even when Elisha told the message, Naaman hesitated to do so because he thought that his god and his river were more pure. Ultimately, Naaman confessed his faith in Yahweh and pledged his allegiance to no other god, except the God of Israel.

4.5. Jonah- Misunderstood Missionary

God sent a Hebrew prophet to Nineveh, the capital of Assyrian empire, to call that city to repentance was His intentional mission to Nineveh. By doing so, God confirms His desire for a relationship with all peoples (culture), including Israel’s enemies. Jonah’s reluctance to go to Nineveh mirrored Israel’s reluctance to be used by God to draw other cultures towards him. Even though Israel was the rightful owner of God’s blessings through Abraham, God’s mercy and love would extend to people of other faiths/other cultures as beneficiaries of His perfect will. While bitterly resenting the fact that God loved evil people, Jonah attempted to steal the right of God’s mission towards the salvation of the people of other faiths.

Jonah eventually went to Nineveh and preached his message. Lessing points out, that the Ninevites believed God so they believed by grace alone they can be saved. It is, therefore, tenable to assert that people of other faiths in the OT became the beneficiaries of the blessing promised to Abraham. At that point, instead of rejoicing at the Ninevites’ marvelous turning to God, Jonah complained because destruction was not raining down on Nineveh. In Jonah 4, God rebukes Jonah’s selfish attitude and reluctance. God responded by chastising Jonah for not sharing His compassionate heart. God’s will and heart are clearly committed to mission to all peoples through a priestly ministry by His people. It is clear that God cared for the people of Nineveh even if Jonah did not. Behind Jonah’s story is the idea that permeates the entire Bible— that Yahweh is a missionary God who desires that His people share His missionary heart. By choosing one culture God sends his loving kind heart to other culture. In the words of Kaiser, He chose a Jew- Jonah for his mission to another culture, and the purpose of Jonah’s commission, was to show Israel the mind of God. It shows that God is also concerned with the people outside the territory of Israel.


4.6.Daniel –  Imperial Missionary

Daniel was a well educated cross cultural missionary. The book of Daniel is full of cultural aspects that illustrate how God uses culture to efficiently communicate his salvific purpose in a cross-cultural setting. Daniel witnessed his faith in the God of Heaven in front of heathen kings using their language and cultural forms. Daniel was also very sensitive to the culture in which he worked. He was forced to move within a foreign cultural context, but he decided to serve and witness to his God even in those difficult circumstances. He learned foreign languages and had encounters with Babylonian as well as Persian religion and culture. He worked hard, not only to keep his religious identity in a difficult and new hostile cultural setting but also to witness to the God of Heaven with cultural relevancy to heathen kings. It is evident that he was a cross-cultural missionary who understood and accepted God’s call and served him effectively in a cross cultural context after his arrival in Babylon. Daniel faced both culture shock and religious pressure. The master of eunuchs gave Babylonian names connected with Babylonian gods to Daniel and his friends (1:6, 7): to Daniel, the name of Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

Babylonian names are reference to pagan deities, was an intentional pressure put on them to change and move away from their cultural and religious roots. It is true that a “name” is a “distinguishing mark” which makes it possible to differentiate, to structure, and to order. When the Babylonians began to call the four captives by their familiar Babylonian names, it might have been an indication that the outsiders were in the process of building personal relationships with the insiders. The new names made it easier for Daniel and his friends to be accepted into the new culture, whether the four captives intended that to happen or not. It seems evident that implementation of new names suggests the pressure to convert to the worship of Babylonian gods (1:7) but also additional pressure to assimilate into Babylonian culture.


Daniel expressed his rejection of the king’s appointed food by offering a religious reason: the avoidance of defilement in Dan 1. The food issue could have caused a cultural conflict between two very different cultures and religions. To solve this problem, Daniel did not come with a protest, but with a request of test. Daniel maintained his identity with the people of God by keeping the ritual food laws, by praying for his people and Jerusalem, and, although he was identified with the wise men of Babylon. When the king gave the command to kill all the wise men, the very fact that the king’s guard came to Daniel and his friends indicates that they were regarded as part of the group of wise men, even though they had not been called by the king to help interpret the dream demonstrate that God wants to save even other religious leaders. Through his identification with them, he created a situation that allowed him to witness to them concerning the true God of Heaven. Daniel used cultural symbolism to communicate effectively with its readers. The symbols used were well known and included mythical symbols that God used to refer to transcendent realities. God and his cross-cultural missionary Daniel were sensitive to the local culture, local forms and symbols in order to proclaim and communicate effectively. God led Daniel and his friends to “witness in a way that extended far beyond their little family circle in Judah.

4.7.Temple- Centre for Cross Cultural mission

During Old Testament and at the times of Jesus ministry Jerusalem Temple has close relation with the life of Hebrews. Solomon, prayed at Temple dedication “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other” (1 Kings 8:60). The Temple built by Solomon was to be a worship center for all peoples and not just for those born as Hebrews. Isaiah says, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth”. Jesus went to the temple and cast out the sellers and said “My House shall be called house of prayer”(Mt 21:13). Jesus quotes from the book of Isaiah 56:7 “…My house will be called a house of prayer for all for all the peoples”. In all these places God clearly states that Temple will be a place for all or it will act as a centre for cross cultural mission.



  1. New Testament – New Paradigms in Mission

5.1.Jesus – Heavenly Missionary

God sent one “greater than Jonah” and “greater than Solomon” (Matthew 12:41-42). Matthew introduced this greater one as “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1), and he was connecting Jesus with the Abrahamic covenant, and the genealogy itself gives Jesus as an exciting non-Abrahamic feature: four women, two of whom were not Hebrews. Because names of Hebrew male ancestors would have sufficed to show the authenticity of the Messiah’s lineage, the inclusion of non-Hebrew women in this most-Jewish of the Gospels clearly signals that Matthew saw Jesus as a Messiah for all peoples. Matthew tells how the infant Jesus was sought out by Gentiles, (e.g) magi from the East (Matthew 2:1-11). The area where Jesus grew up was called “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:15; cf. Isaiah 9:1). Jesus did not appear out of the sky, spend a few days or even weeks on earth and then return to heaven. Jesus came to earth and participated fully in Jewish culture, eating its foods, learning and speaking its language, wearing its clothing, singing its songs, and participating in its cultural rituals.


Jesus’ attitude of openness to reach out to other culture can be seen in John 4:7-26. Verses 1-3 present the transition of Jesus’ ministry from Jerusalem (2:12 – 3:21) and Judaea (3:22ff) to a Samaritan city called Sychar (4:4-42). Jesus’ freedom to go beyond cultural blocks is brought out well by the fourth evangelist. As a Jew, Jesus was also quite aware that the route via Samaria would take him through the land of the Samaritans who were held in hatred by the Jews. He adopted a new mission approach that enabled him to go beyond cultural prejudices. This journey of Jesus through Samaria shows his attitude of openness and readiness to reach out to people like the Samaritans. This attitude and approach is a good preparation for cross cultural mission.

The other gospel books recount significant ministry encounters Jesus had with another culture. Among those was the encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman (Greek or Hellenistic in culture) (Mark 7:24-30), an episode in which Jesus was likely showing His disciples their narrow, prejudicial ethnocentrism. Tyre was a predominantly non- Jewish city with an extensive relationship with its Jewish neighbors. Jesus did not ask the Syrophoenician woman to give up her status as a Gentile or to follow him but He intended to portray that other cultures accept Him. Further, He uses the opportunity to teach Jews about their prejudices, proud to be Abraham’s son, and culture. Jesus delivered a demonic possessed gentile man in the area of the Gerasenes (Mark 5; Luke 8). After healing a Roman centurion’s servant, Jesus said that Gentiles would one day join Jewish patriarchs at the feast (Matthew 8:11). On the whole he crosses the boundary of Culture to manifest the heavenly love of God..

6.Acts- Book of Mission Strategy

Gospel crossing the boundary of Jewish culture was narrated in Acts, the movement of the gospel of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, according to Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8. Like ripples from a stone that is dropped into a pool of water, the witness of Jesus’ followers spreads and extends toward ever wider geographical areas and new ethnic groups (culture) of people.

6.1.Pentecost- The Day of Universal Mission Plan of God

The first sign of a boundary-crossing gospel appears on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the miracle of people from all nations (cultures) hearing the good news in their various languages. This symbolizes that the gospel is not confined to any single nation (culture) or to the Hebrew tongue. It is able to address all people in their own “heart language.” This is a foundation pillar for the church for mission in every generation. When Jesus’ disciples are scattered by persecution the gospel crosses cultural boundaries (Acts 8: 1-4).

6.2.Philip – Co-Passenger Missionary

In Acts 8, a Greek-speaking Jew named Philip leaves Jerusalem (Jewish culture) to share the good news with the people of Samaria (Acts 8:4-25). This is a bold step, Samaritans were considered culturally and religiously inferior by Jewish people. The Samaritans’ positive response to the gospel shows that God is interested in “outsiders,” as well as “insiders.” The story of Philip’s encounter with an Ethiopian official on a desert road enables the gospel to cross another boundary (Acts 8:26-39). This man is a dark-skinned African, probably a person of Non – Jewish culture. At the same time, he is a sincere seeker after the God of Israel, returning from worshipping at the temple in Jerusalem. Philip meets him and explains the Scriptures that he is already reading. The result is that for the first time in Acts, a Non- Jewish person accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Racial, cultural, and geographical barriers is not so crucial for accepting Jesus as Messiah. 

Note: Philip could be called the first cross- Cultural missionary of the church.

6.3.Peter- Dishearten Missionary

Acts 10 and 11 describe the gospel’s movement into other cultures. Cornelius and his household readily receive the gospel when they hear it from Peter. This event symbolizes that Non- Jews, as well as Jews, are welcomed into God’s family- the church. On the other hand, Peter has to experience a cultural conversion. Through a vision of unclean animals (Acts 10:9-16), God shows him that his understanding of who is “in” and who is “out” of God’s favor. After resistance he is dragged by the Holy Spirit into the discovery that God doesn’t play favorites, but accepts people from every culture (Acts 10:34-35). Later Paul mentions, Peter ceased eating with Gentiles because he was afraid of what ethnic Jews might think of him for eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11–12). Both these passages convey the idea that Peter was in part an obstacle to cross cultural mission because he considered them unclean (non- Jews).  He failed miserably to understand the universal mission plan of God.

6.4.Cross Cultural Mission Church – Antioch

 An actual example for cross cultural church was Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). This is the first multicultural church, where Jewish and non- Jewish Christians worship, and, apparently share meals (a big issue in their cultural world!) together. The church in Antioch is also the first missionary sending church. Under the guidance of the Spirit, they send out Paul and Barnabas on the first “overseas” mission to non-Jews as well as Jews (Acts 13:1-3).

6.5.Paul- The Strategist Missionary

Paul in his ministry approached different cultural audiences. Paul was absolutely committed to the gospel that announces God’s mission to reconcile all people through Jesus Christ. At the same time, Paul was flexible in the way that good news could be expressed. Paul saying to a group of Jews at a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13-43) and his message to some educated Gentiles in Athens (Acts 17:16-33), one can find great sensitivity to the situation and the audience. In the former case, Paul narrates a story that is well known to his Jewish listeners, relating how God has worked in the history of his people Israel. He repeatedly quotes Scripture to show that God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus. In Athens, however, Paul begins with a point of contact familiar to his Gentile audience—an altar to an unknown god. This becomes a springboard to talk about the “Lord of heaven and earth,” who created everything. Rather than a series of Bible quotations, he cites their own Greek poets! Yet Paul does not distilled the message of gospel. He announces the good news that God raised Jesus from the dead, even though some of his audience think this claim is disgusting and silly (17:31-32). Paul’s mission an abundant example of cross- cultural mission

6.6. Synagogue – Place of Cross Cultural Mission

Synagogue was the worship place of Jews, and in the era of Paul’s ministry it became the meeting place for Jews and non Jewish people. It became a place where every people can know the gospel of Jesus. In Acts 14: 1-2 talks about Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles at synagogue, many accepted Jesus Christ. In these following passages: Acts 17:1-4, 13:14-50, Jews and many Gentiles accepted Christ due to the preaching of Paul. So Synagogue marked as a centre for cross cultural mission.

  1. Revelation- The Book of Eschatological Mission

The Revelation to John (the Apocalypse) reveals its far-reaching influence on society and culture, and its impact on the church through the ages. Even though it was revealed to the people of oppressed, but the whole people in the world accept and expect the Kingdom of God to be established in the earth, where god’s will is done as it is done in Heaven. The proclamation of the everlasting gospel in Rev 14:6,7 shows God’s final attempt to reach the people of all nation; it was an act of cross cultural mission of last days.

Note: The seven churches, mostly dominated by the gentiles, were the fruit of cross- cultural mission.

8.Missions in India is Cross Cultural

Christianity in India has a very long history; it starts with the ministry of St. Thomas in the year 52 AD and forming seven churches as heard in the oral traditions of former Chera kingdom(Note: Different views are there). The history is preserved and transmitted through generations in songs and ballards. A deep study may point out that the early Christianity in India was cultural based. This Christianity sustained till the arrival of Portuguese during the sixteenth century who were Catholics, came to the region of Chera Kingdom, where the region was divided into Cochin and Travancore kingdoms, encountered with the culturally established Christianity. Catholics had their own cultural values and beliefs, and they tend to Christianize the native Christians. This led to two factions, and so on the native Christianity diseased. Later, protestant missionaries arrived in various places of British India at the end of eighteenth century. They stood against the evil cultures such as sati, child marriage, widowhood, sort to eradicate illiteracy etc. On many occasions they considered caste as a social institution and very few opposed it. In the aftermath of nineteenth century when national spirit revived in this land, many Christians encountered with missionaries and national churches emerged. The arrival of protestant missionaries witnessed encounters in mission field, the cultural encounters tend to make context oriented churches and samajas, namely National Church of India, The Hindu Church of God in Mukupari, Christo samaj, Bengal Samaj, ashrams, etc. Further there are witnesses for gospel culture encounters with people of other faiths. Robert De Nobili, a Jesuit missionary introduced Method of Adoptation.  It was a failed mission because it was not accepted by people of all castes. But the concept was in consideration for the future mission in India, towards cross cultural mission to people of other faiths. On the whole in attempting a cross cultural mission, missionaries faced lot of barriers and in some occasion they have misunderstood the culture of natives as uncivilized, barbarians and their religion as heathenism.

9.Barriers in Cross Cultural Mission

9.1.Limitation in Cross Cultural Mission Field

When there is no knowledge about other culture, it leads to limitation of mission. When there is no proper knowledge about Christian encounter with culture it will limit the mission activities. So when a missionary is willing to engage in cross-cultural mission, he must have an enormous knowledge of culture where he is willing to do mission. The early missionaries who came to India wrote numerous books on Indian culture, gods, etc. so those who are interested to come as missionaries will get a clear picture of their mission field. Many of the missionaries got success in mission because they had a good knowledge about their mission field.

9.2.Limited Understanding of Other Culture

Sometimes the burning desire to spread the Good News tempts new missionaries to spring into action before they have absorbed much of a culture or have had time to earn credibility within it. Donald Larson, professor of anthropology and linguistics at Bethel College, wrote that an ideal entry model for the new missionary is that of being a learner and trader as opposed to trying immediately to be a teacher and seller. Implied in all this is the thought that a missionary should have an insatiable curiosity. Anthropologist Miriam Adeney, who teaches at Seattle Pacific University, wrote that Mary Slessor’s ministry as a Presbyterian missionary in Calabar in the late 1800s and early 1900s was effective because she was “awake, aware, curious, asking questions, categorizing information, applying it. Since missionary drop-out is often due in part to culture stress, proper acculturation may foster missionary longevity on the field. Tom and Elizabeth Brewster, specialists in language learning, wrote that early bonding with a culture is the best way to cultivate the sense of belonging and identification that is so crucial to effective communication. If missionaries have bonded with a culture, they will do better at sorting through thorny issues that a shallow sense of cultural relativity would cause them to ignore. Too shallow of an understanding of culture is what led to the failure.

9.3.Limitation of Language

Most of the missionaries who go as missionaries do not know the language of the people whom they are going to minister. Limitation of language is a crucial barrier. Language is the tool for communication. Unless and until a missionary cannot properly communicate with people, he cannot be able to communicate the gospel accurately. Then if a missionary does not know the language he will depend upon translators, which is another mode of communication barrier. When missionaries included assistants or translators in the field of translation, the pure word of God was distorted because they are not Christians in most cases. On several occasions one can notice this in Tamil Bible, ‘Devan’ ‘Karthar” are used to represent God the almighty. But in Malayalam translation they have used ‘Yehovavu’. The word Devan was used by Brahmins who were instituted as translators. The other word is Pura jathi, these are few examples and there are various instances in Tamil Bible where there is translating errors and purposely induced words to degrade the purity of Bible.

Not long after arriving on the field, missionaries lamented the frustrations of language learning by saying, “I can’t even communicate with a three-year-old on the train!” Because language is part of a culture, the sense of helplessness one feels in situations where a language is not understood is of culture shock. When language learning frustrations set in, missionaries cave in to the temptation to withdraw into enclaves of their own cultural group leading to the failure in mission.

9.4.Limitation of Written Scripts (religious /secular- Scripts)

In most of the human cultures before the era of industrial revolution, documents, history and secular/ religious scripts are preserved in their own cultural materials (palmleaf, papyrus, codex, scrolls, copper plates, stones etc.). When missionaries came and try to know about the history and found out there is no written documents, they thought and said these people have no history and there emerged lot of history books. Missionaries unknowing about the preservation of historical materials they wrote and printed many books. Most of the missionaries have limited knowledge of the materials (scripts) of the people whom they are ministering.

9.5.Limited Understanding of Other Faiths

The general understanding of the west about the east was that those who are not Christian are heathens. Their belief was the people don’t have practice of worship or sacred places. On the other hand, the cultural based worship was sometimes misunderstood and misinterpreted by the westerners. There were few missionaries who try to understand the religious beliefs of other culture. In some occasions they wrote books regarding the gods and goddess, not by understanding but just to tell their friends about heathenism.

9.6.Cross‑ Cultural Differences

Participants in mission activities pointed out culture as a major stumbling block. A lack of understanding and appreciation of cultural beliefs and practices prevented missionaries from engaging with people of other culture. Mostly the missionaries argued that people strictly adhere to their culture and religion. Some missionaries embarrass that the cultural practices replicated those of traditional beliefs, and such cultural life styleswere contrary to the teachings of scripture and made interaction difficult.

10.Do Missionaries Destroy Culture?

Some early cultural anthropologists such as Paul Erhard Eylmann claimed that missionaries were destructive to culture. They could point to the imposition of Western dress codes. Though such acts by a few missionaries created negative fallout for the whole mission enterprise, those few missionaries are not representative of all missionaries. Bible translator Eugene Nida’s classic Customs and Cultures: Anthropology for Christian Missions let the world know that Christian missionaries knew the value of cultural anthropology. One thing such criticisms of missionary work ignore is that cultures are always changing. Indeed, one aspect of culture that intrigues cultural anthropologists is the diffusion or movement of ideas and innovations across cultural boundaries, and the changes those imported items will bring about. Cultural anthropologists understand that the question is not whether a culture will change but what kind of changes that culture will undergo.

11.Characteristics of Cross Cultural Mission Workers/ Missionaries

11.1.Strong Basic Christian Faith

A missionary or a worker ministering at a mission field should have a sound theological understanding. Those engaging with people of other faiths should not fear, because Christ promised to be with them throughout the process. Both Israel and the Christians in all around the world are God’s elect. Their engagements to people of other faiths depend on God who owns mission. A strong faith must be exercised to endure cross- cultural mission. Because doing mission cross culturally brings opposition and abuse. When Jesus talks with Samaritan woman he knows that  until the return of Jesus the Messiah to permanently deliver His servants from persecution and grant them salvation.


Engaging in cross cultural mission need more patience until the cross cultural mission is accomplished. A missionary must face lot of challenges in executing this mission to others; it also includes people of other faiths.  In the book of Revelation John suggests that Christians must be patient in times of tribulation and false charges, as such they must be patience in taking gospel to other faiths/culture. Very often if a missionary adopts a new method to save people of other faiths/culture the fruit will be less and so the missionary must be very patience in his ministry. He must also be patient in implementing the executed cultural values because I should not contradict the Bible.



Paul practiced this principle. He wrote, “And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law” (1 Corinthians 9:20; cf. chapters 8-10). And his adoptability towards culture can be seen in showing the Messiah to the Athenians. De Nobili and Matteo Ricci adopted the culture of people, as such the missionaries engaged in cross cultural mission should adopt to the culture of their mission context.

11.4.Ability to Face Challenges

Participants in missionary engagement expressed fear and sensed potential persecution by terror/sangh/millitant groups. Like the children of Israel in the OT when Moses sent the twelve to spy out the land, their report of the mission field indicated hesitance and terror. OT’s account of ten men was filled with intimidation and fear. Most often missionaries came to India believe they will be killed, if they share the gospel. Those engaging with people of other faiths should not fear, because Christ promised to be with them throughout the process. Both Israel and the Christians in Eldoret are God’s elect. Their engagements to people of other faiths depend on God who owns mission. Obedience to God’s commands is mandatory in order to realize the goals of mission. All those who are willing to missionary activities should learn to obey God’s voice. The Great Commission provides a conditional promise to obedience to go (Matt. 28:20).

11.5.Respecting Other Faith and Other Culture

To overcome the barriers in mission a missionary should respect other faiths and culture. Not everyone has religious beliefs, The important thing is to accept that some people place a lot of importance on this aspect of their lives, and to respect their right to believe whatever they want, even if you don’t agree with them. The first way you can begin to respect different forms of religious beliefs/culture is to learn about them. Even if you don’t agree with someone’s beliefs or practices, learning more about what they believe, and why, could help you respect their decision to make these beliefs an important part of their life. There’s a lot of misinformation about belief/culture in the community, so learning more about it can help you to gain a better understanding. Christians are called to commit themselves to work with all people in mutual respect, promoting together justice, peace and the common good. Interreligious cooperation is an essential dimension of such commitment. Christians recognize that the gospel both challenges and enriches cultures. Even when the gospel challenges certain aspects of cultures, Christians are called to respect all people. Christians are also called to discern elements in their own cultures that are challenged by the gospel. Christians are to speak sincerely and respectfully; they are to listen in order to learn about and understand others’ beliefs and practices, and are encouraged to acknowledge and appreciate what is true and good in them. Any comment or critical approach should be made in a spirit of mutual respect, making sure not to bear false witness concerning other religions.


The main goal of a missionary dedicated to Cross cultural mission was not the elimination of culture, but to make the gospel well settled in the culture. The Bible and gospel transforms culture. The other goal was to reach the unreached irrespective of their culture/faith. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” Lk.19: 10. All the people in the world are lost and it is our prime duty to seek and save the lost as Jesus did in his earthly ministry. God’s mission is to seek and save the lost. “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Like a woman who has lost a denarii, he sweeps out the house to find it. Like a Father whose son has forsaken him, he watches day and night for his return. (Luke 15


In making disciples in all the ethnic groups in the world, a missionary must learn about culture. To be effective in another culture, one must learn how to operate within their norms and customs. Granted, it will take a while to learn there way of life, because it is largely hidden from what you see on the surface. Learning a culture is a lifelong process, there is no master checklist that will ever be marked as completed. When Paul visited Athens, he said, “As I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23). Paul observed carefully. Not only that, he was alert to build a cultural bridge between the experience of the Athenians and the Gospel. Some believed Paul’s method failed, but ‘a few” men, a woman and “a number of others” believed (Acts 17:34). Paul did not have any Old Testament scriptural base from which to operate, so the Athenians had to be brought further along than would Jews. Ethnographic cultural observation will assist to understand a people and find points of intersection for the Gospel.

Language was one dramatic sign of the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost. On that day, God moved in such a way that people from more than a dozen cultural backgrounds said they each heard the gospel spoken in their native language (Acts 2:5-11). Language, whether vocal, written, or signed with the hands, is used to share ideas, cast visions, exchange information, express feelings, and deepen relationships. Because of how language serves human beings, one cannot overstate its importance in the study and practice of global mission.

11.8.Care Concerns

The missionaries normally experience hospitality and an open attitude in encounters with other cultures, which makes it easy to establish new contacts and to increase their social network. Generally, all interview partners experienced something that we could call a welcome. The missionaries interpret this as confirmation of their calling. It is perceived as a generous gift as it increases their social network and becomes a reason for not returning home prematurely. Successful mission also requires a community of cohabitation and religious practice, because missionaries sometimes live sequestered lives in isolation from their familiar environment, culture and other missionaries from the same church or society. Missionaries are no longer lone fighters. Against the backdrop of a high dropout rate, a community and group of likeminded people provides the opportunity to communicate about successes and failures in order to overcome spatial and spiritual isolation and distance from a foreign culture and people. This aspect appears in all the narratives of the missionaries, where they emphasise the necessity of pastoral care, advice and prayer for evangelistic activities, psychosocial support, group meetings, worship services and exchange of experiences and even their life in the community.

  1. The Role of Cross-Cultural Training

Cross-cultural training (CCT) is defined as educational processes that improve intercultural learning via the development of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies needed for successful interactions in diverse cultures, which includes proper theological training. CCT is traditionally designed for preparing international trainees by targeting cultural issues. CCT aims to develop the skills and knowledge needed to interact appropriately and effectively with host-country nationals (HCNs) and with members of multicultural teams. Researchers have identified three goals for CCT. The first is to assist expatriates in determining acceptable cultural behaviors and appropriate ways to complete tasks in a new environment. A second goal is to equip field staff with coping strategies to deal with unexpected situations in the host country. The third goal of CCT is to help the expatriate define realistic expectations for life and work in a new country.  Ultimately, CCT aims to predispose members of one culture to rapid adjustment in their host culture. However, some studies have found that cross-cultural training may not provide significant benefit for expatriate adjustment. Morris and Robie conducted a meta-analysis of studies (total n=2,270) and found that the overall effectiveness of CCTs was weaker than expected in light of the wide use of training.  Chang was also skeptical about the impact of CCT, arguing that living in a foreign culture impacted people differently, so measuring expatriate adjustment based on CCT was too difficult. Other research has reported the benefit of CCT. Brewster and Suutari reported that crosscultural training was linked to an improvement in the relationships between expatriates and local people. Likewise, Littrell et al. reported that CCT was positively related to the development of self-confidence and overall feelings of well-being, interpersonal skills, and cognitive skill development. They wrote that CCT was positively correlated with adjustability and cross cultural adjustment, while negatively correlated with early return rates.

13.Dialogue and Cross cultural Mission

Dialogue is communication or discussion between people or groups of people. Dialogue aims to promote respect and collaboration between different faiths and religions. According to J.G. Davis Dialogue is just the opposite of lecture which does not make any relation with people leading to chaos, misunderstanding, breaking of relationship and enmity. In dialogue one or a group should understand others and others should know about them. Dialogue must lead to the exchange of good valuable ideas. Jesus in his ministry had an energetic dialogue with Samaritan woman, with some small children and Nicodemus. Dialogue is more important in preaching the gospel, and instead of preaching dialogue can be practiced is also a wrong perception. Both dialogue and Preaching has close relation, while engaging in dialogue a person can share the gospel, it is believed that he will talk about doctrines, faith or he views on certain topics but he is sharing the gospel.

We respect all cultures not accept all culture

 Students Assignment:


1) Substantiate your opinion on how Bible is the source document for Cross- cultural      mission?

2) Explain with suitable examples the mission in India is cross cultural.

3) With your own experience write an assignment on the barriers in the mission field.

4) Narrate how Jesus heavenly mission is cross cultural.

5) Write about cross cultural mission activities and suggest few effective mission             strategies for Indian context by reading Acts.

6) “Israel is a light to all nations”, explain how the New Israelites will be a light to all nations.

7) Explain God’s mission in the Old Testament with suitable examples.

8) How far this subject will be an eye opener for doing cross cultural mission in India.

9) Write a report on any group/ or people who were living near you. (Write about their culture, beliefs etc.)

10) Write a summary/ review of a book relating to cross cultural mission or any tribe or people group in India.

11) Stay in a village and learn their culture, then give a detailed report on it.

12) Write a biography of any missionary who engaged in cross cultural mission.


Useful Reference Books for Reading:


Gailey, Charles R.  Howard Culbertson, Discovering Missions (Kansas: Beacon Hill Press, 2007).

Poitras, James G. Discovering the Biblical View of Missions

Pettengill, Michael D. The Book of Jonah: Revealing The Attributes Of God (Sacramento: California State University, 1991).

Hamori, Esther J. Jonathan Stokl. Dream Divination in the Bible and Near East ( Atlanta: SBL Press, 2018)