M. S. Thirumalai


An Excellent Survey

The Role of Worldview in Missions and Multiethnic Ministry* is an excellent survey of relevant thoughts on worldview as applied to missionary training. Glen Rogers has done an excellent research on the aspects of worldview for our benefit. Through this book Glenn Rogers enriches our understanding of what worldview is all about and how the missionary trainers and missionary candidates should organize their training and work on the field taking into account the worldviews of those to whom we wish to give the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Eight Chapters

The Role of Worldview in Missions and Multiethnic Ministry is divided into 8 chapters with a succinct conclusion part at the end. The book also has three appendices: Appendix A deals with “Discovering Worldview.” Appendix B deals with “The Role and the Responsibility of the Receptor in the Communication Process as it Relates to Interpreting the Scriptures.” Appendix C deals with “Ministry to People with a Postmodern Orientation in their Worldview.”

Worldview: An Ancient Pursuit

The study of worldview is an ancient pursuit. Every society seems to have a body of knowledge through the sayings of their sages and teachers which actually help the members of these societies to perceive what happens around them in a way peculiar to their own ways of living. Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Egyptians, Arabs, Church Fathers, African leaders and Asian sages and teachers all have contributed to the development of worldviews for their own civilizations. This sublime human wisdom is commendable, but more commendable is the truth that we receive through the Word of God, since this Wisdom transcends cultural and other social barriers and, in fact, is more inclusive than any worldview propounded by humans.

Chapter 1: On Approaches to Worldviews

This scholarly and yet readable book focuses on the philosophical and theoretical elaborations of some leading selected scholars in modern times. Chapter 1 deals with anthropological approaches developed by Redfield, Kearney, Kraft, Hiebert, and Luzbetak. The relationship between the surface manifestations and deeper level elements hidden by the surface manifestations is pointed out, but not elaborated much. Totality of all our behavior contributes to the features of worldview that we have.

Sources of Worldviews

Chapter 2 tries to identify the sources from which our worldviews spring. This is a very interesting chapter focusing on the growth and development of worldviews in individuals. Topics such as we learn as we grow and we accept assumptions focus on how individuals receive their worldviews. One section in particular, Critical Realism in Missions and Multiethnic Ministry is of great interest to all of us involved in mission work: “the cultures and worldviews of other people are granted the same validity as our own” (p. 37).

Culture and Worldview

Chapter 3 deals with “Worldview as the Foundation of Culture.” Glen Rogers argues emphatically, “Missionaries and multiethnic ministers must observe and analyze the culture of the people among whom they are working, looking for clues as to the underlying assumptions upon which that culture is built” (p.57 and in several other pages). That culture is cohesive and uniform seems to be the basis of such demands. Somehow, I am tempted to believe that every culture is fragmented, with cohesion and uniformity more often assumed than found in reality. As the nature of social control is changing fast around the world, individual pursuits and goals come to dominate our lifestyles wherein social controls are weakened.

Worldview and Cross-cultural Communication

Chapter 4 is titled “Worldview and Cross-cultural Communication.”

There are a number of barriers to successful communication. Communication across gender boundaries presents unique challenges. Because males and females hve slightly different perspectives, they sometimes have difficulty communicating with each other. Communication across generational gaps can also be challenging. The assumptions, perspectives, and even the way specific words are used by one generation can make communication [between] people of different generations more challenging. Communication across cultural boundaries also presents unique challenges, for crossing cultural boundaries in the communication process means trying to get our point across to someone who thinks about the world and life differently than we do-sometimes very differently than we do. (p. 66)

As in the previous chapters, the author focuses on presenting various points of views of different authors and the models of communication. These presentations are brief, relevant and are done with great understanding. So, the book becomes an excellent tool as a textbook to comprehend the facets of cross-cultural communication.

Worldview and Cross-cultural Counseling

Chapter 5 is on “Worldview and Cross-cultural Counseling and Conflict Resolution.” This chapter has many practical ideas for counseling and conflict resolution. Unlike the previous chapters that focused a lot on the conceptual frames, technical terms and concepts, this chapter presents many concrete examples.

Shame/honor cultures operate out of a very different set of assumptions than guilt/justice cultures. Effective cross-cultural conflict resolution requires and understanding of the worldview of the people involved and the cultural structures/behaviors they have designed for handling conflict. … Do they have an individualistic orientation or a group orientation? If they have a group orientation they will likely also have a shame/honor orientation. If so, a confrontational approach, even if done in a gentle manner, will not be effective, for such an approach brings great shame on the individual. (p. 111)

On Cross-cultural Hermeneutics

Chapter 6 deals with Worldview and Cross-Cultural Hermeneutics (Ethnohermeneutics). This chapter is more of a historical introduction to the hermeneutics adopted throughout the history from a Western point of view. The chapter deals with the hermeneutics adopted in the Bible, by the Church Fathers throughout the Church History, etc. Only toward the end of the chapter, we become aware of the relationship between hermeneutics and cross-cultural communication. The chapter concludes with the following assertions:

  1. Hermeneutics is extra-biblical in nature. The Bible does not tell us how to interpret it.
  2. There is no single method of interpreting and applying the Scriptures that comes from God and is to be used in all cultures.
  3. Western missionaries and multiethnic ministers need to get comfortable with the idea of ethnohermeneutics.
  4. Western missionaries and multiethnic ministers need to learn enough about the culture in which they are working that they will eventually have an emic perspective on t he interpretive methods of those people and be comfortable interpreting and applying the Scriptures from that perspective. (p.133)

Cross-cultural Evangelism

Chapter 7 discusses Cross-Cultural Evangelism. There is a sprinkling of several technical concepts in this chapter.

However, the major theme of the chapter is cross-cultural evangelism is evangelism that is contextualized.

People everywhere need to hear the gospel presented in a way that makes sense to them in their cultural context. It does little good to present a message to people that is foreign to them, or one, which for all practical purposes, is impossible for them to embrace. (p. 144)

Church, throughout her history, always tried to replace the unacceptable behaviors and activities with acceptable behaviors and activities. Rogers also identifies various missionary efforts that led to replacing unacceptable rituals and practices with acceptable practices. For example,

Funeral practices in Nigeria illustrate the importance of developing new practices to replace old ones that were deemed to be unacceptable behavior for believers. Traditional funeral rites in southeast Nigeria include a night vigil-an all night funeral/wake. Many activities unacceptable for Christians are part of a traditional vigil night: a community show of strength against menacing evil spirits or ghosts, lots of drinking and loud partying, lewd behavior, and occasionally encouraged sexual activity so that if pregnancy occurs, the dead person’s spirit might be reincarnated in the baby. (p. 153)

Multi-Ethnic Ministry in the Local Church

Chapter 8 deals with “Worldview and Multiethnic Ministry in the Local Church.” This is an important chapter of the book as the world is becoming more and more urban with multiple ethnic groups occupying the space in urban centers.

The people of the world have come to the cities of the world. … Believers who minister in those contexts are engage3d in multiethnic ministry. It is difficult to find a local church in a metropolis or megacity that does not already have a wide variety of cultures represented among its membership. However, becoming a multicultural church by purpose and design is not an easy thing to do. (p.178)

Glenn Rogers argues,

As a church moves from being monocultural to multicultural in perspective, so must it become multicultural in practice. Believers must be given tome to get comfortable with the idea of multiculturalism, and they must know what it means to be multicultural. Being multicultural n the context of the local church means: 1) that we accept the validity of other worldviews and cultures, 2) that we acknowledge the need of believers from other cultures to worship and live out their faith in ways that may differ from our own, and 3) that we adjust schedules and usage of facilities to accommodate their needs. (p. 178)

The contours of a multicultural church need to be further described. Every one wants some part of multiculturalism, but we really do not how this may be accomplished.

The Role of Worldview in Missions and Multiethnic Ministry is a valuable textbook for courses in cross-cultural communication, missiology and Contextualization.

*The Role of Worldview in Missions and Multiethnic Ministry, a book by Glen Rogers, published by Mission and Ministry Resources, 2002. www.missionandministryresources.net


M. S. Thirumalai
Bethany International
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite A
Bloomington, MN 55438

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