Rabi Pame, M.Th., D.Miss.
Cross-cultural Missionary training played a major role in the expansion of the church in the last century all over the world. The rapid growth of Missionary Movement in Asia today has created a great demand for cross-cultural missionary training. Very often we accept missionary candidates as long as they are born again and have the passion and zeal for the lost souls. We send them to the mission fields without properly imparting the pre-field orientation or cross-cultural instruction. As a result of which there is increase in the attrition rate among the career Asian Missionaries, causing hindrances to the on going ministry in the Mission fields as well as bringing troubles to the sending churches and the mission agencies. One of the ways that we can avoid attrition is through proper cross-cultural missionary training.
1. What is Cross-Cultural Missionary Training?
To answer this question we need to see briefly the meaning and the terminology for the terms.
Missionary: Someone who has responded to the call of God and is sent by a church or Mission agency to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in places to people groups who have never heard the Good News of God’s Salvation message.
Cross-cultural: It simply means crossing one’s own culture and getting into another entirely different culture. “Cross-cultural Missionary is an ordinary Christian who is devotedly worshipping his Lord Jesus Christ, is called by the Holy Spirit and sent by the church to take the message of salvation to a cross-cultural community of peoples group.”1
“Cross-cultural Missionary means one who leaves his own culture and cross over to another place of different culture, communicating or proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, adapting the native customs and culture.” 2
Training: Gaining more knowledge, equipping, sharpening, molding, seasoning, tuning, imparting and developing skills, developing a person to be more useful, effective and fruitful.3
Missionary Training: According to Dr. David Harley “….the term missionary training will be understood as embracing every aspect of the pre-field preparation of cross-cultural missionaries. It will be taken to include their spiritual preparation, character development, academic training, and practical instruction.”4
2. Why is Cross-Cultural Missionary Training Important?
Missionary work is a specialized work, therefore it needs specialized training.5 As Nurses, Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Architects, Artists, Mechanics and other professionals need specialized training to do the work, so also a Missionary needs adequate and relevant training to be effective and efficient in his missionary career.
Good Missionary training helps in better missiological and anthropological understanding, broader understanding of mission, better church planting, better relationship between the missionaries in the cross-cultural situation and better relationship among those who work together from different geographical and cultural background in the nation. This also brings better appreciation of each other in the midst of cultural and geographical differences and in many ways to address the mission needs.6
3. Reasons for Better Missionary Training
Missionary training is very necessary basically for three reasons.
1. If missionaries are sent out without adequate preparation, the consequences can be disastrous on themselves, their family and to their ministry.
2. If the missionaries are not properly oriented in the cross-cultural ministry, the receiving churches or people also suffer adversely.
3. Sending cross-cultural missionaries without adequate pre-field missionary training is harmful, because too many families suffered because they were not given sufficient for missionary service; too many marriages have ended in divorce; too many wives suffered break down or depression; too many children carry the scars of bitterness because no one cared about their feelings. Therefore it is the responsibility of the church or the mission agency to provide adequate preparation to their candidates before sending them to cross-cultural settings.7
Here is a testimony of Dr. David Harley and his wife who served as cross-cultural missionary in Ethiopia. They taught at All Nations Christian College in UK for fifteen years. It is the testimony of the preparation for cross-cultural missionary work.
When I applied to a Missionary Society, I already had a first degree in classics and theology. I had also completed three years of post graduate study in education and theology as preparation for ordination, and further I had served three years as Assistant Minister in a church in London. When the Missionary society received my application, they asked me to do a year’s course in cross-cultural or missionary training. Initially I was surprised. I assumed that as ordained minister with several years of theological study and ministerial experiences, I did not need to go back to the class room to become a missionary. I could not have been more wrong, and as soon as I began the course I realized my mistake. I quickly began to appreciate that I understood little about cross- cultural Mission and I was grateful to my Mission leaders for giving me the opportunity to prepare adequately for my future work. 8
Theodore Srinivasagam, the former General Secretary of Indian Evangelical Mission wrote:
Missionary casualties on the cross-cultural Field ministry as well as wasted effort, finance and personnel can be minimized, if adequate pre-field and pre-ministry training is given to the workers. Money spent on adequate training is never a waste.9
Therefore cross-cultural missionary training is very important and crucial if at all we have to make striking impact and effective and lasting missionary career.
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Rabi Pame, M.Th., D.Miss
Bethany International University
Missiological Research Centre