It’s Not Bad It’s Just Different

In the next 370 words I hope to address what is one of the most complicated issues in missions…cultural bias. It is imperative that missionaries not revert to mission tactics of the late 19th century and try to impose their “superior” culture on the people they have been sent to serve. The gospel is not American nor Western. The gospel changes cultures, the messenger should not.

Our landlord just had our house painted. The painters did their work in a very Honduran way, which in the U.S. would be viewed as lazy, sub-standard and unacceptable. White paint was on black paint, blue paint was on white paint, paint was on windows and there were few straight lines or right angles. And, here is the part that is going to get under your skin (and it would have me too a few years ago)…that’s ok. The way they painted is not wrong. It just is. Why do we, in the U.S., insist on straight lines, right angles and non-touching paint? Yes, I know, you are screaming at your computer screen, “BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT WAY!!!”

As fulltime missionaries we have hosted over 500 short-term missionaries and they see things through culturally biased glasses…as we all do. We have been asked many culturally biased questions; “Why are Hondurans so lazy?”, “Why don’t they care about their community and throw trash on the ground?”, “Why are Hondurans always late?” These are questions that originate from the concept that our culture (no matter what culture it is) is better. We all believe that our way of doing things is best. And, that is normal, but not healthy in cross-cultural settings. The answer to all this is, “It’s not bad, it’s just different”.

Missionaries are not sent to change cultures, but to deliver the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. When we as cross-cultural missionaries get bogged down in cultural bias we miss the point of missions. It is our job to enjoy, celebrate and sometime endure cultural differences without passing judgment. Christianity is global and our multi-ethnic family should rejoice in diversity and proclaim our unity in Christ. Let’s not weigh down the purity of the gospel with our sinful biases.

About Mike

Mike, 49, grew up in California and spent 38 years of his life there. He received an undergraduate degree in Political Science, graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary and is pursuing a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary. Before accepting God’s call to fulltime missions, Mike worked in the California State Senate for 12 years. He became a Christian at the age of 20. Mike was a Ruling Elder at Soaring Oaks Presbyterian Church(PCA) for seven years. While at Soaring Oaks, Mike served as the Director of the High School Youth Group, Sunday school teacher, and instructor of evangelism. His cross-cultural missions experience includes five short term trips to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Peru (Lima and Cusco) through Mission to the World (MTW). He has volunteered with World Relief by teaching and counseling international refugees. Mike has also attended cross-cultural church planting conferences in New York and Orlando and completed the Perspectives course on the World Christian Movement. He attended Bible Study Fellowship for two years. He is a certified instructor through Evangelism Explosion and is a certified trainer of the Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention program. He completed MTW‘s Disaster Response Training. Mike is an experienced speaker and author. Over 70 of Mike's articles on missions have been published and he has written three books. He is a trained and experienced mentor, discipler, leader and a passionate teacher of small groups and Bible studies. Mike received an undergraduate degree in Political Science, graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary. Before accepting God’s call to fulltime missions, Mike was a Ruling Elder, Youth Group Leader, adult Sunday school teacher and evangelism instructor at Soaring Oaks Presbyterian Church in Elk Grove, CA. Mike is an experienced speaker and author. Over 70 of Mike's articles on missions have been published and he has written three books. He is a trained and experienced mentor, discipler, leader and a passionate teacher of small groups and Bible studies. From 2007 to 2017 Mike served as a fulltime missionary for MTW. Mike served as Team Leader, Church Planter, and Seminary Professor. Mike and his wife Erin served in Honduras in Central America and Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa. Mike currently serves as the Director of the MTW West Coast Hub where he trains and mentors new missionaries from CA, AZ, & NV. Mike is also busy writing his next book.

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