63. Resolving Intercultural Tensions 4: Law’s “Mutual Invitation”

NOTE: A companion workshop to these articles is available to multi-ethnic churches that provides information, exercises and interaction to encourage the implementation of those disciplines that promote healthy intercultural relationships. Please contact Mark via the Contact Me form.

Whose rules rule?

card handIn the innovative cultural simulation game, Barnga, created by Sivasailam Thiagarajan, groups of people play a simple card game without realizing that each person has been given slightly different rules to the game. The participants are not permitted to speak to each other or to communicate by writing. It doesn’t take long before there is some banging on the table and grunts of disgust as the game does not proceed as expected. 1 Because the point of the game is the same for all, one conclusion drawn by the players is that some of the other participants are either cheating or did not properly read the rules.

HPD = High Power Distance LPD = Low Power Distance

Similarly, when people from different cultural backgrounds congregate for discussion or decision making, the overall context can be so familiar that each cultural group believes that their assumed “rules” of interaction will be followed as the norm. When the cultural groups have contrasting low power distance (LPD) versus high power distance (HPD) orientations, the result can be frustrating with the participants misattributing2 the motives of others according to their cultural perspective of what is normative behavior. When someone speaks “out of turn,” they are judged as “rude” or “aggressive,” rather than recognizing that some people are “playing by different rules.”

In the first article of this series, the concept of power distance was introduced with illustrations that showed how the contrast between high and low power distance causes tension in intercultural relationships. The second article dealt with leadership dynamics when dealing with high and low power distance cultures. As a means of resolving these tensions, the third article described the important skill of speaking each other’s “language of respect.” In this final article in the series, we will explore Eric Law’s innovative method of “mutual invitation”3 as a method of developing productive interaction in order to bridge the power gap between HPD and LPD cultures.

The way Norms are Percieved

Group decision making has a different dynamic in high versus low power distance cultures. When a group consists of a mixture of both orientations, there will likely be misattribution and frustration as illustrated in the following chart. The left side of the chart represents the norm for either HPD or LPD orientations, the right side reveals the way this norm can be perceived by someone with the opposite orientation. Test yourself by covering the right side of the chart and see if you can predict a possible perception of the opposite orientation.

HPD norm A possible LPD Perception
Meetings are for announcing decisions and expressions of affirmation; maintaining appropriate relationships take precedence over the decision making task A waste of time if the decisions are pre-ordained or incorrectly made in order to save face
Opinions are tied to personality and so affirmation is a high value It is dishonest to affirm an incorrect opinion; the affront a person may feel is a personal problem
Decisions are communicated by the person in charge The leader is on a power trip; unwillingness to refine ideas through challenges; weakness in leadership
Decisions are made through pre-meeting channels to ensure unanimity Manipulation; underhanded politicking
Participation is directly solicited Inappropriate partiality, especially if not called upon
Voting is an expression of affirmation Voting stifles free expression if the participants’ votes do not reflect their thoughts on the issue
People chosen to speak may represent a group or have status Each person’s speech is given equal weight
Unanimous vote may show respect, but may not be implemented if the leader did not appropriately connect with the group prior to meeting The decision has been made, now it is time to put the decision into action
Silence or ambiguous comments that indicate disapproval Affirmation
Understatement reflects a deep concern while not wanting to offend The statement can be dismissed as of minor importance
“Yes” may indicate only polite acknowledgement “Yes” means yes
LPD norm A possible HPD Perception
Meetings are for brainstorming ideas leading to a decision; conflict is productive Confrontation undermines authority; conflict is divisive
Opinions are not tied to a person’s worth An attack on an opinion can be experienced as a personal affront
Person in charge facilitates discussion Lack of direct decision making indicates weak leadership, a lack of preparedness, or uncertainty
Primary discussion occurs during the meeting A lack of contact before the meeting may mean that the leader does not value the participant’s input
Participation is voluntary Lack of direct solicitation makes the participant feel that their contribution is not valued; they do not volunteer their opinion
Participants take initiative and speak out when they have an opinion Rudeness; a power grab; an insult to the one in charge
Voting reflects the participant’s personal opinion Voting against the opinion of the one in charge is an act of insubordination
People express their individual opinions A clash of opinions between two people within one grouping appears as disunity and instability
majority vote = decision made If the participants feel that they have not been heard, their vote may be an expression of politeness but will not be followed up with action or commitment
Expressions of disapproval; strong opinions Inexcusable rudeness that undermines the unity of the group

Law’s Mutual Invitation

people sitting in circleWith such potential for misunderstanding, offense and frustration in intercultural decision making, how can multi-cultural meetings proceed? How can discussion be facilitated that allows for both open discussion for the LPD participants and ensures that the leaders of HPD oriented people are directly addressed for their input without feeling offended? In his book, The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb, Eric Law introduces the concept of “mutual invitation” as process for facilitating discussion productively within a multi-ethnic group that includes participants with both LPD and HPD orientations. While not perfect, this method avoids the dictatorial aspect of HPD cultures (offensive to LPD cultures) and provides the affirmation of invitation (important for HPD participants). He explains the process in this manner:

I, as the leader, first share without projecting myself as an expert. After I have spoken, I then invite someone to share. I usually do not invite the person next to me because that might set up the precedent of going around in a circle. After the next person has spoken, that person is given the privilege of inviting another to share. The person being invited has the option to “pass” if she does not want to say anything. After a person says “pass,” he is still given the privilege to invite another to share. This continues until everybody has had a chance to share.4

This simple process can prevent a number of the misattributions mentioned in the chart above. Because the context is one of facilitating discussion and soliciting opinions, the confrontational aspect of arguing for or against a potential decision is avoided. Because each person who speaks then moves on to solicit an opinion from another participant, the sense of leadership manipulation is avoided (important for LPD participants), while providing the needed direct affirmation that allows HPD oriented participants to voice their opinion. Furthermore, the opportunity to say “pass” and choose someone else to speak, allows people to not voice their opinion while still taking an active part in the discussion. They may want to defer their opinion to someone who may speak for them and this aspect of the process provides that opportunity.

This method creates an atmosphere of open discussion that allows the leadership to hear a broad range of opinions while defusing potential confrontation. It ensures that one person does not dominate the conversation and thus suppress less aggressive participants. It decreases the potential for people to argue a point with each other (a positive facet for LPD cultures, but can be disturbing for HPD cultures).

Law also notes that silence can be interpreted in many different ways. With this method

the person invited to speak is given the time, space, and power to express herself. The person can choose to be in silence first to put her thoughts together before speaking. The person is also given the responsibility to let the whole group know whether she is ready to speak by having the option to pass. In other words, if the person is silent, and he has not said pass, that means the silence is a useful and meaningful time for the person and should be respected. Here, there is no need to interpret silence. The group already knows that the silence is meaningful to the person who has the power at the moment.5

It is important for the leader to not profess a strong opinion from the outset, so that HPD participants can feel free to voice their opinion without appearing to disagree with the one in charge. Once all the opinions are out in the open, the leader can then summarize the views represented and if a decision is required it may very well have become obvious in the discussion. Even if there is no clear answer, the leader can point to another participant and ask their opinion of the summary provided, thus starting the process again.

Why does this method work?

a new set of rules

A primary reason this method is effective is that it puts the participants on an equal footing with mutually understood rules that do not allow one person to dominate, nor another participant’s view to be ignored. The Barnga game produces frustration because the players have unfulfilled expectations concerning rules. With Law’s “mutual invitation,” a new set of rules is introduced that levels the playing field, and prevents people from assuming that their cultural norm will be followed.

The next time there is a potentially contentious issue, or if you suspect that people who should be heard are not speaking out in meetings, give the “mutual invitation” method a try.


Mark spends part of his time providing churches workshops in developing cultural sensitivity. If you are interested please contact him via the Contact Me form.  If you would like to leave a comment, please use the “comment” link at the bottom of this article.


  • 1 Sisk, D. Simulation Games as Training Tools in Intercultural Sourcebook: Cross-Cultural Training Methods, Vol. 1, Fowler, S. & Mumford, M. Eds., Intercultural Press, 1995, p. 103.
  • 2 Lane, P. in A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing Cultures: Making friends in a multi-cultural world, InterVarsity Press, 2002, quotes Huang and Nieves-Grafals in defining misattribution as “attributing meaning or motive to someone’s behavior based upon one’s own culture or experience” and notes that “Misattribution is often hard to recognize due to two factors. First, our cultural beliefs are so ingrained that they appear to be either common sense or universal. Secondly, misattributions often evoke an instant emotional response.” p. 27.
  • 3 Law, Eric. 1993. The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb. St. Louis: Chalice Press. pp. 83-87.
  • 4 ibid. p. 83.
  • 5 ibid. p. 85.

62. Resolving Intercultural Tensions 3: Speaking Another’s Language of Respect

NOTE: A companion workshop to these articles is available to multi-ethnic churches that provides information, exercises and interaction to encourage the implementation of those disciplines that promote healthy intercultural relationships. Please contact Mark via the Contact Me form.

The High Power Distance / Low Power Distance1 Culture Clash

HPD = High Power Distance LPD = Low Power Distance

When people of the lower classes visit a medical doctor in Pakistan, they are very reticent to ask the doctor to provide an explanation for the prescriptions given, and often remain unaware of the nature of their illness, considering it sufficient to follow the doctor’s instructions. To ask for reasons would be tantamount to questioning the doctor’s competence and therefore impolite. The role of leaders as the decision makers together with the submissive, obedient attitude of followers is typical of High Power Distance (HPD) cultures.

Among the Sindhi people of Pakistan2 a popular Sufi story is told to illustrate the virtue of meekness. A king had a servant that he loved above all others, and seeing this the other servants became extremely jealous. The king was not unaware of the situation and one day he called his servants together and placed a valuable jewel before them. “Take a hammer and destroy this jewel!” he commanded. The servants looked at each other in shock and began to protest. “But Sire, this is extremely valuable. We don’t want to destroy such a precious treasure!” The king then turned to the servant he loved and gave the same command. The servant immediately seized a hammer and shattered the precious stone. The king then turned on his servant and rebuked him. “Why did you do that? Don’t you know that this was a valuable jewel? You have destroyed it beyond repair!” At once the servant bowed his head and said, “I’m sorry. You are right. I should not have done that.”

Then the king looked at his other servants and revealed his lesson. “This is why I love this servant more than any other. I commanded and he obeyed. I rebuked and he did not defend himself.”

In the high power distance context of the Sindh, the relationship between the master and the servant is praised and considered worthy of emulation. However, in a Low Power distant (LPD) culture, such as Canada, this story appears to promote an abusive and improper relationship that should be corrected, not emulated!

When LPD and HPD cultures meet with the desire to work together, such as in a multicultural church setting, there is inevitable tension due to the clash between these two very different orientations.

Navigating the Clash through their “language” of respect

Leaders of multi-ethnic3 churches who take seriously their responsibility to guide the congregation towards healthy intercultural relationships must successfully navigate these two diverse and often conflicting orientations. While it is important for the leader to understand the dynamics at play within the group, how people’s orientation affects their actions and the perception of the actions of others, and how to recognize the way these tensions are expressed (see previous articles), it is even more important to know how to cultivate an environment of graciousness and understanding that will allow these tensions to be resolved. An important step in achieving this is learning to hear and speak the “language” of respect used by those of the opposite orientation.

learn to hear and speak the “language” of respect

By “language” I refer metaphorically to the culturally defined actions and behaviors by which people express respect for others. Even when a common language of communication is used, such as English, the cultural cues, e.g., body language, are often not translated. These cultural expressions of respect are difficult to reformat into another culture’s perspective because they express values and beliefs important to the people of that cultural group. For example, even though I know that in Pakistan people crowd around and reach in to buy their train tickets, I still feel annoyed when someone “butts in front” of me because of my cultural preference not to be aggressive and to take turns in an equitable manner. I tend to misattribute4 or judge their action according to my frame of reference concerning what is appropriate and respectful.

Practicing Pentecost

Eric Law points out that most people view the event of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-7) as a miracle of speaking in tongues. What is often overlooked is the second half of the miracle: people were also hearing in their own language5. This communication of both speaking and hearing is an appropriate metaphor for the intercultural discipline of learning the language of respect of other ethnic groups. Success in navigating intercultural relationships is dependent upon the practice of hearing and speaking the other’s language of respect. Without this discipline intercultural tensions will not be appropriately addressed and cultural barriers will be strengthened rather than overcome.

One day when walking to a friend’s house in Larkana, Pakistan, with my wife, Karen, a friend met me on the road. He briefly greeted me and without once glancing at or acknowledging Karen’s presence moved on. Karen responded by exclaiming to me, “What a polite man!” This was an honest comment, not sarcasm. What my friend had done was treat Karen and me with respect. In the Sindhi context a polite man does not take notice of or acknowledge another man’s wife unless they have been properly introduced and the setting is considered appropriate. In Canada, his action would have been considered rude and demeaning. However, we had been in Pakistan long enough to be able to read and appreciate the Sindhi language of respect.

Talking the talk is walking the walk

It is important to realize that this principle is not simply an exhortation to treat each other with respect. Respect in a church context is a given. But it is not sufficient to treat people of another ethnic group in ways that we consider respectful. We must also learn how they express respect (hearing the language) and then practice those expressions when in their company (speaking the language). When people greet, do they bow, shake hands, hug, kiss? What is the difference in greetings between genders, strangers and friends, children and the elderly? In Pakistan greetings are an essential part of expressing respect. Standing up to greet someone, the physical contact (handshake, half hug, full hug), the length of greeting, all speak about the relationship and how people are viewed.

Learning another language is never easy, but the attempt in itself is an expression of respect. In Pakistan, men frequently walk down the street holding hands as a common expression of friendship. I remember the first time a friend took my hand as we were walking down the street. I tensed up inside because of the message conveyed in my cultural background, but I didn’t pull away. I was determined to learn this language of friendship and use it.

Colleagues of ours in Pakistan went home to Virginia, U.S.A. for a visit. Their son of about 8 years had grown up in Pakistan and had not learned the ways of relating in his home state. He took some candy up to a store counter with his money explaining to the clerk that he wanted to buy the candy. The man refused to take the money and make the purchase because the boy had failed to address him as “sir”! Our colleague’s son had no intention of being rude, but he had failed to speak the language of respect expected in that context.

I had failed to speak their language of respect

We had a small fellowship of believers during our time in Larkana. One day after a worship service I chatted with a couple of newcomers and then took them out for a meal. When I returned I discovered that those left behind were very angry that they had not been invited to the meal. The issue was not a matter of food, or an unreasonable expectation that I should feed everyone present. Rather, the way I had excused myself and taken the two guests to lunch had inadvertently communicated rejection and disrespect. I had failed to speak their language of respect. It was not enough that my intentions were good and that I had no desire to insult anyone. In order to “walk the walk” and communicate the love and acceptance of Christ we also need to learn to talk their talk.

Love is the motivation to learn another’s language of respect

It is important for leaders in a multicultural church setting to promote on an ongoing basis the reality that learning another’s language of respect is an act of love. It is easy to become defensive and protective of our own way of doing things, especially when it viewed as the “right” way of doing things. “If they can’t understand how we do it, then they will just need to learn!” tends to be the attitude. But to demand that others adapt to our way of doing things often undermines the possibility of healthy intercultural exchange. It expresses a lack of love, that is, a lack of willingness to sacrifice our own comfort and sense of appropriateness in order to communicate effectively.

During an Intercultural Health workshop that I was leading, a woman expressed her discomfort with people who wasted food by not eating everything on their plates. A time of severe deprivation in her past had taught her to value God’s provision and therefore her language of respect and thankfulness was to ensure that nothing was thrown away. In reply, it was explained that for some cultures leaving a bit of food on the plate was an expression of gratefulness and showed that the host had provided for them over and above their need. Hearing this, the woman responded, “But can’t they learn not to waste food since that isn’t the message we understand?” We talked about how difficult that would be for them by comparing her discomfort if she was required to leave food on her plate in order to communicate appreciation to her host.

“why don’t they change and conform!”

To leave some food on her plate would be a difficult expression of love and sacrifice on that woman’s part, but necessary if she wants to speak that ethnic group’s language of respect. Similarly, those who find it difficult to eat all the food and not leave anything would be required to alter their practice in order to communicate respect to people like that woman. The key is to learn another’s language of respect out of a motivation of love. Instead of thinking, “why don’t they change and conform!” the motivation of love asks, “how can I speak their language of respect?” Learning to speak someone else’s language of respect is a practical means of living like Christ and fulfilling the law of love.

How to Discover another Language of Respect

During a Portfolio of Cross-Cultural Experiences meeting, a Korean man expressed his offense at the Canadian practice of cleaning our noses with a handkerchief in public. While considered appropriate in a Canadian setting, this seems rude and unhygienic to Korean sensibilities, particularly at the dinner table. But how would a Canadian discover this perspective since Koreans would not make a guest or host lose face by addressing such behavior?

Consider these practical suggestions to discover and explore another ethnic group’s language of respect:

  1. It is often awkward and unproductive to discuss the perception of a behavior, such as the example given above, in a context where people will lose face. Instead, create forums or opportunities in which the issue can be raised in an impersonal or indirect manner. For example, to ask “what do you consider rude that other ethnic groups seem to accept as normal behavior?” as a point of discussion, can result in profitable insights. As long as individuals are not directly implicated there is no danger that anyone will lose face.
  2. Develop a close friendship with someone from the other ethnic group who will be open and honest about how an outsider should act so that people will believe that you respect, value and care for them. The friendship needs to be at such a level of trust that the insider will be able to be direct with you about cultural faux pas that you may inadvertently commit. I have such a friend in the Sindh who has saved me numerous times from cultural offenses.
  3. Utilize “bridge” people. Bridge people are those children, born to immigrants, who have grown up in the Canadian context and thus are fully bi-cultural. Moving back and forth from their cultural home setting to the contrasting culture in the community during their adolescent years has given them a cultural sensitivity that can be a great asset to church leaders who want to develop healthy intercultural relationships.
  4. Be observant of and sensitive to any tensions that may have a cultural cause. This includes keeping your antennae up for judgmental and defensive comments: “I was being polite,” “Who does he think he is?” “Why should we have to change for him?” “I don’t see why he got so upset!” etc. Such statements are often an indication that the person has misread an action due to their cultural orientation or has failed to speak the “language” that communicates respect.
  5. Go beyond the passive and safe approach of being on the outside and just observing. Intercultural tensions seldom go away by themselves. They are often internalized as hurts and can be destructive to the unity in the body of Christ. Be proactive and within appropriate contexts explore the reasons for any observed tension. This will often require the help and support of respected leaders who are insiders to the ethnic group.

Facilitating discussion and input

As mentioned in a previous article, it can be difficult to facilitate discussions and decision making in a group setting, such as a business meeting, in which there are there is a mix of both HPD and LPD culture oriented people. Is there a way to conduct business so that there is a level playing field and people of both orientations can feel that their participation has been appreciated and that they have been heard?

In the next and final article on High verses Low Power Distance orientations, Eric Law’s innovative method of “mutual invitation” will be explored as a method of developing productive interaction in order to bridge the power gap between HPD and LPD cultures.


Mark spends part of his time providing churches workshops in developing cultural sensitivity. If you are interested please contact him via the Contact Me form.  If you would like to leave a comment, please use the “comment” link at the bottom of this article.



  • 1 The first article in this series, 60. Resolving Intercultural Tensions 1: Power Distance, provides an explanation of High and Low Power distance cultures.
  • 2 Karen and I worked among the Sindhi people of Sindh, Pakistan for 14 years with FEBInternational.
  • 3 In these article, Multi-ethnic refers to a group of people in relationship with each other with a focus on their ethnic identity. Multicultural describes a group of ethnically diverse people in relationship with each other with an emphasis on their cultural orientation. Intercultural is used to refer to the interaction between ethnic groups. Cross-cultural refers to a person from one cultural orientation engaging a group of people with a different cultural orientation.
  • 4 In A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing Cultures, Patty Lane explains misattribution as “attributing meaning or motive to someone’s behavior based upon one’s own culture or experience.” (InterVarsity Press, 2002) p. 27.
  • 5 Law, Eric. 1993. The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb. St. Louis: Chalice Press. p. 46.

52. Cross-cultural Leadership Training

(This is an edited reprint from FEBInternational’s publication “Focal Point”)

“There are too few trained leaders!” This statement jumped out at me from my browser one morning a short while ago. Although the Operation World web page was referring to Burkina Faso, this statement describes many countries with thousands of young Christians who lack the guidance and teaching of mature Christian leaders. People movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America have brought many to faith in Christ, but the development of godly, trained servants of God has not kept up with the demand for leadership. In many places in Africa one pastor may be responsible for a number of churches and it is reported that less than 20% of African pastors have any kind of significant leadership training. (West Africa Theological Seminary home page: http://www.watsonline.org/ accessed March 14 2007). FEBInternational is addressing this critical need in a number of countries; leadership development is one of our core values.  Northwest Baptist Seminary is partnering with FEBI to accelerate the process.

Redundancy as a goal

It has been often stated that the goal of missionaries is to work themselves out of a job. This goal may be better phrased as a need for missionaries to become redundant: the job doesn’t end, but the baton is passed on. All the roles that contribute to the healthy, stable growth of the church within a particular culture, from evangelists to mentors and trainers of pastoral leaders, need to be competently filled by national leaders. 

Whose Agenda?

At the same time, it is important to realize that the agenda for leadership development is not set by the cross-cultural worker.  The objective is not to teach people the jobs missionaries are currently doing; that merely perpetuates the vision established by the foreign workers. Instead leadership development begins by identifying and supporting those godly, committed people God has raised up who have their own vision and passion for their people.  The role of the leadership developer is to come alongside and provide emerging national leaders the skill sets and biblical guidance they require to see that vision come to life.  Cross-cultural missionaries who successfully transition to leadership development are those who surrender their projects so that success can be ensured for the ministry passion of their national brothers and sisters.

God chooses the leaders

During our ministry in Pakistan, one of the believers, Nathaniel (not his real name) surprised me one day by asking, “Do you know what my favorite chapters in the Bible are?” I prompted him to tell me and he gave me some expected references: Psa. 23, 1 Cor. 13, Rom. 8, etc.  But then he said, “Gen. 7.” I was taken aback and had to think. “Isn’t that when God destroys the world with a flood?” I asked, somewhat concerned by the implications. “Why is that a favorite chapter?”  Nathaniel smiled, “Just as God chose Noah to save his family, so he has chosen me to save mine.”

I had not considered Nathaniel a leader.  I was busy with my own vision trying to gather together a number of believers to form a church.  That church did not materialize, but Nathaniel’s vision lives on. He continues to persevere in his faith with 3 generations of his family coming to Christ: his mother, his siblings and now his children.  Nathaniel received guidance and support from FEBI missionaries involved in leadership development and it is his vision that God has blessed.

31. Why CLTP?

The Need for Cross-cultural Leadership Training:
Why FEBInternational is developing
the CLTP program

“We no longer need ‘general practitioner’ missionaries here.”  This comment from an experienced FEBI missionary points to an important reality in missions today: the need for quality personnel who can provide “value added” ministry.  A guiding principle to validate the expense and sacrifice of cross-cultural missions is that the missionary be able to contribute to the advancement of God’s kingdom in significant ways that are not presently evident among the believers in a particular people group. Commitment to Christ, spiritual passion and ability to communicate the gospel are prerequisites to any missions endeavor, but without appropriate preparation and training, the result can be redundancy, ineffectiveness and frustration.

During the time my wife and I spent as evangelists and church planters in Pakistan (1985-1995), several people came to faith in Christ, but we were unable to plant a church.  A primary reason for this failure was the inability to recognize that our concept of “church” required significant adjustment within that unique cultural setting.  While we were frustrated by our failure to guide a group of believers into an identity as a local body of Christ, God worked apart from us in the life of one believer who now leads a “church” within his family structure. Through appropriate preparation, training and guidance we may have been able to recognize such potential earlier and our period of ineffectiveness and frustration could have been avoided.

The CLTP program is the preferred means to equip people from our FEBCC churches for cross-cultural ministry with FEBInternational.

Through CLTP and in conjunction with Northwest Baptist Seminary, qualified individuals have the opportunity to become productive and effective ministers of the gospel through a mentored, experienced-based program of study that is missiologically and theologically sound.

CLTP means Experience-based Holistic Training.

CLTP takes place within a cross-cultural ministry setting for most of the three year program, including eight months on a FEBInternational field. Besides the necessary academic disciplines and concern for spiritual growth, language and culture learning skills are developed along with proficiency in teamwork and interpersonal relationships.  Effective and transforming ministry begins with a training program that integrates relevant teaching with real ministry.  Theory is wedded with hands-on experience to ensure the missionary intern truly develops those skills required to provide “value-added” ministry.

CLTP means Financial Viability.

Through acceptance as a FEBInternational intern, the opportunity not only arises for the student to complete the master’s program debt-free, but they are guided in developing a support base that facilitates rapid transition into full time ministry.

But more than anything else, CLTP means Synergy in Partnerships…

…with Churches
An important characteristic of CLTP is the insistence upon local church involvement in the student’s development.  Missions is the activity of the local church and this program allows FEBInternational to facilitate the missional vision of our churches through the training of those dedicated church members who have potential for cross-cultural ministry.  FEBInternational is not just looking for candidates to join our mission, but seeking to enter into a true partnership with churches who want their best people at the forefront of worldwide gospel transformation.

…with Northwest Baptist Seminary (www.nbseminary.com)
Situated on the TWU campus at Langley, B.C., NBS provides the academic support structure for CLTP which includes program development, oversight and implementation leading to the completion of a Master of Arts in Christian Studies (NOTE: Students desiring to enter CLTP must have two years of formal post-secondary education or its equivalent as evaluated by NBS).

…with Ethnic Ministries in Canada and Internationally
Appropriate cross-cultural environments with viable ministries provide the context within which a variety of skills are developed. The language and culture of the people group for which the student is being trained will play a part in determining the setting.

…with Experienced Mentors
A key element to the success of the CLTP paradigm is the experienced cross-cultural ministry leaders who will be involved in mentoring the student through the process of integrating the academic learning to the challenges of real ministry.

…with Specialized Training Ministries
Organizations, such as Gateway (www.gatewaytraining.org), provide expertise in evangelism, interpersonal relationships and developing ethnographies.



  • If you or someone in your church could benefit from this program, or if you require further information, please contact Mark Naylor, Coordinator of International Leadership Development for Fellowship International and Northwest Baptist Seminary, via the form below.

Contact Mark

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12. Passive Mentoring on the Mission Field

Before my wife, Karen, and I went to Pakistan in 1985 we learned the LAMP (Language Acquisition Made Practical) method of language learning.  Although I often wished the course had been better tailored to suit my ability (perhaps LAMPSSSSS – Language Acquisition Made Perfectly Smooth Sailing for the Simple minded and Slow of Speech), the skills taught were invaluable in enabling us to achieve proficiency in the language.  This method focuses on enabling and equipping language learners to be in control of their language acquisition through the help of a tutor.  Rather than depending upon a language teacher who is responsible for setting the course content, methods and levels of proficiency, a relationship is established with a mother tongue speaker who is not a teacher but a source with the skill the language learner seeks to acquire.  The language learner assumes the responsibility of establishing and guiding the process which will ensure successful language acquisition. I was recently challenged with a similar model to provide mentoring for the missionary intern.  Is it possible for the intern to develop cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural ministry skills through a mentor tutor?

A Challenge to Field Mentoring Models

In preparing a program for cross-cultural ministry here at NBS@ACTS, I struggle with the means of providing a mentored environment on the field for the student.  I assumed that trained mentors on the field would be required who could provide time, experience and oversight to help a missionary intern adjust to a new culture and ministry environment.  However this assumption was challenged through an email from Paul Sadler, an FEBInternational missionary to Japan. He speculated on the possibility of mentoring missionary interns through a procedure similar to that of acquiring a new language.  Rather than setting up programs in which experienced missionaries or qualified nationals spend time overseeing and guiding missionary interns, the burden of responsibility lies with the intern who has been trained in a general philosophy and procedure for culture and cross-cultural ministry acquisition. In this paradigm the intern relates to a national tutor mentor who is a passive expert on how to live and minister in that specific culture.  The tutors do not direct the process nor are they expected to be skilled in passing on their knowledge. Instead the intern has been trained to draw out from that tutor those aspects of culture and ministry involvement that need to be acquired.

Because the student comes prepared and trained to be the initiator and motivator in the learning experience, the expectations and demands upon missionaries on the field are lessened.  Greater independence from expatriates and greater dependence upon nationals can also provide a deeper and fuller experience within the culture the intern has come to learn.  Additionally, the challenges of a different perspective on ministry and life in general will stretch the intern further than the more comfortable setting of relating primarily to a mentor from the same cultural background.

It is not my intention to devalue the mentoring relationship nor to discount the importance of experienced missionaries’ involvement with interns. Supervisors sympathetic to the interns’ cultural background are important to provide encouragement, resolve difficulties and give advice concerning issues of which the tutor may not be aware.  However when those new to a culture learn to address their inquiries to a national rather than to a fellow expatriate, they more rapidly become proficient as students of culture and in the process develop that appreciation for the culture which is necessary for effectiveness and contentment in ministry.

The Dynamics of Passive Mentoring

In the book Connecting: The mentoring relationship you need to succeed in life, the concept of passive mentoring is explored and certain necessary dynamics are outlined. The relevant skills, character, knowledge, influence, experience, values, commitments, wisdom and position must be evident in the life of the passive mentor so that they can be discovered and profitably explored by the mentoree.  To ensure that an appropriate tutor is chosen, those present on the field would need to do the preliminary work to find someone who exhibits the necessary attributes.  The tutor mentor must be willing to respond positively to the mentoree’s questions, presence and time commitments.  Accountability will also need to be provided through another source.  A missionary supervisor would be the most likely candidate for this.
            The intern or mentoree will need to focus on exploring the connection between the tutor’s values and beliefs and her / his actions.  The goal is not to merely ask questions and gain answers because this limits the experience to a cognitive process. Holistic exposure to models in the midst of life is perhaps the most effective tool in culture acquisition. The goal is to seek to understand the values and beliefs, the worldview and cultural perspectives that have precipitated the actions observed.  In addition the response of others to those actions needs to be analyzed and understood. The connection between action and expected results as opposed to the actual results can reveal much concerning the beliefs and values of a culture.

The intern will also need to determine the steps or experiences required to emulate the skills and values that have been observed. There will be times when the tutor’s actions will clash with the intern’s perspective concerning appropriate conduct. Any questionable activity needs to be discussed to determine meaning, purpose and impact within that cultural context. Only by openly exploring the issue can effective evaluation take place resulting in suitable cultural adjustments. 

One of the best lessons I learned in Pakistan was how to be a mediator in resolving personal conflicts.  Sindhis do not resolve conflict through direct confrontation, but through third party mediation.  By observing the skill of one of my friends in this process and discussing the implications with him, I gained insights that have been invaluable in dealing with conflict situations.  The intern that is equipped to take proactive steps in observing and accessing underlying assumptions may be able to progress further than the one who is dependent upon the direction of a mentor.


  • (1) Brewster, Thomas E. and Elizabeth S. Brewster. 1976. Language Acquisition Made Practical. Pasadena, CA: Lingua House.
  • (2) Clinton, J. Robert & Stanley, Paul D. 1992. Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed. Colorado Springs: Navpress.

9   Top Three Needs In Training For Cross Cultural Ministry

<p>While we were  learning the Sindhi language in Pakistan  during the 1980s my wife, Karen, tried to discover the word for  &quot;share&quot; and was given a word essentially equivalent to the English  &quot;give&quot;. The problem was that &quot;share&quot; is a concept based on  a principle of individual ownership and the permission required for another to  use another’s possession. In our Canadian culture, when an object moves from  one person to another, ownership remains with the person to whom the object  belongs. In such a setting &quot;sharing&quot; makes sense as it is based on a  principle of ownership highly valued in cultures that consider the freedom and  rights of the individual preeminent. However, where ownership is more communal  and the concerns of the community take precedent over the individual, the  concept of ownership of objects has less importance than the need of the  community member who has access to the object at that moment in time.&nbsp; This cultural value difference is obvious in  the frustration of people from our culture who are faced with the  &quot;theft&quot; of many objects by friends and servants while residing in Pakistan.</p>
  <p>This situation demonstrates only one aspect of the  myriad challenges that face those who seek to communicate the gospel  cross-culturally which are <em>in addition to</em> all the challenges that anyone ministering within her / his own culture will  face.&nbsp; To &quot;preach Christ&quot;  cross-culturally means entering into a new dimension of understanding and  relating in which the communicator experiences a radical shift in the  assumptions and &quot;self-evident truths&quot; previously relied on to  communicate the message.&nbsp; Those who  desire to make a gospel impact must learn anew what the Lordship of Christ  means within the &quot;narrative&quot; of a community that is foreign to the  &quot;narrative&quot; of their own culture.&nbsp;  How can people be trained adequately to face such challenges and be  prepared to live, relate and communicate cross-culturally?&nbsp; How can people be prepared to survive,  adjust, assimilate and participate significantly in a reality different from  their &quot;normal&quot; world?</p>
  <p>In order to explore this challenge and discover the  priorities leaders in cross-cultural training are making in preparing people  for cross-cultural gospel communication, I posed the following question: What  would you list as the top three needs for training in cross-cultural  ministry?&nbsp; The following is the result of  that survey.&nbsp; For the sake of clarity and  to reduce redundancy, I have taken the liberty of condensing the responses to  the following items which are categorized but not prioritized.</p>
  <h3>Spiritual Formation concerns</h3>
<p><em>Cross-cultural workers need to be trained:</em></p>
<p>- to develop, maintain, and  enhance their spiritual walk in contexts that often lack the immediate support  of a faith community. This requires a holistic understanding of spirituality:  emotional, social, mental, moral, physical.</p>
<p>- to recognize and foster  appropriate character traits and spiritual vitality in a cross-cultural  ministry environment.</p>
<p>- to use and develop their  spiritual gifts in a variety of settings.</p>
<p>- to recognize and adjust to  their personal strengths and weaknesses in the stress of unfamiliar settings.</p>
<p>- in radical discipleship.  True discipleship involves a crucified mentality, intimacy with the Lord, and  persevering through suffering and all types of character formation tests.</p>
<h3>Adaptation skills</h3>
<p><em>Cross-cultural workers need to be trained:</em></p>
<p>- to understand, adapt to,  and in specific scenarios even adopt the host culture.</p>
<p>- to manage time and family  in a cross-cultural environment often with little immediate accountability.</p>
<p>- through first hand  experience in local setting and not just as &quot;armchair  missiologists&quot;.&nbsp; If the trainee  lives with a family and pays room and board to remove the stress of finances  for the host, she / he will receive willing help with cultural issues.&nbsp; The trainee will develop a sense of the pace  of the culture and learn cultural means in dealing with conflict.</p>
<p>- under the mentoring of a  national leader who is capable, dedicated and empathetic.</p>
<p>- in the presence of one who  is an appropriate example of a competent cross-cultural minister.</p>
<h3>Relationship skills</h3>
<p><em>Cross-cultural workers need to be trained:</em></p>
<p>- to develop effective  interpersonal relational skills that enable them to cultivate significant  relationships in unfamiliar cultural settings.</p>
<p>- in community living by  putting into practice the &quot;one anothers&quot;, peacemaking and conflict  resolution.&nbsp; Western culture values  independence which can produce attitudes and actions detrimental to the gospel  and be a stumbling block to participation in others’ lives. The inability to  recognize or renounce an ingrained value of independence can cause the  cross-cultural worker to fail to build important relational bridges because of  their refusal to enter into interdependent relationships.</p>
<p>- through mentored  experiences in cross-cultural living and interaction.</p>
<p>- in teamwork with their  colleagues. Working with other missionaries or national believers can be one of  the most important tests of one’s ministry.</p>
<h3>Communication skills</h3>
<p><em>Cross-cultural workers need to be trained:</em></p>
<p>- to relevantly and  effectively contextualize the gospel.</p>
<p>- in apologetics: Biblical  knowledge and the ability to answer basic questions about the gospel.</p>
<p>- in language acquisition  skills.</p>
<p>- to develop culturally  sensitive communication skills.</p>
<p>- through mentored  experiences of intercultural communication.</p>
<h3>Cultural sensitivity development</h3>
<p><em>Cross-cultural workers need to be trained:</em></p>
<p>- to recognize and avoid North American  cultural weaknesses (e.g.&nbsp;  aggressiveness, materialism and &quot;in your face&quot; confrontational  approaches).</p>
<p>- to develop an appreciation  for cultural diversity and a recognition that God endorses <em>all</em> cultures.</p>
<p>- to perceive the ways  religion is at the heart of cultural bias – using the <em>functional</em> model to understand the way religion distorts culture.</p>
<p>- to relate relevantly in a  Shame/honor culture.&nbsp; Western culture is  guilt/righteousness oriented.</p>
<p>- in anthropology / sociology  so that cross-cultural workers can understand the function of cultures, work  with them and adapt to them.</p>
<p>- in the religion and  worldview of the people they plan to live among. Knowing the beliefs of the  people they want to impact – both the ideal and the actual – is an important  prerequisite.</p>
<p>- to develop tools needed to  acquire cross-cultural understanding.</p>
<p>- to discern the impact of  one’s own self – family, cultural, ethnic, personality, church backgrounds – in  cross-cultural ministry.</p>
<p>- in legitimate biblical  hermeneutics, so that one’s own cultural perspectives do not hamper the  inculturation of the gospel in another cultural setting.</p>
<p>- to recognize both the  values that provide a foundation to their lives and the legitimate values  expressed in the host culture.</p>
<p><em>Cross-cultural workers need to be trained:</em></p>
<p>- to be learners continually,  throughout life.&nbsp; A great weakness of  training people out of context is that once the training is complete, they then  enter their host environment with a focus on contributing and being significant.&nbsp; To lose the attitude of being a learner, a  guest, a stranger is to lose the legitimacy that allows one to relate to the  culture in a healthy way.</p>
<p>- to be Observers.  Missionaries should be the most curious group on the earth trying to figure out  why people do what they do.&nbsp; It is not  until the <em>meaning</em> of their actions  comes clear that the gospel can be significantly related to those actions and  beliefs.</p>
<p>- to cultivate a long haul  mentality. While it runs contrary to today’s trends, in resistant  countries&nbsp; a commitment to long term stay  in building relationships within the culture is essential. </p>

8.   How do we Train the Trainers?

The people in the best position to teach others are those who are actually involved in doing the task that needs to be taught. This conviction is behind the goal of creating an experience-based mentored environment for the training of cross-cultural ministers through Northwest Baptist Seminary located on the Trinity Western University campus, Langley, BC, Canada, in partnership with the mission organization Fellowship International.  Unfortunately, those who are most competent in ministry are often unaware of the learning process required for a novice to develop and become proficient – even though they were once beginners themselves who came through such a process.  Thus the goal is not simply to discover those who can model effective ministry, but also to provide training for these “experts” so that they can adequately participate in the process of developing cross-cultural competency in others.

A Survey

With a desire not to “reinvent the wheel” and also to take advantage of those who have greater training and experience in this area, I posed the following question through Brigada (www.brigada.org): “In establishing an experienced based cross-cultural training program for missionaries, the key factor is the enthusiasm and ability of the mentor to guide the process in the cross-cultural context.  Are there resources: books, courses, websites, etc. which would be of help in training missionaries to be successful mentors of interning missionaries?”  Although I received a number of responses with links to resources and organizations involved in cross-cultural leadership development, I have limited inclusion to those that specifically addressed the topic of training experienced missionaries to become successful mentors of interning missionaries.  (Disclaimer: As I am not totally familiar with all the organizations listed here, endorsement should not be assumed and I leave that judgment to the reader).

Challenging the Assumption

JM responded with an excellent challenge to the premise mentioned above:

When I consider what attitudes the new generation needs to have in order to work well in partnership with nationals and each other, I’m not sure the older generation are the best teachers. I’m thinking of the SIL context, but I can imagine the same applies in other organizations. We have a way of doing things that has almost become “sanctified” because it is the way we were taught. Our leaders are saying we need to change the way we do things if we are to get done sooner. Yet when new folks come join us, the old paradigm is still the one they expect to function with. The new way of doing translation is often only given lip service.

Part of the question of training the new generation has to be how to train the old generation into a new vision, and how to train the church and pre-field programs and training institutions into a new vision of what missions is and how it is done. I challenge anyone who is training new people to seriously consider where, and particularly when, their paradigm comes from. Are we training new people into old attitudes of paternalism and “I will do it” rather than cooperation and partnership and helping others do it?

It seems that, by definition, teaching requires an “old paradigm” in order for the material to have any validity as being worthy of being passed on.  In order to take advantage of the value of experience without stifling creative innovation we would do well to instigate immediate application of the teaching in the context of ministry.  Application would put the teaching to the test and allow it to be critiqued and adapted.  In such a setting the mentor guiding the student must be competent in ensuring proper application, while visionary and gracious enough not to stifle the creative thinking and new concepts that can result in more effective ministry.

Jerry Suits, CBInternational training developer ([email protected]), adds that

a mentoring grid will have to be pretty wide and flexible that takes into account the personalities involved and the diversity of cultures it will be ministering in. In Spain we would ideally seek an experienced missionary as a mentor as well as a mature Spaniard.  The challenge was that we found that people in significant ministry roles had overflowing plates and mentoring was just one more addition to an already overscheduled life. And then we found that there existed a significant gap between generations over expectations of what ministry training looked like.

The Learning Process

In Learning To Be A Missionary, Dan Sheffield and Joyce Bellous apply the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition to the development of cross-cultural ministry practitioners.  The model moves from the novice who begins by learning abstract “rules” to the expert whose skill in assessing a situation holistically allows her/him to “intuitively” recognize the correct action in a given situation. Such an understanding of the learning process will help in assessing those who have reached a level of proficiency that qualifies them to become mentors. It also helpfully clarifies one of the main difficulties those proficient in ministry have in communicating their skills to others, namely their “arational” ability to assess a situation correctly which cannot be communicated to but must be internalized by the learners as they develop.  Thus, as one respondent to the survey observed about competent missionaries who are impatient mentors, people forget their early experiences and therefore are often unsympathetic to the novice.  The internalization has created a norm for the expert who fails to appreciate or recall the process by which that internalization has taken place. In the conclusion, the authors consider mentoring especially important for those “struggling with ministry dissonance and culture shock in the second and third year of an assignment.”  In order to develop competency they “must have adequate oversight, informed reflection, and insightful dialogue with proficient missionaries to enable satisfactory cultural adjustment and the development of an appropriate plan or perspective to inform ministry priorities.”

Making the Task Easier

In responding to the survey Dr. Jonathan Lewis adds some insights in explaining the mentoring process used through the Gateway Missionary Training centre (www.gatewaytraining.org/) whose motto is “Get there! Stay there! Be effective!”.  He writes,

We equip the intern through modular study that is keyed to an internship notebook. Although we can’t guarantee that the missionary who is supervising/mentoring the trainee will be enthusiastic or even very available, we have found a very good reception to the internship manual that guides the intern’s activities throughout the three months of their internship. When the missionary mentor doesn’t have to do a lot of handholding, it helps create a positive experience and some have been so pleased, they have requested permission to use the manual with existing missionaries. This may be an indirect answer to the question, but as someone who is involved in mentoring, I know that there is more to it than finding a willing missionary-and those are hard to come by. When we provide some structure for the trainees, the task is easier and it helps create a win/win scenario. Also, Gateway staff maintains contact with the trainee through email and then debriefs trainees on their return. So how do you train the field mentors? Provide those who come to them with the tools that will make their job easier and create a positive experience for all involved.”

Speaking from Experience

Deborah Turner ([email protected]) writes that she and her husband have spent eight years

developing, implementing and documenting an on-the-field, hands-on, practical, missionary training program…. Our training … deals with practical issues which include: communication skills, interpersonal skills, stewardship, partner relations/funding, cultural transitions, language learning concepts, team concepts, servant-leadership, and encompasses local currencies, shopping practices, food purchasing and proper preparation as well as hygiene.  We feel it is imperative to provide the intern with an atmosphere of accuracy in living and working as a career missionary … with no holes barred. The myth of the romanticism of missionary life, along with unrealistic expectations, is abruptly halted as the reality of missionary life unfolds.
What we found as we researched and talked with new and veteran missionaries is that most folks on the receiving end of new missionaries had absolutely no clue as to what to do with new missionaries. Some did not want the burden of dealing with a new missionary in the first place!  Also, what we found after several years of training and sending out well-trained and prepared missionary interns is that the new missionaries were better trained and equipped than the veteran missionaries in many practical areas such as communication skills, interpersonal skills, partner relations and funding. Often times this created further anxiety and even intimidation.
In our case we “trained the trainers” as we went along because our concept was so new at the time. However, as years and time passed we made sure that our trainers were up-to-date on training methods and new concepts. As director, I constantly explored new avenues of training and ideas to pass along to the staff, and a few times sent our staff to training seminars. Now, after eight years we have turned over the training program, located in Guatemala, to new leadership. We are focusing on training based in the US. as well as traveling to world-wide locations offering training to ministries and missionaries in these areas as well as crisis counseling and intervention, which we’ve found to be an area much needed in the missionary community.

Some Guidelines

Mike Bottrell ([email protected]) provides some guidelines for mentoring from 30 years of experience by contrasting healthy (Personal) from unhealthy (Professional) discipling relationships:


  • Relationship between the “Paul” and “Timothy” is the key to the process and progress
  • Longterm relationship is the key to accountability
  • “Timothy” becomes accountable to, and dependent on, God
  • Grace oriented
  • Tailor made, “Timothy” oriented, deals with “Timothy’s” specific questions in spiritual growth
  • Character and commitment determine when “Timothy” is ready to reproduce
  • “Paul” can take a few guys for a few years
  • When “Timothy” is ready, he can reproduce this process with any guys from any culture at any age


  • Information from, and performance for, the “Paul” is the process and determines progress
  • Following a code or checklist determines how long the relationship lasts
  • “Timothy” becomes accountable to, and dependent on, “Paul”
  • Law/Works oriented
  • One size fits all, “Paul” oriented, deals with what “Paul” thinks “Timothy” needs to know and do
  • Completion of course content determines when “Timothy” “has been discipled”
  • The Program can take many guys for a streamlined one semester course
  • When “Timothy” completes the course, he can only take others who are like him through this course as long as they do the requirements

Other Training Centers

Norman Przybylski of the Elijah Company (www.elijahcompany.org) responded by saying, “We mentor people into missions.  A large part of what we do has to do with multiplying the vision for mentorship of missionaries and providing materials for the same.  We are about to start another mentors training (sic) which seeks to answer questions you are asking.”

Scott Groethe wrote about Bethany Fellowship Missions, in Minneapolis MN which is working on setting up one hundred new training centers around the world with a focus on training trainers. Tim Freeman is the head of BFM ([email protected])

JM writes that SIL has several programs for teaching people to be good listeners, mentors: Interpersonal Skills workshop is for people who work with people; Learning that Lasts workshop presents the theory and a method for training adults, and can be applied to training new workers. For more information, contact Margaret Spielmann at [email protected]

Training Resources

The Missionary Training Service provides a manual entitled The Missionary Training Guide with “the goal of helping missionaries be successful mentors of interning missionaries.”  Their material can be viewed through their website: www.missionarytraining.org/.

Another respondent recommends Levi Keidel’s book: Conflict or Connection – Interpersonal Relationships in Cross-Cultural Settings.