Cross-Cultural Communication Chaos
It was a simple illustration. Or so I thought. I never dreamed of it being a difficult concept to communicate. But I could tell by the blank stares I was not getting though. I repeated the words again thinking that a little more emphasis would aid with the communication…still nothing.
I promise to finish this story but first let me ask you a couple of questions. Have you have ever struggled communicating with this generation of students? Have you ever been right in the middle of what you were just certain was one of your best Bible studies when you realized everyone’s eyes were glazed over? It is a horrible feeling to know that you are talking but…perhaps in a different language.
Let me be clear: Biblical truth does not need to be watered down, propped up or injected with personality hormones…it is sufficient in and of itself! I believe we need to teach the Word to our students as the absolute final authority for life and the source of all truth.
At the same time we would be foolish not to use culture as a vehicle for communicating truth. Culture does not dictate truth but it provides a convenient medium for communicating it to every generation. As we understand the nuances of each generation, they become tools we can use to reach students with the truth.
To effectively use culture to communicate truth we must:
- Be committed to teaching the Word of God without apology.
- Be students of students in each generation.
- Be sensitive to cultural nuances that can become communication tools.
- Be a life-long students, ever learning and growing
- Be open to new methodology outside our comfort zones.
- Be cross-cultural missionaries to students.
Okay, back to my story…
While teaching at the Word of Life Bible Institute in Korea I realized many concepts did not communicate cross-culturally – but one particularly stood out. I was giving an illustration which necessitated understanding the use of a “tuning fork” and that’s when it happened. I said the two words and no one knew what I meant.
Now it may have been my accent but regardless they just looked at me. I tried drawing it on the whiteboard which just made it worse. Fortunately we were at a class break so I downloaded a “tuning fork.” As the class began I not only showed a picture but demonstrated how it worked (oh the wonders of the internet), finished my illustration and continued the class.
I know I was in another country but it can happen in your church if you are not aware that you too have a cross-cultural ministry.