Gospel and Cultural Traditions: essential vs negotiable

In cross-cultural ministry, it is helpful to become more aware of your own cultural biases. Our culture colors the way we view the world and even the good news. If we fail to recognize this coloring, we will inadvertently portray a limited version of the good news to people of other cultures.

In Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, Paul Hiebert designed an exercise to help uncover some of these cultural biases on various commands, practices and customs which have been in Church tradition. Which ones are essential to the whole church for all time? Which ones are negotiable — meaning they may be appropriate for a church in one particular time and place but not another?

As you reflect on your answers as well as your reasoning (“and that’s why it’s okay that I don’t greet others with a holy kiss”), you will grow in your understanding of how the practice of your faith has been influenced by cultural traditions. Then you can be more intentional to encourage culturally appropriate expressions of faith.

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