A summary and discussion questions are below:
Hiebert’s article explained the importance of a bicultural bridge for missionaries. A bicultural bridge is someone who works with the missionary to help interpret and bridge the gap between the missionary’s culture and the local culture.
When moving to a new culture, one of the questions the missionary must first be able to answer is, “Who are you?” While the answer, “I am a missionary,” us clearly understood by the missionary, the term may be unfamiliar or misunderstood by the local culture. Local people will have the tendency to put you into a familiar category that makes sense to them. A new missionary may inadvertently be understood incorrectly as foreign ruler, a spy, a landlord, to be extremely wealthy, or even as a priest of a foreign religion. A missionary must learn to communicate his role in a way that makes sense to the people of that culture.
In addition, the missionary must learn how the local culture is organized. Hiebert identifies three kinds of social groupings (tribal, peasant, and urban) to illustrate ways that people relate to one another, make decisions, follow authority, and interact with people from other groups. Identifying these cultural distinctions is essential for missionaries to understand in order to work in the new culture.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection:
- Is it ok for someone to be introduced as a missionary when in his sending church and not claim to be a missionary when he is working among his people group overseas?
- The Willowbank Report of the Lausanne Committee focuses on humility as the key quality of a missionary as he relates to people of different cultures. Why is humility so important for a missionary?
- How does a missionary approach his ministry differently in a tribal, peasant, or urban society?