DixClim 08-01-03  

Climbing Higher

Inspiration for the Cross-Cultural Church Planter


Roger Dixon

BottomLine Media, 2007, 214 pp., ISBN  978-1-60461-796-2



Roger Dixon served as a church planter in Asia for more than forty years.  The little paperback is written as a series of two-page articles, ideal for reading in small bites. The book is inspiring, as the subtitle suggests, but it is also very educational.  Anyone who reads this book will have a much deeper appreciation for the complexities and difficulties of reaching people for Christ in another culture.   


"The secret to being a successful cross-cultural church planter is to reduce our tendency to ethnocentrism to such a degree that it does not interfere with our relationships." (17)


"We all know that the expression 'In order to understand someone, we need to walk a mile in their shoes' is a good cross-cultural principle.  But Roy Hession points out another.  That is, just being the sandals for Jesus to walk in.  'The sandals were not for show, or to be admired by others, but simply to be pressed into the dust under His feet, to take Him where He directed and into those lives which He desired to meet.'  How hard it is for us to be those kinds of sandals!" (27)


"Among cultures that are unreached, you will observe that few people consider themselves as equals.  Most people see themselves as either superior or inferior in relation to others.  This affects ideas of leadership, friendship, sources of values, and other aspects of community life."  "With the exception of overcoming severe physical handicaps, it is safe to say there are not many harder tasks than cross-cultural church-planting work."  "All aspects of social relationships are intensified in the church-planting world where they must be transformed."  (33-4) 


"Probably, the main reason people fail to go on is an unbidden decision to quit.  This is not failure in the sense of leaving the location of one's assignment.  Many people do not give up their daily tasks.  They just quit climbing.  That is, they no longer seek to penetrate the heights.  They quit learning and applying and progressing.  Sometimes, the culture sickens a cross-cultural church planter and he or she loses the vision as to how the Good News can change people.  Perhaps the Good News is not being conveyed properly or understood by those who hear it.  But the cross-cultural church planter only sees the lack of progress and not the upward path.  One fails to take their next step and becomes frozen at that spot of growth." (36)


"The unreached have been that way for thousands of years, and most of them are not unreached because no one has tried.  Rather, they are unreached because they are not easy to befriend.  The church-planting process has never been started.  It is not impossible for the process to happen quickly.  But we must be prepared for the alternative." (40)


"The other day I heard from a young friend in a cross-cultural situation.  A national had told her that her language skills were deteriorating."  "Cross-cultural living is hard on sensitive souls but they are the ones better positioned to learn and understand.  The superior, insensitive, self-confident person tends to recreate his or her friends, acquaintance, and colleagues in his or her own image.  How foolish this is!  It destroys the standard that is most available to us.  When we cannot accept constructive criticism, those closest to us will not criticize.  Rather, they will allow us to have our own way and laugh at our poor skills behind our backs." (54)


"Every cross-cultural worker must learn as early as possible how one determines one's standing in society."  "One cannot judge other societies by one's own.  Each group of people has its own standards for the way relationships are structures."  "There are many factors which determine how important a person is.  An example of this is teachers.  Even though teachers are not highly paid in some cultures, they usually hold a position of power."  "When a cross-cultural worker comes from a culture which promotes equality between peoples, it is difficult to feel at home in a class society."  "Begin as early as possible to observe the ways people relate to one another and why they do so."  (55-6)


"In a Dilbert comic strip, the boss comes to a worker and says, 'Asok, I'm putting you on our special self-mentoring program.  If you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to talk to yourself.'" (73)


"In the Jakarta of the 1970s there was an organization of people who were digging wells to help the poor have water.  This organization was a Christian one but they decided not to share that information with the people.  Their approach was to dig wells and let that love and concern speak for itself.  Unfortunately, their 'good works' were interpreted in a way quite contrary to the truth.  They reached the goal of providing water but missed their purpose of sharing an alternative lifestyle."  "In the same way, if we do not communicate clearly the purpose of our lives, others will only see the goals we reach.  They will see what we are achieving but they will not understand the purpose of it.  Through various means we must make the connection clear.  Few can do this for us. Rarely will others realize what we are trying to communicate unless we make it clear." (77-8)


"It naturally follows that a failure to present oneself will result in a failure to present one's product.  The two are interrelated.  If people learn that their product agent is not honest, trust is broken.  And yet, the presentation of our product depends on absolute trust." (81)


"…the process of cross-cultural church planting must be allowed to take place.  There are no shortcuts or quick fixes.  The process over time works the miraculous, and sticking to the task enables the process to take place.  Behind all this is a supernatural power that moves the hearts of men and women.  We are not able to effect this on our own but it can happen because God's power is at work." (84)


"For most people, a change from the familiar is frightening to some degree.  Many people are ready to make changes, but all change comes with some fear.  It is especially fearful when the change we are contemplating may alienate us from family and friends."  "The converts' entire understanding of the world is shifting and that is very scary for them." (85-6)


"The sign of a cross-cultural church-planting worker must be true humility.  This involves a turning away from self and seeking to be concerned about others." (90)


"We learn by experience.  Therefore, our lives should be buried in the culture so that we soak up as many sensations as possible and as often as possible."  "Our question should be this.  Have we learned what we need to know from these occurrences?  Learning moments do not always come instantly at the time of the event.  That is why we need time for reflection.  The person who runs constantly from morning to night with little time for reflection on all the strange cultural experiences happening around him or her will not learn much.  Acculturation is a multi-faceted process which requires meditation as well as a series of episodes in our lives.  When we take time to deliberate on the phenomena we have absorbed, a learning moment can occur.  In many cases, it takes years before we are able to penetrate the cultural maze." (92)


"The most difficult adjustment for me was learning the language."  "The shift from being perceived as a competent person to one who cannot communicate much of anything can be devastating if one does not maintain perspective." (133)


"…underlying prejudice in our lives can ruin all our efforts in cross-cultural church planting.  One of the biggest problems we have in working across ethnic lines is our ethnocentricity.  This is the tendency to feel that our worldview and culture are superior to those of others and that, because of that, we are superior to others.  This feeling and way of thinking is bred into us from childhood and reinforced by our education and training.  The result is prejudice."  "…we pretend that we are open-minded and tolerant of their points of view."  "However, the real test is what we say in private."  "The attitude of the cross-cultural church planter cannot be long concealed from one's national colleagues." (135-36)


"It is crucial to love people, but we also have to understand them." (150)


"The key is discovering what His plan is.  Too often we come to a work with a plan already in mind.  Some workers have developed a ministry model before they have even oriented themselves to the focus group and learned their religious worldview.  We impose our foreign model on the focus group, and when it doesn't work we become discouraged.  But the Lord says that He has plans for us.  Isn't it better to seek out those plans before we make plans for others?' (168) 


"There are two basic tasks the cross-cultural worker must always keep in mind.  First, we must observe what is happening, and then we must determine why it is happening.  When we cross cultural boundaries, the 'what' and the 'why' of another cultural pattern will usually yield different answers from our own."  "…it takes a concentrated effort to discover the underlying reason for it happening." (175)


"One of the greatest barriers in cross-cultural church planting is adjusting to one's new self.  When we are in our own culture and in our chosen career slot, we feel at home with ourselves.  This all changes when we go cross cultural.  Adjusting to a different way of life is very difficult, but adjusting to the fact that we are no longer our old self is even harder.  We must prepare ourselves for new identities, for we will be given a series of new identities by the culture in which we work.  In our own culture, we may have never been a patron, a healer, a teacher, or a spiritual advisor.  But in our cross-cultural church-planting work we may become all of those." (182)


"No one likes irritants.  They upset our nervous system, make it difficult to think and tend to make us act uncharacteristically.  But, if you will consider the pearl, you will recognize the value of irritants.  No pearl is formed without some irritant such as a grain of sand."  "We don't understand how the irritants can be used, but God promises they will be.  If our hearts are true to our calling, the causes of the irritants are overcome, and a pearl is produced."  (193-94)


"Discouragement may be the biggest problem faced by the cross-cultural church-planting worker.  It is caused primarily by our venture into Satan's territory, where we are the special object of his attacks." (195)


"When I train new Indonesian workers in approaching an unreached people group, I emphasize the fact that it will take years to break through.  My Indonesian students tend to laugh when I tell them to figure on working 10 years before any significant congregation emerges.  Because most of them are from areas where the church is growing, they cannot imagine how it would take so long to form a congregation.  If they do not consciously adjust to the difficulty of an unreached people group, they will be subject to discouragement and will drop out of the work." (201) 




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