LewJour 08-05-65 

The Journey of a Post-Modern Missionary

Finding one's niche in cross-cultural ministry


Richard G. Lewis

Xulon Press, 2006, 165 pp., ISBN  1-60034-011-3




Richard Lewis has been a practitioner, teacher, consultant, and special guest speaker as a cross-cultural missionary for more than 30 years.  He is the founder and president of Lewis Cross-Cultural Training, Inc.  He has worked with more than 20 mission agencies and schools around the world, specializing in cross-cultural communication and how cultures work.  See www.Lewis-Training.com. 


Lewis describes the book as a textbook on how God works in the lives of people, using his own life as an example.  It is a good one.  There is much worthwhile to learn about guidance, ministry, missions, and cross-cultural preparation.


"Finding one's role in life is the greatest quest for all of God's creation." (Introduction) 


"Being a missionary is a profession, not a two-week vacation with a purpose.  Understand this: if everything is missions, then nothing is missions."  (Introduction)


"Never underestimate the power of a praying mother." (20) 


Lewis' early life and adulthood was inauspicious.  Not a particularly good student and with no real sense of direction or understanding of ministry or his gifts and no mentors, he seems to have stumbled through a series of moderate failures.  He got his basic education through trial and error.


"No one can really discover their gifts until they do something."  (30)


"Most churches remain focused on their congregation and not what God wants for the entire community.  As a result, they miss opportunities to accomplish things that are beyond anything they could hope or dream about."  (31) 


"Sometimes what people say they want doesn't translate into what they will actually accept when change is introduced."  "The problem with a church that has history is…it has history."  "…stability is oftentimes mere stagnation."  (36) 


"I am certain that I do not understand the meaning of 'the call of God,' and I doubt that anyone else does either."  "…my overriding motivation has been to serve Him in whatever way He wanted.  My giftedness and/or the lack thereof have been my guide.  No doubt some would argue that I've been walking the line between faith and foolishness, and I would agree--but that line is present in every decision." (46)


"What I advise new missionaries is to take as little as possible to the field and not purchase anything but the necessities of life until they know what they need." (60) 


"Sometimes there is a hair's difference from being bold and being foolish." (61)


As have many others, Lewis recommends The Training of the Twelve by A. B. Bruce for developing leaders through concentrated discipleship.  (62)


"Sacrifice is a relative issue.  What is perceived to be a sacrifice to one person is normal for another.  God isn't looking to see how hard we can make life; He's looking for those who will serve Him no matter the circumstances." (77)


"The church would probably be served better if more people acted more like pilgrims than authorities." (80)


"If I had a wish for every missionary home on furlough, it would be that they use that time to upgrade their thinking--to pursue intellectual growth." (94)


"When thinking about lifestyles, it's important to ask, 'What's the goal?'"  "There is no way I could have lived like the Pokot, and if I had tried, they would have thought it strange that I would want to."  "Relationships are not built by what you eat or where you live, but your genuine interest in others as people."  "Of course, balance means the family should not ignore the economy of the people and not live in such a way that it is an obstacle in communicating the Gospel." (106)


"Walking by faith and trying to yield to His leading is sometimes tedious.  Like kids in the back seat asking dad every five minutes "Are we almost there?"  God's kids want to get to the destination without the experience of the journey." (119)


"Sandy's theory is that if the questions of the congregation go beyond 'What do the people eat?' they are above average in their knowledge of missions."  (123)


"Professional services require professional training."  "The church has failed to understand that God's call should be matched with specialized and focused preparedness equal to, and perhaps surpassing, all other professions.  We have cheapened the profession of missions by not requiring people to meet a standard of cross-cultural preparedness before releasing them to go overseas." (127)


"Learn the questions before you give the answers."  "Methods only work when they apply to the context of the people." (128)


"It is my contention that training is more than a nice idea; it's a moral imperative." (131)  "Missionaries who are inadequately prepared will often come off the field broken, battered, and emotionally scarred." (132)


"Every potential missionary must fill out an application form, and one reference must come from the sending pastor.  Not wanting to offend, pastors almost never write the obvious--that the person or family are misfits or have showed little initiative in the local church programs.  Instead they give kind remarks, hoping that maybe God sees something in them that they don't." (142)  "We do no one any favors, including God, when we compassionately send people to the field when they are not ready." (143)


A prevalent myth in North America is that the hope of reaching the nations lies in the hands of the national churches of those countries.  "However, the myth remains a fable because it makes an assumption that is totally false--that nationals in their own countries know how to reach their own people with the Gospel." (149)  Many do not know how to go cross-culturally, even if they know the concepts and terms.  (150)  "The notion of taking the Good News cross-culturally is not difficult to grasp, but knowing how to do it and then actually putting that knowledge into practice has always been the great obstacle." (152)


"Being a non-Westerner does not automatically make national missionaries more effective." (154)


"In developing a strategic mission policy, Western churches need to be well informed; this requires research and education.  The congregation should be sure they are not supporting national involvement simply because it is the current fad in missions." (155)


Questions to ask about supporting national ministries: (156)

1.      What national programs should a funding church support?

o       Focus on unreached groups.

o       Get a list of past donors and call them to get an assessment of the ministry.

o       Contact an expatriate on the field and ask his opinion of the work.

2.      Should the funding church pay for the support of church-planters, evangelists, or church building programs? 

o       No.  Instead, support training, schools, literature, or other projects that equip nationals for ministry.


Sometimes good strategy ends up being defeated by bad management.  "Good ideas are only as good as those who can implement them." (161)


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