Because 127 Worldwide connects and equips advocates from the West and non-Western ministry partners, cross-cultural awareness is critical. We labor to bring the best of what the West offers to the table, while respecting the unique context of our partners’ work and the factors that affect their ministry. We constantly have to ask, “Just because we think this way is best, is it necessarily right for them?” Studying cultural dynamics helps us safeguard ourselves and our advocates from doing more harm than good.
We recognize that all of these dimensions exist on a spectrum, and wisdom requires the ability to move between dimensions as we love God and neighbor. Exposure to different dimensions of culture gives us better tools to think deeply, love fully, and serve wisely.
It can be all too easy to expect local leaders to conform to our standards and miss the opportunity for both of us to be sharpened together. We risk creating partners in the image of the West rather than all of us being conformed to the image of Christ.
This resource from the US State Department introduces 11 dimensions of culture that describe various values that guide peoples’ lives. As you read each dimension, consider where your family falls on the spectrum and then how someone who falls at another point might approach life differently.
- When partnering across cultures, an awareness of different values and can prevent many misunderstandings. For instance, how might someone from an egalitarian culture interpret the leadership style of someone from a hierarchical culture? How might a person from a relationship-oriented culture respond to the actions of a person from a task-oriented culture?
- Give an example of how you might apply wisdom to move along the spectrum for any of these dimensions.
The State Department also identifies eleven concepts that form the foundation of American values. It’s like a crash course for the international traveler coming to visit America for the first time. But it’s also a valuable tool for us to see ourselves more clearly. What do we bring as our metaphorical baggage when we travel overseas that we didn’t even intend to pack?
Use this resource as a mirror to see how others might perceive you and to evaluate how you’ve been shaped personally by your home culture.
- Given what you have learned about the dimensions of culture, what positive things do you imagine someone from another culture might admire about your American values? What values might leave a negative impact on a host culture or be a hurdle for you to overcome in cross-cultural relationships?
- How might you use these cultural values to encourage gospel work and help vulnerable communities flourish? Alternatively, how could you employ those same values in ways that impeded gospel work and do harm to vulnerable peoples?