Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer
Salty Believer: Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer
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Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer
Duane Elmer has traveled and taught in over seventy-five countries, serving as a cross-cultural missionary and teacher.
After hearing him lecture on the topic of cross-cultural servanthood, many people have asked Dr. Elmer
material is in print (14).
Cross-Cultural Servanthood is his attempt to put his knowledge and experience into publication after fifteen years of "reading and researching the topic, gathering stacks of articles and ideas and interviewing people in numerous countries" (14).
book "focuses on relational and adjustment competency so that the servant spirit we wish to portray will, in fact, be seen and valued by the local people" (14).
Cross-Cultural Servanthood, by Elmer's own words is a book that "examines the process of becoming a cross-cultural servant," drawing from his
personal experience to include his
failures, the experiences of others from many countries, research, and Scripture (19).
In three parts, Elmer
addresses a basic overview of servanthood in general, the process of servanthood in other cultures, and a consequences of mixing leadership and servanthood with the previous two parts.
other publications include Cross-Cultural Conflict, Cross-Cultural Connections, and Cross-Cultural Partnerships.
Elmer earned a Ph.D. at Michigan State and presently is the G. W. Aldeen Professor of International Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
wife, "born and raised in Zimbabwe with a Canadian mother," offers additional insight and is present in a number of illustrations throughout the book.
In what follows, an overview of Elmer's work will be offered.
Significant points and arguments of servanthood and culture made by Elmer
will be summarized as they develop through the three parts of the book.
Following the summary is an examination and analysis of the author's work proceeded by a brief conclusion.
Cross-Cultural Servanthood is ultimately about servanthood in the form of mission and evangelism work.
From the first page of his
opens with an illustration of understanding cultural differences.
It may have been his
first real understanding (or lack there of) servanthood.
new bride asked what he
would like for breakfast and he
But when he
sat down for breakfast, his
expectation of over-medium eggs was sitting face-to-face with poached eggs.
Of the resulting conversation, Elmer
writes, "My wife's desire to serve me in this simple but meaningful event was misinterpreted and badly handled by me.
I was not thinking servanthood" (12).
uses this simple and easy to understand example to express the simultaneous difficulty and simplicity that is cross-cultural servanthood.
continues, "Servanthood is revealed in simple, everyday events.
But it's complex because servanthood is culturally defined-that is, serving must be sensitive to the cultural landscape while remaining true to the Scripture.
That is both the challenge and the burden of servanthood-and of this book" (12).
After using himself as the poor example, Elmer
seizes the opportunity to confess that for much of the first part of his
missionary life, he
was culturally insensitive and did not have the correct servant attitude he
feels is necessary for missionary work and evangelism, and subsequently this is also the primary topic of his
"Serving," according to Elmer
, "is the ability to relate to people in such a way that their dignity as human beings is affirmed and they are more empowered to life God-glorifying lives" (146).
Matthew, Luke, and John are the three primary biblical sources used by Elmer
to make his
Outside of the very fact that Christ entered our culture to serve us, Jesus provided the best picture of servanthood when he
disciples' feet (13, 22-26).
Christ gave up of the robe, that is, the appearance of his
Kingship, and took on the towel of the lowly servant to wash his
implies, Christian servants are also to give up the position of honor for the position of servanthood in the name of Christ, following Jesus' example.
Secular examples from various fields of social studies and practical observation are also used throughout the book.
In the opening part of the work, Elmer
shares a parable of a monkey and a fish.
The monkey, seeing the fish struggling in the current, grabs the fish and lays it on the bank.
Eventually the fish is motionless and the monkey thinks he
did a good thing for the fish (27-28).
Elmer's point is summed up in his
statement: "The fish likely saw the arrogance of the monkey's assumption that what was good for monkeys would also be good for fish.
This arrogance, hidden from the monkey's consciousness, far overshadowed his
kindness in trying to help the fish.
Thus good intentions are not enough" (28).
The monkey is the Elmer's focus; through the remainder of the book, the reader is encouraged to be more culturally aware.
Part Two is loaded with examples of people from one culture entering into another with incorrect assumptions.
Generally, the most glaring examples are when Western culture meets Eastern, or when either enter the "Two-Thirds world" culture, as Elmer
often calls most of African and other improvised nations.
Elmer's goal of Part Two (and really much of the other two parts as well) is to keep the reader from being a monkey (37).
To encourage his
reader to have a true attitude of servanthood, Elmer
spends a great deal of pages working on cultural awareness.
writes, "Therefore, let us intentionally, everyday, ask what we have learned about how a servant looks and acts in this culture.
Otherwise we may be deluded into thinking we are serving when others may not see it that way at all" (37).
It is in this section that Elmer
identifies a linear model to help one integrate into and understand a culture other than his
best explains it in reverse order, Elmer's model for entering and serving another culture starts with Openness.
"Openness with people of other cultures" Elmer
says, "requires that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone to initiate and sustain relationship in context of cultural differences" (151).
The next step is Acceptance.
In this step, there must be a comfort and feeling of safety around one another (151).
Acceptance is followed by Trust.
On trust, Elmer
writes, "You can't build trust with another person until they feel like they have been accepted by you-until they feel that you value them as human beings" (151).
Then comes learning.
After trust is established, there is a greater likelihood that people will share important information (151).
And finally, there can be understanding.
Understanding requires that one "learns from them and, eventually, with them" (150-151).
However, immediately after outlining this linear model with the help of six chapters of illustrations, Elmer
provides a diagram from the Eastern, non-linear approach.
In this model, all of these area point toward servanthood and one would not have to work through all of them before serving others (152).
shows the model with a diagram and explains it in two paragraphs; then he
writes, "Use the model that works best for you" 152).
And then Elmer
concludes first with the idea that cross-cultural servanthood requires practice and second, that all are called to something that will require servanthood.
states, "God has a significant role for you in his
But it can be significant only if you are able to follow the servanthood of Jesus, which is difficult in the best of circumstances but especially challenging in the places that are foreign to you" (198).
CRITICAL INTERACTION OF THE AUTHOR'S WORK
effort to share his
knowledge and skill set should be appreciated by those desiring to serve a mission or plant a church in a culture different than their own.
, in the opinion of this author, should have concluded without the introduction of the new topic of leadership.
Elmer's model for cross-culture servanthood can be applied to local cultures, but none of his
examples demonstrated anybody reaching differing cultures within the boarder of the United States, or even Western cultures.
did not address situations like service on a Native American reservation, or into the inner city, or in a poverty-laden area.
Modern trends are encouraging missionaries and church planters to go into cultures different then their own but still closer to home-be it rural or urban, east or west, New York or LA or Portland or Salt Lake, or even differing cultures within their same area.
Given the large number of those reaching into these different cultures, Elmer
might have served a broader readership had he
included some of the aspects of subtle cultural differences.
Or maybe this should be the topic of an additional book that places the focus of serving the different cultures within our own communities.
Cross-Cultural Servanthood i