Ministering Cross-Culturally book review

Ministering Cross-Culturally book review
10 Point Rating9
9Overall Score

Date read: 02.18.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 9/10.

Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships, by Sherwood Lingenfelter on Amazon.


Judging by the title alone, this book is obviously focused toward those involved in cross-cultural missional efforts. But I believe that the impact can be felt among far broader demographics. The issue here is contextualization, and any Christian who seeks to become relevant (“incarnational” is the term that the author uses) within the cultural sphere he finds himself amongst will fare well with the astute contributions in this book.


As I have mentioned above, even if one were to remove the aspect of cross-cultural ministry, the issues that this book address would still be overwhelmingly beneficial. This book stands alone as a rare gem. Too infrequently do we speak in terms of contextualization on the mission field. Many cross-cultural ministers come with a subtle savior mentality, seeking to make converts without a relational foundation. But over and over again, the author pronounces that the bedrock of missionary success transpires through relationship. The themes he pursues—values, time, judgement, goals, self-worth, vulnerability—are some of the most important yet overlooked topics in the missionary endeavor. Therefore the content of this book is both apt and paramount.


Simple put, this book is about contextualization. If the reader arrives with any knowledge of the tension, strain and unpredictability of cross-cultural ministry, she will automatically realize that the provocative thoughts in this book are acutely applicable in multiple scenarios. Through experiential knowledge (his many years in Yap Island), the author expounds on common tensions that the cross-cultural minister faces. I found the clarity of the book lucid and coherent, though I struggled with a few illustrations, namely, the thought of a “150% person” as well as the personal profile graphs. I found the “150% person” concept a bit too peculiar to embrace and the graphs vague and obscure. A more thorough description would have been more helpful.


I appreciated the author’s personal accounts of his time in Yap. His life experiences of crossing cultures was thorough and enlightening, and he turned over large cultural rocks with ease. He articulated well many aspects of the ambiguous world of cross-cultural living. Moving from personal experience to instructive admonition, the author’s voice felt both compassionate and authoritative. He often seemed to take the side of the host culture, explaining in depth the worldview of Yap’s culture and individuals. This I appreciated as he came across as a minister constantly willing to learn.


This book is both well-written and informative. Often a book of this nature has a tendency to be overly academic and therefore difficult for the common reader to absorb. Ministering Cross-Culturally, however, tends to raise the reader to a higher intellectual plateau while expounding each thought in down-to-earth terms.


I found this book imbued with memorable quotes and practical encouragement. The author states that “missionaries, by the nature of their task, must become personally emmersed with people who are different. To follow the example of Christ, that of incarnation, means undergoing drastic personal reorientation.” I find myself hashing over sentences like this as I too seek to learn and grow in my cross-cultural environment. This book should be required reading for every short-term, hybrid, and long-term missionary.


I give Ministering Cross-Culturally a 9/10.

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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