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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Effective Intercultural Communications" (A. Scott Moreau, Evvy Hay Campbell, and Susan Greener)

TITLE: Effective Intercultural Communication: A Christian Perspective (Encountering Mission)
AUTHOR: A. Scott Moreau, Evvy Hay Campbell, and Susan Greener
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014, (416 pages).

What does it take to bring the message of Christ across different nations, ethnic groups, cultures, languages, and unfamiliar territories? How can one communicate the gospel in ways that another culture can comprehend? What can one learn from the past efforts in cross-cultural missions and communications? For Christians, there are three chief theological reasons why we need to maintain a spirit of learning and improving on intercultural communications. First, we are made in the image of God who communicates. In turn, we communicate the love of God in Christ because God first reached out to us. Our response to God's love is to share the good news with people, including those very different from us. Second, we serve God and will naturally want to share the good news. Third, it is a command. We are called to reach out in love. This is necessary so that we would not become complacent and forget that God's love is for the whole world, not just our own circle of friends.

Written in four parts, Moreau, Campbell, and Greener, all scholars and professors in the field of intercultural studies believe that intercultural communication is not only important for cross cultural missions, it is vital for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • Part 1 - Introducing Intercultural Communications
  • Part 2 - Foundations of Intercultural Communication Patterns
  • Part 3 - Patterns of Intercultural Communications
  • Part 4 - Developing Intercultural Expertise

Using their gifts as scholars and academics, they have come together to present to students a textbook for understanding the basics of intercultural communications, the different patterns adopted globally, the foundations, and the way forward to develop intercultural expertise. It is not enough to just have the pure gospel. We need to communicate it as appropriately and as biblically faithful as possible.

We learn that communications are dynamic, irreversible, proactive, interactive, and contextual. We learn about many layers of culture from human universals to individual idiosyncrasies. In between are national and ethnic peculiarities. We will learn about many different working models that traverse intercultural, crosscultural, interracial, interethnic, international, intracultural, minority, transcultural, and many other kinds of communications beyond any one particular entity. Historically, we note how the field of intercultural studies had developed from the 50s to the present. With so many perspectives and rich descriptions of various cultures and communication types, this book is a priceless resource for anyone interested in crosscultural matters.
  • Basic Values Model that shows the nuances of communications according to time, crisis, event, tasks, persons, status, achievement, philosophy of thought, and so on
  • Worldviews that intersect with faith and lifeway; and how worldviews are formed
  • Verbal forms of communications through language
  • Relational systems in Urban and rural societies
  • Group structures and how communications vary from type to type
  • Nonverbal communications like stillness, vocal apparatus, artifacts, body movements, timing, and others
I appreciate the meticulous attention to details with regards to describing the various forms of intercultural communications. I find my own understanding deepened, my knowledge widened, and my interest heightened. As I read the book, I think it is important to learn three things. First, humility must be core to learning. knowledge is important but the wisdom on how to use that knowledge is equally important. This means a spirit of humility must underline all the knowledge gained in this book. I concur with the authors that "expertise is a strong word." Just because one is well-read in the subject or had spent many years in the area do not necessarily make that person an expert of sorts. It is because the field of communications is so wide and constantly changing, what worked in the past may not necessarily work in the present. Second, let the Holy Spirit guide us in our intercultural communications. be open to the possibility that even when the factors and circumstances resemble the past, the way to approach communications will still be different. This requires the sensitivity to the third Person of the Trinity to guide us in all communications. When we are on a mission for Christ, it is important to maintain a spiritual angle to whatever we are doing. The spiritually heightened individual will be better equipped to deal with the matters pertaining to faith and works. Third, intercultural communications is essentially about growth and learning. This book ought to be used as a launchpad to such learning. Reading the entire book is only whetting one's appetite for learning. There are much more yet to be discovered or shared by veteran missionaries and ministry teams worldwide, across borders, cultures, histories, and all distinctives of each people group. Even within any one group, culture evolves over time. What was valid previously may be replaced presently.

After all that is said, I commend this book for anyone interested in missions, communications, cultural understanding, in developing missional communities, or in any other forms of outreach. With the many useful sidebars to concisely point out the essential points, the eloquent quotes from respected individuals, and the questions at the end of each chapter to stir discussion, this very well written book makes it a pleasure for learning.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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