ChangingLanesChanging Lanes, Crossing Cultures: Equipping Christians and churches for ministry in a culturally diverse society
By Andrew Schachtel, Choon-Hwa Lim and Michael K Wilson
Sydney: Great Western Press, 2016

Reviewed By Mark Simon, Lecturer In New Testament And Research Associate, Ridley College, Melbourne

Changing Lanes, Crossing Cultures is a timely and practical book for individuals and churches wishing to begin or enhance an existing cross-cultural gospel ministry within Australia. Using the analogy of good driving habits, the book seeks to outline the why, what, how, and when of reaching ethnic minorities with the gospel. The book is structured in 6 modules which are designed for study by a church leadership group such as a parish council, or a local missions task-group. The modules are (in turn):

  • The biblical motivation for ministry across cultures; ‘the why’
  • Ministry in an ethnically diverse society; ‘the why’
  • Dealing with hindrances to ministry across cultures; ‘the what’
  • Increasing your cultural intelligence and skills; ‘the how’
  • The importance of leadership and management for ministry across cultures; ‘the how’ and
  • Where to from here? ‘the how and when.’

Module 1 covers some of the same territory broached in Ben Clements’ article in this volume of Essentials; that is, biblical and pragmatic motivations for cross-cultural ministry.

Module 2 details the increasingly multi-ethnic nature of Australian society: over a quarter of Australia’s population come from approximately 200 different overseas countries. It elaborates how different immigrants might express their ethnicity from isolation to assimilation.

For me, modules 3 and 4 were the most practical, since they equipped me as a church leader to tackle the default ethnocentrism of my own church. Simply naming the illegitimate hindrances to ministry to ethnically-diverse communities is liberating. The book identifies the following ones: no burden for the lost; over-dependence on social factors and feeling comfortable within one’s own people group; ethnic difference; ethnocentrism and racism; painful history; lack of gospel-driven leadership; preserving church culture; confusion of gospel and culture; cultural barriers; cultural distance; lack of community; spiritual opposition. Having identified these illegitimate barriers, the book encourages us with a reflection on Peter’s cross-cultural awakening in Acts 10, and then tabulating possible solutions for each one (pages 82-86). The book is worth its price for these pages alone!

Module 4 continues by dealing with the nuts and bolts of improving cultural intelligence. It introduces six lenses through which cultural difference can be understood. This chapter also encourages all Christians to take the time to observe, listen, and learn from the ethnic groups around us. Lastly, it points out that practising hospitality is a sure-fire way to develop relationships with minority ethnic contacts, and to grow in cultural intelligence.

Modules 5 and 6 round out the book with material on the cultural dimensions of leadership, and some ways of planning to launch or enhance ministries to ethnic minorities in our own communities. Most Australian churches now periodically engage in some form of mission action planning or strategic planning for ministry. Incorporating study of this book in the next round of your church’s planning cycle would help to ensure you are not neglecting this burgeoning harvest field so close at hand to many of our churches today.