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Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Missions [Paperback]

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Item description for Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Missions by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter...

Lingenfelter sets out a model for understanding the workings of a society and then applies this model to conflicts missionaries and nationals often face over economic and social issues. He makes the second edition more accessible than the first by clarifying concepts, adding case studies, and reducing the book's length. October '98 publication date.

Publishers Description
In "Transforming Culture," Lingenfelter sets out a model for understanding the workings of a society and then applies this model to conflicts missionaries and nationals often face over economic and social issues. Utilizing a plethora of case studies and personal anecdotes, he identifies the root of the conflicts and contradictory assumptions that make it difficult for missionaries and nationals to work together, and guides readers to solutions for transforming culture.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Academic
Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.6" Width: 5.42" Height: 0.52"
Weight:   0.61 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 5, 2012
Publisher   Baker Academic
Age  18
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0801021782  
ISBN13  9780801021787  

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More About Sherwood G. Lingenfelter

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Sherwood G. Lingenfelter (PhD, University of Pittsburgh) is provost emeritus and senior professor of anthropology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Marvin K. Mayers (1927-2015; PhD, University of Chicago) founded the Cook School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University, where he taught for many years.

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > Missions & Missionary Work
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Religion

Christian Product Categories
Books > Church & Ministry > Church Life > Missions

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Reviews - What do customers think about Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Mission?

Review of "Transforming Culture" for Pepperdine Missions class  Dec 14, 2005
Lingenfelter's book opens with the valuable point that Christians are pilgrims on earth, participants in the culture of Christ. Going beyond the differences between "collectivistic" cultures and "individualistic" cultures, he identifies five different social games (hierarchic, egalitarian, etc.) which determine cultural bias and are used in the rest of the book to help identify ideas such as property, privacy, family and authority, dispute resolution and communication, the concepts of borrowing and repaying, and of labor and patronage. He provides helpful grids and a quiz, all to help the reader to identify his or her own social game. This is all valuable for someone preparing to go into the mission field, as cultural bias is brought into mission along with other baggage. It is a book that should be read carefully and thoroughly, as it could be overwhelming for someone preparing to enter the mission field to recognize the responsibility to be sensitive to the cultural games of the people group while at the same time evangelizing to this group.

Lingenfelter's many examples (the Aukans, the Yapese, the Javanese) are interesting and it is valuable that he refers to all people he describes (including Westerners) as "people", bringing credibility to the idea of working against "monoculturalism", so that no one culture is better or more evolved than another. Lingenfelter works hard to stay true to the idea of living according to the culture of Christ. He emphasizes submission and the cross as guiding principles for missionaries, who should be seen as benefactors instead of as servants, reminding the reader that the mission belongs to Christ and not to the missionary or to the church. His point on leadership and how it is easy to give power to church leaders, is a very important point that should be noted for missionaries as well as for church leaders at home- are we placing to much emphasis on our leaders and not enough on God? Is leadership given based on seniority or based on skill? It is important to note that Lingenfelter does not (explicitly at least), place judgment on any single social game (the Authoritarian/Bureaucratic social game is not better or worse than the Egalitarian/Collective social game). The question to be asked at the end of the book is not even which game is "better" but rather to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each game, (admitting our own weaknesses can be humbling), while at the same time asking is the culture of the church conforming to the culture of Christ or to the culture of the world?
J. Wolfe, Graduate Student  Dec 14, 2005
Lingenfelter's work truly lives up to its subtitle, "A Challenge for Christian Mission." This work must be made elevated as a standard in the field of missiology, and must be on the shelf of every missionary's library and in the hands of every church mission board. This book will make all radically rethink their approach to integration within a target community. Lingenfelter deftly observes and analyzes cultures from across the globe and simplifies their social structures into four categories easy for understanding. An upcoming missionary should be aware of the social games that are played in his/her target group, and should furthermore be thinking on how to adapt him/herself and the message of the Gospel to be accepted by them. Lingenfelter's main premise is that he asks missionaries going abroad to take only the Gospel with them and instead of transferring their own culture with the Gospel to his/her target groups to allow the Gospel, and only the Gospel, to transform the culture of the target group while still allowing its indigenous sociological games to remain intact. Lingenfelter is speaking out against the imposing of Western styles of "doing church" on foreign target groups for mission work. His statement is quite valid.
Lingenfelter's work encompasses six sociological factors: property, labor and productivity, generosity and exchange, authority and the family, authority and community, and disputes, conflicts, and communication. He offers several cultural comparisons from his global research to illuminate his conclusions and to offer concrete examples of how one is able to adapt to new cultural standards and behaviors. He then calls for a transforming Gospel to be brought to these cultures, a Gospel that he defines as "a message free from cultural biases that acts only to liberate reached people from the powers of sin." This powerful message is an idea that has emerged in all new mission strategies. In fact, it is vital to continued success on the mission field.
Vital Information for Anyone Involved in Ministry!!  Dec 13, 2005
Sherwood Lingenfelter's book Transforming Culture is an instant classic not only for the student of missiology, but also for ministers and church leaders. With the demographics of the world constantly changing, it is evident that a paradigm shift must take place in order for God's people to be transformed into his likeness. Lingenfelter concerns himself with this very principle as he explores the human tendencies to reject and accept change within our modern culture.

The paradigm shift, Lingenfelter speaks of, is concerned with invoking change within what has labels an "individualistic" society. Not only do we live in a world that caters to our everyday needs, but we have the ability to turn our religious lives into that same consumerism which declares, "Have it your way!" How do we change our culture, or the culture we are working in, to draw the church in the "direction of the universals of faith?" Lingenfelter's book suggests that in order to change we must envision ourselves as "cross-cultural" people. Christians who minister within the contextualization of their culture can avoid the various "social games" in order to reach people in a way that impacts them in their own context.

Regarding ministers or students, this book is exactly what our churches and institutions have been in need of; a quantitative way in which to examine our congregations' health. For missionaries and Missiologists, Lingenfelter provides reliable statistics combined with practical ministry lessons to learn with which to analyze against the backdrop of the gospel. The importance of this book is that it is not only meant for these two groups. I believe that Lingenfelter speaks to a third group. For leaders of church ministries this book can be for you. Social games do not only affect foreign lands, but they also affect our church life. Lingenfelter writes this book with the purpose of identifying these social games (hiearchist, authoritarian, individualist, autonomy, and egalitarian), which can plague a ministry. In order to create an effective strategy for changing a culture you must identify the problem. The problem lies in our inability to break from the social models that encompass our cultures, which in turn cause a chain reaction of apathy and malignity. For this change to take place it is vital that we do not view culture as a neutral ground for communicating, but the vital entry point for transforming the dominant worldview.

From a biblical perspective, Transforming Culture contains appropriate scriptural basis for its principles along with case studies for the missionary who works within this context. It is clear that Lingenfelter writes from the mind of a Missiologist, presenting statistical data from foreign countries, while leaving room for application to other ministries. This book is a well-written, thought-provoking, guide for identifying the problems associated with both domestic and foreign ministries. With the help of Lingenfelter your church or ministry can move toward a contextualized worldview that will aid in transforming the culture around you.
How does the Gospel challenge ALL cultures?  Dec 11, 2005
Lingenfelter clearly lays out his purpose of this work towards the end of the first chapter, stating that it "is to help the reader comprehend the dimensions of our cultural prisons and discover some of the biblical keys that will allow us to unlock the chains of our cultural habits and the gates to our cultural walls." (21)

While Lingenfelter sets his book towards international missions and aiding the cross-cultural missionary, I felt he had much to say that applies to American Christianity. He addresses a question I think many authors stop short of: "What does it look like for the Gospel to transform a culture?" Naturally the Gospel will be in conflict with any and all cultures. (Even though we might not think it is with our American one.) "The contradiction between the pilgrim principle, with its emphasis on the universal church and other-worldliness, and the indigenous principle, with its emphasis on self-support, self-government, and self-propagation in independent this-worldliness, is implicit in all church ministries." (15) He is able to point out that cultures share a few things in common. "Culture, like a slot machine, is programmed to ensure that those who hold power win and the common players lose; when or if the organized agenda is violated, people frequently resort to violence to reestablish their programmed advantage." (16) Lingenfelter raises the point that, "when the Gospel challenges with power any worldview, unbelievers react to defend their view and may inflict great distress upon Christians." (17) He dives into exactly what it looks like for the Gospel to confront various cultures and societies.

As was mentioned by the other reviewers, Lingenfelter uses 5 different social games that subscribe to different combinations of "group" and "grid". He uses excellent illustrations from his experiences in missions to help the reader visualize these social games. Lingenfelter spends chapter three covering important aspects of social games - property, labor and productivity, generosity and exchange. Each society approaches these aspects differently. However, the Gospel calls for a response that breaks these accepted social games.

In chapters 6-8 he addresses the social games of authority in the family, authority within the community, and conflict/communication. In each of these areas he uses illustrations from various cultures such as the Yapese and Aukan, as well as biblical narratives.

By the end of the book, Lingenfelter has addressed many different aspects of cultures and has shown how the Gospel calls all aspects of all cultures to be transformed in some way or another. If what Jesus presents in Matthew is a new ethic and portrait for the kingdom of God, what Lingenfelter fleshes out is what the reality of the Kingdom of God looks like in various cultures. While the book does not spend a great deal of time on American churches, it indirectly offers full critiques to be placed on our current "Christian culture."

Liberating Yet Confined  May 8, 2005
Sherwood Lingenfelter is a well known author in the field of Church and culture. In his book Transforming Culture, he writes about "social and cultural systems" which exert "powerful pressure" both on the Church and on unredeemed society. These are "prisons of disobedience" of which Christians may often be largely unaware. Therefore we are called upon to "see clearly", so that we may "unlock the chains of our cultural habits and the gates to our cultural walls". The book contains several illuminating examples of Christians who do run into such cultural "walls".

For the purpose of identifying and recognising "prisons of disobedience", Lingenfelter employs a simple sociological model which originated in secular form with social anthropologist Mary Douglas. He uses this to "decipher the unique features of a social game and understand its social order". This draws out any one of five basic social games, which in turn should enable the Christian to submit to an existing social order "for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God". He sees the Christian as a "pilgrim", who "engages society through any and all of the five social games", thus becoming "a player" in the social games of culture, in the interests of his or her witness within that culture.

Lingenfelter's touchstone for interpreting and transforming culture is the sociological model described. This has a number of implications, not all of which I am able to comment on without reserve. Most importantly, instead of viewing Church and culture primarily in terms of one's relationship with Christ, he analyses these primarily in terms of his model. He describes how a missionary badly lost his sense of priority due to his "social values". In another example, a man displays serious cultural bias, "perhaps motivated by [...] values". We are "motivated by" social values, and "the issue is [...] the values that lie behind our attitudes". The question for Lingenfelter is, "What values compel us?"

I would offer by way of contrast that many Bible characters were compelled by a vision of the glory of the Lord. We serve a God of glory, power, and majesty, and as we give Him pre-eminence in our lives, all other things lose their primary value - including our culturally conditioned priorities. Therefore while Lingenfelter's model serves to make his subject matter interesting, uncomplicated, and accessible to the reader, and highlights some important issues of which the Christian should be aware, it really is too much fixated with culture and values, and lacks a "grander" Christian vision.

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