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Crossing Cultures with the Gospel

Anthropological Wisdom for Effective Christian Witness

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Southwestern Journal of Theology 2023 Book Award (Honorable Mention, Evangelism/Missions/Global Church)

Drawing on forty years of teaching and mission experience, leading missiological anthropologist Darrell Whiteman brings a wealth of insight to bear on cross-cultural ministry.

After explaining the nature and function of culture and the importance of understanding culture for ministry, Whiteman addresses the most common challenges of ministering across cultures. He then provides practical solutions based on lived experience, helping readers develop healthy patterns so they can communicate the gospel effectively. Issues addressed include negotiating differences in worldview, the problem of nonverbal communication, understanding cultural forms and their meanings, and the challenge of overcoming culture shock.

Professors, students, and anyone ministering cross-culturally will benefit from this informed yet accessible guide. Foreword by Miriam Adeney.

Foreword by Miriam Adeney
1. Conversion of the Missionary
Part 1: The Concept of Culture
2. Understanding Culture in Mission
3. The Functions of Culture
Part 2: Incarnational Ministry
4. The Incarnational Model
5. Incarnational Communication
Part 3: Common Communication Problems
6. Worldview Differences
7. Unintended Paramessages
8. Misusing Cultural Forms and Space
Part 4: Overcoming Culture Shock
9. Understanding Culture Shock
10. The Symptoms and Stages of Culture Shock
11. Cures for Culture Shock
Part 5: Growing into Effective Communicators
12. Discovering Cultural Differences
13. Becoming Aware of Cultural Baggage
14. Strategies for Effectively Crossing Cultural Boundaries


"Darrell Whiteman is a master teacher of cross-cultural missionaries around the world. This book summarizes his insights on incarnational mission. A fount of practical knowledge, Whiteman interweaves his own experiences with biblical insights and anthropological theories. I find great wisdom and inspiration in these pages."

Dana L. Robert, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, Boston University

"Darrell Whiteman's gift to us in this book is a magnificent tour de force, an eloquent summary of a life lived helping people imitate God's self-emptying, incarnational love as they participate in God's mission. It is warm, wise, inspiring, beautifully written, passionate, eminently practical, and deeply challenging. It should be read by every missionary but also by any disciple who yearns to minister faithfully, creatively, and effectively in today's multicultural church and world."

Stephen Bevans, SVD, Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD Professor of Mission and Culture, Emeritus, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago

"It is not every day that you come across a missiological text that should be required reading for every current and future cross-cultural worker. Crossing Cultures with the Gospel, however, is such a text. With over forty-five years of cross-cultural experience, Darrell Whiteman's engaging approach to missiological anthropology invites both the novice and veteran missionary to explore anew the centrality of culture in cross-cultural ministry. Filled with scholarly insight, hard-earned wisdom, and personal reflection, Whiteman provides practical anthropological tools and perspectives that are essential for effective cross-cultural witness. Crossing Cultures with the Gospel is an invaluable missiological resource that scholars, mission practitioners, and mission educators will return to again and again."

Sarita Gallagher Edwards, author of Christ among the Nations: Narratives of Transformation in Global Mission

"In Crossing Cultures with the Gospel, Darrell Whiteman tackles head-on the ubiquitous problem of Christians confusing their own culture with the gospel. Using his knowledge as an anthropologist and his lifetime of experience, he provides the reader with practical skills to live as an effective incarnational Christian in any setting. Whether crossing the street or the globe, this book is a must-have for anyone living as a cross-cultural witness."

Leanne M. Dzubinski, professor of leadership and director of the Beeson International Center, Asbury Theological Seminary

"When I first met Darrell on a mission trip to a remote area in northern Kenya, I was struck by his genuine interest in and deep insights into the local cultures and the gospel. Since then I have had the distinct privilege of being trained and mentored by him. In this book he deftly explores key topics of culture, incarnational ministry, worldview, culture shock, and effective communication. He has had the privilege of not only training on these topics but also living out the truths as he serves across the globe. I wholeheartedly endorse this significant book for all of us who are spiritual pilgrims--crossing cultures with the gospel in an ever-changing world."

Duncan Olumbe, regional director, Interserve

"In this highly readable volume, Darrell Whiteman at last shares with us the fruit of decades of reflection and practical experience. Peppered with provocative concepts and illustrated with numerous stories, this text is sure to launch lively discussions. Readers will be stimulated to become better students of culture and more effective cultural bridge-builders for the gospel."

Craig Ott, professor of mission and intercultural studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Every Christian who responds to God's invitation to proclaim the gospel--with one's words and one's life--within an unfamiliar culture will benefit greatly from the practical wisdom distilled in this book. A seasoned teacher and one of America's leading missiological anthropologists, Whiteman proposes an incarnational model of ministry that will challenge and inspire teachers, students, and practitioners of mission to be more attentive to their own cultures and the cultures of their hosts."

Thomas John Hastings, editor, International Bulletin of Mission Research; retired executive director, OMSC@PTS

"Drawing from decades spent coaching and mentoring missionaries and from deep knowledge of cultural anthropology, Darrell Whiteman has written a helpful and easy-to-read book for everyone involved in day-to-day cross-cultural ministry. It is filled with vivid illustrations and practical suggestions for learning about culture, coping with culture shock, developing close trust relationships with local people, and communicating the gospel wisely and well."

Robert J. Priest, professor emeritus of anthropology, Taylor University

"This is the book I have been waiting for. As a student in Darrell's seminary class on anthropology for Christian witness, I was both inspired and challenged by his insights from anthropology for missions today. He captivated the class with a unique combination of humor, wisdom, and probing questions. It was truly a life-transforming experience. I have often wondered what was Darrell's 'secret sauce.' That secret sauce is now captured in this book. Instead of armchair missiology, this book provides wisdom from someone who has been there and lived it. His insights are drawn from his own relationships with many of the 'champions of missiology,' which the reader will recognize. While the theory presented is as relevant today as it was when I first heard it a few years ago, Darrell's probing questions can lead to practical applications for the reader who dives in and trusts this master teacher. This book is also an invaluable resource for professors and trainers of intercultural workers. Darrell has traveled across the globe (several times). Based on his decades-long experience training others in a wide array of contexts, he provides a teaching approach that is tried and true. It is surely a resource I will use in my own teaching. In short, if you have been looking for a book that provides wisdom from a leading missiologist and also provides a tested approach for training intercultural workers, look no further. Darrell provided a life-changing experience in the classroom, and this book lives up to its author's reputation."

W. Jay Moon, professor of evangelism and church planting, Asbury Theological Seminary

"I was mesmerized the first time I attended one of Darrell's lectures. The way he made Jesus come alive, unpacked the concept of culture, and gregariously interacted with the class left a significant impression on me. After hearing him speak many times since, I was thrilled to learn that Darrell has recorded his thoughts and experiences in a book. It's about time! I am especially excited to share this tool with the burgeoning missions movement spreading from Ethiopia to the ends of the earth."

Richard Coleman, cross cultural witness, TMS Global & EvaSUE

"Darrell Whiteman, globally renowned missiological anthropologist, has expertly woven together various strands of his life and ministry--academic scholarship as an anthropologist, missionary service in Papua New Guinea, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, and master trainer of thousands of cross-cultural witnesses around the world--to produce this magnificent tapestry, Crossing Cultures with the Gospel. As his student and colleague, with immense joy I recommend this magnum opus, written with profound wisdom and great lucidity for 'such a time as this.'"

PrabhuSingh Vedhamanickam, principal and professor of anthropology and missions, South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies, Bangalore, India

The Author

  1. Darrell L. Whiteman

    Darrell L. Whiteman

    Darrell L. Whiteman (PhD, Southern Illinois University) is founder and director of Global Development, a missiological training and discipleship ministry. After missionary service in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Central Africa, he taught for...

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Southwestern Journal of Theology 2023 Book Award (Honorable Mention, Evangelism/Missions/Global Church)