missionary life

Ministry is Intercultural

By Mark Hedinger

The United Nations reports that 225 million people live outside of their homeland. If that many people were a single nation, it would be the 5th largest nation on earth. Can you imagine all of Brazil, for instance, leaving home and being scattered among the nations of the earth?

Never before have so many people lived in a language and culture different from their homeland.

This fact affects you. This fact affects me.

  • Maybe your company has posted you to work outside your own country. As a Christian you want to be light and salt of the gospel with colleagues from your host culture.
  • Maybe you are a missionary involved in theological or church-based work far from your homeland.
  • Perhaps you are still “at home” but as you greet neighbors moving into your city, you realize how many national backgrounds they represent.
  • Perhaps you work in military, academic or medical professions, and on a daily basis you rub shoulders with colleagues from many nations.
  • And if it is not you who are personally involved, it could well be your sons and daughters or the other churches in your fellowship or denomination.

Christian ministry has long been described as bridge-building between the kingdom of God and people on earth. It is the idea of knowing God and knowing people. That idea takes on a new twist, though, when knowing people means learning a culture that is different from your own. What does it look like to build a bridge to people whose values, thought patterns, and family structure are simply not what you have experienced? What does it look like to minister in the intercultural environment that is planet earth in the 21st century?

We invite you to consider this topic through the Center for Leadership Development. The “Certificate in Intercultural Ministry” will give you an overview of the intercultural world we live in. It will give insight into what it means to understand and make disciples among people of a different language and culture.

The 13 clock hours of internet-based audio/video interaction are divided into the following topics:

  • Course #1 – Introduction to Intercultural Ministry in the 21st century: An overview of the intercultural world we live in today.
  • Course #2 – Diversity of Human Cultures: Recognizing what unites all of humanity, and some of the invisible differences that separate us.
  • Course #3- Intercultural Communication: Ideas to help build “in common” across cultural differences.
  • Course #4 – Tools for Learning Another Culture: Basic skills to understand what life looks like to people from another culture.
  • Course #5 – Culture Mapping: Discerning how to live and work effectively with people from another culture.
  • Course #6 – Conclusion: Using the topics presented in the program.

The courses are designed to be taken either as individual courses or altogether.

Even a few short decades ago, people simply did not travel and move as they do today. Ministry took place within a single culture, and so building that bridge was fairly intuitive. In our world today, that is no longer true. Ministry now almost always includes multiple cultures. Ministry has become intercultural. Join us for learning more about facing the joys and challenges of intercultural ministry.

In this sample clip from the first course, Mark discusses the biblical foundations of cultures and considers why intercultural ministry is important.


Why an Understanding of Intercultural Ministry is Important from Western Seminary on Vimeo.



Dr. Mark Hedinger is the Executive Director of WorldView. His experiences and training include 12 years of traditional mission service, followed by mission leadership in his sending organization’s headquarters. In 2008 he came to Portland, Oregon to work as one of the trainers in the WorldView culture training program. In that role he has prepared men and women from the US, Peru, Egypt, Uganda, Mexico, Panama and many other nations.

Together with Dr. Enoch Wan, Western Seminary’s professor of Intercultural Studies and Doctor of Intercultural Studies program director, Mark has recently published a book entitled, Relational Missionary Training: Theology, Theory & Practice.


Western’s Center for Leadership Development offers high-quality, biblically sound video courses in Bible, Theology, Faith, Work, and Economics, Leadership and Church Ministry, and Intercultural Ministry.