“If we desire to be obedient to Jesus’ command to carry the good news of his resurrection to the world, we must be willing to become 150 percent persons. We must accept the value priorities of others. We must learn the different definitions and rules of the context in which they live. We must adopt their patterns and procedures for working, playing, and worshiping. We must become incarnate in their culture and make them our family and friends.” -Sherwood Lingenfelter and Marvin K. Mayers in “Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships” (final paragraph of book)
For those unfamiliar with the terms in cross-cultural missions:
1. “becoming incarnate”. Lingenfelter and Mayers are using the incarnation (enfleshment, birth) of God with us on earth as a model for how we should serve on mission. They note two related ideas here. First, Jesus came as a helpless infant into a foreign culture (the world). He did not come as a ruler, or in a privileged state. Missionaries should not come in as rulers, leaders, conquerors. Second, Jesus came as a learner. He learned local language and culture, living with the people and working within the existing systems. Missionaries should see themselves first as learners… long before becoming teachers.
2. “150 percent person”. We describe Jesus as “fully man” and “fully God”. We could quantify this as 100% man, 100% God. We could then describe Jesus as a 200% person. When missionaries work in a new culture incarnationally, we learn and grow in that culture. It is not realistic that we ever fully enculturate. We will always fail to fit in on a certain level. The practical ideal is that we achieve 75% fit in culture B. We also have our home culture. We retain our home culture, but we begin to lose qualities that make us fully fit in back home. We trend towards perhaps a 75% fit in culture A. So for Lingenfelter and Mayer, the ideal for a missionary is not to be a 200% person, which is beyond our capability, but to be a 150% person– 75% enculturated to both home culture and new culture.