A Ministry of First Baptist Church Elyria OH

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Culture – what is it?  How does it affect one’s ministry?

We had a young missionary (C. Kudlo – from City View Church in downtown Cleveland) Sunday who spoke on how one needs to understand the culture of the person you are trying to minister to.  Christ instruction to us is that we become transformed via His Spirit.  However, to reach people we need to consider where they are coming from in their personal world. 

Culture is generally thought of where you live, the community, and the home you are from.  That is true, however, the culture that Kaleb was trying to us to understand was that we have a learned knowledge of who we are by the experiences we have lived.  We will see things through this lens of reference, and it can be by no other means.  Thus, we need to respect the person for who they are, not for where we want them to change.  Let God do that for them, and He will.  Our job is to bring them ‘the gospel’ in a manner that they can “hear” what we are saying.

Culture – Definitions:
Noun – the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
Verb – maintain (tissue cells, bacteria, etc.) in conditions suitable for growth.

Wikipedia:  Culture (/ˈkʌltʃər/) is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.[1]    Humans acquire culture through the learning processes of enculturation and socialization, which is shown by the diversity of cultures across societies.   (The Underlined words are Links to “wikipedia” for the definition.)

It has been said that “culture” prevents the Gospel being heard as we try and communicate with another.  As we speak, we do so from our own cultural influence, thus to the listener they do not understand since they view the world differently and try and put the words into their world that we are not relating to.  It is as if they have a different language.  It would be as if you might be speaking English to a person that only know French. 

How to we get over past the hurdle?  There is a lot of information on what is “culture” it’s beginning as a word and the definition to the word.  Knowing the word is a start, but I think the understanding of our own self in how we have developed who we see ourselves to be might explain the complex situation facing us in the ministry of reaching others.

Review:  What are some of the “need(s)” that we all have?  A ‘need’ state drives us in search of fulfillment because of an unsatisfied existence within us at any given point.  For example:  We don’t really search for food until the need of satisfying our hunger become apparent within us.

Physiological needs ‑ the needs to have oxygen, eat, drink, rest, be protected from the elements, and so forth ‑ the “tissue needs.” 
Security and safety needs ‑ respectively, the needs to be free of fear of physiological deprivation and of the fear of physical danger.
Social needs ‑ the needs to belong, to be accepted, to be loved, and so forth.
Ego needs ‑ the needs to be respected, to be somebody, to gain recognition, prestige, status, and so forth.
Self‑Fulfillment needs ‑ the needs to realize one’s fullest potential in whatever guise it may take.  Among the modes of self‑fulfillment are religion, altruism, education, power, and artistic expression.

THE STAINED‑GLASS WINDOW  or one’s  Lens Of Reference

WE ARE a Solitary‑Confinement CELL.  No One ever gets inside our head and has experiences exactly as we do.  Therefore, at this highly personalized level, we are all isolated from one another. The only way to express this is through a form of communication.

Inside us, as a CELL, there is a WINDOW ‑ one aperture through which we have all our contact with the rest of the world in­cluding the people you deal with.  This window is what Behavioral Scientists call:  your “Frame of reference”.

However, this window is NOT clear plane of glass.  Actually, what we have is much more like a STRAINED‑GLASS WINDOW filled with a variety of peculiarly tinted, distorting lenses.  These developed “lenses” (the way we see/interpret the event around is) have been formed during our lifetime.  Example:  If we were taught that the world was flat and it was never proven different to us, then that is the “truth” as we see it and thus view everything with that Self-Accepted fact.  It use that because 1,000s once thought it was until they were convinced differently.  They would not sail off into the West because they just knew they would fall off or bump into a barrier of some sort.  With that idea, how many things were screwed in their thinking and yet, unknown to them as their lens of reference viewed the world around them with that falsehood?

Be assured that we all have a filtering system that has been developed over time.  We term it as ‘stained’ because there are misconceptions in all arenas of life. Having a stained window is inevitable, everyone comes in contact with many others who have their own STAINED GLASS WINDOW, seeing and interpreting the world as they know it to be true to their reference point within self.  Each of us have a Unique Stained‑glass window.

The question is can we do anything about it?   Are we destined to live out our lives peering through such spurious (bogus) media that we have developed and operate through that filter?  Em­phatically, no!  We can cope with these delusions essentially the same way we deal with any distortion.  Stick a pencil into a glass of water.  The pencil will appear to bend abruptly.  But if we can understand the nature of the self-deception actually “refraction” in this case) ‑ we can learn to compensate for it and/or clear up the stained window to clear understanding or adjustment. THUS, we can aim at where the pencil appears not to be and hit it.

We can cope with distortion provided we can understand it and correct for it.  This principle allies, albeit more profoundly, to the distortions in our respective frames of reference, as well.  Bottom Line:  Be aware of how we personally view any situation is from our frame of reference that has been tainted from our past.   

The Self‑Image

The center of one’s frame of reference is a huge lens.  A complex of lenses, known as one’s self‑image.  Basically, it is how we view the world as inputs enter our thinking, vision, feelings that become cognizant to us.

The psychology of the self‑image:
When born we begin to create an increasingly complicated, multifaceted, ambivalent, dynamic picture(s) or self-concept decisions of what we decide upon, they are not necessarily accurate, be we consider them to be so.  They become our ‘reality’ of who we are and how we see the world around us.  This ‘self image‑manufacture’ is wholly unconscious at the onset and then gradually becoming more con­scious as we mature, but probably never becoming a fully con­scious activity.

Our self‑image is our most precious possession.  We never leave it behind.  We protect it accordingly.  Some contend that the most basic drive of humans is not self‑preservation but self-image preservation.  There have been many terms for this in our society.  One has heard the expression to get “out of your comfort zone” or you must leave your “comfort zone” in order to grow or experience new things.  “Leave your ‘save zone’” – “not be so closed” – “open up” – etc.   These expressions all point to our examination of our ‘lens of reference’ (self-concept).

What are we protecting it against?

Failure? Ridicule? Rejection? Etc. and these can be quite painful.

The most severe menace to anyone’s self‑image is CHANGE ‑ provided three conditions exist.  To be truly threatening the change must be:  l.  large enough,  2.  quick enough,  3.  uncon­trolled enough (uncontrolled, that is, by the possessor of the self‑image.

Thus, any big, sudden, uncontrolled change of self‑image can be unbearable terrifying, regardless of the direction of the change.  The threat is that:  “You are NOT who you think you are ‑ you do NOT have contact with reality – you are a failure – you are a mess – you are thrust into an unsecure feeling!”

The degree of How Big, How Sudden, and How Uncontrolled the change is depending upon one’s comfort zone in reference to that area of self.


This is a thermostat with a function of:  to maintain its status quo, to protect self, to ensure that your idea(s) are consistent with how you see the world and self.

My self‑image, then, is surrounded by a comfort zone ‑ the margin of disparity between my self‑image and feedback concerning it that I can currently tolerate without feeling compelled to be defensive.  This does not mean that one’s comfort zone(s) or self‑image(s) do not change.

One might ask:  What motives do we have for forming accurate images of others or to determine common grounds?

Protect our own self‑image?  –  Communicate with them?   –  Be more comfortable with them?  –  Determine whether we wish to associate with them?  –  Use their performance to develop standards?  –  Win others over to our point of view?

To understand others &/or to win their support?  Is it to deceive them or to love them? Is it to help them grow or impress them favorably about yourself? 

Would we have a purpose of just ‘being: liked, accepted, or approved by them?

Are we wanting to know how to play “games” with them or to please them and satisfy their expectation of yourself?  To act to satisfy their expectation of us or manipulate them for our purpose.

Please them? satisfy their expectations of us or to use them to manipulate them in some way.

Three basic motives:

1.         Predict his/her behavior ‑ or his/her reaction to your behavior.  This, in turn, should enhance your ability to‑‑??

2.         Cope or deal with him/her in whatever manner is required by the situation.  Accordingly, you should be better able to‑‑ ??

3.         Satisfy your needs in respect to the relationship.  Needs are defined broadly here as including the kinds of needs you gratify when you do very selfless and altruistic things ‑ as well as needs which are more self‑centered.

To check this our self:  Recall a time when someone extremely im­portant to you abruptly began to behave in ways that quite con­tradicted your image of that person?  If so, do you recall how you felt at that time ‑ what your emotions were?  Fear? Disillusionment? Embarrassment? Bewilderment? Sense of betrayal? Rage? Depression? Guilt? Anxiety? Shock?

The Self‑Image Threatened
If a sudden, dramatic change of behavior on the part of another can destroy your image, cost you your predictability, and thus your capability regarding that per­son, and lead to painful, frightening, and destructive con­sequences, consider what could happen if you were suddenly to have your own self‑image challenged.  You stand the risk of losing the ability to predict, control, and know yourself.

Optimally, one’s energies are directed toward realizing one’s own potentialities.  But under inner stress one becomes estranged from the REAL self and protects oneself by creating and protecting a FALSE, idealized self, based on PRIDE, but threatened by Doubts, Self‑contempt, and Self‑hate.  (Karen Horney)

One writer says:  “I have known scores, if not hundreds, of men (and some women), particularly in the middle echelons of their organizations, who seemed to have all the requisites for continued success ‑ intelligence, education, experience, drive, ability, ambition.  But they had one vital failing ‑‑ they did not know themselves.  The image they held of themselves was piti­fully out of phase with that which they were projecting to others.  They seemed chronically annoyed and/or bewildered by the reactions of others to them.  What was Happening?  Because of their unrealistic self‑images they found it too threatening to entertain contrary cues from other people.  By fending off the reactions of others variously as “those malicious /crazy /misinformed /ornery /perverse /stupid people,” they had been successful in perpetuating and even reinforcing their respective self‑myths.  Thus, they had not eventualized themselves; squandered their nervous energies.  Via: William V. Haney, PhD, 1986, Communica­tion and Interpersonal Relations.

This posting was written to enhance your understanding of how one’s culture affects their understand of the world around them.   They see it via their ‘lens of reference’ that is a ‘reality’ to themselves and thus they must operate out of it.  They can not understand any input until if is filtered through this lens.  Once it is filtered to their awareness it will very often be different to them as you see it.  You have mis-communicated to them and you are not aware of it as you see the world ‘your way’ and if filtered through your own ‘lens of reference’.  That ‘lens of reference’ has been developed by a ‘culture’   they life in or existed in. 

Thus, culture, is affecting their thinking process and in order to witness to them we need to try and understand how they see the world around them.  Even the meaning of words will have a different sense to their interpretation.  It might be well that we try and figure out how they see the world.  We can see the behavior easier and that will be a start.  However, to understand their cognitive process will be most difficult as we do not ‘walk in their shoes’.  Yet, we can try to walk in their shoes in order for us to begin to understand their culture and view of the world around them.