A few years ago while attending a conference in South Korea, I was asked to preach in a local church. This, of course, required a translator since my Korean is less than fluent! Afterward, I was introduced to the elders of the church, who thanked me for the message and then very formally presented me with an honorarium. I informally said thank you and pocketed the gift. A deafening silence followed. Later I discovered that my casual response was culturally completely inappropriate. I had heard of “high” and “low” context cultures (formal events treated with a high degree of respect for the moment versus informal, relaxed unceremonious demeanor), but I failed to discern on this important occasion that my informality was perceived as disrespect which, in the end, undermined my earlier message.
My experience is one example of the need to learn and apply cross-cultural education. Most of us have a much more deeply-rooted ethnocentric (our own culture is central and obviously most appropriate), culturally bound, and often unrecognized outlook than we would prefer to admit.
In many contexts our increasingly global world requires knowledge and appreciation of other cultures. Whether simply in daily interaction with neighbors or our interactions during work or ministry, we need to understand why people behave and react the way they do. Many of us too quickly misjudge a person of a different culture because we do not understand what is behind actions and reactions. To be effective communicators in this international world, we must be able to detect cultural differences. This requires not political correctness, but cultural sensitivity and respect.
Here at Bethany Global University we provide an online accredited and affordable Master’s degree program in Intercultural Education. Some of our graduates have found that with this accredited degree they qualify for jobs teaching overseas in International Schools and mission and NGO settings. Christian schools in the USA have also been pleased to accept our graduates for teaching positions. Secular schools in some states may require an additional teaching certificate, but have expressed appreciation for the cultural awareness our graduates bring, particularly in schools with students from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
A recent graduate, Liz Stubbs, said, “Completing a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Education at Bethany Global University has revolutionized my approach to teaching, and the classes about the Kingdom of God changed my worldview, affecting my attitudes and behaviors in daily life. As a working adult, the online classes were well paced and easily managed; and it gave me an opportunity to be ‘in class’ with people all over the world, which enriched my educational experience even more.”