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How Important Is Education for Chinese Serving Cross-culturally?

In recent years Chinese cross-cultural workers have started to be sent out to other countries but there has not been a great amount of effectiveness in their work. One reason for their lack of effectiveness is that many who want to serve cross-culturally do not have formal education, often having not gone to high school, much less to college.

Most of the Chinese believers who have had a strong vision for the Back to Jerusalem Movement (B2J) are from very poor areas and have no education. Thus, not only do they not have the financial means to serve in a foreign country, but their lack of a college degree makes it impossible to find an appropriate job once they arrive in that country. Without a high school diploma, much less a college degree, they cannot find a job except for working in a factory often for sixty hours a week. Not only that, but because they are trying to support their family by working long hours in a factory, they have no time to learn the local language or reach out to the local people. Even if they had the time, they have no background in language learning nor do they have the study skills necessary to learn the language.

Comparing this situation to the western missionary movement from the past three hundred years, most western workers historically and currently have been better-educated people.[1]A formal education is even more important for cross-cultural work now than it was in the past. Back then, it was possible to go to many countries openly as a “missionary.” But now for most of the unreached parts of the world, this is no longer possible. One must have a work visa (or be a student) in most countries today to be able to stay there. This situation increases the importance of cross-cultural workers having a college degree to help them get a suitable job overseas.

On a similar note, the Lord gifts some people according to their training and background to be used in one way, while he uses other people with different trainings and backgrounds to be used in another way. We can see this in the New Testament. In Galatians 2:7-10, Paul talks about how God gave Peter, James and John the grace to preach the gospel to the Jews. On the other hand, God gave Paul and Barnabas the grace to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul has an excellent education and is culturally savvy both in Greek and Jewish culture. This background makes him better equipped to preach the gospel to those of other backgrounds in a culturally relevant manner [see Acts 17:16-34].

Peter, James and John do not have as much formal education as Paul, or Paul’s culturally diverse background, so their calling is to reach the Jews. There is nothing in the text, however, that indicates that one task is more or less important than the other. Rather, each is to serve with joy according to the grace that God gives, according to how he has prepared each one. I can relate to this because once I became a believer in college I immediately had some interest in cross-cultural work, partly because I had pretty extensive world travelling experience as a nonbeliever. This was a grace that God gave me to prepare me to work overseas. Similarly, Chinese workers do not necessarily need to have high degrees and much world travelling experience, but they should have a college degree and some exposure to other cultures, perhaps simply that they have learned English competently and had friends from other countries. Those who lack the education but still have a great zeal for sharing the gospel may be more effective by staying in China to reach their neighbors and play a part in sending out better qualified folks to reach the nations.

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  1. ^ Wrobbel, Karen A. “Are National Schools a Viable Option?” EMQ Archives. January 2008.
Image credit: FDU by Hai Yang via Flickr. 

Tabor Laughlin

Tabor Laughlin (pseudonym) is a PhD student in Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He received his MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Missions and his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Oklahoma State University. He has been serving in China for ten years, and is president of a... View Full Bio