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How Much Do You Weigh?

Updated: May 21

May 21, 2024

Mark Hedinger



Several years ago, I was visiting and teaching outside of my usual culture. I always love the opportunity to observe and talk and in other ways learn about how people in other parts of the world live. I don’t exactly recall where I was on this particular trip, but I remember a conversation with a man that happened during this trip.


I had been teaching on mission work, and the audience was very engaged. We had a great time in the Bible looking at what God is doing to bring His Salvation to all people.


We stopped for a break, and as I was chatting with different people, a man came up to me with two questions that he really wanted to know about –


How much did I weigh?

How much did I pay for the laptop I was using for the conference?

 

The two questions seemed so out of place to me. Later, thinking more about them, I realized that there are cultural patterns that have to do with what we talk about, and just as importantly there are cultural patterns about what we don’t talk about! Good cultural adaptation in the US means we don’t talk about money or weight in daily conversation.


I realized that there are cultural patterns that have to do with what we talk about, and just as importantly there are cultural patterns about what we don’t talk about!

Other parts of the world avoid other topics. CultureBound training now includes discussion about what we talk about and what we don’t talk about.

 

Keep that story in mind, but I’m going to jump forward to another conversation.


This time I was with a group of church leaders from a nation that is just beginning to send missionaries. As they talked among themselves, they were rejoicing at how God sent missionaries from my homeland to bring the gospel to them. With sincere appreciation and respect, these leaders spoke highly of the messengers who brought the gospel to them, and then who helped disciple and train them for ministry. Now this same group is looking at how to disciple still others, as they take the gospel into unreached people in other lands.

 

This new mission sending group, though, asked me for training in how to talk about money as it relates to mission work. You see, since my people don’t talk about money in our homeland, we also didn’t talk about it as we discipled this new nation of believers. We left them without a way to talk about money when they also go to the unreached around them.


There are so many lessons for me in these two simple conversations!


First, when we are “making disciples of all nations” we have to be careful to teach all that He has instructed us. We can’t avoid topics that are culturally uncomfortable for us. If we miss those “uncomfortable” topics we will leave our disciples without all that they need to make yet other disciples. (And yes, the Lord spoke often about money!)


Second, we have to understand that money and financial questions are also cultural. In the West we look at those topics in one light, and as a pretty private question. Across other parts of the world, though, financial questions are just normal conversation. Along with the rest of the training offered to intercultural workers, we need to realize that money and finances are an important topic with different patterns of expression around the world.


Third, I so appreciate the man who asked me a question that was uncomfortable for me! It wasn’t hard to say how much I weighed (I have put on another 20 pounds since then, so maybe it would be harder to talk about now!) but seriously, that money question was so normal for him, so strange for me, and so very important for building a mission sending vision in that man’s home culture!






Mark Hedinger, DIS, is Executive Director of CultureBound. Mark and his family spent 12 years living and teaching in Mexico. Since then, he has taught in many international locations and leads culture training programs at CultureBound. With his Spanish language background, he serves in a multicultural church in Portland, Oregon.




 

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