Multicultural Church Glossary A-F



  •  Grunlan and Mayers, define acculturation as “the process by which adults acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and behaviors that enable them to become functioning participants of a new host culture”[1]
  • Dot-connect expands acculturation with, “the processes by which families, communities and societies react to inter-cultural contact while retaining characteristics of own culture. As a result a new, composite culture emerges, where some existing cultural features are combined, some are lost, and new features appear.” [2]
  • Arbuckle, in Culture, Inculturation and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique, notes that acculturation refers to the, “The process of culture change where contact between two or more culturally distinct groups results in one group taking over elements of the culture of the others group. or groups. [3]


  • Dot-connect explains adaptation. “A process of reconciliation and of coming to terms with a changed socio-cultural environment by making “adjustments” in one’s cultural identity. It also is a stage of intercultural sensitivity, which may allow the person to function in a bicultural capacity. In this stage, a person is able to take the perspective of another culture and operate successfully within that culture. The person should know enough about his or her own culture and a second culture to allow a mental shift into the value scheme of the other culture, and an evaluation of behaviour based on its norms, rather than the norms of the individual’s culture of origin. This is referred to as ‘cognitive adaptation.’ The more advanced form of adaptation is ‘behavioural adaptation,’ in which the person can produce behaviours appropriate to the norms of the second culture. Adaptation may also refer to patterns of behavior which enable a culture to cope with its surroundings” [4]


  • According to Dot-connect assimilation is “A process of consistent integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural group, typically immigrants, or other minority groups, are “absorbed” into an established larger community.” [5]
  • Connerley and Petersen relate assimilation to “Adoption of the organization’s culture. This is usually seen by subordinate groups as conforming to the values of the dominant group” [6]  The authors cite Tung, in saying that assimilation, “Can produce mistrust in the long-term if  the dominant group does not attempt to understand the values of the subordinate group.” [7]



Members of the Christ community.

Brotherhood (Verses)

  • “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35 KJV).
  • “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom 12:16).
  • “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor 13:4-7).
  • “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (2 Cor 13:11).
  • “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
  • “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph 4:29).
  • “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil 2:2).
  • “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Pet 1:22).
  • “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1 Pet 2:17).
  • “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:” (1 Pet 3:8).
  • “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).


Church (For mosaic, multicultural,  multiethnic and multi-racial see Multicultural Church Glossary M-R.)

Centrifugal vs. Centripetal Tendencies

  • Discussion on centrifugal and centripetal tendencies comes from R.A. Schermerhorn from Comparative Ethnic Relations: A Framework for Theory and Research.
  • With centrifugal tendencies, an ethnic group gravitates out and away from other groups, seeking to maintain its own characteristics through areas of commonalities such as language, age or religion.
  • Centripetal pulls inward. McIntosh and McMahon, in Being the Church in a Multi-ethnic Community say that theses ethnic groups are “more likely to see heterogeneous groups where a wide variety of people seek unity around a common issue or value.”[8]  For example, one church might seek the common issue of healing in a community torn by racial strife, while another might embrace the value of restoring people’s lives in areas where there is a high homeless population.


  • Rogers and Steinfatt say that a code represents, “a classification such as a language used by individuals to categorize their expression and to communicate it to others.” [9]


  • Kohn cites, that colonialism is a practice of domination, which involves subjugating one people to another. [10]


  • For the reason that many definitions of communication exist, the one selected relates communication across cultures in the context of transformation. We do need to understand though, the basic characteristics of all communication before moving on to the broader aspects of culture. Having said this, “communication is a symbolic, interpretive, transactional, contextual process in which people create shared meanings” [11]

Communication, Transformational

  • According to Jan Paron, transformation results from the Holy Spirit’s inner workings. It serves as a vehicle for believers to convey Christ’s mission for salvation and renewal to the community and world for building the kingdom of God. Thus, as Christ’s ambassadors we communicate to make disciples and edify the Body for unity in Christ.
  • Transformational communication encompasses five axioms that nurture a saving and renewing culture: (1) supports God’s purpose and plan; (2) revolves around love; (3) generates from the Holy Spirit; (4) brings understanding and (5) unifies the Body in diversity.
  • Grounded in love and generated from the Holy Spirit, it aims to present the listeners with both individualized and varied people-centered styles from a compelling message. While the communicator adapts the message to meet the needs and means of those perceiving meaning, biblical message does not change. To draw people to the message the communicator strives to leave a compelling idea that significantly affects the listeners with long-lasting meaning that leads to hunger for Jesus and growth in His grace. At a broader level, the complexities of its diverse transmission reach across cultures to unite a diverse Body as one in Christ to bear witness of Jesus, the Son of God. [12].


  • Vinay posits that, “Context is the environment of a discourse of action. It is a time space where understanding takes place, action in engaged, and results emerge”  Contextualization implies that we examine context, and awareness of how the context itself shapes the way we think through our beliefs, priorities, affirmations, and the way we construct our action.  It is the emergence of new identities in history, to something new in the historical context. Thus communication requires context not just content.  Vinay also says that in the earlier part of missions, content was part of the communication  In the new patterns, communication of the gospel requires context and is much more focused on the process. [13]


  • Ligenfelter explains that contextualization entails framing “the  Gospel message in language and communication from appropriate and meaningful to the local culture and to focus the message upon crucial issues in the lives of the people.” [14]
  • “the efforts of formulating, presenting and practicing the Christian faith in such a way that is relevant to the cultural context of the target group in terms of conceptualization, expression and application; yet maintaining theological coherence, biblical integrity and theoretical consistency.”[15]
  • Wan highlights contextualization from the aspect of communicating Scripture in a way meaningful to the receiver, with “the attempt to communicate the message of the person, works, Word, and will of God in a way that is faithful to God’s revelation, especially as put forth in the teaching of Holy Scripture, and that is meaningful to respondents in their respective cultural and existential contexts.” [16]
  • Charles Kraft emphasizes contextualization as “a process in which God is recognized as THE Contextualizer–who wants to be understood, and who reveals his purposes through both people and events. This process reaches its ultimate expression in Jesus Christ who uniquely communicates the Father’s character and purpose–so that the Incarnation because the defining expression of al effective communication.” [17]

Cross-Cultural Communication Skills

  • This is also called intercultural, although used in a differ sense, is a field of study that looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds communicate, in similar and different ways among themselves, and how they try to communicate across cultures. [18]


  • “Culture is a learned set of shared interpretations about beliefs, values, norms, and social practices, which affects the behaviors of a relatively large group of people”[19]
  • “The shared values, norms, traditions, customs, arts, history, folklore and institutions of a group of people. “Integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour that is both a result of and integral to the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” The etymological root of the word is from the Latin colere, which means to cultivate, from which is derived ‘cultus’, that which is cultivated or fashioned. In comparison of words such as “Kultur” and Zivilisation in German, “culture” and civilisation” in English, and “culture” and “civilisation” in French the concepts reveal very different perspectives. The meaning of these concepts is however, converging across languages as a result of international contacts, cultural exchanges and other information processes.” [20]
  • Van Rheenen refers to culture as, “the integrated system of learned patterns of ideas, values, behavior, products, and institutions characteristic of a society” [21]
  • While Newbigin says culture is, “the sum total of ways of living built up by a human community and transmitted from one generation to another” [22]
  • “the more or less integrated systems of learned ideas, feelings, and values encoded in patterns of behavior, signs and products created and shared by a community of people [23]
  • Hiebert and Cox continue the thought that culture sums ways of living with, “Culture can be explained as the sum total of our everyday practices and ‘texts’–the ways we live everyday life, our behavior, beliefs, social interactions, and all human production, such as food, clothing, art, ideology, institutions, and most importantly, language.” It “shapes the way we see life, understand the world, define ourselves, think, act, create community, relate to others, and express our sense of belonging to a family, groups, and nations.” [24]

Culture’s Characteristics (25)

  • Conceptual, Not Concrete. According to Gary Weaver, culture “is an abstraction or a concept rather than something tangible or concrete.”(26 Culture produces relics, artifacts and results.  We can think of the different types of music as artifacts from culture.
  • Framework for Prediction. Though culture gives us a framework to explain and predicting behaviors or characteristics of different groups, we find individual differences group or society. This means that we can’t generalize a behavior or characteristics to all those from one group of people to every type of communication or in every situation. By studying cultural characteristics, we gain an initial understanding about how people might behave in a certain way that focuses our communication.
  • Hierarchy of Culture. People might belong to multiple cultures, taking on different characteristics from each. For example, consider the female who is a boomer, Caucasian, well-educated and middle-class. All these represent different cultures that influence this person’s values, beliefs and thoughts, but do not form the whole picture. If I said one of these females is from South Africa and the other American, we would see other facets of culture emerge that distinguish each person’s perspectives.  In all, the various cultures influence how a person formats communication to another, as well as receives, interprets and responds the sender’s communication.
  • Culture Shapes a Person.  Culture affects many elements of a person’s self-identity.

Culture Shock

  • Culture shock arises when a person experiences a state of distress and tension with possible physical symptoms after relocating to an unfamiliar cultural environment. Oberg identifies four stages of culture shock: “(1) honeymoon of being a newcomer and guest; (2) hostility and aggressiveness of coming to grips with different way of life; (3) working through feelings of superiority and gaining ability to operate in the culture by learning the language and (4) finally acceptance of another way of living and worldview. ” [27]
  • Weaver (2000) states that the term culture shock describes any situation of which a person experiences physical or emotional discomfort while adjusting to a new environment. [28]

Cultural Anthropology

  • Howell and Paris describe cultural anthropology as “The description, interpretation, and analysis of similarities and differences in human cultures .” Anthropologists more likely study cross-culturally. They compare cross-cultural findings and compare cultural differences. Anthropologists use culture as a central concept to any analysis, while sociologists use society and institutions to organize ideas. [29]

Cultural Blindness

  • See the difference: act like you don’t. Cultural blindness is the phenomena in which a person follows the cultural tradition and values without judging that either it is good or bad. [30]
  • The awareness stage is difficult because those who exhibit it think that they are actually very culturally competent. This group believes that color, race, ethnicity, poverty, gender, etc. don’t matter at all or are inconsequential [31]

Cultural Cannibalism

  • Woodley refers to cultural cannibalism as, “The postulate that one person or culture has more of a right to exist than another, or than all others (Begins with condescension). Attitude assumes a superiority over the other person or culture. Begins with the humanization stage, which can eventually lead to calculated genocide…[32]

Cultural Clash

  • Culture clash is when two or more cultures disagree about their believe or way of life. Culture clash is the misunderstandings, and disagreements between different cultures. [33]

Cultural Dissonance

  • Robins et al note that cultural dissonance occurs when “discord, disharmony, feeling out of sync, offbeat, out of tune with your surroundings” and with other cultures exists. [34]

Cultural Incapacity

  • Incapacity is the belief in the superiority of one’s own culture and behavior that enhances the inferiority of another (page 116). Examples of this cultural awareness stage would be discriminatory hiring practices, assumption beliefs such as all single parents are inferior parents, or all people living in certain areas are poor. The emphasis is that something is wrong with others, not with how we view their group. [35]

Cultural, Inter

  • Inter implies interaction. From an intercultural perspective, it would be possible to examine the interactions of students from different countries enrolled in a specific class or program. “Culture shock” and “cultural adaptation” are thus intercultural notions. “the learned and shared values, beliefs and behaviors of a group of interacting people” (Bennett). Philosophy of exchanges between cultural groups within a society [36]

Cultural Relativism

  • Howell and Paris look at cultural relativism form the anthropological tenet “that people’s ideas and behaviors make sense when viewed from their culture’s perspective” [37]
  • Charles Kraft adds Nida, a Christian ethnotheologian, sees cultural relativism as “the presence of absolutes (supracultural truths) but them relates them all to God, who stands outside of culture, rather than to any cultural expression, description, or  explication of a God-human relationship [38]



  • During the decoding process, the receiver converts the physical message from the source [39]


  • McFarlin and Sweeney see deculturation “as a weak or benign form of separation that occurs when all groups maintain their own values without trying to influence anyone else. [40]

Diaspora Missions

  •  Wan (2011) indicated diaspora missions comprised three types with the end purpose of evangelizing “kinsmen on the move,” and, subsequently through them reach others in their homeland and beyond (p. 5). [41)
  • The three types include missions to Diaspora (reaching by evangelistic social services and then discipling them); missions through the Diaspora  (reaching their kinsmen via networks in host countries, homeland, and abroad); and missions by and beyond Diaspora (mobilizing Diaspora Christians missions across cultures in their host countries, homeland, and abroad).

Dimensions of Cultural Variability

  • Variables (e.g. individualism-collectivism) upon which you explain and predict systematic similarities and differences in communication across cultures. [42]  For example, in an individualistic culture, the individual would take precedence over the group. They would emphasize person-based information to predict each others’ behavior. Conversely, with a collective culture, the group would take priority over an individual. Members of this group would emphasize group-based information to predict each other’s behavior. However, each of these change in the context of their broader culture. So, the cultural code changes among sub groups.

Direct Culture [43]  (See also, Indirect Culture)

  • Are less concerned with how a person says something rather than what one says
  • Openly confront difficult issues
  • Do not leave things to interpretation
  • Do not rely on non-verbal cues


  • “Diversity by definition focuses on differences.” [44]
  • Grossman (2000) Linnehan and Konrad (1999) in Connerly and Pedersen’s book, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment, say that diversity, “Addresses power imbalances and reflects historical disadvantages of race and gender based” [45]
  • Additionally, Cox (1994), says that Cultural diversity is “the representation, in one social system, of people with distinctly different group affiliations of cultural significance” [46]

Dyadic Personality

  • From an anthropological sense, Ben Witherington says a dyadic personality “comes from the group or groups of which a person is a part.” A person bases identity on “whose he is, or to whom he belongs” according to social network [47]
  • Malina and Neyrey say that the three primary building blocks for a dyadic personality are generation, gender and geography. These overlapped with secondary factors like wealth, education and religion. [48] Of the three building blocks, geography was key during antiquity. Compare Saul of Tarsus with Jesus of Nazareth.



  • New Testament usage for “church.” Combines ek (meaning “from” or “out of”) and kaleo (meaning “to call”)…In a Christian sense [49]
  • Assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
  • Company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake
  • Those, whether in a city or village, constitute a united body, in one accord
  • Whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
  • Faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven


  • Encoding originates with the source, who converts an idea into a message to send to the receiver [50]


  • Enculturation, according to Samovar and Porter, “Takes place through interaction” [51]
  • Arbuckle sees enculturation as “The conscious or unconscious conditioning occurring within the learning process whereby children or adults achieve competencies in their culture. So we can speak of an enculturation process whereby a person is introduced to, and learns, the practices of a church, but it says nothing about whether persons and their actions are being transformed in Jesus Christ”[52]


  • Comes from the Greek: ethnic meaning culture.
  • C. Peter Wagner, in Your Church Can Be Healthy, views ethnikitis as the most prevalent church killer in the US. [53]


  • Samovar and Porter comment that, “Ethnocentrism is the perceptual prism through which cultures interpret and judge other groups” It is not always intentional, rather “learned at the unconscious level.” [54]
  • “The own technical name for the view of things in which one’s group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with the reference to it” [55]

Ethnorelativism (See Cultural Relativism)


Felt Needs

  • “A colloquialism that refers to those needs that are most acutely and fundamentally felt by a person and/or segment of the population” [56]



  1. Stephan Grunlan and Marvin Mayers, “Acculturation,” n.p. [cited 26 January 2012]. Online:
  2. Dot-connect, “Acculturation,” Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Dictionary. n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  3. Gerald A. Arbuckle, Culture, Inculturation and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2010).
  4. Dot-connect, “Adaptation.”
  5. Dot-connect, “Assimilation.”
  6. Mary L. Connerley and  Paul B. Pedersen, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment: Developing Awareness, Knowledge and Skills (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2005), 4.
  7. Tung, in Connerly and Pedersen, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment  1993, 4.
  8. Gary McIntosh and Alan McMahon, Being the Church in a Multi-ethnic Community: Why It Matters and How It Works (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), 33.
  9. Everett Rogers and Thomas Steinfatt, Intercultural Communication, (Long Grove: Waveland Press, 1999), 114
  10. Kohn, “Colonialism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  11. Mryron W. Lustig and Jolene Koestner, Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal Communication Across Cultures (5th ed.; Boston: Pearson), 10.
  12. Jan Paron, “Reaching the Nations With Transformational Communication,” Specs12 Blog. n.p. [cited 7 August 2013]. Online:
  13. Kohn, “Colonialism,” Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  14. Samuel Vinay, “The Gospel and Large Cities,” Transformation April (1992): 7-8.
  15. Sherwood Lingenfeler, Transforming culture: A Challenge for Christian Mission (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) loc 55.
  16. Wan, 1999, p. 13.
  17. Charles Kraft, The Word Among Us, Chapter 6 (2004).
  18. Wikipedia, “Cross-cultural Communication.” n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  19. Myron W. Lustig and Jolene Koestner, Intercultural Competence: Interpersonal Communication Across Cultures (5th ed.; Boston: Pearson), 26.
  20. Britannica,”Culture,” n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  21. Gailyn Van Rheenen, Missions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 81.
  22. Lesslie Newbigin, The Other Side of 1984: Questions for the Churches (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1983), 5.
  23. Hiebert & Cox, 2004)
  24. Yamada & Guardiola-Saenz, Cited in Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Coming Together in the 21st century: The Bible’s Message in an Age of Diversity (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2009), loc 397.
  25. Gary R. Weaver, Culture, Communication and Conflict: Readings in Intercultural Relations (Boston: Pearson Publishing, 2000), 1.
  26. Weaver, Culture, Communication and Conflict, 1.
  27. Dot-connect, “Culture Shock, n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  28. Gary Weaver, “Understanding and Coping with Cross-Cultural Adjustment Stress,” Culture, Communication and Conflict: Readings in Intercultural Relations (Boston: Pearson Publishing, 2000).
  29. Brian M. Howell, B. & Janell Willliam Paris, Introducing Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 64, 266.
  30., “Cultural Blindness,” n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online: “”>
  31. Wiki.gpaea, “Cultural Blindness,” n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  32. Randy Woodley, Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004),  loc. 177).
  33. Wiki.answers, “Culture Clash,” n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  34. Kikanza J. Nuri Robins et al., Culturally Proficient Instruction: A Guide for People Who Teach (Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, Inc., 2002), 45.
  35. Wiki.gpaea, “Cultural Incapacity,” n.p. [cited 27 February 2012]. Online:
  36. Howell and Paris, Introducing Cultural Anthropology, loc 3362.
  37. Charles Kraft, Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Mary Knoll: Orbis Books, 2005), 98.
  38. Rogers and Steinfatt, Intercultural Communication, 114.
  39. McFarlin & Sweeney in Connerly & Pedersen, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment, 4.
  40. William B. Gudykunst et al., Communication in Personal Relationships Across Cultures (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications), 20.
  41. Wan, E. (2011). Diaspora missiology: Theory, methodology, and practice. Portland, OR: Institute of Diaspora Studies.
  42. Kwinessential, “Direct Culture,” n.p. [cited on 21 March 2012]. Online:
  43. Connerly & Pedersen, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment, 3.
  44. Connerly & Pedersen, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment, 3.
  45. Connerly & Pedersen, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment, 3.
  46. Ben Witherington, Paul Quest: The Renewed search for the Jew of Tarsus (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), Loc. 308)
  47. Witherington, Paul Quest, Loc. 310).
  48. Blue Letter Bible, “Ekklēsia” n.p. [cited: 27 February 2012]. Online:
  49. Rogers and Steinfatt, Intercultural Communication, 114
  50. Larry Samovar and Richard Porter, R., Intercultural communication: A Reader (Wadsworth Publisher, 2000), 7.
  51. Arbuckle, Culture, Inculturation and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique,  loc. 3891.
  52. C. Peter Wagner, Your Church Can Be Healthy (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979), 29-37, 79.
  53. Samovar and Porter, Intercultural communication: A Reader, 10.
  54. Sumner in Samovar and Porter, Intercultural communication: A Reader13.
  55. Bob Whitesel, A House divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000) 145.

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