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Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  526 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Duane Elmer asked people around the world how they felt about Western missionaries. The response? "Missionaries could be more effective if they did not think they were better than us." The last thing we want to do in cross-cultural ministry is to offend people in other cultures. Unfortunately, all too often and even though we don't mean it, our actions communicate superior ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published March 8th 2006 by InterVarsity Press
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Seth Westhoff
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Find out why the monkey couldn't "save" the fish ! Great read !
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, missions
What a challenge to my thinking. People are people all over the world... Learn to serve. Learn to learn. Learn to hold as equal. I recommend this to anyone whether they plan to stay in their own culture or travel to a different one.
Jonathan Wylie
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone in a serving role
Recommended to Jonathan by: Megan McKenney
Shelves: culture
Anyone going to a different culture and wanting to serve should read this book. I will definitely be reading this book once a year to remind me of how to serve. I must remember the world does not revolve around me. This book is a great reminder of this.
Corey Alexander
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended reading for every person; not just those who want to serve in vocational ministry. We all cross cultures every day and need to learn to love others as Christ does. This book will offer a great perspective if they have not ventured into intercultural communication books.
Anastasia Kingsley
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very enjoyable, easy reading style, but packed with biblical truth and practical steps for serving both at home and cross-culturally. Elmer presents a biblical view of servanthood that would serve as a beneficial reminder for all Christians.
Dennis Sy
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For missionaries

Good resource for cross cultural missionaries. Love the lessons learned here though I do have some questions on chapter 11 on leadership
Ryan Weaks
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book! Informative, challenging, accessible and practical. Highly recommended.
Tom Law
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Servanthood is a state of being before it is a state of doing”, says author Duane Elmer. It is this state of being that is the focus of the book. Although the title continues his theme of “cross-cultural” messages this serves as a backdrop to his real message – servanthood as modeled by Christ and the goal of each of his followers.

Cross-culture provides the stories and illustrations, but whereas in his other books this was the focus, in this book becoming a Christ-like servant is the message. H
Rob and Liz
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I finished "When Helping Hurts" last week and borrowed this book today from my friend Dan Eads' home library. This book is a natural extension of the basic premise of "When Helping Hurts"; avoid paternalism! We are not called to help other people as much as we are called to follow Jesus, walk together with them and learn how we need help as much as we are called to help.

"Cross-Cultural Servanthood" begins with a striking quote. The author, a former missionary and professor of cross-cultural stu
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
So much good stuff. Debating returning this to its owner immediately, or holding on to it a bit longer for a reread. Highly recommend to everyone - a lot of what he had to say about serving people cross-culturally (muchly needed too!) applies to our interactions with people from our origin cultures as well. He really gets to the heart of servanthood, and in a way that makes the reader wrestle with their own heart and actions, but at the same time he does this with grace, recognizing both that we ...more
Timothy Darling
Cross-Cultural Servanthood is a good book for anyone considering Christian ministry. Chances are, your calling will take you to unfamiliar places, and should at some point, take you to another country to serve. Either way, you are bound to find yourself dealing with people whose ways are strange. When this happens it is best to remember Duane Elmer's simple observation that "most of life is a matter of nonessential differences." Too often we like to see our own ways as the right ways and quickly ...more
Phyllis Neriah
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Serving must be sensitive to the cultural landscape while remaining true to the Scripture. It is "the ability to relate to people in such a way that their dignity as human beings is affirmed and they are more empowered to live God-glorifying lives." We can't serve those we don't understand. The book outlines and develops the steps to learn, engage, and serve cross-culturally.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I say it is a must read if you want to rethink how you serve. His focus is to get us to serve like Jesus across cultures. I really walked away with thinking about why I do what I do. Is it because I love people if they believe or not or do I love them only because I want to seem them become believers? God already wants that more than I do, but we love Him because He first loved us. His premise is IF we first love others we may "simply" plant or water into peoples lives, but as we know only God c ...more
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There are books out there that basically re-tell you what you already think and there are those that shift your paradigm significantly. This book was most definitely the later for me. I saw some review this as another 'Americans are cultural idiots' book. I did not read it that way. I felt the author was incredibly humble and gentle in his approach. I appreciated his chapters where he set forth a 'theology of servanthood.' He very graciously used his own stories of short comings and pride to ill ...more
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: charity
Jesus came not to be served "but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." These are his own words in Matthew 20:28. Those of us who follow him must also serve. And if we are intending to serve cross-culturally, we have to learn how service 'looks' in that culture. Sometimes through arrogance, but more often through cultural ignorance foreign missionaries give the impression that they think they are better, smarter, holier than the people they mean to serve. How do we keep from doing ...more
Andreas Beccai
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
The book is split into three parts. Part I is a rudimentary look at servanthood, what it is and what it isn’t. Part II moves into praxis. The execution and process of servanthood, as understood, experienced and researched by Elmer. Part III consciously tackles the challenges that servant leadership brings, and how to deal with the reality that at times as servants we will go through dark nights, where even God seems distant and unreachable. Elmer writes from the presupposition that western Chris ...more
Dan Mayer
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The primary object of this book is to help future missionaries serve well in foreign cultures, but it is very applicable for any Christ follower. Many ministry jobs interact with different cultures, just not nationality cultures. Youth Culture. Senior culture. Children culture. Non-Christian work place culture. I work in Christian Camp Ministry and I found this book very enlightening. How to listen. How to learn. How to lead. Easy read and the author couldn't communicate more humility if he trie ...more
Amy Dix
Mar 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I read this half of this book instead of going to class one morning. It made me think a lot about whether I was judging Egyptians or not, and from then on I tried to give Egyptian men a chance. It is more geared towards people living in a very different culture long-term, and trying to do some kindof job like relief work, but it is interesting for someone who is just studying as well. In fact, it makes you feel pretty good becuase the author emphasizes strongly the need to be in a different cult ...more
Aug 02, 2011 added it
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it for short-term groups, experienced missionaries, and future missionaries. "Learn from the people. They will feel valued, and your presence will be a positive experience for them." Elmer draws on personal experiences and also uses Joseph as an example. It's good for us to realize that we don't have all of the answers, and we're called to be servants.
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is for anyone looking to build relationships with people around them- wherever that may be. Although it's geared toward cross cultural relationships, there's so much wisdom for anyone in any relationship either domestic or cross-cultural. It taught me so much about how to deal with the people around me and how to most be aware of them so I can see things through their eyes to know where stand with them so that the natural flow of give and take in relationships can be stimulated.
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, excellent book. Deals with servanthood in the context of the cross-cultural life, but the principles relate to any context. Elmer grounds every principle of practically serving others in the nature of God and how He works in the lives of human beings. The chapters on "the servant and leadership" and "the servant and mystery" are worth the entire book themselves. I'm currently doing a chapter-by-chapter walk through on my blog because I found it such a good book.
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Although geared toward the Christian serving in another culture, this book is full of wisdom for anyone traveling to another country to "help" that country's citizens. In fact, it would help anyone traveling to another culture for business or pleasure as well. I wish I had read it before traveling to Kenya. It is a real shift in attitude from the typical American view of other cultures. This is a how-to book on appreciating and involving oneself in other cultures.
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing!!! As a short termer exploring mission in Africa, this book did wonders for giving me clarity (pointing me to filter my feelings through Jesus & his word) on my unsettled attitude towards missionary presence. Helped me be more grounded in what I believe and sooo greatful! The proudly recommend it to anyone exploring mission!
Won Ho Kim
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology, evangelism
I didn't read the whole book but skimmed much of it. I didn't find the book to be profound enough to finish. It felt a bit fluffy to me. It's good for understanding the basics of serving cross-culturally, but I personally find a book like The Art of Crossing Cultures by Craig Storti to be more helpful.
Brandon Stiver
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Very informative and had some helpful stories for sure. I enjoyed reading it, but appreciate even more for Elmer's ability to really walk through being a servant cross-culturally (thus the name of the book). I would suggest this to anyone that is planning on or is interested in overseas missions. There is definitely some good, insightful information in here for you.
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book really made me think about how I'm doing life cross-culturally. So many similar ideas were covered while we were in training but I've set aside or forgotten. I was thankful for the reminder and pray I'm faithful to reassess and continue to grow as a learner in a foreign setting. Definitely recommend for both long-term and short-term cross-cultural experiences.
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture
This should be a book read by married couples as well as missionaries. Elmer does a great job of helping North Americans think about how they can learn to serve other people from other cultures. One of the most powerful images he uses is the idea of a monkey trying to save a fish by pulling it out of the water.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is one of the best books I have read on cultural adaptation for leaders, missionaries and for those who are engaging people in their home town who happen to be of different cultures. I am sure I will be referring to this again and again.
Bernie Anderson
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Absolutely critical read for any who are working in a cross-cultural context. As a member of majority culture (at least in the US), it opened my eyes to my own biases and where I may be coming across as un-christlike.

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Duane H. Elmer (Ph.D., Michigan State U.) is director of the Ph.D. program in educational studies and is the G. W. Aldeen Chair of International Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. In addition to traveling and teaching in over 75 countries, he has provided cross-cultural training to Fortune 500 companies, relief and development agencies, mission organizations, ch ...more
More about Duane Elmer...
“Power is meant to be shared with the goal of empowering others. Hoarded power weakens others and exalts oneself. Power, when grounded in biblical values, serves others by liberating them. It acknowledges that people bear the image of God and treats them in a way that will nurture the development of that image. In so doing, we honor their Creator.” 10 likes
“Power is to be used in the service of others and only secondarily, if at all, for the benefit of oneself.” 8 likes
More quotes…