Being Intercultural

Being Intercultural is a book that has its origins in meeting the real needs of Christians who work at the intersection of gospel and culture.

About The Book

Appropriate for Christian non-profits, NGO’s churches, schools and colleges, this multi-use book can be utilized as an individual workbook, group training book, or even as a supplemental text for intercultural communication courses.

While the ideas available in this book can be found in other books, no other resource brings them all together — and this book does so in an approachable and easy-to-apply manner.

This approachable text helps individuals and groups understand their own interactions with culture through:

  • A guide to thinking about how culture comes to be and how you can think about what it is.

  • An approachable overview to seeing culture in everyday life through practice in recognizing its effects.

  • Practice considering what to expect when interacting with cultural difference, especially including considerations related to identity.

  • An overview of how you can actively look to shape and influence the cultures in which you participate.

  • An exciting look at the dynamic intersection between culture and the gospel.

Culture is a social, adaptive, human response to the realities of life in a complex world. Most of how we see the world and interact with those truths is culturally constructed. This is both good and bad news.

What’s inside




Chapter 1

Understanding Culture


Chapter 2

Seeing Culture


Chapter 3

Interacting with Culture


Chapter 4

Culture Making


Chapter 5

Biblical and Theological Reflections



As a follower of Jesus in the 21st Century, we live in an exciting time. At the same time that Christianity is flourishing among
more peoples than at any time in human history there is also an intense global diaspora of many different people groups. It is increasingly possible for people from all walks of life to rub shoulders with those who look different, eat different foods, and speak
different languages. We have witnessed the transformation from intercultural competence being the exclusive need of a few professionals to this skill set being a main-stream necessity.
This book is a response to that reality – a reality where many Christians find themselves routinely faced with difference, but often also find themselves under-equipped for engaging in really successful interactions across cultures. While this book does celebrate the fact that there are Christians in many different people groups, this is not a book that dwells on multiculturalism. The multicultural movement (if it can be called that) and its associated trainings, often emphasize an almost Pollyanna, excessively
optimistic, view of culture. Many of us have sat in trainings where people have suggested that if only we can learn to recognize
that we are all the same, then we can get along. That idea is nice, but it is simply insufficient.
This book, then, does not take a multiculturalist view that all people are simply the same and that we just have to recognize that sameness. Instead, it takes a rather more complicated tack and holds competing realities in tension. Here are a few foundational principles held by this book:

  • All people are equally valuable because each is an image bearer of God (Gen 1:27).
  • Culture is a concept we use to describe the patterns of thoughts and behaviors demonstrated by groups of people – culture is not a thing.
  • In part because culture is not a thing, no culture is inherently good or evil – every human culture has capacity for both good and evil.
  • Jesus is capable of and desires to redeem people from every human culture (John 12:32, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 10:11).
  • Every culture reflects certain truths about God, though often in different ways.(Acts 11:1-18, Romans 1:18-21. Romans 2:14-15)
  • Every culture reflects the fallen nature of humanity, though often in different ways (Acts 11:1-18, Romans 1: 18-2:16,
  • Despite certain fundamental similarities, people are capable of being different from each other.

Because of these complex truths, this book does not intend to convince you that all conflict will be resolved simply by recognizing our shared humanity. On the contrary, this book invites you on a journey of discovery of both fundamental similarity
difference. While there is much to celebrate in our human cultural differences, the reality is that it is often difficult to navigate
those differences well. Anyone who tells you otherwise likely does not really understand just how differently people can perceive
the world from each other.
This book is a journey of discovery. This journey might be unsettling, but you can trust that this is a journey that is also rooted
in a fundamentally monotheistic and Christocentric understanding of reality.


As followers of Jesus we are committed to Jesus Christ, to the Word of God, and to the Christian Church. The relationship with
God that we desire to see transform society comes through personal encounters with Jesus. Our cross-cultural life and work must
be motivated out of our relationship with Christ if it is to be fully effective. No amount of training in professional or cultural
competence can replace the power of adoption (Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5) that believers have in the family of God.
It is out of this relationship with Christ, from a stance of being adopted into the family of the King, from a recognition of the
deep human need for Jesus, that we are able to live transformative lives in society.
As those who are adopted, we are no longer required to demonstrate our worth to the King, to the Kingdom, or to society. You
and I no longer have to earn our place based on our merit, but are instead freed to do the life work to which we have been called
(Ephesians 2:8-10). We no longer have to defend ourselves (1 John 2:1). We no longer have to strive to provide for our basic
needs (Matthew 6:25-34). All of this is settled by the work of Jesus in our lives. He promises that the Father will provide what
we actually need. He declares us righteous (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 2:2) in spite of our sinfulness. He declares
us clean because He alone can cleanse us (Acts 15:9).
That Jesus has settled these needs on our behalf frees us to love (1 John 4:19). It frees us to love Him, to love our neighbors, and
even to love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). We are freed to be inspired to serve Him fully. Ephesians 2:8-10 paints the picture

…by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so
that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The needs of our communities and nation are great, and the setting is complex. Through building intercultural competence, we will be better equipped to accurately understand and relate to the cultures not of only our non-Christian neighbors, but also of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 3:14). Our intercultural competence journey will also help us to better serve
even people who are culturally similar to us.


This book seeks to fill a special void – specifically, although there are many books written on intercultural competence, most of
those are focused on business people, college students, or missionaries. What’s more, many of those books have the goal of just helping the reader develop in their ability to relate across cultures.
This book is different. Originally written in partnership with Release Ministries, which serves high-risk youth in Omaha, NE,
this book was designed for the purpose to help the reader to develop his/her own intercultural competence. The second purpose is to prepare the reader to help others develop intercultural competence, which will equip them to better engage their own environment – whether that is in a rural church, an inner-city ministry, or your corporate setting.


This book is intended primarily for American Christians coming from multiple ethnic backgrounds. The style generally follows dominant American cultural patterns while recognizing important contributions of other groups. Readers from some backgrounds may find some of the examples and language more difficult to understand, but the general principles still apply. If you do find that there are elements that do not make sense to you, feel free to contact us at to let us know!
This book is written for people who engage cultural difference in any number of life circumstances: at work, in the church, at
home, at the grocery store, in local organizations, in local government, and in school. Whether you are a ministry leader or a layperson, or even if those distinctions are irrelevant to you, we trust that you will find this book helpful. We also invite your
suggestions on how to make the book more accessible to people like you, so please feel free to share suggestions with us!


This book is intended to be used in several different ways:

  1. As a supplemental textbook for introductory intercultural courses
  2. As an independent, self-paced reader/workbook.
  3. In guided independent work, where you meet with a supervisor or coach to discuss important / assigned topics
  4. Together with a group
  5. As part of a training session or event



Rev Edition



About the author.

Stephen W. Jones teaches, trains, and studies at the intersection of intercultural relations, cross-cultural ministry, and political science. He earned his Ph.D. in International Development at the University of Southern Mississippi and his M.A. in Intercultural Relations from the University of the Pacific, in conjunction with the Intercultural Communication Institute.

He was formerly Assistant Professor of International Studies at Crown College (2013-2020) and Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Grace University (2009-2012).

Stephen W. Jones, Ph.D. is father of three and husband of one. He lives with his family in Berlin, Germany where he serves as Fördermitarbeiter für internationale Kulturfragen und Verständigung with Envision Berlin.

Stephen W. Jones works to see transformation in the lives of individuals, communities, and the world. He yearns to see beauty rise out of pain, and believes that rooting lives in eschatological hope sets people free.

Stephen W. Jones

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Social Constructivism & Christianity