Missionary Psychology And Counseling— A Timely Birth? -- By: David J. Hesselgrave

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 04:1 (Spring 1983)
Article: Missionary Psychology And Counseling— A Timely Birth?
Author: David J. Hesselgrave

Missionary Psychology And Counseling—
A Timely Birth?

David J. Hesselgrave

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Embedded in the pursuit of knowledge in general, and in its Western expressions in particular, is a high degree of competitiveness. It is not difficult to find illustrations of this. Think of the departmental divisions in our colleges and universities and of the ways in which they compete for funds, students and notoriety. Think of the overly technical vocabularies developed within the various disciplines which have the effect of reserving their respective expertise for the initiated. Think of the competition between “theoretical” and “practical” disciplines in our Christian Bible schools and seminaries. And think of the mistrust that often poisons dialogue between theologians and scientists.

One is tempted to conclude that knowledge makes its most singular gains, not when we discover a new truth or even when we rediscover old truths but whenever we discover each other. Why? Because new truth is in very short supply and old truths are readily available for the price of investigation. But in discovering each other we find knowledge that is “new to us” and thereby we find the potential for correcting both our ignorance and inefficiency. Of course, in discovering one another we find one another’s errors as well as one another’s truths. A risk is therefore involved.

One of the areas in which Christian scholars need to discover each other and attempt to integrate knowledge and complement skills is the area of cross-cultural counseling. Tens of thousands of North American missionaries minister abroad—most of them having gained a high degree of sensitivity to cultural differences, a few of them having expertise in counseling, but all of them actually counseling the culturally different. Hundreds of thousands of foreign students and immigrants with cultural orientations vastly different from our own are finding their way to our shores and are ministered to by Christian teachers, counselors and pastors who rarely possess the knowledge and appreciation of cultural differences necessary to counsel them effectively. Millions of members of North American sub-cultures, especially from our cities, are being evangelized, discipled and trained by Christians whose cultural orientation (often White, Anglo-Saxon, middle-class) is a far cry from their own.

The challenge to bringing the cross-cultural perspectives of missiology and the interactional understandings of psychology and counseling together

in a meaningful way is great. Our counterparts in corresponding secular fields have already embarked upon this task. We who ...

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