Risk in cross-cultural partnership, part 2 of 3: Underestimating risk

Are you avoiding risk, underestimating risk, or wisely navigating risk in your cross-cultural partnership?
Are you avoiding risk, underestimating risk, or wisely navigating risk in your cross-cultural partnership?

The first post in this series looked at avoiding risk. This post considers a second option: underestimating risk.

2) Underestimating risk: One of the common blessings of going on a mission trip or serving cross-culturally is to discover that the person who I’m getting to know is so different from me, and yet, because we have a common faith in Jesus Christ, we are part of the same family and have a built-in sense of deep spiritual connection. We discover just how true the Bible really is: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4–6).

How wonderful! With this knowledge, many Christians believe it is easy to begin a cross-cultural partnership, confident that whatever obstacles there may be, their common faith in Jesus will enable them to overcome any problems.

A year goes by; so far so good … Another year, and questions emerge … Over time, mistrust develops, and sure enough, obstacles arise along with misunderstandings. From one side are accusations of mismanagement; from the other side, accusations of colonialism or arrogance. It is discovered that expectations for the partnership are radically different, and what seemed at first to be an exciting “can’t-lose enterprise for the kingdom” becomes mired in disappointment and cross-cultural conflict.

What happened? They underestimated the risks. They underestimated the need for developing new knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs); they did not know that you must develop godly character, cultural intelligence, and organizational competence for healthy cross-cultural partnership.


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