As I began to read The Culture Map by Erin Meyer I was thinking to myself, I wish I would have had this book years ago. As I was reading through the pitfalls of leadership within different cultures it brought back mission trips and outreach to refugees that probably could have been more effective. In her book Erin Meyer helps the reader move through the difficult field of cross cultural leadership. She effectively uses real world examples, both personal and leaders she has trained, to lay out the map of learning how to lead in different cultures.
Meyer gives multiple examples of making assumptions on working with a different culture than one is used to and making critical mistakes resulting in failed attempts at leadership. Karen Penney in her review writes “In mapping out these and six further behaviours, Meyer offers leaders a way to analyse how their own culture works with colleagues, finding the relative gaps between them. It is only by doing this that the similarities and differences will become apparent and any breakdown in communication or trust can be addressed.”  In beginning to understand how another culture leads, needs to be led, and works collaboratively one is able to communicate effectively. So how does this affect those of us in ministry?
One of the first things I learned while training with a missionary for my first mission trip was that I would not be able to talk to the people we were going to about Jesus without creating a bond of friendship with them. The people had been told by their local spiritual leaders that Baptists are inhuman and they eat babies, side note, I was actually asked by a 7-10 year old girl if I really ate babies. In understanding this, I had a industrial sized weed eater strapped to my body and went about offering to clean up abandoned lots in a neighborhood that had become overgrown and a danger to the children, others would come behind and pick up the trash and hazardous materials that had been discarded. After doing this for about an hour people started to come over to see what we were doing. The missionary and several others who spoke the language started having conversations and soon we were invited for Turkish coffee (first time, and man I was hooked) to talk about why we were doing what we were doing. At the end of two weeks of what was called servanthood evangelism, the missionary had relationships throughout three neighborhoods and within six months was able to plant a church in one of the homes of the people we served. We were in a culture that valued service to one another and it opened a door. Without this understanding the opportunity may have never presented itself for God talks.
Meyer breaks down eight cultural differences and how to navigate them. They are as follows: Communicating, Evaluating, Persuading, Leading, Deciding, Trusting, Disagreeing and Scheduling. These different scales are helpful in understanding not only the different cultures but also where your culture stands in relation to them. One of the most fascinating things Meyer keeps bringing up (it must be important) is not only where your culture and a different culture lie on the scale but where in relation you fall to each other.
So as shown above, the UK may be an Applications-first in Persuasion but in context with the U.S. they are much closer to a Principles-first persuader. But, in context to Russian persuasion the UK is much more Applications-first. This was a fascinating idea, and one which we in ministry can take hold of. Just because someone seems to be standoffish to how we are presenting the Gospel does not mean they are not interested, it could be they just are not comfortable with how we come across in our discussion and because of that nothing we say or present has any merit.
We see Paul using cross cultural ministry in Athens when he gives his speech at the Areopagus in Acts 17:23. He does not belittle the other Gods, he uses context to present the one true God in a context his audience would understand. He did not water down the Gospel and he drew in those who were listening to have deeper conversations. This seems to fall right in line with Meyer’s Leadership principles. You have to understand the power structure to be an effective leader. The story of Carlos Gomez was fascinating. He was a Mexican leader trying to manage Dutch employees, “But in the culture where I was born and raised and have spent my entire life, we give more respect to someone who is senior to us. We show a little more deference to the person in charge” The Dutch he was managing are less authoritarian and much more egalitarian in there approach to leadership. They offended their boss with their culture, he amused them with his.
Coming back to ministry, how many have I offended just because I did not understand their hierarchy? How many brushed my pleadings for Christ to the way side because I did not understand their natural persuasion style. This book gives me both pause and hope, pause because of the opportunities I have missed, hope because using the tools provided maybe I can make better use of the opportunities that come my way. I also am excited because I can use the tools in Meyer’s book to help others within my church to reach out to those who they may not have without them.
 Penney, Karen. “The Culture Map: Erin Meyer.” Director 69, no. 4 (2015): 20.
 Meyer, Erin. “Navigating the Cultural Minefield.” Harvard Business Review 92, no. 5 (2014): 119-23.
 Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done across Cultures. New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2015. 96.
 Ibid. 120.