The week before field preparation seminar was one of much reading. Three books in one week is far above my typical average. I’m preparing for ordination right now and have about three weeks to read three more books for that. Perhaps I’ll comment about them later. But for now I will share a couple of thoughts about Ministering Cross-Culturally by Lingenfelter, Let the Nations be Glad by Piper, and How to Learn Any Language by Farber.
Lingenfelter’s Ministering Cross-Culturally was a short and easy read. Toward the beginning of the book, the reader answers a fairly long list of questions designed to identify values and general thinking patterns. The remainder of the book demonstrates how values and thinking patterns effect ministry and helps the reader identify potential cultural pitfalls a person might encounter when interacting and trying to minister with and to people who differ from him. Even if you don’t move to the mission field you might find this book helpful, potentially revealing that someone you always found obnoxious simply processes things differently than you do. Or the book might also help you understand a different American ethnic group that you rub shoulders with at work. At the very least, Lingenfelter will help you pray better for missionaries who are living with whole people groups who think about the world in very different ways than Americans.
Piper’s book, Let the Nations be Glad, was both inspiring and thought provoking. The first several chapters on prayer and suffering were especially helpful. The very long chapters in which Piper makes a compelling case for the necessity of conscious faith in Christ for salvation and the reality of hell as a permanent place of conscious torment were not as valuable to me as I am quite convinced of those biblical doctrines, but in time the chapters might serve as helpful reference tools, if I have to engage someone who denies those realities. If you read nothing else, read the chapter on prayer. It will likely expose a misuse of your sole means of communicating with God in a way that will both shame and motivate you to know Him better.
Farber’s book, How to Learn Any Language, was definitely the funnest of the three to read. The first third of the book anecdotally makes the case for learning foreign languages—an argument that needs to be read by almost every American. The rest of the book gives strategies for actually learning languages. Some of the strategies, such as the using the Pimsleur Method (which Farber seemed unable stop praising) are too expensive for us to use right now. Others are so out of date that they are no longer available. But overall most of his strategies seemed well thought out, helpful, and attainable. I sure plan to give them a try during language school. If you’ve ever thought about learning another language, or would like to, but think you can’t, read this book.