Most of worldview is “caught” rather than “taught.” This means that it is part of our acculturation  as we are steeped in our own culture. Because of that, we rarely think about our worldview until it is challenged or until we encounter another culture with a different worldview. Viewing our own culture in light of others makes us stop and compare. When we see a difference, we realize we have to make a judgment about it.
For most of us, in light of culture, things that are different than what we are used to or things that we don’t understand are typically classified as “bad,” and they might even make us angry. When this happens, we might think that people holding to a view different from our own must be either crazy or evil. In reality, we might think this way simply because we don’t understand the foreign culture. Learning to work and minister cross-culturally requires learning to suspend judgments and seeking to understand at a deeper level. We seek to understand the person’s worldview so as to be able to interpret what was said or done within that context (instead of comparing it within our own worldview context).
Many of us born before 1960 grew up with a Christian worldview as it was the dominant worldview at the time in the U.S.—even among non-Christians. It was simply the culture of the time, and everyone was raised in it. However, today in the U.S. there are many worldviews competing for one’s attention. “Postmodernism” asserts there is no objective truth and moral standard, only opinions. “Moralistic therapeutic deism” is predominant in U.S. culture today and teaches that God just wants us to be kind to each other and for us to be happy. God might answer a prayer or two here or there. “Secularism” asserts there is no God, and we are little more than animals conditioned by circumstances to behave one way or another. “Pluralism” assumes all religions are equally valid perspectives on the ultimate reality; none can be exclusive. The traditional religions—Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the like—can also be worldviews when one grows up in cultures that abide by these religions.
As Christians, we have the transcultural Word of God which asserts to be truth in every aspect it teaches for all humans at all times. Because God created us and understands all cultures at all times, He is able to speak truth into our hearts and minds at any time. As believers, God has given us his Spirit to reside inside of each of us to give us the wisdom and discernment we need for whatever he sends our way. The Scriptures assert, “And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God's guarantee that he will give us everything he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.” (Eph. 1:13-14a NLT)
Because of the Spirit’s presence, we have the ability to discern truth from error. “So I want you to know how to discern what is truly from God: No one speaking by the Spirit of God can curse Jesus, and no one is able to say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:3 NLT)
Truth is a critical part of a Christian worldview. Our enemy seeks to blind people’s eyes from the truth so that they will not draw near to their Creator. However, when we focus on the common elements of two different worldviews, we find as humans that we have much in common. These commonalities may sometimes be used to build bridges of understanding between two people with apparently radically different worldviews.
For help in building those bridges of understanding, consider ordering from the online store one of many booklets on building a friendship with an international student or how to share Christ with them. Go to http://store.isionline.org/categories/Booklets/ and download one or more of the PDF documents.
Principles cited in this blog: Worldview is an important concept in cross-cultural ministry and understanding it allows us avoid the rush to judgment when we encounter differences; knowing something of worldviews other than my own helps me to know mine better.
Application for ISI ministry: Often we have more in common with another worldview than we realize and seeking those common values helps build a heart-bridge to the other person.
Next blog topic: Perspective
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson
 cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture