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Anthropological Insights for Missionaries Paperback – January 1, 1986

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"This excellent book offers indeed what the title suggests: insights--deep, comprehensive, and very practical. They are offered with great warmth and wisdom by a person who is both an anthropologist and a missionary. . . . With the addition of some questions for further thought and suggestions for reading, this book will make a good textbook in the field of missionary anthropology."
--Gottfried Oosterwal, Religious Studies Review

"In this book Paul Hiebert has pulled together an impressive array of insights (from his own missionary experience and from the experience of other missionaries) which anthropology offers the would-be missionary. . . . The book has been written in an easy-to-read, straightforward style. Hiebert provides an abundance of primary sources for those who might want to pursue further individual insights. It is a book that will be valuable to mission executives, missionary candidates, and even experienced missionaries."
--Jacob A. Loewen, Missiology

"This is a book that needed to be written. . . . No single volume focuses the insights derived from the study of anthropology so comprehensively and yet so practically on the life and work of the average evangelical missionary as does this one. While ideal as a supplementary text for a course in missionary anthropology, this book can be read with real profit by anyone engaged in or contemplating a cross-cultural ministry. . . . The book is replete with helpful tables, charts, diagrams, and carefully selected excerpts from other writers. . . . This is the kind of book that deserves to be read not only at the beginning of one's missionary career, but at five-year intervals thereafter."
--Kenneth Mulholland, Evangelical Missions Quarterly

"A masterful tool. . . . [Hiebert] provides a sound treatment both of culture and the Gospel which denies the complexity of neither. He treats the task of living in another culture with much practical wisdom and a good deal of intellectual sophistication. He presents a thoroughly sound and persuasive approach to contextualization and the communication of the Gospel. . . . This is all done in clear, non-jargony language. Effective charts and diagrams sprinkle the text and go a long way towards illustrating difficult concepts and ideas. . . . This book is believable, convincing, and practical. . . . It would be useful for courses in applied anthropology, missiology and missionary preparation, and the theory of culture."
--Harley Schreck, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

About the Author

The late Paul G. Hiebert (19322007) was distinguished professor of mission and anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and previously taught at Fuller Theological Seminary. He also served as a pastor and missionary to India. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and was the author or coauthor of numerous articles and books in the fields of anthropology and missions.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 17th edition (January 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801042917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801042911
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
While living in the Middle East I did a survey among missionaries living in a muslim environment, asking them what book had been most helpful in their preparations before coming over. This book was mentioned many times and had a great impact in their lives! As a teacher in a mission department of a christian seminary this book is a must for all students who consider going into missions. The book gives very good insights on the problem of cultural differences and shows clearly how your own faith has been effected by your culture. It also gives a very good model of contextualization which is applicable in all times and places. The examples Hiebert gives are practical and illustrate well the points he wants to make and make the book lively and accessible. Just read it!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Gunia VINE VOICE on April 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Christian missionaries often are required to go through extensive theological training so that they know their doctrine and how to apply it. They also go through various psychological and personality tests so that they might gain a better understanding of themselves (e.g. strengths, how they react to stress). But they rarely receive adequate training on how to adapt to, live in, and thrive in a foreign culture in such a way as to gain a hearing for the Gospel. This book, by missionary, anthropologist, and professor at Biola University (La Mirada, California) seeks to apply anthropological insights to the work of foreign mission work in order to make the missionary more healthy (spiritual, mental) and effective in his work.

"Anthropological Insights for Missionaries" begins by presenting a base of information. Anthropology is described and various terms are defined and interrelated Overarching theories of intercultural interaction are presented and Hiebert describes his basic anthropological and theological assumptions. One of the most important arguments for the purposes of the book is Hiebert's contention that the Gospel is compatible with any culture as each culture is able to understand and apply the Gospel in a unique, Holy Spirit-led way.

The second part places the focus on the missionary himself. It is certainly a stressful task for the missionary to pack up everything and move to a remote, unfamiliar land. Issues of culture shock and ethnocentrism are examined as well as cultural assumptions. Hiebert provides paradigms and practical advice for acclimating to a new culture and (beyond that) to becoming incarnational within that culture (adopting it as best as one is able).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andris Peselis on January 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Missionaries should learn and understand culture of the people to whom they want to preach the gospel. I agree with Hiebert that without all that knowledge their message may be irrelevant and meaningless in cultural enviroment that is different from the cultural background of missionaries, especially if they came from the West. Missionaries must be tolerant for other cultures and keep interest in their own ways of being and believing, but they must resent the popular concept of cultural relativism. Christian missionaries may lost the meaning of the gospel and ministry if they only reflect the culture of people around them or ignore the native culture.

Hiebert accents that the preaching of gospel may reflect the background of missionaries but he in his book helps to avoid trap of culture shock, how to make bridges between cultures, and lay good foundation for native Christian churches. Especially interesting is Hiebert's analisis of trends what will and may happen in the new native Christian church later after three and four generations.

I recommend this book not only for missionaries but also for pastors and gospel workers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hiker Bookworm on March 11, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Anthropological Insights for Missionaries" should be required reading for anyone involved in short or long term missions. While well researched, this book also comes from an insider. Mr. Hiebert's years of mission experience shine through in the practical applications. As you read answer questions like, "What are my cultural assumptions?" or "Where does the culture not meet the people's needs?" This would make a great supplemental textbook for any missionology class.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mandie P. on January 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a good reference book for missionaries who are going overseas. It helps you understand different cultures around the world. It is a good read for those who do not understand other cultures and want to get a good grasp on why people do what they do. It introduces you to various ways of life many of which I had never heard before. This book is academic, not light reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel King on August 5, 2014
Format: Paperback
Anthropology is the study of humans. This book about missionary anthropology examines how missionaries interact with, understand, and impact different cultures. It is important for missionaries to move beyond Western culture and to be sensitive to the traditions and cultural traits of different societies. Far too many missionaries, still stuck in a colonial mindset, try to impose their own culture on their converts. It is important to get back to a kingdom mindset instead of a Western cultural mindset.

Hiebert launches his first chapter with a story about how a church in India featured Santa Claus in their Nativity drama. He makes the point that first one must understand the historical and cultural setting of the Bible and second one must interpret the Bible into the historical and cultural setting of the people one is ministering to. He lists four benefits of anthropology to missions. First, it helps the missionary understand cross-cultural situations. Second, it helps with Bible translation. Third, it helps the missionary understand the process of conversion. Fourth, it helps the missionary make the Gospel relevant to the listeners. Finally, it helps the missionary relate to different cultures and build bridges of understanding.

In the second chapter, culture is defined as “the more of less integrated system of ideas, feelings, and values and their associated patterns of behavior and products shared by a group of people who organize and regulate what they think, feel, and do.” Every culture has its own cognitive, affective, and evaluative dimensions. These work together to form a worldview, or assumptions and expectations about reality.
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