Over the past few years, I have come to know Dale and Shoko Araki who lived in Tokyo, Japan. Both are university professors, teaching in separate universities, but both teach intercultural communication. Therefore, they teach people about the importance of cultural sensitivity. They come to Northwest Arkansas annually.
As the Arakis pursued the Lord, God united them years ago with a woman named Wilma Samuel, a member of Cross Church. Wilma invited them to church, and in their annual two- or three-week visits to Northwest Arkansas, they would attend church with her. This eventually led us to getting to know one another.
Dale had confessed Christ as the Lord of his life at an earlier age. Shoko was an unbeliever. Through prayer and conversation, over a period of time, I was able to lead Shoko to faith in Christ. What a great testimony it is today about the power of Jesus Christ.
Upon their most recent visit here, they requested I lead them in a renewal of their marriage vows in celebration of their twenty-fifth anniversary. When we built our Pinnacle Hills campus, we wanted to lift high the gospel story through erecting crosses that are 175 feet, 160 feet, and 145 feet high. Below the crosses, I had the privilege to lead them in their renewal of vows.
While walking back inside, I asked them to remind me what they teach in Japan. They both talked about cultural sensitivity. I was immediately intrigued, as I was writing this chapter at that very time. I learned several things they taught, which I told them were all basic principles found in the Bible.
They shared about the fear we have when we enter another culture or enter into a conversation with someone from another culture. They spoke about the need for each of us to be culturally sensitive. They shared the need to acknowledge the cultural differences, accepting them. When progress is made, the challenge is to immerse yourself into another culture, which is adapting to it. The ultimate challenge and goal for each of us should be to move toward integration, which is being able to feel at home anywhere around the world. In fact, this may even involve one being multilingual and obviously, multicultural.
This is exactly what I mentioned about the apostle Paul. He was willing to be a Jew to the Jews in order to win them. He was willing to become all things to all men in order to win some. Paul understood the importance of immersing and integrating himself into the culture and lives of people he was trying to lead.
Forward leaders do this. If we are not willing to integrate our lives into the people we are leading and attempting to influence, we will limit ourselves personally and limit our leadership with them.
Watch Dr. Ronnie Floyd this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks For Future Leaders by Ronnie W. Floyd. Copyright B&H Publishing Group 2015.