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Until the 1950s, the concept of missions referred almost solely to a Western Christian organization sending missionaries into the foreign mission field to grow the Christian faith, to expand God’s reign by converting non-Christians, and to establish new churches. Thus, missionaries, willingly or unwillingly, often became closely connected with colonial expansion. By its very nature, the missionary enterprise is cross-cultural. In fact, it could be argued that missionaries have struggled with issues of cultural competency in profound ways.

This entry provides a brief history of that enterprise, including the paradigm shift in the latter part of the 20th century that markedly expanded the need for cultural competence; it explores significant challenges requiring cultural competence for missionaries and reflects on how cultural competence relates to the ...

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