Follow Us

You need a bigger worldview

We are way too parochial in America. We grow up speaking only English, thinking that ours is the only fishbowl to swim in, immersed in a culture where everything comes to us in nanoseconds. And we assume that everyone is the same way. We don’t seem to understand the degree to which our worldv…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
We are way too parochial in America. We grow up speaking only English,
thinking that ours is the only fishbowl to swim in, immersed in a
culture where everything comes to us in nanoseconds. And we assume that
everyone is the same way. We don’t seem to understand the degree to
which our worldview is culturally defined. We don’t seem to have the
questions to ask that will help us see that other perspectives even
It’s one reason that I say, “Every young person needs to spend a year
overseas.” The little ruts in which we live are way too narrow. How can
we begin to embrace Jesus’ final command to make disciples of
all nations unless we can appreciate and embrace their cultures? Of
course the World Race is perfect for expanding your worldview. There’s
nothing like experience and experiencing 11 different countries gives
you all kinds of questions to begin asking.
Take something as simple as getting an icecream cone. Here in America
you walk up to the counter, give them your order, and in seconds, you
get handed what you want. But, how might that work in a place like
Instanbul? The video below, posted yesterday by Birkleigh Foreman,
a racer, is a priceless answer to the question and leads me to pose this
follow-up question: What are some ways in which our worldview is too

Comments (16)

  • I completely agree with you, though I will have only spent 6 months overseas, but at least its a start. We become so convergent on our ideas, when we should be divergent in our thought pattern, at least in a non-judgmental and grace-filled way.

  • Great post! In my hosting of American groups, the narrow-mindedness and parochialism (USA-centrism may be a better way to put it) I see in them continually amazes me. The only remedy is to get out of the USA and spend some time in another culture – and the 10-day or 2 week mission trip is not enough – they need at least 9 months to a year, preferably in one place. As far as WorldRace goes (not bashing it here) – it seems to me that 11 countries in a year is too much b/c one is continually on the move from culture to culture and never gets out of the “tourist” stage.

    I wish the British concept of a “gap year” would catch on in the USA. The gap year is a year that many British youth take off between finishing high school and before entering university. The idea is to grow and develop as a person which for many means volunteering overseas – taking a “constructive time out” as this website puts it:


  • One way we, as westerners have a narrow worldview is, we think we are taking God into other cultures, when in fact God is always at work in other cultures. It might look a little different than ours,, but God is at work We are called to go into all the nations and make disciples. Walking in love, incarnational ministry.

    God give me eyes to see through your worldview!

  • Agree in all ways – to the blog and the comments! I’m praying now that my daughters not only get to go on a mission trip next summer to “start the process” but that they will spend a “gap year” somewhere in another culture.

    You thrilled my heart, Seth, when you said you were a kid who didn’t really want to go at first – yippee, there is hope when God moves in … and a love for missions is in my family blood so I am banking on it!! 🙂

  • I opined now I’ll answer the question and try and not be too cranky 😉


    (5) To start, we aren’t the only “Americans” in this hemisphere! You’ll be rebuked pretty quickly in most of Latin America for calling yourself an “American.”

    (4) We are addicted to comfort & convenience – this is the first thing that slaps you in the face when you return to the US after being out for an extended time. I spend a lot of time and effort to keep missions groups “comfortable.”

    (3) All US news media is biased. We think we get the real, “fair & balanced” skinny from US news sources. Pooh! When one watches the news in another country the good ol’ USA is often portrayed very differently, as well as are other countries which we have been conditioned to think of as the “bad guys” (for example, Cuba has a lot of sympathy in the Latin American news media and I have learned not to bash Cuba here! haha).

    (2) You are more materialistic than you realize. If I have to explain this to you then you really need to come and see me. I’ll put you in a poor colonia for a week and maybe you’ll understand.

    (1) We value work over people. Finishing the task is more important than getting to know the “nationals” (hate that term). Get to know the guys you’ll be working with before you pick up that hammer.

    HONORABLE MENTION: We are obstinate about learning another language. Seth mentioned this as the first thing above and, really, it’s pretty massive. Learning another language does more to change one’s worldview than anything else in my opinion. There are some concepts in Spanish that are non-existent in English and simply cannot be grasped unless one speaks Spanish. I’m sure this applies in all languages.

  • Wow, Greg, very convicting brother. I am sorry for the my sins in this area and the sins of my nation. Help us Jesus!!

  • Great post Seth! I completely agree that every child should spend time outside our country. The more the better. There is no better life lesson than to experience first hand walking in another’s shoes. We are so privledged here; in ways we cannot begin to understand.

  • Thanks, Seth.

    Less than 20% of Americans even have a passport meaning they learn about the world from Fox News and CNN.

    As Christians we are called to a higher standard.

    The world is not “us”.

  • I think Joy hit a big issue here. I noticed this during class presentations today in my Church Planting class. I can’t judge my classmates because I’d didn’t get to talk to them about this topic, but it seemed that many of them had the idea that they were going to take the gospel to some 3rd world country and “get those poor lost people saved and discipled to mature believers.” In reality, America is becoming more and more in need of the true gospel and it is these other countries that are sending missionaries to us. It would be wise for any missionary to approach his people group with a humble, teachable spirit.

    We may have an abundance of theological education here in the States, but I think the level of faith and maturity of many of our brothers and sisters in other countries would put us educated Christians to shame.

  • thanks for the encouraging way you included my video in your blog. I have to say that the race is one of the best things that’s happened to me..! Love you brother!

  • I agree! We are hoping all three of our kids will take a year to do the World Race or at least go overseas after highschool. Now that our kids are in pubic schools, our two oldest are taking classes like World Culture, etc. We do lots of praying for protection and continue to dialogue with them about how other cultures and religions differ from Christianity. We have had other Christian parents tell us that these classes are the reason they won’t allow their kids to attend pulbic schools, and I respect that, and just know that each family has to listen to God’s leading. I understand we need to protect our kids with what they are learning as they grow up. But by allowing our own kids a bigger worldview, it seems to actually be strengthening their Christian beliefs and making their walks with God stronger. I am not sure what the balance is, but we definately don’t want our kids living in a Christian fishbowl. We want them to be in the world, but not of the world.

  • Thank you for this thought-provoking question. I believe the silos we call cultures are a primary stumbling block in two key areas: fulfilling The Great Commission and obeying the second greatest command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

    As a nation I think we are somewhat coddled. Most Americans are either unaware of how the rest of the world lives or don’t care. Neither prospect speaks well of us. Jesus left heaven and condescended to save us. Surely I can become “uncomfortable” for the sake of those He came to save.

    Travel and exposure will change your perspective and your heart.

  • A little reaction here…

    Yes, I agree the American stereotype is materialistic and ethnocentric. And yes, many of us Americans only know one language. And yes, I regrettably fit all three categories!

    However, over the course of history the majority of humans haven’t had the opportunity or technology to allow them the experience (luxury) of traveling to foreign locales for the sole purpose of better understanding diverse cultures.

    So while broadening my horizons through travel is worthwhile, I don’t believe it is a prerequisite – or even corequisite – for pleasing God.

    “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” – 1 Thess 4:11-12

    ~thoughts from a simple follower

  • Nick, far from simple I think your statements are profound. The beauty of our country is that those cultures often reside within driving distance of where we live–sometimes just across the street. But they look different, and we can find that unsettling.

    It ought not be.

  • I think Joy’s point is a great one too … been meaning to comment again all day! One of the most wonderful things in the world to me is that many churches in South Korea and Africa are sending missionaries to America nowadays … some of these men and women are so much deeper and stronger in their faith it should make us cringe…

    Also, Nick – for the record – I think “materialistic, ethnocentric and monolingual” describes most of us … me too, in many ways, but I do try to get out of that box! Just look at our churches — as Cheryl said, we live in one of the most diverse countries in the world, yet you’d never know it in most churches on Sunday morning. We hang out with people who look like us, talk like us, and who are for the most part in the same socio-economic class as us. I adore churches with diversity. It’s made me a bit cranky in the church-shopping department, but boy, is it worth it to find a place where everyone’s not the same!

    If there is opportunity to travel overseas for us or our kids, I think we should take it. ASAP. There’s nothing like it to give you a glimpse of what Jesus’ heart is all about and what heaven is going to be like … if money is an issue, then it’s not so far to get to some part of town that is DIFFERENT. That seems like something ALL of us can do…

    By the way, there are still 200+million people (2200 people groups) who do not have a Bible in their own language – and who have most likely never heard about Jesus Christ even once. Yes, even today in the 21st century of globalization. “How can they hear without someone preaching to them … and how can they preach unless they are sent?”

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap