FOREWORD


“Dr. Craig Ott: On the So-Cal Life, Intercultural Mission, and the Ministry of Catan”

10.5.2021  |  Season 3  |  Episode 4




SHOW NOTES

Episode four introduces listeners to Dr. Craig Ott, Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies, ReachGlobal Chair of Mission and Director of the PhD.in Intercultural Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Craig also received his MDiv and PhD from TEDS, and his familiarity with the school stretches a long way.

Dr. Josh Jipp and Dr. James Arcadi have a lively conversation with Craig, ranging from his upbringing and conversion in Southern California during the Jesus Movement through to his current work on contextualization in teaching and learning. Craig eventually found his way to TEDS as a student, where he discusses the impactful experiences with professors who sustained intellectual rigor with passionate evangelism (not to mention his experience meeting his now wife and fellow colleague, Alice). Craig and Alice now both teach at TEDS, and they bring with them rich experiences of having served as missionaries to Germany and as church planters, a time during which they had to learn lessons about how to bring the gospel to new places, with new questions and challenges. Apologetics, missions, intercultural studies and evangelism integrate into a profound set of sensitivities that Craig now brings into the classroom and beyond.

Along the way, listeners will discover…

  • How much Josh knows about the Premier League (speaking of cross cultural experience…)
  • Whether it is a good idea for spouses to edit one another’s books
  • Which board game serves as a helpful analogue to contextualization

To learn more about Dr. Craig Ott, have a look at the PhD. in Intercultural Studies program at TEDS, at his new book Teaching and Learning across Cultures, his earlier book The Church on Mission or his recent chapel message.

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Transcript

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Josh Jipp
[00:00:00] So, I’m glad we’re talking about this, because I feel with the addition of Fellipe, I’m kind of the one person that doesn’t really know—you know, of the hosts—that doesn’t really know or understand football, or soccer—whatever… I don’t even know what to call it!

James Arcadi
I mean, I call it soccer because I’m an American—

Jipp
Okay—soccer.

Arcadi
—but the rest of the world I think calls it “football.”

Jipp
Okay, so give me… I’m going to throw out a team—I know some teams—tell me if you can, like, give me the description of what kind of team this is, and then I’ll see if I can come up with an analogy from my world that I understand.

Arcadi
Like the North American analog or something like that?

Jipp
Yeah, something like that—

Arcadi
Okay, we can do that together, I think. Yeah, yeah. Sure.

Jipp
Okay, so…Manchester United—tell me something about Manchester United.

Arcadi
[LAUGHS] So…you…um…

Jipp
You don’t want me to start with that one?

Arcadi
No, no, that’s fine. We can start with them. So, I mean, I can give you more of the analog, which I think maybe could be the—

Jipp
No, I want a little description. I think it’s fun for me to—I want to try to find the analog.

Arcadi
Okay. I mean, I just want to describe…the big payroll—

Jipp
Yeah. Okay.

Arcadi
—lots of championships—

Jipp
This is totally what I thought. So obviously, the Yankees.

Arcadi
Yeah.

Jipp
Okay. Bayern Munich.

Arcadi
Yeah. How would you even kind of characterize—I mean, they are, like, almost the national team of German soccer. They always win everything, they’re the biggest, most important team in Germany, I think, you know—Dortmund fans, I’m sorry.

Jipp
Okay, so part of me wants to say Cubs—like, America’s team, but obviously the winning is not quite there.

Arcadi
Yeah, they’re much winnier…more winnier? They win more than the Cubs.

Jipp
Liverpool. How about Liverpool?

Arcadi
Well, see, here’s what’s interesting—that’s my team…and Fellipe as well.

Jipp
That’s your team? And Fellipe? Okay.

Arcadi
Yeah. Right. So, I mean, and they’re owned by the Red Sox owners. I kind of take them to be kind of a Red Sox team. Like, Liverpool’s kind of working class like Boston is, it’s a coastal city, you know, shipping back in the day and everything, and kind of a scrappy team, you might say, that tries to pull things together with resources that are available.

Jipp
Nice. That sounds like the kind of team I would want to be a fan of. This guy David Beckham—who’s this guy? Does he still play soccer? [ARCADI LAUGHS] I know Zidane. Didn’t he do a headbutt of somebody once—kind of get in trouble?

Arcadi
[LAUGHS] Yeah. Right.

Jipp
So my only soccer…here’s the closest soccer experience I have. It is…it’s with Christian Ronaldo.

Arcadi
Christiano Ronaldo?

Jipp
Yeah. So he’s pretty old now, right?

Arcadi
You ran into him?

Jipp
No. This is…so when I was running for student senate my freshman year of college—

Arcadi
In college. Okay.

Jipp
Yeah, it’s, like, the second week of classes; people don’t know me yet, so I came up with this speech that basically had all kinds of props. I found this poster of Ronaldo, and I can’t remember what my point was, [ARCADI LAUGHS] but I was like, “Just like Ronaldo, I’m trustworthy and reliable. I get the job done.” [LAUGHTER] So I’ve always had a soft spot for Ronaldo, even though I’ve never seen him play…anyway.

Arcadi
Yeah. You should check it out sometime. It’s the beautiful game.

Jipp
Yeah, well, my daughter’s playing soccer now, so…maybe get a chance.

Arcadi
Good for her!

Jipp
Alright, well that’s fun. [LAUGHTER]

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Jipp
Welcome to Foreword: A TEDS Faculty Podcast. I’m Josh Jipp.

Arcadi
And I’m James Arcadi!

Jipp
For today’s episode, we’re thrilled to have Dr. Craig Ott here with us. Craig is the Director of the PhD in Intercultural Studies. He’s also the Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies as the ReachGlobal Chair of Mission. And, James, I know you’re probably excited about this: Craig is a native Californian.

Arcadi
Southern Californian, in fact. Right?

Craig Ott
Yes, let’s not make any mistake about that. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Okay, sorry about that.

Arcadi
The real California.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] As an Iowan, I didn’t know what I was getting into there. So, Craig did a couple of degrees here at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School—MDiv, PhD—and then has had extensive experience, 20 years or more, in Germany, has planted churches in different places—I think we’ll talk about a little bit later—and then in 2002 came back to TEDS to teach. And we should say—we’ll probably talk about this a little bit later—his wife, Alice, is also on faculty as a church historian. So, Craig, thank you so much for joining us and for being with us here today.

Ott
Thanks for having me.

Arcadi
Well, Craig, we just talked a little bit about your background from my home state and everything, but I understand you grew up as agnostic—not really a believer. I’d be curious how you came to faith and how you kind of sensed your call to go into ministry once that happened.

Ott
Right. My father was an atheist, and that’s pretty much the way I was raised—never, ever went to church. But he, after a 10 year battle with cancer, died when I was 12 years old. And I can only tell you that to go through something like that and have absolutely no clue about the meaning of life or what any of this means, or if there’s a purpose, it’s a pretty awful place to be. And so that probably set me off on a slightly philosophical direction for a young kid. But, to try and shorten the story a little bit, I spent a lot of time going to Hollywood—I grew up in L.A.—and I spent a lot of time in Hollywood on the weekends and sneaking into concerts and different things. And one night, my friend and I were trying to sneak into the Playboy Club, actually—which is like Fort Knox…you can’t sneak into that place—and got invited by some street evangelists to a meeting. It was all very bizarre for me, but it did set me off on the question, “God, if you are there, show up somehow.” It was just one of those “throw it out there…” And then, through a number of other things, I had a good friend who had a very—he had been involved in the Hollywood scene a lot with music and I was playing some music with him—and he had a dramatic conversion. I mean, he really came out of the drug culture…the whole thing. And that, then, got me thinking, “I have to take this more seriously.” I read A Harmony of the Gospels, which to me was a foreign world. I’d never heard of Bible studies or anything as a kid…or Bible stories. And probably the clincher was my first year at the university. I was invited to a meeting where there was a speaker about fulfilled prophecy, Old Testament prophecy, that had been historically fulfilled and so on. And that kind of clinched it, that, “Okay, this is really truth.” And the rest of it…I was involved in the Jesus movement and very quickly became involved in leading a Bible study in the dormitory and not knowing at all what I was doing, but, you know, it was there; God was moving. We were doing a lot of music and coffee houses—Christian coffee houses were springing up all over Southern California. And so then I was like, “Well…,” I was a math major in college but I started to major in philosophy and I go, “Well, maybe God’s leading me into ministry.” And that got me to TEDS.

Jipp
[00:06:45] Wow. Wow. I’d love to hear more about… you referred to as “The Jesus Movement,” and just in general what the Christian culture was like in California at that point. You mentioned already that there was music and coffee houses and so forth, but are you able to share a little bit with us about that?

Ott
It was really pretty amazing if you think of it, because a lot of the publicity was the hippies and the counterculture who became Christians—Calvary Chapel, the music thing. And there was some commercialism, but most of it was really pretty authentic. And these were pretty…I mean, these were radical days. You’ve got to go back…late 60’s, early 70’s, you’ve got the Vietnam War; the country’s very polarized; you’ve got the whole counterculture movement. And you go from Woodstock—everything’s love, you know, the “festival of love” and all of this—and then you get Altamont in San Francisco, a big Rolling Stones open air concert, where the Hell’s Angels kill a person. And so there was a lot of disillusionment that starts kicking in about that time, from the whole “love and peace” to “It’s not working. We’re not out of Vietnam, and nobody’s listening. We’re not making a better world.” And so into this dilemma, this movement of Jesus, the Gospel, comes in and you had some of the leaders in these various counterculture movements become Christians. And you had certain churches like the Calvary Chapels that were ready for it and embraced it, and it kind of took off. And so, it was a pretty exciting time and it was sort of an all-out, no holds barred, “You just go all out for Jesus or you don’t,” and it was that kind of atmosphere. An, obviously, a lot of people were along for the ride, but by and large, it was a pretty phenomenal movement of God.

Jipp
Wow. That’s fascinating.

Arcadi
So you come out of that and decide that you need some seminary education? What was it that led you into ministry, and TEDS specifically, in that kind of environment?

Ott
Well, through leading various Bible studies—and in this dormitory group, we just put out a sign and said, “Bible Study” and 20 people showed up. And I was like, “Wow. I guess I’m leading this thing.” [LAUGHTER] And then that thing grew over the years to about 70 people, we had to move into a lounge—people were coming to Christ. I mean, this was amazing. And so, it’s like, people were saying, “God’s gifted you to do this kind of thing,” and I was like, “Okay, but I’m not a church-type person. Maybe I’ll go…but I like the Bible. I love the Bible and I like teaching. And who knows? Maybe I’ll start a commune, or Christian commune, or something.” I had no clue. Now, as I was finishing up just before I came to Trinity, I started reading some mission books, and mission biographies, and that started making me think, “Wait a minute. There is a lot greater need in other parts of the world. I need to be open to the fact that God might be leading me somewhere else in the world.” So that kind of was the transition to Trinity. When I got here, of course, meeting international students—one of the guys, first week on campus here in the summer of ‘74, a guy was representing Trinity at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. And he just comes back from this and I got in his way and was like, “Okay. You’re going with the mission folk here.” And so one thing led to the next and we ended up in missions.

Arcadi
Yeah. Cool.

Jipp
[00:10:03] So meeting students…I mean, I was going to ask…what was one of the biggest impacts on you in terms of your time as a student at TEDS? You’ve already mentioned to some extent that that’s’ relationships with international students. Anything else—professors or experiences—that really impacted you while you were a student here at TEDS?

Ott
For sure. Some of you may know the name Gleason Archer—great Old Testament professor, wrote the yellow Bible… you know, Introduction…“OTI”—and, you know, this guy was this Harvard intellectual who, he…he would bring a different Bible to chapel. He was fairly fluent in probably 20 languages. And, you know, he was a real legend sort of a person. But we used to have, back then, a “Day of Witness,” believe it or not—“All students, you’re going witnessing,” so you go beach witnessing, you go hospital visiting, whatever, “You’re going out and witnessing today.” Gleason Archer’s knocking on doors over here in Lincolnshire sharing his faith. Some of you know the name of Norman Geisler—you know, apologist and philosophy of religion—and he’s going out and sharing the Gospel in hospitals and stuff with students by their sides, and this is very impactful.

Jipp
Yeah.

Arcadi
Yeah.

Ott
The Village Church in Lincolnshire was as a result of, actually, a student initiative to do evangelism in the community of Lincolnshire, and it was a TEDS prof who helped sponsor that and start a Bible study, and eventually—and the Marriott Resort had just opened—we started church in the Marriott Resort, which is now still there, and it became The Village Church of Lincolnshire. So all of these things came together that shaped my life at Trinity here—not to mention that I met my wife here. [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
Ok, I was wondering about that.

Ott
Ok, you were wondering when that was going to come.

Jipp
No…I wasn’t. I wasn’t…yeah. [LAUGHS] So Alice, she was a student at the same time as you were? Okay.

Ott
Felt very led into missions and so we weren’t fooling around with people that weren’t interested in missions. You know, it’s like, “Okay…you’re in or you’re not. You’re with this willingness to go wherever.” So yeah, we met here, we were in an apologetics class with H. Dermot McDonald together, sat next to each other, and the rest is history.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Very cool. One question about Alice—I always wonder…so do you two…I mean, Alice, we’ve got to get her on the podcast at some point, but she also—I mean, you both were in the same Baker catalog, right, in terms of having books come out? [LAUGHTER]

Ott
Yeah, flip the page.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] I think that’s pretty awesome.

Arcadi
Yeah, totally.

Jipp
Do you two read each other’s work? Do you edit each other’s work? Do you…

Ott
Yeah! We read each other’s work after it’s in print!

Jipp
Okay, nice! Yeah.

Ott
No, we talk a lot in the writing process. So, we share ideas, bounce, you know, “What if I did it this way, and what do you think about this approach?” and so on and so forth. So we do talk a lot in the process of writing, but editing can get personally really quick.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Yeah. Totally.

Ott
You know, there’s a lot of personal style, and, of course, we’re academics, so we are very—

Jipp
Yeah, “Leave me alone” a little bit, right?

Ott
—you need to say things in certain ways, right? So it’s like, “Okay, we won’t do that.” [LAUGHS]

Jipp
Yeah, that’s cool.

Arcadi
I mean, maybe just kind of moving forward a little bit, but also, I’m curious how your…curious how you got into going to Germany—so what led you into a specific context for the missions work, but then also, how that specific context impacted your thinking about the contextualization of the Christian message with some things you’ve been writing about and working on a lot in your career.

Ott
Well, we were just open to wherever God would lead us. And initially, I was more interested in theological education in Africa, because this was the big call at Lausanne—the majority world church is growing, but there’s a real lack of strong evangelical theological education. So that was where I was initially sort of pointed, and then just again, through a number of providential encounters that I won’t go into, it’s like, “Well, Europe. What about Europe?” And I was thinking, “Well, theological education in Europe.” And then I met a person who said, “They need churches in Europe! They need churches that have a living faith and not just sort of a formalist…formalistic, nominal faith.” And so that really got us thinking more in Europe. At that point—this was…we went to Europe in 1981 to Germany, and at that point, it was like, “Europe is a mission field?” Well, anybody paying attention knew it was, but it wasn’t normally considered a mission field. So the background I had in philosophy and apologetics—because they did a lot of apologetics when I came to TEDS. It was a big apologetics school at that time. I felt that that was kind of preparing for a situation like Europe—my own personal background, agnostic/atheist and that whole process, I felt that, “That’s probably the place where God could use me.”

Arcadi
Yeah! Well what was it like showing up in a different context? How did that…how did you sort of think about, “How do I communicate the Gospel to this…very foreign…,” to you, from your background—although, with points of contact, “How do I speak to this particular context with the truth of the Gospel?”

Ott
[00:15:04] Well, this is old school. I had never done short term missions—people never hear of such a thing now, but at that time, I had never even been to Europe—but, a strong sense of God’s calling, this would be the place. And what we did, though, just before I get to the contextual question is, it’s like, “Okay,” and we’d planted a church in the U.S., in the Chicagoland area, before going. So we did have some experience in the States, but the philosophy of our mission at that time was, “We don’t care if you’ve done it in the States. You’ve never done it here. So, we want you to first of all be committed to just learning the language—this is your main tool.” And we lived with a German family for six, seven months—total immersion language learning. And then, we did an internship—after a year of language school, I did a whole year of an internship with a German pastor to become acculturated into how to preach and how church life functions and so on and so forth in a German context. And it was only then that we began to move into our own ministry, so to speak, of evangelism and church planting. Most of our years were in evangelism and church planting. But it was a different world. There were a lot of shocks. I mean, the simple…the funny shocks are you go to the first elder board meeting in a German church and there’s beer being served during the meeting. But the not-so-funny ones are…the first time I was doing a Biblical instruction class for twelve year olds, and they said, “Wait a minute. You just said Paul wrote the Letter of Timothy? No; Paul didn’t write the pastoral epistles.” “Oh really?” A twelve year old’s telling me this—they get this in school, you know. “Moses didn’t write Deuteronomy. The creation story? Oh, that’s just a myth. Miracles? Well, those are just stories that a tradition redaction put in there.” So it’s like, “Whoa!” Twelve year olds, thirteen year olds, are giving me this. So you’re moving into a context where a distrust of the Bible is already there—in children. Add to that the general image of Christianity are these big, empty, cold churches, where basically nobody but grandmas and grandpas go there and they don’t even talk to each other much. They show up and leave. And church is this kind of social institution—doing a lot of good diaconal work and so on—but not relating to their life. So how do you, then, say, “Wait a minute. The Gospel has something to say to you,” when the attitude is, first of all, “Been there, done that. Church doesn’t serve us and we can’t trust the Bible anyway.” So this is an enormous challenge to even get a hearing.

Jipp
Would you say that…in that context, what ended up being more significant? And I don’t want to play these off of each other, but was it more to try to convince, say, those twelve year olds and people that are older than that apologetically that, “Hey, no, you can trust the Bible, and miracles do take place,” or is it the church itself and the community functioning as sort of its own form of, “Look at the work of God and the work of the Spirit here.” Is it both of those, or what are the strategies, or goals, that you would have as you’re trying to really minister in an age that’s a little more secular—even than what we have here in the United States?

Ott
Yeah, a good bit more than the U.S.—certainly than the Midwest. Well, it is both. You do try and present certain arguments in apologetics and help people understand, “Hey, wait a minute. There are actually good arguments that refute what you’re saying.” But at the end of the day, especially for younger people, but in general, it’s the community of the church. And this I would hear over and over again. And this was a contrast between the church as community and the church as an institution. So most people think of these big, empty cathedrals: church is “institution;” church is “social service institution with some religious extras.” But for them to experience communities of believers who really live out their faith, who know each other, who love each other, who live community, who are caring people, and who engage and care for others outside the community, this is really powerful because a lot of people have not seen that version of Christianity. And what started shifting was in our early years in Germany. They said, “Well, you free church people…” And “free church” is small “f.” It’s Baptist, Methodist, anything that’s not Lutheran, Catholic—free church. “Well, you’re the sects. You’re the dangerous folk.” What started shifting was people started saying, “Wait a minute. You’re the people who take the Bible seriously. Okay, we can work with that.” So the lived community was very powerful. And I know of people who entered a church service and they just were shocked that people were greeting each other or hugging each other or just relating, and the Scriptures were being taught in a way that touched people’s lives. So this was extremely powerful. I mean, I’m all for apologetics—I studied apologetics here at Trinity: philosophical apologetics and Biblical studies apologetics and so on—but for most people, it was the lived experience. And this was that shift from “modern” to what some people call “postmodern,” but kind of away from a rationalistic view of life to say, “Wait a minute. There are some things we’re not going to get with the purely rationalistic.” And particularly in the 1990’s, the whole new age philosophy started coming in very big. It’s not so big now, but then, it was huge. People were looking for alternative spiritualities. And we could take that seriously and say, “You’re looking for authentic spirituality? Let me tell you what I believe authentic spirituality is. Let me show you a life that’s been changed—not just talking about it.” And that became very powerful. So it’s a combination.

Jipp
That’s great.

Arcadi
[00:20:52] Yeah, yeah. Sure. I mean, maybe even moving a little more abstract—I’m sure coming out of the concrete experiences—but you’ve written on and talked about “Biblical Contextualization.” What do you mean by that and how is that applicable in different contexts and different locations?

Ott
Ok so, what it doesn’t mean is “Compromising the Gospel so you get more people,” okay?

James

That sounds good.

Ott
You know, it means there’s not just one way to present the Gospel. Let’s just read the book of Acts! I mean, we’ve got numerous sermons and messages there, and ultimately, they’re all going towards embracing Christ as Lord and Savior—you know, rejecting idolatry—but the starting points are all different places. So right there. It also doesn’t mean just saving traditional culture for the sake of traditional culture. The Gospel is also countercultural. We find that in the New Testament. Christians are not conforming to everything in the culture. It’s going to bring change. But, you hopefully are bringing change in the right place, and you’re not bringing change because you’re importing a foreign culture, or a foreign idea, of what it means to be a Christian. So, but, as a more general definition—I use a really general definition—is that contextualization is the intentional process, not by accident, but the intentional process of making faithful, Biblical disciples of Jesus Christ who live appropriately in their context or their culture. And that is going to look a little different. Now, it might be something as simple as the music you play, but it’s going to go deeper than that. It’s going to say, “How do I deal with many of the challenges and issues that the culture throws at me?” So we’re getting in America—just take our own—contextualization is not something for “out there” in exotic places. It’s for everywhere because culture’s continually changing and we have to continually be engaging the issues. And we are not making faithful disciples if we are not helping people deal with what the culture’s throwing at them. You know, Romans 12:2—“Don’t be conformed to this world.” And the world’s constantly pressing us. So we need discernment. And contextualization gives us that—hopefully, if we’re doing it well—it gives us the ability to Biblically discern how to live faithfully in the face and in the context of these different challenges. Sometimes, we are going to celebrate what’s in the culture—plenty to celebrate, you know, family things or arts or these different elements of culture…the way a culture may care for their weak and so on. We can celebrate a lot in a culture, but, as we know, all cultures are also fallen. And so contextualization helps us in that discernment process.

Arcadi
Can I pick up… so it seems to me that one of the more challenging words in the definition is the “appropriate” relation to the culture, or “appropriate” expressions of the culture, even as a new life or belief system in Christianity has been embraced. How do you help people think through what is appropriate in their previous culture and their previous context that they can continue in without any problem—they can even appreciate and celebrate—and how much of that should be left behind as they’ve now embraced Christianity?

Ott
Yeah, I mean, the really simple answer to that is “Take my course on contextualization.” [LAUGHTER]

Arcadi
Sign me up!

Ott
You know, I couldn’t resist.

Jipp
No, yeah. It’s a teaser.

Ott
Because there is no elevator talk answer to that.

Arcadi
Sure. Of course.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] “Just come to TEDS!”

Ott
You know, I just call it “building a bridge” here. And to build a bridge, you need both ends…and connect both ends. So some were really good at Biblical exegesis and Biblical interpretation; we know what that text meant 2,000 years ago. Do we know how to connect that to the world I live in today? Some people are really good with social sciences—psychology and sociology and anthropology—and they can exegete their world really well, but they don’t know how to connect it to the Bible. And so the “art” is, how do we compellingly make that connection and not sort of miss, or not say, “Well, I’m good at that, I’m good at that, but I don’t know how to bring them together.” And it is a challenge. And I think there are not really easy answers.

Arcadi
[00:24:56] Sure. But…and as you say, that is the challenge that is incumbent upon any communicator of the Gospel, right? It’s not just going cross culturally that you need to do that, but even within your own culture, your own context, exegeting the location that you’re at and how the Gospel then impacts those particular areas—that’s vital to do effective ministry.

Ott
Sure! And intuitively, and thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, most people do it fairly well. But I think the more that we’re intentional, and the more we can think this through in a way that is consistent with the way we see issues being dealt with in Scripture, there’s a model for us. I’m not going to deal, in America, with meat offered to idols. I do have students who deal with that, believe it or not. What’s going on in Corinth is not happening in Chicago. But, if I treat that as sort of a case study in dealing with a cultural issue, Paul did not give one answer saying, “Don’t eat.” It’s a complicated, three chapter long discussion. And he says, in some cases, “Flee from idolatry,” and in other cases, “Go ahead and eat; don’t ask questions.” It starts getting complicated, and so I ask, “What is the process Paul goes through? Why does he waste three chapters on this…,”—“waste”—you know, because he’s not just wanting the Corinthians to “do the right thing;” he wants them to know why and how. And then, when the next issue comes up, it’s not meat offered to idols, it’s, you know, you name it. Public nudity in Germany, oh gosh—in Europe—you know, topless bathing, nude bathing, everywhere you go. Well, you know, so, okay, is there a Christian response to this?

Arcadi
There should be.

Ott
You know, “Close your eyes”? You know, what do you do with these kinds of issues? And people who are coming out of a non-Christian world, it’s like, “What’s the big deal?” Well, if you ask most of the men, they say, “Actually, it is a big deal.” So, you know, helping make faithful disciples.

Jipp
Yeah, there’s a lot there. I would love to keep pressing in on the…I mean, there’s so much there for me as a New Testament scholar to think about the contextualization that’s already taking…you know, already taking place. And maybe we’ll keep connecting it, but I want to make a little bit of a shift. You just had this book come out: Teaching and Learning across Cultures: A Guide to Theory and Practice. I’ve had it for—Baker Academic Press. I don’t…when was the release date? It’s very—

Ott
June.

Jipp
June, ok. And this is…I was saying to James before you came in, this is not the kind of book I think one could write early-stage career; mid-career. This is impressive in terms of the amount of learning that’s in here. So first of all, congratulations. But second of all, why this book? What are you trying to do? What are you trying to accomplish in this book?

Ott
Well first of all, thank you. I’ve been teaching the course “Teaching and Learning across Cultures” for almost 25 years, and I’ve never found a textbook that I felt really combined strong, theory, researched-based information with good, practical applications. These books tend to go one way or the other, or they tend to be a niche, you know, just for ESL teachers or…and so, I didn’t see a good book that covered a broad swath but was heavily research-based. And then over these years of teaching, I have always had students write their own case studies about their own experiences of what’s happened and what’s—some of them are pretty funny—what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong teaching people of other cultures. And so I had this collection of wonderful stories. I’ve got my own stories to tell, but I’ve got some really good ones from students from places I’ve never been. So integrated into that I will have a pretty robust theoretical discussion, and then there are a lot of side bars and a lot of practical examples of what this looks like in a real situation. So I felt that by putting this together in this kind of way, and even just working through the literature—massive amount of literature—on all of these different aspects. So you’re right. It’s a 25 year project, really, and two sabbaticals.

Jipp
Yeah. So what would be the importance of someone—well, your students. I was going to say “me,” but your students—you know, in terms of, what do you want to instill within them in terms of steps they can take to become cross-cultural learners?

Ott
You’re right. It’s not only something for the guy, or woman, who says “I’m going to go teach in Japan,” or something. We live in a very multicultural culture here at home in the U.S., and we are going to be having people in our congregations who are from different backgrounds and so on. So certainly just even a general understanding of some of those cultural differences is going to be helpful for almost everybody. And even for the layperson who works next to, you know, a South Asian in their workplace. Just so some of those general cultural things. But we know that there’s over 1.5 million Americans going on international—until COVID—1.5 million Americans going on international short term missions, and many of those are different forms of teaching, whether it’s formal in a school, or whether it’s a workshop, or laypeople, or community development where you’re trying to teach them how to do some sort of irrigation or who knows what. So there’s a lot of teaching going on by a lot of people who are short term as well as longer term. More and more American missionaries, or Western missionaries, are involved in equipping roles versus front line sort of evangelism. So this is a ministry, both internationally and at home, which—it has been going on a long time and it will continue to go on—so this is a tool to just really help them navigate some of those challenges.

Jipp
Yep. James, were you going to jump in?

Arcadi
Can I—

Jipp
Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, for sure.

Arcadi
Yeah, so—this is a little bit off topic.

Jipp
Yeah, go ahead! That’s fine.

Arcadi
[00:30:56] So, in one of your publications, you referred to Settlers of Catan as being a key, I don’t know, venue in which you could explore some of these themes you’ve been talking about. What’s up with that? [OTT LAUGHS] How does this board game get into an academic discourse? [LAUGHS]

Ott
[LAUGHS] Okay, so we can can be a little playful here, right?

Arcadi
You wrote it!

Ott
I did. I did. I’m not that creative of a person, but this really did strike me. So, you know, living in Germany—Settlers of Catan began in Germany.

Arcadi
Is that right? I didn’t know that!

Jipp
That’s right, yeah.

Ott
Yeah. It’s a German game, but it’s in 30 languages.

Arcadi
How about that!

Ott
And in 2009 there were 15 million—it’s probably doubled by now—it’s an extremely popular game.

Jipp
I will just say real quickly that I encountered the game here at TEDS as a seminary student, and it was from two German students.

Arcadi
Is that right?

Jipp
And we got—I would say it was a strong form of addiction. [LAUGHTER] On the weekends, it was just…and sometimes we learned some grace and patience with each other… and reconciliation. [LAUGHS]

Ott
There’s potential for conflict.

Jipp
Yes, there is.

Ott
That’s not the part I was going into. [LAUGHTER] One of the unique features of the Settlers of Catan game—I think they just call it “Catan” now—is that the game board is made up of individual hexagonal pieces, a bunch of them. And so every time you play, the game board changes. So the rules are the same, how you win—the goal—is the same, but each time you play, you have to study the game board. And you have to think through a strategy of how you’re going to win the game, given that game board. And if your opponents—your players—they make a move this way, well, I’m going to have to adapt my strategy a little. So anyway, I thought, “This is an illustration of contextualization.” The Bible gives us “the rules,” as it were. The Bible gives us the goal of making disciples, witness for the kingdom, all that. But, we play on different game boards; cultural game boards. And it’s constantly changing. There’s people coming into our lives, there’s culture changes, there’s all of this going on, and you have to be continually rethinking strategies. So Scripture remains the guide in terms of the general parameters, the rules, the goals, etc, but we have got to apply those in a winning way, so to speak, in the context—on the game board—it is that God has dealt us or placed us in. So, yes, there’s a whole article on that that’s much more detailed. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
That’s cool. That’s cool.

Arcadi
So do you assign students to play the game for classes? And, you know, “You’ve got to get ten rounds in by the end of the semester.” [LAUGHTER]

Ott
[LAUGHS] This would be a great experiential learning experience if I could sacrifice an hour and a half of class time. [ARCADI LAUGHS]

Jipp
What about faculty retreat?

Arcadi
That’s great. I like it, yeah.

Jipp
Next faculty retreat, if we can get people to stay up until 10:30, we might have time to get a board game in, right? [LAUGHTER]

Arcadi
I’m in. I’m in.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Yeah, that’s great. Well, thank you so much, Craig. This has been really wonderful. If you would love to get to know Dr. Ott a little bit more, you can pick up this more theoretical book that we plugged: Teaching and Learning across Cultures. Dr. Ott’s also written a really helpful smaller book that would be for a more wider audience—popular audience—would that be right?

Ott
Yeah.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Jipp
Yeah. The Church on Mission. This is also with Baker. And as Dr. Ott himself said, better yet, come and do a degree at TEDS, and you can take his courses. So, thank you so much, Dr. Ott, for being with us. We also want to give thanks to our incredible producer, Curtis Pierce; we’re so grateful also for our graduate assistant, Lauren Januzik, and of course, to all of you who continue to listen in. So I’m Josh Jipp.

Arcadi
I’m James Arcadi.

Jipp
We’ll see you next time.

Arcadi
Thanks, all.

Outro
Foreword is a podcast hosted by faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The views expressed by the hosts and guests of Foreword do not necessarily represent the views of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can subscribe to our newest episodes on your preferred podcast app or at forewordpodcast.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @forewordpodcast to get updates and additional links to content. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is located 25 miles north of Chicago, with extension sites across the country and online. Trinity educates men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. You can find more information at teds.edu.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

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