Stories+Insights

At COSIM, all of our learning about cross-cultural partnership involves character, culture, or competence.

We have learned together through COSIM that healthy, fruitful cross-cultural partnerships are the result of three overlapping qualities…

  • Godly characterprincipally humility as followers of Jesus Christ.
  • Cultural intelligence (CQ)principally deep understanding of our own and other cultures—and the skill to adjust our behavior accordingly.
  • Organizational competenceprincipally wise practice.

All of the plenary sessions, workshops and opportunities offered by COSIM conferences are learning experiences that deal with one or more of these areas of competence.

Competence in each of the three areas is vital. Let’s say you have only two of the three—godly character and organizational competence. Will that be enough for a healthy cross-cultural partnership? No, because you will lack cultural intelligence. Without cultural intelligence informing your organizational competence, it is very likely that your partnership will develop misunderstanding and conflict.

  • Godly character—humility—will inform your ability to listen well, build healthy relationships, patiently pursue cultural understanding, and a willingness to develop wise organizational practices.
  • Cultural intelligence—deep understanding—will inform your fellowship with Jesus Christ, your respect for people from other cultures, and the implementation of culturally appropriate forms of accountability and organizational competence.
  • Organizational competence—wise practice—will inform your spiritual disciplines through healthy structures and accountability, as well as the ability to develop a reservoir of trust cross-culturally.

A healthy cross-cultural partnership is like a three-legged stool—it will not bear weight if only two legs are strong. You need all three legs to be effective—godly character, cultural intelligence, and organizational competence.



Werner Mischke: A model for cross-cultural partnership (2007)

Werner Mischke: A model for cross-cultural partnership (2007)

This diagram was developed shortly after the 2007 COSIM conference. It was during this conference that it was observed from case studies and dialog that well-developed mission organizations and respected Christian leaders can still fail in cross-cultural partnership. If leaders or mission practitioners lack godly character (principally humility), no amount of hard work, money or systems will make up for that. If godly character is essential, what are the other essentials? The other two essentials are cultural intelligence and organizational competence.

A model of cross-cultural partnership—quick explanation

The partnership

  • A, B, and C are partners in a formal partnership: Any organization or ministry entity; for example, a Western mission agency, a majority-world ministry, or a local church.
  • God’s grace: Each organization operates inside the sphere of God’s grace (the large light circle)—secured through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
  • The vision: Central to the partnership is vision; it’s what has brought the partners together, and is far greater than what any partner can do alone. Each partner brings unique resources to work together toward the vision.
  • The cross: The finished work of Jesus Christ, and God’s passion to gather worshipers from among all peoples—is what ultimately holds the partnership together.
  • The advocate: An individual from one of the partner organizations serves as a “champion” for the partnership, and applies cultural intelligence as he/she facilitates the partnership toward the vision.

The partner organization

  • CHARACTER: Each partner has leaders with godly character who live as humble followers of Jesus Christ.
  • CULTURE: Each partner devotes resources to acquiring cultural intelligence.
  • COMPETENCE: Having acquired Christlike humility and some cultural intelligence, each partner also has wise practices:
    • Leaders who have gained personal competence—the skills for listening, leading and collaborating.
    • Leaders who have developed organizational competence with appropriate systems and accountabilities.