Sherwood G. Lingenfelter is an American minister and cultural anthropologist who emphasizes the need for contemporary missionaries to understand the cultures in which they work. Born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania in 1941, Lingenfelter was licensed as an Elder by the National Fellowship of Brethren Churches in 1962. He earned a B.A. in English literature from Wheaton College in 1963 and then began studying cultural anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, he served as assistant pastor at the First Brethren Church of W. Kittanning, Pennsylvania. After earning his doctorate in cultural anthropology in 1971, Lingenfelter became a consultant, lecturer and workshop leader for Brethren missions, addressing topics such as understanding political and social organization in other cultures. He worked in Guatemala, Brazil, Malaysia, West Africa, the Philippines, New Guinea and Yap, Western Caroline Islands. In 1983, he became professor of intercultural studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California, where he was appointed provost and senior vice-president in 1988. Lingenfelter's first books were "Political Development in Micronesia" (co-edited with Daniel T. Hughes, 1974) and "Yap: Political Leadership and Cultural Change in an Island Society" (1975). In his recent works - which include "Transforming Culture: Challenge for Christian Mission" (1992) and "Agents of Transformation: A Guide for Effective Cross-Cultural Ministry" (1996) - he stresses that both missionaries and those they serve may have cultural biases, but the Christian gospel transcends them. Lingenfelter has written that "more often than not, we conform theology to practice; we perceive the kingdom of God on earth in our own cultural terms."
Marvin K. Mayers, Ph.D., University of Chicago, is Dean of the School of Intercultural Studies and World Missions at Biola University. He is the author of Christianity Confronts Culture.