The phrase “time
management” would not even naturally occur in the language of an
event-oriented culture.It is a
phrase that would only occur to someone coming into such a culture from a
time-oriented one.In time-oriented
cultures we think of time as a commodity.Our
language reflects this when we talk about “spending” or “saving” time
and when we talk about “investing” or “wasting” time.The phrase “time is money” would make little sense in an
However, since many
missionaries are from time-oriented cultures and receive support from people
with that orientation, it remains relevant to their lives when interacting with
family and supporters back in their passport countries.
Jesus lived in a culture in which
people did not wear watches on their wrists and did not hang clocks on every
wall. Sometimes he responded immediately and went to people, and at other times
he delayed his response or withdrew to be alone.
For example, on one occasion when
two of John’s disciples began following Jesus, he did not send them away but
spent the day with them (John 1:39).Likewise,
when Nicodemus came to him at night, Jesus did not say that it was time to go to
bed but spent time carefully answering his question (John 3:1-21).
However, on another occasion when
his brothers urged him to publicly show himself to the world, Jesus said the
time was not right.He said, “You
go to the Feast.I’m not yet going
up to this Feast, for the right time has not yet come.”Then when his brothers left for the feast, Jesus also went in secret.
Between these events, Jesus urged
his disciples into action because the harvest time had arrived (John 4:35).Likewise we find in Matthew 4:17 that the time had come for Jesus to
preach and in Matthew 16:21 that the time had come for Jesus to explain to his
disciples what was going to happen.In
these cases time referred to an order of events or an opportunity rather than to
a schedule, so Jesus dealt with time in a variety of ways.How do we manage our time in an event-oriented culture?Let us consider some ways.
Be God-oriented first.
When asked what was the most
important commandment and how to obtain eternal life, Jesus replied with what we
call the Great Commandment—putting God first in every area of life (Matthew
22, Mark 12, Luke 10).Your
time with God is the most important thing in either a time-oriented or and
this before attempting to answer questions about time vs. event or task vs.
The most important question is,
“What does God want me to do in this situation?”
Pray for wisdom,
guidance and help in knowing what to do with your time.
Scripture passages related to event-oriented cultural responses.
Ask the Holy
Spirit to illumine passages.
Ask people to
pray for you to have God’s wisdom in how to spend your time.
The apostle Paul wrote that for the
sake of the gospel, so that some might be saved, he became all things to all
people (1 Corinthians -23).So even if you feel “out of step” and never fully get used to late
meetings and the slowness with which events move, join the culture in which you
are serving.Remember that people in
that culture get things done in their own time, and they often get them done
very effectively.For their benefit,
choose to try to avoid offending them.It
may even be good to develop the “bad” habit of being tardy while working in
an event-oriented culture.Your
being late may be less offensive to members of an event-oriented culture may
than youralways being “on
Teach and be taught.
First you probably need to learn
about the event-oriented culture in which you are living, so be open to being
How do people
greet one another?
How do they
What do they talk
How do they say
about time-related issues and norms.
Ask to which
events one can be late and how to interpret the time stated.For example does 8:00 mean 8:00, 8:15, 8:30, or9:00?
Find out what
reasons for tardiness are acceptable.
Ask how late you
can or should be.That may
depend on your status.
Read.As you read books about the culture, pay close attention to the
sections about the use of time.
Time may be
very specific to particular events.For
example it may be more acceptable to miss the wedding, than to miss the
reception—and perhaps you must not leave the reception before the meal is
served and the cake is cut.If your
visit to the wake at a funeral is too short, it may be perceived as cursory,
indicating that you do not really share in the grief of the family.
After you have learned about time in the culture and been accepted by the
people there, it may be good to teach the nationals about your culture.That may help them understand you and interact well with other people
from time-oriented cultures.One
missionary said that those working with him came to admire his traits and
activities even though they could not manage those themselves.In fact, they came to depend on his efficiency to get things done in
situations when promptness was important.
Coach yourself well.
Quiet those automatic thoughts that condemn event-oriented people as
inefficient, unproductive, and wasteful.Replace
them with positive thoughts.
productive in a different way.
my repertoire of uses of time.
more flexible for the Master’s use.
how to manage relationships instead of time.
how not to offend people.
that use of time is not inherently a moral issue. You may just be learning to be
more like Mary and less like Martha.What
Martha was doing was not bad, but what Mary was doing was better at that time.You may have to earn the right to speak to people’s needs before
presenting your extensively researched Bible study.Be sure you know what their needs are before you try to speak about them.Remember that the watch on the national’s arm may just be a status
symbol, not an indicator of time-orientation.
Try these tricks of the trade.
Here are a few things you can do to help you adapt to the
event-orientation of an event-oriented culture.
Take your watch
Remove all clocks
from your home.
Pay attention to
the position of the sun instead of the minute hand on your watch.
Build ample time
cushions (between events) into your planning.
Scripture when you wind up waiting for half an hour.
Always carry a
Bible or Testament so that you can use unexpected time for devotions, sermon
preparation, class preparation, etc.
for not being time-conscious.
Make notes of
good things that happen when you are not in a rush.
times when you are not able to be time conscious.
Use the time
spent waiting to verify that your teaching is understood.
Use time you
spend waiting as a teaching/training opportunity to disciple someone.
Use the time
spent waiting to build rapport with nationals.
Use the time to
observe and learn about your host culture.
Get out of town.
You may want to “escape to a
mountain” as Jesus did.At times
he got away from people, and he encouraged his disciples to do the same thing.If you are from a time-oriented culture, you may feel more relaxed if you
can get away to a place where “time management” is a meaningful concept.Just as you continue to speak your mother tongue at home even when living
in another country, there is nothing wrong with having a place where you can
make lists and accomplish “things” in timely fashion.Just as it is relaxing in a time-oriented culture to take some time away
from that orientation, it may be relaxing to take some time away from an
event-oriented culture, time to study and “get things done.”Rather than a retreat from time-orientation, it is a retreat to
Some people may believe that a
Christian worker, especially a missionary, should not refuse to spend time with
people who want them to stay, but that was not the case with the apostle Paul.At the end of his second term he briefly visited Ephesus, leaving two
other missionaries to continue the work.When
the people of Ephesus asked him to spend more time with them, he declined,
saying that he would come back if it was God’s will (Acts 18: 20-21).Of course, he did return to Ephesus during his third term and spent
several years there (Acts 19:8-10).Not
only did Paul leave when asked to stay longer, but also at times he purposely
avoided seeing people when he was in a hurry.At the end of his third term and in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, Paul
decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time there.Instead he stopped south of Ephesus and asked the elders of the church to
come down to meet him briefly (Acts 20:16-38).
Parable of the exchange rate.
When you enter another country, you
exchange your currency for the currency of that country.The exchange rate may vary if you exchange at a bank or in a store.It may vary from town to town.However,
you soon learn what the rate is where you are so that you can soon figure how
much money you will get for each unit of currency at home.
In the same way, when you enter
another country, there is an exchange rate for time.What took one hour in your passport country may take two hours in a large
city in the new one.What took one
hour back “home” may take four hours in a small town.You can soon make the adjustment in determining the cost in “time”
just as you can make the adjustment in terms of currency.
Member Care Consultant