Lecturer Focus: David Turnbull, Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Studies

david turnbullTell us a little bit about yourself.

David has a passion to see God’s people engage the nations in Australia and all parts of the world with the good news of Christ.  He has become one of the key proponents in Adelaide for cross-cultural ministry and has been involved nationally with several missions groups, including Missions Interlink and the Australian Committee for the Lausanne Movement.  His passion for local and global mission began with his upbringing in Papua New Guinea in the early 1970s. His missional experience has taken place within local churches, a range of local and international para-church organizations and in a number of short-term experiences in countries such as Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, UK, Bangladesh and South Africa.  In 1992 he completed a Master of Arts (World Religions) on the subject of Australian missionaries in Nigeria from 1960 to 1990, with his main cross-cultural experience involving lecturing at Gindiri College of Theology, Nigeria, in the mid-1990s. Since moving from Melbourne to Adelaide in late 1998 David has been lecturing in missiology and intercultural studies, including a 12 year stint at Tabor Adelaide.  David is married to Cheryl with one son, Matthew, who is now 21.  David comes from a family with four generations of Christian ministry involvement, primarily in the Methodist Church and Uniting Church in Australia. He has been a member of a number of Baptist churches and currently attends Marion Church of Christ where his son who has disability related issues has been accepted into the youth leadership.

Why do you lecture at Tabor?

There are many reasons why David has been lecturing at Tabor for over a decade now.

  • Tabor believes in the importance of building global cultural intelligence in the student body and has resourced the area to make it possible when other institutions have pulled back on related disciplines.
  • Tabor has believed in the integration of missiology into theology and ministry formation. This is why there is the Christianity and Culture subject for all students.
  • Tabor has allowed David to develop dynamic, applicatory and fresh subjects in the area of cross-cultural engagement and missiology that provide distinctives for the institution. This comes from the desire to ensure students are equipped for ministry for the decades ahead rather than just for now or for the maintenance of existing models that are becoming unsustainable in many ways.
  • Tabor has a strong focus on the integration of theory and practice, believing that both elements are needed to equip students for work in their future ministry context/s.
  • The formation of students in Intercultural Studies is what drives David and it is his passion. Graduates from Tabor’s IS program who go on to work cross-culturally often do so for extended periods. Students are well equipped for long-term service by the breadth of coverage and the holistic nature of Tabor’s academic program.

What are your teaching areas?

David teaches a diverse range of subjects related to cross-cultural engagement in Australia and beyond.  His core areas relate to Christianity and culture, world religions, integral mission (evangelism and social action) in the context of globalization, global theology, diversity management, intercultural life and work and supervising field education placements.

What has been your highlight for 2015?

The highlight was travelling overseas for 11 weeks early in the year as part of long service leave. Visiting Dubai, France and Belgium including the Somme, UK and South Africa provided some new cultural experiences that contributed further to cultural intelligence and cultural understanding, and provided spiritual and personal refreshment.

The highlight while working at Tabor has been the development, with David McGregor, of a new subject entitled Doing Theology within the Global Church.  The feedback from the small student cohort reflects the value of the subject in broadening their understanding of the core theological themes and foci from the different theological strands in the global church and from the geographical regions of the world.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?

David hopes to be close to having his PhD thesis written up by the end of the year.

What are your current areas of research?  What are you currently thinking about?

David is currently working on his PhD around the theme of “Managing Ethnic Diversity in Local Congregations:  A Study of South Australian Clergy and Their Levels of Cultural Intelligence.”

Outside of his PhD research he is involved in research projects regarding mission activity in local churches in Australia and the place of research in member care of cross-cultural workers.

What is he thinking about?  He is thinking about how to develop a missional culture in local congregations and to do it in a way that is contextual and healthy.


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