Because we live in a world that is radically different from them, we tend to ignore and even despise their theological reflections and easily dismiss them as unsophisticated and syncretistic if not heretical. We fail to appreciate that theological framework is a result of their experiences with God and the Scripture.
When my family I responded to call to mission, a colleague who knows me as someone who has some theological training told me that it is good that I come because I can teach the local people good theology. My fellow missionary thought that the theology of this people is wrong and I can help them correct it. His thinking is that “correct” theology has already been formulated and I have to reinforce this theology to the locals. Of course he is referring to the Baptist theology that is a result of centuries of articulation from Europe and North America, adopted and apparently worked in the Philippines thus can be adopted here easily. As I always hear some people would say we need not to reinvent the wheels in doing cross-cultural theology.
Now the question that need to be addressed here is, what is the role of the missionaries or theologians in doing theology cross culturally? For me, the most important thing that we can do first is to be a good listener, be a learner. Then we will become a dialogue partner in developing their theology descriptively and interpretatively then and only then can we lead them to critical reflections that supposedly should result to a discipline thought and good actions. William Dyrness states this clearly.
Here is where the sympathetic listening of outsiders becomes important. I believe that encouraging people to articulate and defend what they believe—by simply allowing them to tell their stories—is a first step, not only in Christian growth, but in more self-conscious and critical theological reflection. Giving them a voice is a necessary prerequisite to allowing them to be dialogue partners either with us or with the major voices of Christian tradition. From these experiences I have become convinced that we have typically put things in reverse order in our theological education. In our zeal to get people to reflect theologically we pull out the largest artillery, insisting that they read Calvin and Barth before they have any notion what theology is, or how they really feel about God. Instead we ought to take the time to help people understand what their own assumptions about faith and salvation are, and only then them in conversation with what others in their traditions (or other traditions) have said about these things.
Willaim Dyrness. Invitation to Cross-cultural Theology. p. 36