Yesterday I received an interesting email from a missiologist/author/trainer. His question was about the Honor-Shame Conference, June 19–21, 2017 at Wheaton. He asked:
“… what percentage of the June conference will deal with the application of honor-shame thinking to evangelism and discipleship in America, and which presenters will be hitting it?”
As Coordinator of the Honor-Shame Conference, here (below) is how I responded to his question; the text has been edited for clarity in this blog post.
Overall, I think about 50% of the conference—and maybe more—is applicable to “evangelism and discipleship in America”. Of course this also depends on your context in America. There are so many different cultural contexts, so to generalize about “evangelism and discipleship in America” is fraught with the risk of over-generalizing and subjectivity. Having said that …
First of all, there is the hermeneutical grounding of honor-shame. The honor-shame paradigm is first of all about hermeneutics (Scripture interpretation)—and second of all about anthropology (better understanding of ourselves and other peoples).
We believe that through honor-shame, we are getting closer to the way the original authors and hearers of Scripture understood the Word of God. So this is first of all about good interpretation of Scripture; you might even say we are grounded in the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura. It is secondly about better contextualization.
The double-benefit of honor-shame
This points to a double benefit—better hermeneutics and better understanding of non-Western peoples. The double-benefit is inherent in the principle, “The gospel is already contextualized for honor-shame cultures”, quoting Jackson Wu. But even in saying this, I grimace a little, because it is not merely non-Western peoples who will better grasp the gospel through honor-shame; I so firmly believe that Western peoples also really benefit from a gospel that is infused by the Bible’s own honor-shame dynamics. We could discuss sometime the range of books that point to this reality.
So concerning the hermeneutical priority, let’s consider first the plenary sessions. In my opinion, about 80% of the content in the plenary sessions is about hermeneutics enhanced by honor-shame—how this is part of theology, how it relates to the gospel and to church life in America. (Click here to see the six plenary sessions in the Honor-Shame Conference.) If you look at these plenary sessions in totality—in my opinion—you are seeing an overall emphasis on the role of honor-shame in theology, Scripture interpretation, and the gospel. Also, in the list of workshops, one of the workshops seems to focus exclusively on hermeneutics—Dr. E. Randolph Richards: “Honor-Shame in the Gospel of John”.
Now let’s get beyond hermeneutics to whether the presentations address an “American” or Western audience:
Here are the workshops which I think which will relate specifically to an “American” or Western audience:
- DJ Chuang: “Towards Erasing the Shame of Mental Illness”
- Steve Hong: “Unlocking Evangelism in our Cities with an Honor-Shame Framework”
- Jeff Jackson: “Honor-Shame as a Crucial Component of a Local Church’s Ministry to Current or Former US military Members and Their Families”
- Mako A. Nagasawa: “How to Bring About Personal Healing and Social Justice Using Medical Substitutionary Atonement”
- Robert Walter: “Grace in the Face of God: ‘Seeking God’s Face’ in Prayer as Cleansing for Toxic Shame”
The next list of workshops, in my opinion, are mostly rooted in cross-cultural ministry in overseas, non-Western communities. But I believe the relevance of these workshops is significant for many Americans and Westerners. There is cross-over impact here:
Sam Heldenbrand: “Honor, Shame, and the Gospel: Reframing the Messenger”
- Dr. Katie J. Rawson: “A Gospel that Reconciles: Teaching About Honor-Shame to Advance Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation”
- Randall Spacht, Lacides Hernandez, Juan Guillermo Cardona: “The 3D Gospel in Latin America”
Joyce Jow: “From Pollution to Purity: The Restoration of the Hemorrhaging Woman”
- Dr. Steve Tracy: “Abuse and Shame: How the Cross Transforms Shame”
Because of the fact that there are so many non-Western peoples in the USA, there is a need for preaching, evangelism, and discipleship that is conducted without a Western theological bias (see this post about theological bias and contextualization). This makes all of the workshops relevant, because we have so many Asians, so many Latin Americans, so many peoples from Africa and the Middle East living among us.
I also suggest you read the 14-page Workshop Descriptions document to get a fuller understanding of the 28 workshops offered at the Honor-Shame Conference.
How do I summarize the points in my email to my friend the missiologist?
- America is increasingly a land of diverse peoples and cultures—and this represents a major Great Commission opportunity for the church. Understanding the double benefit of honor-shame—1) better Scripture interpretation, and 2) better contextualization of the gospel for people in honor-shame cultures—may represent a strategic advance for the Church. This is valuable for all Americans—whether their background is Christian, nonreligious, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other.
- Come to the Honor-Shame Conference, June 19–21, 2017 at Wheaton!