Webinar title: “Giving Honor: Key to Healthy Cross-Cultural Partnerships”
Healthy cross-cultural collaboration is vital to the witness of the gospel in a lost and fractured world (John 17:21). However, collaboration in partnerships or networks is a lot harder when questions about honor status—whether spoken or unspoken—create stress or division. Honor status is not a small issue; it impacts trust, leadership, who has a voice, who is validated, how success is shared, and more.
This webinar will bring to the surface the problem of honor competition, rivalry, and honor status—common in the New Testament church. We will examine the Spirit-empowered solution of “giving honor” (Rom 12:10, 1 Cor 12:21–26 )—across cultures and across different levels of social status. Together, we will explore various ways that “giving honor” can help make our own networks or partnerships more healthy relationally—and more fruitful for the gospel.
Synergy Commons (a ministry of visionSynergy) will be co-facilitating with me a five-day online group discussion (i.e. Burst group) on this topic following the webinar. More information will be provided by Synergy Commons as we get closer to the webinar. –Werner
We saw that the Bible contains some dualities, paradoxes, seeming contradictions. Some readers might think … Okay, I get what you mean, but what’s the point? Of course there are some tensions in the Bible. It doesn’t seem important.
But it IS important. Really important.
Today, I am sharing how these varying dualities in Scripture can help us uncover blind spots or assumptions in the way we articulate the gospel. Below is a slide presentation which I developed in 2013 which takes you step by step through what this means.
You’ll see how the Canopy of Biblical Truth fits into this discussion about contextualization.
You’ll see that a traditional Western presentation of the gospel (“The Four Spiritual Laws”) contains Western cultural assumptions.
You’ll discover an alternative way to articulate the gospel using the language of honor and shame.
Plus it’s FREE! You can download this very presentation (at my Slideshare page) yourself and use it to teach and discuss these principles with your own team.
“We can easily forget that Scripture is a foreign land
and that reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience.”
If you are a Christian from North America (or Northern Europe and Australia or elsewhere)—and you consider yourself influenced primarily by Western values, consider this:
Culturally speaking, the Bible does not “belong” to you; it’s not your book.
It was the people of the ancient Middle East—characterized not by the individualistic guilt-based values of contemporary Northern Europe and North America and the West, but by the group-oriented values of honor and shame—to whom this book was originally written.
It was in the culture of the ancient Middle East—characterized not by the equality-oriented values of the West, but by the hierarchical values of honor and shame—that men inspired by the Holy Spirit authored the sixty-six books of the Bible.
It was the ancient Middle East—characterized not by the direct communication style of the USA and Northern Europe, but by the indirect communication style of honor/shame cultures—where God chose to call out for himself a man named Abraham, so that through his descendants all the peoples of the earth would be blessed.
It was into Greco-Roman culture at the height of the Roman Empire—characterized not by the individualistic values of the West, but by the family-based, hierarchical values of honor and shame—that Jesus Christ was born and grew up, worked and lived, proclaimed the gospel of his kingdom, called and taught his disciples, suffered a humiliating death, and victoriously rose again.
It was through the kingdom and story of Israel—characterized not by the fast-paced lifestyle and risk-oriented values of urban America, but by the slow lifestyle, the cautionary traditional values of honor and shame—that Christ called his newly formed people, the church, to extend his gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth.
Indeed, “reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience.”
Excerpted from the forthcoming book, THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World. If you would like read or review the pre-published manuscript write to Werner Mischke at email@example.com.
1. E. Randolph Richards; Brandon J. O’Brien: Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (Kindle Locations 74–75). Kindle Edition.
Since February 2012, I’ve been working on a major book called, THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World.
It’s a book about honor/shame dynamics in the Bible and what it means for Christians engaged cross-cultural ministry across the street and around the world. In upcoming posts, I’ll be sharing various bits and pieces from the book.
Since our own cities and communities are becoming ever-more diverse, the need for contextualizing the gospel and connecting with people from Majority World cultures is rapidly growing. So the book is not just for cross-cultural workers serving on the other side of the world. It for those of us who want to connect with people from other cultures in our schools and workplaces. Or to make friends and share the gospel of Jesus with the new neighbors from across the world who now live in our own communities.
Here’s an update on the progress of the book
I am done writing the chapters, but we are not done with our own internal editing process. Right now, Mission ONE president Bob Schindler is reading the manuscript. Because of his suggestions we are doing some enhancements and other changes to the text. I hope that this part of the process will be done in May. I’m really grateful for Bob’s careful reading of the manuscript.
We are also currently in the process of getting endorsements from mission leaders, pastors, etc. If you would like to review the manuscript and contribute an endorsement, send me a request by email.
We will ultimately be giving the manuscript to Livingstone, the company which will proof, edit and design the book. I hope this can happen sometime in May. Their work will require at least three months. Then there is our own approval process. I am thinking the book will be available sometime around the end of the year or early 2015.
We are getting forewords written by two outstanding Christian mission leaders. One of the already-completed forewords is by Steven Hawthorne, editor of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. I am grateful for Steve’s most encouraging words.
Here’s a list of features from The Global Gospel:
Explains why Christians from every theological tradition, including Western ones, have theological blind spots.
Thoroughly explains why honor and shame is the pivotal cultural value of the Bible.
Organizes nine dynamics of honor/shame in the Bible into a cohesive whole using graphic icons.
Uses more than 84 visual aids (diagrams, charts, and graphs) to make concepts more easily understood—to serve Christian leaders, pastors, cross-cultural workers, and lay persons.
Thoroughly explains why understanding honor and shame is a strategic issue for world evangelization—across the street and around the world.
Explores in variety of ways the importance of honor/shame dynamics in the gospel—and what this could mean for reaching unengaged and unreached peoples.
Presents honor-status reversal as a motif of Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation.
Shows how the Bible’s various dynamics of honor and shame are contained in a multitude of Scripture passages about salvation and the atonement of Christ.
Reveals ten Scripturally-rooted ways to freshly articulate the gospel of Christ—in ways that may better resonate with Majority World peoples.
Explains the pathological dark side of honor/shame, but also reveals the Bible’s amazing (and surprising) bright side of honor/shame.
Presents five levels of awareness of honor/shame dynamics and what this means for cross-cultural ministry.
Demonstrates how honor/shame dynamics are key to understanding the meaning of the kingdom of God.
Reveals from Scripture how the legal framework for the gospel can be balanced by a regal framework.
Explains from Scripture how God actually shares his honor and glory with persons and people groups—fresh thinking about our motive and purpose for missions.
Offers a rationale to train cross-cultural workers in the Bible’s honor/shame dynamics and reinforces Scripture as the beginning point of the contextualization process.
Demonstrates the value of using an “honor factor” in developing mission strategy—with three recommendations related to cross-cultural collaboration and ministry to unreached and unengaged peoples.
Our publishing advisor is Dan Wright Publisher Services, located in Nashville, Tennessee. Dan has been providing expert guidance on this project “since day one,” for which I am very grateful.
If you would like to see the latest manuscript, please send me an email, and I will send you the latest PDF.
I’ve been working since February on a book concerning honor and shame in cross-cultural ministry. The unfinished book is now going out for initial reviews. Three sections are done; one section to go. The fourth section will address a wide range of practical implications for cross-cultural ministry. My goal is that it will be completed some time in the first quarter of 2014.
If you decide to preview the manuscript, please keep a few things in mind. First of all, the manuscript is not without errors. I’m sure you’ll discover some typos. That’s okay. I am not looking for corrections of errors in spelling or grammar, but feel free to share them if you want to. We have a company waiting in the wings which does professional editing and proofing. They will do that later.
I am seeking your insights and asking if the book is useful and helpful. I hope you will have a lot of “ah-ha” moments. If you do, I’d like to hear about that.
I would also like to hear if you disagree with something. Maybe you’ll see a point I am making that does not jive with your perspective or maybe it just seems unclear or inappropriate somehow. I would definitely like to hear about that.
Here is what I believe you’ll gain from this book:
Why shame is such a pathology in our world, and why the church is largely unprepared to deal with it.
The many ways that God’s Word reveals that our shame is covered and our honor restored through Jesus Christ.
How the honor/shame dynamics in Scripture can be a vital key for ministry among unreached and unengaged peoples.
One basic reason why people from Western and Eastern cultures are so different.
More than 70 diagrams, charts and graphics to make complex things easier to see and understand.
Why guilt is more likely to lead to healing behavior, whereas shame is more likely to lead to hurtful behavior.
Why so much violence in some honor/shame cultures?
Theological blind spots—where they come from, and what I believe is the most serious one.
Why, if you’re a Westerner, the Bible is not your book!—culturally speaking.
References and citations to more than 70 scholars—many of them PhDs.
Nine basic dynamics of honor and shame that are present in honor/shame societies and in the Bible—to help you makes sense of what the Bible says.
One major motif of Scripture (related to honor/shame) which ties together the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
How a “conversation within Scripture” can stimulate fresh ways of thinking about the gospel of Jesus.
What is the “gospel of the kingdom?”
Innovative ways rooted in Scripture to articulate the gospel of Jesus Christ—using the “thought forms” of honor and shame.
Friends, my word count on this book right now is about 106,00. That will make this about a 300-page book, so far. So it’s not exactly light reading. But I think you will find it well worth your while.
The great missionary-theologian Lesslie Newbigin asked, “How can the gospel ‘come alive’ in all these different cultural contexts, and still be the same authentic gospel? That is the problem of contextualization.” 
To understand the setting for 1 Peter, here’s a quote from the introduction to 1 Peter from the online version of the ESV Study Bible:
Peter encourages his readers to endure suffering and persecution (1:6–7; 2:18–20; 3:9, 13–17; 4:1–4, 12–19; 5:9) by giving themselves entirely to God (4:19). They are to remain faithful in times of distress, knowing that God will vindicate them and that they will certainly enjoy the salvation that the Lord has promised. The death and resurrection of Christ stand as the paradigm for the lives of believers. Just as Christ suffered and then entered into glory, so too his followers will suffer before being exalted.
The letter is addressed to Christians dispersed in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1), an area north of the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey); see map above. …
Although the entire book of 1 Peter offers insights about living honorably as persecuted believers in an honor/shame-based society, I will look only at 1 Peter 2:1–12. My comments about this passage are made by seeing these verses through the pivotal cultural value of honor and shame.
1 Peter 2:1 — Characteristic of honor-shame societies are highly competitive social games and attitudes. Jerome Neyrey calls it the “ubiquitous game of challenge and riposte or push-and-shove”.Malice, envy, deceit, hypocrisy, slander are attitudes and behaviors that were present in ancient Middle Eastern societies. They are to be “put away” by all believers! Followers of Jesus are to “vacate the playing field” of this competitive, conflict-generating social game that characterizes honor-shame societies.
1 Peter 2:2–3 — In contrast, believers are to pursue the achieved honor of developing the righteousness that characterizes followers of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4 — Rejection is normative for believers; however, the “shaming techniques” of the community are to be resisted. The shame of rejection is contrasted with the great honor of being God’s chosen, which constitutes ascribed honor. “Precious” in the sight of God implies affection from God the Father to amplify the ascribed honor.
1 Peter 2:5 — Believers are transformed to a higher honor status via becoming part of “a holy priesthood”. The phrase “acceptable to God” indicates the polar opposite of being rejected in shame by Almighty God. The phrase “through Jesus Christ” refers to Christ’s high priestly office as Messiah and mediator between God and and all humanity—a role and office of staggering honor.
1 Peter 2:6 — Here we see the fulfillment of the prophetic words in Isaiah 28:16. It is the ancient covenantal story of God with his people Israel—from which came the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ—the most honorable of all the “stones”. He is the very summation and crux of the story. The prophesy is now fulfilled! And the result? …“whoever believes in him will not be put to shame”. It an astounding promise, the ultimate good news—for people whose pivotal cultural value is honor and shame.
1 Peter 2:7 — Peter writes, “So the honor is for you who believe”. Amazing—this is a most unusual way to gain honor. This honor is gained neither by ascribed honor (family name and official title) nor by achieved honor (through competition and conquest). But simply by BELIEF in the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Psalm 118:22). It is contrasted with those “who do not believe”.
1 Peter 2:8 — For those “who do not believe”, Peter quotes Isaiah 8:14 . The Cornerstone will be “a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense”—He will be an “offense”. This is an understated way of saying a means of ultimate shame for those who fail to honor God. Unbelievers justly receive this punishment of shame because they “disobey the word”—“as they were destined to do”—which amplifies the depth of their shame in contrast to being “chosen by God” (1 Peter 2:4).
1 Peter 2:9 — We see here the multifaceted honor of the community of believers. They are 1) “a chosen race”—the ascribed honor of being the elect … plus 2) “royal priesthood”—denoting regal honor … plus 3) “holy nation” (holy = being set apart, and virtuous behavior—a blend of ascribed and achieved honor) … plus 4) “a people for his own possession”—achieved honor based on covenantal love … plus 5) “to proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”—here we also see a people with a royal, highly esteemed ambassadorship with the responsibility for mission which accrues to great reward; an example of achieved honor.
1 Peter 2:10 — Faith in Jesus Christ results in a dramatic change in honor status—from zero people-honor, entitled to zero mercy—to being God’s chosen people entitled to infinite mercy; such a dramatic shift in honor status was most rare in the days of ancient Rome. This dramatic transformation of honor status happens by belief in Christ and results in becoming part of a new kinship group—the family of God, the CHURCH local and universal under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:11 — It is normative for Christians to be “sojourners and exiles”. Peter is urging believers to live in a way commensurate with the immense honor of being the people of God. The honor challenge is to resist the temptations and shaming techniques of your culture—for this is warfare against your soul, your true identity.
1 Peter 2:12 — Christians must live honorably among the Gentiles; they must resist their shaming techniques and their evil words. In turn, those who are not believers will acknowledge the believers’ honor as a people, and ultimately give honor and glory to God. Paradoxically, this creates hope and vision for more honor out of the very experience of being shamed.
What are some suggestions for cross-cultural ministry?
1) Consider 1 Peter a “shame-resilience guide-book”. Cross-cultural workers serving in honor-shame societies among first generation believers should consider how the book of 1 Peter might serve as a guide for building shame-resilience in new Christ-followers. Going through 1 Peter in a small group study—while alert to the dynamics of honor and shame—would be a very instructive practice. See this quick-reference guide for assistance in reading the Bible through the lens of honor and shame.
2) Cultivate a culture of honor in the church family. Intensify the practice of honor in the church. The church must be a place of Christ-centered acceptance, love and affection. Believers from societies whose pivotal cultural value is honor and shame should feel the honor of being part of their church family. Consider how you and your team can create a culture of honor.
3) Actively discourage rivalry. Shame-based cultures produce intense rivalry. Leaders should take note of it in the greater church, in their own local group, as well as in their own individual lives (Philippians 2:3). Once taking note of it, leaders must repent of it in their own lives and humbly challenge the behavior when they see it in others. Rivalry will prevent or destroy a culture of honor in the church.
4) Keep focusing on King Jesus. Our Lord Jesus Christ is ever the source of the believer’s and church’s honor. Hebrews 12:1–4 is particularly instructive in this regard, and especially verse 2: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
1. Jerome H. Neyrey: Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville: Westminster Press, 1998) p. 20. Neyrey contends that Jesus is calling His followers, particularly males, to “vacate the playing field”, so that rather than gaining honor in the traditional way through public game-playing, they are gaining honor by living in the kingdom of God in joyful obedience to its King.
SKILL #1: READGod’s Word through the lens of honor and shame. Reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience. Reading the Bible through the lens of honor and shame is an attempt to know the Word of God the way the original hearers would have heard it or read it. It’s an effort to de-Westernize our reading of the Scriptures. Read one book at a time. CLICK HERE—for a quick-guide to reading the Bible through the lens of honor and shame.
SKILL #2: SPEAK using the Bible’s language of honor and shame—both in conversation with people and in prayer to God. Talk with others together about what you’re learning. Become comfortable using words like honor and glory relative to our own relationship with Christ. Pray Scripture. Pray together using the honor/shame words found in God’s Word.
SKILL #3: WALK your own authentic path of shame to honor—in the light of Christ. Discovering the honor of who we are in Jesus Christ has two facets—like two sides of the same coin.
Being vulnerable about our own shame. All persons deal with shame—whether as agents or victims of sin. We must allow the work and Person of Christ deal with our shame. Personal prayer times and small groups characterized by high-trust are healthy places for vulnerability.
Experiencing the honor of who we are in Christ. See yourself and your church family as a part of the story and drama of the honor-status reversal of Jesus Christ. Pray together with others about overcoming shame and experiencing honor—in relation to Jesus Christ. This sense of honor may be experienced both individually with the Lord, and in community with the Lord, that is, together in the love and ministry of the Body of Christ, the church.
You do not have to be a professional cross-cultural worker or Bible scholar to read and understand the Bible in the “language of honor and shame”. Most anyone can do it if they familiarize themselves with a few key concepts. Below are four steps to help you unlock the honor/shame dynamics in Scripture so that the Bible can “come alive” for you in a fresh way. You can be confident thatthe insights you glean from reading the Bible this way will help you understand people from other societies whose pivotal cultural value is honor and shame.
Before following these steps, download the quick reference guide to reading the Bible in the language of honor and shame. Click here to download.Familiarize yourself with the dynamics of honor and shame which exist in Bible societies.
STEP 1—Recognize honor/shame dynamics. Observe the “universe” or spectrum words and dynamics of honor and shame in the Bible in the graphic at the top of this post. (This is also part of the quick reference guide.) As you read the Bible, circle those words in black. Pay special attention to these words … glory, honor, blessing, ashamed, cursed, name, kingdom, blood—and anything having to do with family or kinship.
STEP 4—Observe words and themes about salvation—and how they connect to honor-status reversal. In the Old Testament and New there are many references to the words … saved, ransom, redeem, atone, propitiation,etc. Underline or circle these verses in red. Observe the relationship, if any, between salvation and honor-status reversal.
To what extent does Chinese culture emphasize the value of honor and shame? How does honor and shame affect the beliefs and practices of the church in China? When Westerners visit or serve there, what should they be aware of—concerning themselves and Chinese cultural values?
Wu’s article provides an overview of how honor and shame is woven into the beliefs and practices of the church in China. “In particular,” Wu summarizes, “we see that collectivism and an honor-oriented value system are fundamental to Chinese identity. Our examination of Scripture highlights key areas of overlap between a [Chinese] community and biblical conceptions of the Church.”
Wu’s applications include …
“Chinese church leaders can become more conscious of their decisions in light of western influences and their own cultural assumptions.”
“Missionaries can assess their strategies and better serve Chinese churches.”
“The reflections offer a richer reading of the biblical text.”