Free presentation on solving honor competition in cross-cultural collaboration

The presentation I gave last month with visionSynergy is now available for free at my SlideShare site. The presentation is called “Giving Honor: A Key to Fruitful Cross-Cultural Partnerships”. View here.

The presentation is divided into two sections—Problem and Solution.

    • Rivalry in the New Testament world: Honor competition and rivalry was a major part of the culture of the New Testament world.
    • Rivalry today. What does rivalry and honor competition look like in networks or cross-cultural partnerships today?
    • Being like Jesus—giving honor: 
Jesus and Paul teach that serving and giving honor undermine rivalry and 
honor competition.
    • Giving honor—today: What does “giving honor” look like in networks or cross-cultural partnerships today? It looks like empathic listening.

Available as PDF/PowerPoint — or video of entire webinar

Stories and applications

There is also a set of written online conversations concerning this topic of “Honor-Shame Principles in Cross-Cultural Networks and Partnerships” at the SynergyCommons website. Several mission practitioners from around the world participated in this dialog. They share stories and various ways of applying the principles.

Many thanks to visionSynergy, and particularly Daniel Dow, for facilitating this webinar and conversation. –wm


Free honor-shame training webinar November 16th with visionSynergy

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.

Presenter: Werner Mischke, Interim President, Mission ONE
Sponsor: visionSynergy
Date: Thursday, 16 November 2017
Time: 7am PST / 10am EST / UTC-8 (Convert to local time)
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: Free

» CLICK HERE to learn more or register »

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

What does it mean to contextualize the gospel?

What does it mean to contextualize the gospelYesterday I shared a post about the “Canopy of Biblical Truth” (click here).

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.

It’s not your book!

“We can easily forget that Scripture is a foreign land
and that reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience.”

Its not your book

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

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.

Here’s an update on the progress of my book, The Global Gospel

Global Gospel updateSince 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.

Available for preview—THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World

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.

Download here—
Achieving Missional Impact
in Our Multicultural World

What does it mean to contextualize the gospel?

What does it mean to contextualize the gospel?

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.” [1]

Saving God's FaceBelow is a presentation I’ve created concerning how to contextualize the gospel. I was inspired in part by a new book by Jackson Wu: Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame.[2] (Amazing scholarship and hard to read. Highly recommended.) This presentation explores issues such as:

  • What does it mean to “assume the gospel”?
  • Can biblical truth overlap with a cultural context, even though it does not fit into one’s theology?
  • Where do theological blind spots come from?
  • Why is honor and shame hardly recognized as a valid theological subject?
  • Traditional view of contextualization compared to an expanded view of contextualization
  • Introducing a “Canopy of Biblical Truth”—alerting us to various spectrums of biblical-cultural values
  • How does Campus Crusade’s “The Four Spiritual Laws” compare culturally to “The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet”—a gospel presentation focusing on story, family, and honor/shame?
  • How does culture influence our understanding and communication of the gospel?
  • What are some considerations about contextualizing the gospel?
  • How does this form a foundation for something called an “Abrahamic gospel”, based on Galatians 3:7–9?

I am working on a book concerning honor and shame in cross-cultural ministry; portions of this presentation will be incorporated into that book.

1. Lesslie Newbigin, 
The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans/WCC, 1989), 142.
2Jackson Wu: Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame (EMS Dissertation Series, William Carey International University Press: Pasadena, 2013)

Four steps—and a free guide—to help you read the Bible in the language of honor and shame

honor and shame word universe

Read Bible honor and shame

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 that the 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 2—Recognize all conflicts as honor competition. From sibling rivalries to deadly wars—remember it is fueled by “challenge and riposte” (the ubiquitous honor-shame “game”) and the “image of limited good” (win-win was conceptually impossible except as revealed by God; win-lose was the only way). Make a note in your Bible. (NOTE: See this blog post for an explanation of “challenge and riposte”. For an explanation of “image of limited good”, see this blog post.) 

honor-status reversal, honor and shame dynamicsSTEP 3—Identify examples of honor-status reversal. Underline or circle these verses with a yellow colored pencil. This can range from individual verses to long stories. See this post for an explanation of honor-status reversal.

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.

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Article by Jackson Wu concerning honor-shame dynamics in the Chinese church

An article by Jackson Wu about honor and shame in the Chinese church appeared in the October 2011 issue of Global Missiology. (Permission granted for use of image above.)

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?

Here’s an article with many insights and suggestions. Authority in a Collectivistic Church: Identifying Critical Concerns for a Chinese Ecclesiology by Jackson Wu (pseudonym), appeared in the October 2011 issue of Global Missiology. The author has graciously given me permission to promote his article on my blog and include it on my Resources page. Don’t be put off by the title. It’s a readable paper about honor-shame dynamics in the Chinese church—born of much research and ministry experience living among the Chinese.

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 …

  1. “Chinese church leaders can become more conscious of their decisions in light of western influences and their own cultural assumptions.”
  2. “Missionaries can assess their strategies and better serve Chinese churches.”
  3. “The reflections offer a richer reading of the biblical text.”

The article may be downloaded by clicking here.

Free presentation on honor and shame (and other resources)

“Big Shame or Big Honor? Exploring the Dynamics of Honor and Shame in Cross-Cultural Partnership” — digital slide presentation

Note: Since this was first posted, a fuller list of resources is available on the HONOR-SHAME RESOURCES page for this blog. Click here.

This digital slide presentation is now available for viewing and free downloads. The corresponding video of the full presentation is available here. Presented at the 2012 COSIM conference, this teaching:

  1. Examines the key dynamics of 
honor and shame from a 
social-science perspective—
with examples from Scripture.
  2. Explores honor and shame 
as the pivotal cultural value of the Bible, and of most of the Majority World / 
unreached peoples.
  3. Examines applications 
to cross-cultural ministries 
and partnerships through understanding the dynamics of honor and shame.

You can use this slide presentation to:

  • Learn about the pivotal cultural value of honor and shame—both in the Bible and in many Majority World cultures.
  • Present the material yourself to your own friends and colleagues engaged in cross-cultural relationship-building.
  • Begin a conversation to explore the implications of honor and shame in your own cross-cultural relationships and partnerships.

Other resources on honor and shame:

  • Free 30-page article: Honor & Shame in Cross-Cultural Relationships: Understanding Five Basic Culture Scales Through the Cultural Lens of Honor and Shame—with Application to Cross-Cultural Relationships and Partnerships
  • 4lessons honor and shameFour 10-minute lessons on honor and shame. Click here to learn more. Here are four short lessons—10 to 15 minutes each—to introduce to you some of the
    principles of the pivotal cultural value of honor and shame in the Bible—and how it relates to building relationships—with God and across cultures.
  • Skit about honor and shame in refugee ministry. Give this to your friends who are dramatically inclined. And let them introduce the subject of honor and shame in building cross-cultural relationships—especially with refugees. Two skits compare relational skills. Funny and warm. Click here to download.
  • Gospel tract: Present the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ in the language of honor and shame—through the story of The Prodigal Son. Here is a gospel tract in development which may radically change how you share the gospel. Check it out here.