Is the Honor-Shame Conference about evangelism and discipleship in America?

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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.


Conclusion

How do I summarize the points in my email to my friend the missiologist?

  1. 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.
  2. Come to the Honor-Shame Conference, June 19–21, 2017 at Wheaton!

Why so much honor-based violence in the Bible? Part 1

Honor-based violenceThe Bible is a great big book about violence.

One could rightly say that the Bible is at once 1) God’s revelation of the origin of violence among humans, 2) a series of stories and case histories on the kinds of violence common to humanity, and 3) God’s revelation through the Jesus Christ as the cure for violence on the stage of human history.

Of course, the Bible is more than a great big book about violence, but it is certainly not less than this.

In the Old Testament, there is an enormous amount of murder, raping, bloody revenge, the stoning of sinful people, decapitation of enemies and kings, the offering of infants in ritual sacrifice, whole cities being destroyed, entire peoples and armies either enslaved or annihilated … and so much more.

In the New Testament we read of the murder of infants, the decapitation of John the Baptist, the stoning of righteous people, the bloody torture and crucifixion of the holy Son of God, the martyrdom of saints.

Blood and honorLet‘s face it: The Bible is a big book with a lot of violence, much of it honor-based violence. But why?

In this series of posts, I am proposing:

  • The Bible reveals the origin of human violence—and that it is largely honor-based.
  • The Bible describes the kinds of violence in the Bible and in our world today—and that what they have in common is that they are both largely honor-based. This reflects the pathology of sin/shame permeating humanity—as well as the cultural value of honor/shame.
  • The Bible reveals that the cure for humanity’s violence is found in Jesus Christ, and we will see that this cure may also be considered honor-based.

And if there will be one point to grab hold of from these posts, it will be this:

The numerous stories of honor-based violence and bloodshed in the Old Testament—often considered obscure, repulsive, or irrelevant—are, to the contrary, profoundly relevant entry points for the gospel in today’s world.

Gory stories and glory stories

What else will this series of posts lead to? I will contend that we must rediscover the Old Testament’s stories of violence—what I am calling the “gory stories”.

I will propose that we must teach, preach, and evangelize by using the Bible’s gory stories—for they are historic, narrative on-ramps to God’s own gory and glory Story—culminating with the good news, the gospel of peace in Jesus Christ.

Christian leaders of all kinds need to re-acquaint themselves with the bloody, gory, “adult content” of the Bible—and be willing to teach it and preach it.

The Bible’s numerous, dramatic stories of violence are there for a reason. That reason is to connect—to resonate, to speak with Christ-centered hope to a world awash in violence. For the Word of God pierces “to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow” (Heb 4:12).

We must recover the truth that the entire Bible is useful for evangelism, not merely a set of a few verses or biblical presuppositions. The entire Bible, even the gory stories can be an essential, exciting part of making disciples of all nations—so that King Jesus is known and worshiped among all the peoples of the earth.

Could it be that the peoples of the earth are actually longing to hear this gospel which speaks with blood-earnest, street-level authenticity to our worlds of violence?

Book review: The 3D Gospel—Ministry in Fear, Shame, and Guilt Cultures

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Let’s begin with an excerpt:

Western Christianity emphasizes the facet of biblical salvation most meaningful in its cultural context. Historically, two significant voices behind Western theology,
Augustine of Hippo (b. 354) and Martin Luther (b. 1483), were both plagued with an internal sense of God’s wrath toward their transgressions. So their writings explore how God forgives and acquits guilty sinners. While theology from Western contexts
addresses guilt and innocence, people in most Majority World cultures desire honor to cover shame and power to mitigate fear. … Despite the prominence of shame-honor and fear-power dynamics in global cultures, they remain conspicuous blind spots in most Christian theology. (p. 13–14)

These blind spots in Western theology are conspicuous, indeed. It is true not only with regard to global cultures, but also with regard to Scripture itself. This is where The 3D Gospel succeeds. In a brief volume (it’s also well-documented!), Georges exposes these blind spots and the reader becomes aware of how Scripture and the gospel address all three cultural paradigms—innocence/guilt, honor/shame, and power/fear.

Here’s what I like about The 3D Gospel, by Jayson Georges

1) The 3D Gospel is concise. It took me about two hours to read. It is simple but not simplistic; it‘s easy-to-read yet biblically rich and solid.

2) It explains culture differences simply. The explanations of various culture values—guilt/innocence, shame/honor, and fear/power—are clear and helpful.

3) It builds on the legal framework for the gospel. The book shows how the guilt/innocence (or legal) framework for the gospel is biblically true—but not the only gospel framework. The gospel is more multifaceted that we normally realize.

4) It’s well organized. The excellent comparisons charts and lists help clarify the way guilt/innocence, shame/honor, and fear/power presentations may be developed from the Bible—so that the gospel may better resonate with various cultures.

5) It magnifies the Word of God. The 3D Gospel makes the reader think, Wow, now I understand better how the Bible speaks so powerfully to all cultures!

The 3D Gospel offers material which every short-term mission trip goer, every long-term missionary, every Christian worker, will find immediately useful.

And in light of the rapidly increasing cultural diversity of our own cities and communities in North America, I also hope this book will be read by many, many pastors. The preaching of the gospel in North America would be greatly enriched if pastors would receive the insights of The 3D Gospel.

Another excerpt from The 3D Gospel

The 3D Gospel in Ephesians

Paul wrote the book of Ephesians to explain “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8), which involves each of these three components of salvation (italics added below).

Guilt-Innocence—“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (1:7a). God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (2:5).

Shame-Honor—“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (1:5). “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (2:19, cf. 2:12-13).

Fear-Power—“That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at this right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion” (1:19-21).
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (6:10-11).[1]

The 3D Gospel has much value, because we Western evangelicals tend to have unnecessary rigidity in the way we understand and articulate the gospel. We often fail to realize that our own theological perspectives are not culturally neutral.

One minor critique

I deeply appreciate The 3D Gospel. I also have one critique: The author of The 3D Gospel does not reveal the overlap in Scripture between honor/shame and power/fear.

Consider the above-quoted passage, Ephesians 1:19–21. Georges rightly indicates that this verse addresses the concerns of power/fear cultures, categorizing this as a ‘power/fear verse’.

But he makes no mention of the fact that when Christ was raised from the dead and seated at God’s “right hand”, this is also an expression of honor/shame. The phrase “seated him at his right hand” is a striking example of the honor/shame dynamic of “body language”.[2]

When Apostle Paul wrote these verses in Ephesians he referred to Psalm 110:1—“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” This is a reference to the power and the honor of the coming Messiah-King. Moreover, the phrase, “I make your enemies your footstool” is also an expression of the shaming of God’s enemies. This “footstool” idea is reflected in Ephesians 1:22, which contains the phrase, “he put all things under his feet” (cf. Ps 8:6). In the Ancient Near East and Roman Empire, honor and power were significantly synonymous.

I believe, therefore, that Ephesians 1:19–22 speaks just as much about the honor of the King, as it speaks of his power.

Of course, this kind of nuance requires more words. And the author intended The 3D Gospel to be an easy enriching read; in this regard, Georges succeeds admirably. So perhaps my critique is a bit unfair.

Like a diamond, The 3D Gospel is a treasure

Jayson Georges has made a valuable contribution to the discussion in the Christian world concerning the gospel. The 3D Gospel is an elegant introduction for those who want to understand basic cultural differences in our world while also exploring biblically faithful—and multifaceted—ways to understand and communicate the gospel.

We can and must build on the Western innocence/guilt framework of the gospel to include the Bible’s own emphasis on honor/shame and power/fear. Jayson Georges’ The 3D Gospel helps show the way.

Click here to learn how to get single copies or bulk orders of The 3D Gospel.


1.  Jayson Georges, The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures, 2014, p. 12.

2. For more on the honor/shame dynamic of “body language” and the extensive use of the honorific words “right hand” in the NT, see chapter 1.6 in The Global Gospel, pages 118–121.

Free new resource—“The Gospel of Purity”

Gospel of purityI’ve got a new article available as a free download. It’s called, “The Gospel of Purity for Oral Learners.” Here’s what this article is all about.

In the Old and New Testament, impurity and uncleanness relegated people as lower-status social ‘outsiders’ in varying levels of shame. The greater the uncleanness, defilement or pollution, the deeper the shame.

Likewise, cleanness, sanctification or holiness identified people as higher-status social ‘insiders’ in varying levels of honor. The greater the cleanness, purity, even holiness, the higher the honor. The Mosaic laws of Leviticus defined for the Hebrew people purity codes and the cycle of sanctification.

Though strange to Western/secular sensibilities, these purity codes are crucial to understanding both God’s covenant with the Hebrews, as well as the radical nature of Christ’s ministry. Jesus transcended Old Testament laws of ritual cleansing—offering his cure for people in shame due to moral failure, disease, disability, disfiguration, or death. The New Testament frequently uses “purity language” to describe what God has done in Christ for humanity.

The gospel is much more than a cure for sin/guilt; it is also a cure for sin as uncleanness/shame. The Western theological default toward judicial language in presenting the gospel should be supplemented by purity language for better contextualization.

The gospel of purity will better resonate with peoples in oral and honor/shame cultures. Many of these peoples are unreached in the Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim blocs—all of whom practice their own distinct cleansing rituals and are honor/shame-oriented in their cultural values. Therefore, developing an awareness of the gospel of purity is a strategic issue.

>> Click here to download the article

The gospel of grace as the crux of honor-status reversal, part 2

In my forthcoming book, THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World, I devote quite a few pages to the premise that honor-status reversal is a motif of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Ephesians 2:8–9 as the crux of honor-status reversalHonor-status reversal as a horizontal/social orientation in the second half of Ephesians 2

In my previous post about honor-status reversal, we explored what this motif means in Eph 2:1–10. We found that the dynamic of honor-status reversal in verses 1–7 refers to the personal and vertical—our relationship as believers with God the Father. In Eph 2:11–22, however, the dynamic is social and horizontal. Let’s take a look.

Verses 11–12 refer to the shameful status of unsaved peoples in relation to God’s people:
  • Unclean, defiled and without hope of being made clean: “Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision” (2:11)
  • No access to the honor and benefaction of the Messiah King: “separated from Christ” (2:12)
  • As aliens in relation to God’s great people Israel: “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” (2:12)
  • Unaware of any relational destiny in God: “strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12)
  • Living in despair without God’s presence: “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12)
  • Disconnected from the most honorable relationship: “far off” … “strangers and aliens” (2:12)
  • On the other side of “the dividing wall of hostility” (2:12)
Verses 13–22 refer to the reversal of our honor-status in relation to God’s people:
  • From far away in shame to very near through the honor of Christ’s blood: “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)
  • Messiah King himself is our new source of honor—dispelling our compulsion for honor competition and hostility: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (2:14)
  • For a completely new kind of kinship group made in peace: “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (2:15)
  • The shame of Christ’s body on the cross absorbed humanity’s compulsion for honor competition and hostility—to create a new body among humanity—a community of peace: “and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (2:16)
  • Both Jew and Gentile (no superiority for being Jewish) were equally in need of the preaching of this grace and peace: “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” (2:17)
  • The high honor of access to Holy God is now available to all peoples—further dispelling honor competition: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (2:18)
  • Shameful state as strange aliens replaced by multi-dimensional honor of citizens, saints, family members: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19)
  • Entering into the honor of God’s ancient story, the crux of which is the Messiah King and Son of God: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (2:20)
  • Brothers and sisters in Christ become the new “sacred space”—wherever they are: “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (2:21)
  • In Christ your new community is the dwelling for the most honorable, holy presence of God: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (2:22)

Ephesians 2:8–9 as the crux of honor-status reversalLet’s recall that the crux of the two dimensions of honor-status reversal is 
“Salvation by grace through faith”

What is located between these two dramatic expressions of honor-status reversal—between verses 1–7 and 11–22? The often-quoted verses about salvation by grace through faith:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8–9).

This “salvation verse” sits at the intersection of vertical and horizontal dimensions of honor-status reversal. The vertical dimension refers to a person’s relationship with God. The horizontal dimension refers to the Gentiles’ relationship with God’s people. The drama inherent in these dimensions of honor-status reversal—along with the liberation that this brought spiritually, emotionally and socially —is the context for “salvation by grace through faith.”

And the stunning impact on the gospel? Consider…

  • If salvation according to the context of Ephesians 2 is more of an honor/shame message than one of guilt/innocence, what does this mean for the way we present the gospel?
  • Could it be that being saved by grace—that having our sins forgiven—is actually the means for having our honor-status reversed in relation to God and to God’s people?
  • If salvation is both personal and social, how should this affect the way we live the gospel, and the way we share the gospel?
  • Could it be that the gospel is just as much about the covering of sin/shame and the gaining of honor—as it is about the forgiveness of sin/guilt and the gaining of righteousness?
  • Vast numbers of unreached peoples are motivated more by honor/shame than by innocence/guilt; what does this mean for believers who are trying to share with them the gospel of salvation in Jesus?

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.

The Father’s Love Booklet: Available now!

The Father’s Love Booklet is now ready to ship.

After more nearly ten months of development, The Father’s Love Booklet is now available. You can order copies of this 20-page booklet at thefatherslovebooklet.org.

The Father’s Love Booklet is lovingly designed for believers to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people for whom honor and shame is vitally important. Prices are:

  • 10 copies for $10 each ($1.00 each)
  • 50 copies for $40 ($.80 each)
  • 100 copies for $60 ($.60 each)
  • 500 copies for $250 ($.50 each)

Learn more at: thefatherslovebooklet.org

Almost ready for the printer—“The Father’s Love” gospel booklet—sharing the message of Christ in “the language of honor and shame”

This pocket-size booklet tells the Good News of Jesus Christ through what is commonly known as “The Story of the Prodigal Son.” To see the booklet page by page, simply scroll down.

The artwork (by Robert Flores) is now done! He did a great job. I am excited about the potential for this to bless many peoples. Our team at Mission ONE is hoping it will be translated into many languages—and help thousands of people around the world find hope, salvation, and honor in following Jesus Christ.

To learn more contact me at: werner@mission1.org

  • Developed in a team approach—incorporates ideas from people from America, the Middle East, and Central Asia
  • Contains The Story of The Prodigal Son—Luke 15:11–32
  • 20 pages, fits into a shirt pocket
  • Uses the Easy-To-Read Version of the Bible (ERV) so that people—for whom English is not their first language—can more easily understand the message (immigrants, international students, refugees)
  • Will also be available in a digital version for iPad and smart-phones
  • Designed for interaction and easy conversation
  • Explains the Gospel of Jesus in the language of honor and shame
  • Lovingly designed for people from societies whose pivotal cultural value is honor and shame—to understand the basic message of Jesus Christ
  • Will be made available for translation into various languages, beginning with Arabic and Spanish
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Nine reasons why Christians need to learn how to present the gospel of Christ in the “language of honor and shame”

The following nine assumptions sum up a complex problem that must be addressed:

  1. Mission and culture experts recognize that the majority of the world’s unevangelized peoples are from societies for whom the pivotal cultural value is “honor and shame”. This may be distinguished from the primary cultural value of the West, which is “justice/guilt” or “innocence/guilt”.
  2. Many of the unreached peoples are also highly resistant to the Gospel. Christianity is perceived by many as a Western religion—an American-style religion—opposed to their own cultural values.
  3. Because of megatrends such as globalization and the migration of peoples, most North American cities have growing communities of Latin American, Middle Eastern, East Asian, South Asian, and African peoples for whom a primary cultural value is honor and shame. Our cities now include individuals and families who have settled into communities here in North America; many are from among unreached, unevangelized and even unengaged people groups
  4. In our cities there is a clash of cultures between the “new residents”—peoples who are largely from the East/South—and the “old residents”—peoples who are more Western in their orientation.  This clash of cultures is, in part, the result of deep misunderstanding between immigrant peoples who hold primarily to an honor/shame value system versus a justice/guilt value system.
  5. The increasing diversity of North American cities represents a huge opportunity for Christians to share the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ with their neighbors.
  6. Despite the amazing opportunities to share Christ and the blessing of the Gospel—with new neighbors from distant lands—the vast majority of evangelical churches and their members are afraid, untrained and unprepared to share the Gospel of Christ with people from other cultures.
  7. God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is a book which arose out of Eastern societies. It is God’s truth for salvation; it is God’s truth for every aspect of faith and practice for God’s people, the Church. And because the Bible was written by people with the particular culture values of the Ancient Middle East, the Bible also has as its pivotal cultural value—honor and shame.
  8. There is a standard way for Christians to present the Gospel message; it is to focus on the salvation work of Christ as an answer to the problem of guilt—not the problem of shame. This standard way is a truncated way—it is true, but it is not the whole truth. The Bible, being a book which arose out of an ancient Middle-Eastern context, has much more to say about the problem of shame than what the vast majority of Christians realize. While the Bible certainly does address humanity’s problem of guilt before Almighty God, the Bible also addresses the problem of humanity’s shame before Almighty God.
  9. There is a vacuum of resources for Christians to learn a simple way of sharing the Gospel of Christ with people from honor/shame cultures. We are aware of no currently-available Gospel tracts, no books, no resources to make it easy for ordinary believers to share the gospel of Christ in this way.

We intend to address this problem—through the soon-to-be-released Gospel booklet, “The Father’s Love.”