I’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.
“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.
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.”
SHAME: Self “split” into observing and observed “selves”
GUILT: Unified self intact
Impact on “self”
SHAME: Self impaired by global devaluation
GUILT: Self unimpaired by global devaluation
Concern vis-à-vis the “other”
SHAME: Concern for others’ evaluation of self
GUILT: Concern with one’s effect on others
SHAME: Mentally undoing some aspect of self
GUILT: Mentally undoing some aspect of behavior
SHAME: Desire to hide, escape, or strike back
GUILT: Desire to confess, apologize, or repair
Here is a beginning reflection on the implications for Christian ministry:
Shame tells us: “I did that horrible thing” , whereas guilt tells us: “I did that horrible thing.”
Simply stated, shame is about who I am; guilt is about what I’ve done. It follows, as stated above, that shame is generally more painful than guilt.
Could it be that the cure for guilt is not nearly as urgent and transformative as the cure for shame? Could it be, that when we teach God’s Word with a focus on guilt—while ignoring the pathology of shame common to all of humanity, that we are, by default, withholding that which most deeply heals the human soul?
The data presented by Tangney and Dearing indicate that shame has far more pathological (negative and sick) effects on people than does guilt. Their research found that shame motivates people to “hide, escape, or strike back”. In striking contrast, guilt motivates people to “confess, apologize, or repair.”
Simply stated, shame is more likely to lead to hurtful behavior, whereas guilt is more likely to lead to healing behavior.
Could it be that when we present the gospel of Jesus Christ solely as the cure for our guilt—and ignore the biblically-based truths and principles which address the problem of our shame—we are not just truncating the gospel, we are withholding the most crucial truths necessary for the transformation of the people of God?
Many mission and culture leaders recognize that Majority-World peoples have as their pivotal cultural value—honor and shame. Could it be that when Christians present the gospel of Christ to Majority-World peoples in a way that only addresses humanity’s guilt before God, that resistance to the message of Christ’s Gospel is actually appropriate?
“Appropriate resistance to the Gospel”? I know that sounds weird. But consider what it would be to have as your constant, every-day drama—the avoidance of, or cure for shame, along with the pursuit of honor. This is your very life and identity. Your life is moving in a deep, powerful river whose current is honor and shame.
Would not people living and moving in this river of honor and shame inherently know some things? Wouldn’t they instinctively get it—that the supposed Good News which only solves the problem of guilt—is not really deep enough, powerful enough, good enough—to rescue them from the deepest danger of their heart—that being the anxiety of shame?
Contrast this with the Good News which also solves the problem of shame! Imagine if the Atonement of Jesus Christ was not only presented as the solution to the problem of guilt, but also as—the covering of our shame and the restoration of our honor before God. See Luke 15:11–32. Wouldn’t this be more attractive? Wouldn’t this more likely be a treasure worth dying for?
Presenting the gospel of Christ in such a way that the message includes both the removal of our guilt and the covering of our shame is especially wise—when sharing with people whose pivotal cultural value is honor and shame.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)
defines the behaviors of machismo, marianismo, and humilde in the Latin American context of Honduras,
describes in compassionate detail how these entrenched behaviors and attitudes in a very poor community are an endless cycle of sin and shame, and
explores the ways that the Atonement of Jesus Christ—his work on the Cross—beautifully brings healing from sin and shame to followers of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful that Dr. Baker has given me permission to put this on my blog and include it in my list of resources. This 18-page essay touched my heart—it’s really worth the time. You’ll discover how the saving work of Christ on the cross not only saves people from the guilt of their sin; the cross of Christ can also transform the values and behaviors of people ingrained in a cycle of poverty and shame—into more authentic loving, forgiving, gracious, confident—indeed, honorable—human beings made in the image of God.
I love Dr. Baker’s article because it teaches that when people find both their salvation—and honor—in Jesus Christ, it truly sets them free. I commend this article to you. Click here to read.
The impact of 9/11, and how various governments dealt with the issue of violent Islamic extremists
Various efforts concerning Christian-Muslim dialog and the InterFaith movement
The Insider Movement in missions and areas of concern
The article is nuanced and is written by a Christian intellectual who is a former Muslim. I recommend it highly. Below the article is “An Assessment of the Insiders’ Principle Paradigms”, by Jay Smith—also a valuable perspective.
At the 2011 North American Mission Leaders Conference in Scottsdale on September 29–October 1 (also known as the RESET conference), T.J. Addington gave a presentation: “Critical Shifts From the Black and White to the Color World.” T.J. Addington is Senior Vice President of Reach Global, Evangelical Free Church of America. The primary participants in this conference were members of the North American evangelical Christian missions community. I am grateful for Mr. Addington’s permission to present his points here.
Shift #1:From being primarily doers—to being primarily equippers
Watchwords: Developing, empowering and releasing.
Shift #2:From being in charge—to equal partnerships
Watchwords: Equal partnerships are the coinage of the color world.
Shift #3: From owning and controlling—to “we own nothing, control nothing and count nothing as ours”
Watchwords: Serving with an open hand.
Shift #4:From Western missionaries—to global missionaries
Watchwords: All people reaching all people.
Shift #5: From dependencies—to self–sufficiency
Watchwords: Promoting dignity.
Shift #6: From addition—to multiplication
Watchwords: Equipping others.
Shift #7: From competition—to cooperation
Watchwords: We are better together than alone.
Shift #8: From an emphasis on my brand—to His brand
Watchwords: Jesus died for His bride, not my brand of the church.
Shift #9:From agency based missions—to church/agency synergy
Watchwords: The vision for missions belongs to the local church.
My comments: The shifts represented by the points above are largely consistent with our philosophy of ministry and practice at Mission ONE. At the risk of sounding self-promotional, below are some brief comments relative to where we stand as a mission organization.
Shift #1:From being primarily doers—to being primarily equippers. Mission ONE is all about equipping and empowering national missionaries—also known as indigenous Christian workers—to reach their own people, as well as nearby unreached peoples—with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Shift #2: From being in charge—to equal partnerships. As Mission ONE President Bob Schindler says, “Healthy partnerships are not father to son—but rather, brother to brother.
Shift #3: From owning and controlling—to “we own nothing, control nothing and count nothing as ours.” Mission ONE does not control the ministries with which we partner. Our attitude is high trust, rather than high control. Our high-trust partnerships are based on years of serving one another, overcoming trials and obstacles together.
Shift #4:From Western missionaries—to global missionaries. The center of gravity of Christianity has shifted from the West to the Global South; this is consistent with the rise of the national missionary movement. The national missionary movement does not “need” the support of the West to thrive; however, we believe that so much can be done for the advance of the the Gospel through healthy cross-cultural partnerships. It is our honor to serve one another in unity. Jesus prayed, “…that they may be one even as we are one … so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:21–22). Moreover, the global trend of the migration of peoples, refugees and college students to the West (some of them Christian) have made most of its cities home to dozens, if not hundreds, of nationalities; this has resulted in both vibrant new ethnic churches in the West as well as wonderful opportunities for blessing people from other cultures. The opportunities for cross-cultural relationships are across the street and around the world. It truly is a new world of Christian mission that is largely “from everywhere to everyone.”
Shift #5:From dependencies—to self–sufficiency. At Mission ONE, we believe that healthy interdependence is the biblical ideal. Some of our partnerships are healthier than others from the standpoint of healthy interdependence versus unhealthy dependency. We believe that the large majority of our partnerships are on the healthy side of the continuum.
Shift #6:From addition—to multiplication. Mission ONE has invested very significant resources in “multiplication.” That’s what Mission ONE Training Ministries is all about. Operation WorldView and The Beauty of Partnership were created to equip churches, individuals, and mission teams for cross-cultural ministry and healthy cross-cultural partnerships—thus multiplying our impact. This is my passion as Director of Training Ministries for Mission ONE.
Shift #7:From competition—to cooperation. The very nature of healthy cross-cultural partnership is cooperation, so naturally, cooperation is part of the DNA of Mission ONE. Moreover, in the development of both Operation WorldView and The Beauty of Partnership, our attitude has been to cooperate with whomever we can—with several different ministries—sometimes paying significant royalties to do so.
Shift #8: From an emphasis on my brand—to His brand. Ever since Bob Schindler founded Mission ONE, we have never sought to “put our name” on the ministries with which we partner. We insist on organization to organization partnerships by which local accountabilities and indigenous identities remain intact.
Shift 9: From agency based missions—to church/agency synergy. Mission ONE has a high view of the centrality of the local church in the Great Commission. Our current Strategic Mission Partnership with Biltmore Baptist Church and Mission ONE’s partner—National Evangelical Outreach Kenya—is one such example. It is our intention to be “the bridge” for many more such strategic mission partnerships between local churches and indigenous ministries.
What does this have to do with cross-cultural partnership? Simply this: Accurate geography can help us with our humility.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment… –Romans 12:3 ESV
“Africa, the fertile continent”
The current news about Africa is focused on the liberation of Libya and the famine in the Horn of Africa. But it could it be—that God’s long-term purpose for Africa might be strategic and important to our collective global welfare?
With one billion people already going hungry and the world’s population rising, global food production must urgently be increased. The countries that managed such surges in the past — Brazil, China, India, the United States — cannot do so again. But Africa can — if it finally uses the seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation methods common everywhere else.
Further on in the article Thurow states,
Likewise, future productivity gains in the grain-belt fields of the former Soviet states and in Brazil, China, and India — once hungry countries that turned into agricultural powerhouses thanks to advances made in the 1960s and 1970s, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty — depend on continued investment in infrastructure and research. Under some scenarios, water scarcity in China and India could cut wheat and rice production in these countries by 30-50 percent by 2050, even as demand for these grains there is expected to rise by as much over the same period.
Thus, more and more eyes are turning to Africa, agriculture’s final frontier. Africa was largely left out of the green revolution, the postwar movement to push up crop yields in the hungriest parts of the world by promoting the use of new seeds and new farming technology. And so agricultural production on the continent could jump quickly if farmers there simply used existing seed, fertilizer, and irrigation technology. And if more efficient networks were developed to distribute and sell the harvests, boosting agricultural yields in Africa could be a major step toward feeding not just the continent but also the rest of the world.
It seems counter-intuitive, but one day we could be depending on Africa for the world’s food. It is the continent with the greatest upside for food production on the planet. Is this one aspect of what God has in mind as his kingdom transforms Africa’s tribes and nations through the gospel?
I love the perspective he gives in the preface (page xviii).
We still see the West as the ecclesiastical center of the world, even though the vast majority of Christians in the world today are located elsewhere. What African or Asian Christians are doing and writing seems so marginal to us, and it penetrates our own theological discussions only in a vague, ephemeral way.
We as Westerners continue to vastly overestimate the role of our trained theologians, missionaries, denominations, and mission agencies in the actual task of global evangelism and church planting. We continue to talk about church history in a way that puts Europe in the center, and church history outside the West is reserved for those preparing for the mission field or church historians pursuing specialist studies. We continue to think that our own theological reflections are normative and universally applicable to all people from all cultures. In short, the Western church has not yet fully absorbed how the dramatic shifts in global Christianity are influencing what constitutes normative Christianity. … We must learn to think bigger, listen more, and look at the church from a wider vista.
Dr. Tennent is asking Christian leaders, missionaries, and lay persons from the West to … develop better listening skills … adjust their attitude from assuming a leadership role to a servant-oriented “team player” role … and to broaden their understanding of what God is doing in the world. It’s all very fitting for Christians in the West who are pursuing healthy cross-cultural partnerships.
Could it be that cross-cultural partnerships give us the opportunity to deepen our theology … that is, to deepen our knowledge of God, our ability to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and our maturity as followers of Christ? Could the pursuit of healthy cross-cultural partnerships be that important?
The world economy seems fragile. Some so-called “rich” Western nations are teetering with default. Leaders are trying to avoid another global recession. Presidents are treading a delicate balance between satisfying the demands of the voting public—with the interdependency of globalized economies.
Will the global Church show the way forward? Will globally-minded followers of Jesus Christ embrace their interdependence—while acknowledging the unique God-ordained dignity and honor of every national and ethnic identity?
The Lausanne Movement speaks to these questions. This is from the Foreward of “The Cape Town Commmitment: A Confession of Faith and Action”:
The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town, 16-25 October 2010) brought together 4,200 evangelical leaders from 198 countries, and extended to hundreds of thousands more, participating in meetings around the world, and online. Its goal? To bring a fresh challenge to the global Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching – in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas.
The Cape Town Commitment is the fruit of this endeavour. It stands in an historic line, building on both The Lausanne Covenant and The Manila Manifesto. It is in two parts. Part l sets out biblical convictions, passed down to us in the scriptures, and Part ll sounds the call to action.
The very last part of the document—the final section of the Call to Action—deals with partnership in the Body of Christ.
Here is an excerpt under the title, “Partnership in global mission”:
Partnership in mission is not only about efficiency. It is the strategic and practical outworking of our shared submission to Jesus Christ as Lord. Too often we have engaged in mission in ways that prioritize and preserve our own identities (ethnic, denominational, theological, etc), and have failed to submit our passions and preferences to our one Lord and Master. The supremacy and centrality of Christ in our mission must be more than a confession of faith; it must also govern our strategy, practice and unity.
We rejoice in the growth and strength of emerging mission movements in the majority world and the ending of the old pattern of ‘from the West to the Rest’. But we do not accept the idea that the baton of mission responsibility has passed from one part of the world Church to another. There is no sense in rejecting the past triumphalism of the West, only to relocate the same ungodly spirit in Asia, Africa, or Latin America. No one ethnic group, nation, or continent can claim the exclusive privilege of being the ones to complete the Great Commission. Only God is sovereign.
a. We stand together as church and mission leaders in all parts of the world, called to recognize and accept one another, with equality of opportunities to contribute together to world mission. Let us, in submission to Christ, lay aside suspicion, competition and pride and be willing to learn from those whom God is using, even when they are not from our continent, nor of our particular theology, nor of our organization, nor of our circle of friends.
b. Partnership is about more than money, and unwise injection of money frequently corrupts and divides the Church. Let us finally prove that the Church does not operate on the principle that those who have the most money have all the decision-making power. Let us no longer impose our own preferred names, slogans, programmes, systems and methods on other parts of the Church. Let us instead work for true mutuality of North and South, East and West, for interdependence in giving and receiving, for the respect and dignity that characterizes genuine friends and true partners in mission.
How encouraging! It is very much the spirit in which our missional learning journey, The Beauty of Partnership, was developed. In a globalized world with fragile economies, the last thing we need are the Christians who “hunker down” with the attitude that happiness is a small circle.
If ever there was a need for training in intercultural understanding and healthy cross-cultural partnerships, that time is now.