Book Plunge: Ministering In Honor-Shame Cultures

What do I think of this book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker have done us a great service by producing this wonderful book. If I could give any encouragement right now at the start, it would be simple. If you want to have an impact with most of the world and learn to understand the Bible in the world it was written in, here’s my advice.

Buy this book and read it right now.

Seriously. I found myself reading this book and wishing I could put it in the hands of everyone in ministry. I would be thrilled if more Christians would learn about the honor-shame culture. Most Christians are shocked when you tell them that most of the world doesn’t work with the idea of a guilty conscience like we in the West do. We have become so focused on ourselves that we are aghast that the rest of the world could be any different from us.

The danger here is we are not only able to give the Biblical message to people in other cultures, who are living among us here in the West more and more and still thinking in the same way, but we are unable to give the Biblical message to ourselves. So many misunderstandings about the Bible would be cleared up if we realized the text speaks in honor-shame language.

On page 28, the authors say something I wish we could all hear and when I speak about honor and shame to Christians, I point this out:

As we have taught Christians about honor-shame in theology and ministry, students note the degree to which shame influences their own identity and relationships. Shame is a defining aspect of human existence, but rarely addressed in churches or ministry. When is the last time you heard a sermon addressing shame? Most people have never heard such a sermon. (p. 28. Bold mine. Italics theirs.)

Indeed! We are so saturated in our culture with our own thinking that we think everyone must be just like us. They are not. Many people all over the world struggle with shame. In reality, we know we do too. How many victims of especially sexual abuse struggle with shame? You can tell them about forgiveness all day long. Forgiveness is great and wonderful, but it won’t help them. They haven’t done anything wrong and telling them they’re forgiven won’t deal with their shame. Forgiveness is indeed part of the Gospel, but if we make the Gospel be just about forgiveness, we severely limit it.

We also do have aspects of honor-shame here and most of us don’t realize it. What happens in high school where a lot of students think they need to where X brand of clothing and not Y? (Something I have no recollection of, but many do.) What happens on Facebook where we talk about people liking and sharing our posts? Everyone wants to be thought well of by good people.

To help us with the task of the book, the writers do explain how honor and shame work and then show it in the Bible. Hopefully, Christians reading this will go back and look at the text through new eyes. I encourage Christians to go to the New Testament and use a site like Bible Gateway. Do a search of terms like innocence and guilt. Note that when they’re used, they speak of it in legal terms and not feeling terms. See also where the terms do not show up. Romans, for instance, does not talk about guilt. Many of the Pauline epistles do not. Then look for terms like honor and shame. See how often they show up. Why is it we have so many sermons on guilt and innocence and none on honor and shame?

From there, the writers show how this all works out when dealing with people in these cultures, especially using their own experience. A lot could be said about this, but I think it’s better for you to get the book and read it yourself. The content is exceptionally thorough and easy to understand. It left me looking at matters differently and striving to think more in terms of honor and shame.

I think if there was one aspect I would have liked some light shed on, it would be what is a worship service like in an honor-shame culture? We in our culture have so much that is focused on application and dealing about how we feel and helping us be better individuals. We also greet each other for about a minute (The time we introverts refer to as torture aside from that I greet my wife with a holy kiss) and then sing the same worship songs which are often very self-focused as well.

So then, final advice.

Get this book.

Read it.

Share it with everyone else you can.

This is that important.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 2/7/2015: Werner Mischke

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Not too long ago, I reviewed a book called The Global Gospel by Werner Mischke. Mischke’s book is one that seeks to bring the honor and shame dynamic to Western readers who aren’t familiar with it. This has long been a point of mine that we have not really understood the Bible properly in many cases because we too often read our own culture into it. Mischke’s book not only brings out the culture of the Bible, but shows from often a pastoral perspective how that can be applied to us in the West today.

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According to his bio:

“Werner Mischke has been serving with Mission ONE since 1992. He is currently Executive Vice President and his role is Director of Training Ministries. Mission ONE’s purpose is to train and mobilize the Church, focusing on cross-cultural partnerships to engage the unreached and serve the poor and oppressed. Mission ONE’s indigenous partners are engaged in evangelism, church planting and holistic ministries in such countries as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, India,
Pakistan, and Thailand. Mission ONE is engaged in a long-term vision to helps its partners develop sustainability through “business for transformation” strategies.
• Werner has a long-term special relationship with Mission ONE’s partner in the Middle East—where Arab nationals are building a network of house churches through holistic ministry among various Muslim peoples. Werner’s experiences there have led him into a passionate pursuit of understanding the pivotal cultural value of honor and shame in Scripture and the cultures of the Majority World.
• Werner’s recently published book is THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World. The singular issue which this book addresses may be defined by posing this question: How can the honor/shame dynamics common to the Bible and many Majority World societies be used to contextualize the gospel of Christ in order to make it more widely understood and accepted?
• He has done training on the dynamic of honor and shame for ISI, Frontiers, TOAG, as well as various church and ministry groups. His seminars are designed on the basis of adult learning theory for a rich learning experience.

• As Director of Training Ministries for Mission ONE, Werner has designed and produced three resources to equip followers of Christ for cross-cultural missions engagement:
• Operation WorldView is an introductory DVD missions curriculum for small groups inspired by the Perspectives course. Operation WorldView has been used by some 800 churches and mission leaders in America, Canada and other nations.
• The Beauty of Partnership—a six-week small group curriculum based on adult learning theory to help mission teams gain the skills to achieve successful cross-cultural partnerships.
• The Father’s Love Gospel Booklet—a pocket-size booklet to help believers know and share the blessing of Jesus Christ in the language of honor and shame. It is an evangelistic resource based on the story of The Prodigal Son. Available in English and Spanish. Through Mission ONE’s partner in Lebanon, an Arabic version has also been developed and widely shared.
• Since 2004, Werner has served on the Resource Team of COSIM (Coalition on the Support of Indigenous Ministries)—a fellowship of evangelical organizations with a common interest in the support and development of majority-world ministries. Werner has contributed significantly to the design of COSIM’s annual conferences.
Currently living in Scottsdale, Arizona, Werner and his wife Daphne are members of Scottsdale Bible Church, where Daphne serves as a teacher in the Special Needs Ministry. Werner has also been a student at Phoenix Seminary in their Intercultural Studies Program. Werner and Daphne have two adult sons and two grandchildren”

I am looking forward to this show in bringing out an aspect of the culture that many people are likely unfamiliar with. Not only will we discuss it, but we will discuss how it relates to the world we live in in the West today. I hope you’ll be watching your ITunes feed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Global Gospel

What do I think of Werner Mischke’s book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Global Gospel

Mission One has released the Global Gospel by Mischke to illustrate the problem in reaching people in the Majority World. We have been hampered growing up in a guilt-innocence culture whereas the world of the Bible is that of an honor-shame culture. It also has impacted our reading of the Bible as where there are parts that are not made explicit, because these would be part of the background culture, we automatically tend to plug in our own culture.

Consider marriage. In the ancient world, a marriage would often be a matter between two men. No. Not the way you’re thinking in our debates today. It would be a matter between the father of the groom and the father of the bride. The two would arrange it and it would be a sort of trade. Marriage would be used to unite families and often could be used for political alliances as well. If we read in our concept of dating and marriage, we misread the text.

Mischke has a great line that I wish we all could learn in the west to show this.

Culturally speaking, the Bible does not “belong” to you; it’s not your book.

What a great lesson to learn. While we can agree with Paul that everything was written for us, it was not written to us. We of necessity need Scripture to understand the salvation of Christ and what it is we are to do, but we do not have to have Western culture being assumed as part of Christianity. This is not to say that Western culture is a bad thing, but it is to say that it does not need to be married to the Gospel. Too often in our evangelism strategy, we’ve brought over not just the Gospel to unreached people, but we’ve also brought over our own culture and included it in the Gospel.

If you go to people of an honor-shame culture and start talking about the guilt that is experienced because of our sin and the beauty of justification by faith, you will not get much of a response to your altar call. These people are not thinking primarily about guilt. What matters most to them is honor and shame. In fact, maintaining honor means more to them than life itself does. This is why Japanese pilots could crash on Pearl Harbor as an attack and why some terrorists can do suicide bombers. They value the honor of what they fight for and the honor they can gain more than their own lives.

Now imagine going to these people instead and telling them about how they are living in a state of shame. They have dishonored the one true God and will be having to face His eternal shame. However, this God has provided a remedy. His Son has come and faced the shame that we all deserve by dying a most shameful death on a cross at the hands of His enemies. However, in facing this, God honored Him by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand to rule the world. All who trust in Him, He will bestow His honor on and adopt them into the family of God.

Okay. Now you’re talking. If you’re speaking of honor and shame to these people, they will be listening. While you should believe in justification by faith, that is not the message that will reach these people because that is a message about guilt. Of course in honor-shame cultures there is guilt in the sense of having done an objective wrong to someone, but the result is not an internal feeling that we must make amends and fix the problem. The main sense for the honor-shame is that the person has been a disgrace and has dishonored their family and their culture. In fact, this is one reason suicide can be so prevalent in an honor-shame culture like Japan. It is better to die than to live with shame.

Mischke takes us through several aspects of an honor-shame culture. Why is the face so important? What is challenge-riposte? What is a patron and how does he relate to his clients? Why is purity such a big deal? These and many other questions are asked. Mischke also wants to stress an important point that this not only applies to how we reach people in the majority world, and yes, most of the world does think in terms of honor and shame, but how we reach our own people over here.

How many of us have had guilt for a past sin that we’ve done and while we know forgiveness, we still have a lot of shame over it? It is just painful to look back and think on it every time. Many of us to some extent carry shame. I am convinced none of us can live fully in an individualistic culture. There is always still going to be this background culture of honor and shame no matter how much we try to bury it.

How would your presentation of the Gospel be different if you not only removed the objective guilt someone has before the throne of God, but you also shared with them that God has taken away their shame. What if you showed them that God has honored them? What if you showed them that honor is something they are even commanded to seek for in Scripture? What if you showed them they really are adopted into the family of God?

For this, Mischke’s book will also give a greater appreciation of the work of Christ. Removing guilt is good and important and we should never lose sight of that, but the idea of honor is essential. So much we have songs in our contemporary culture that speak of God as if He is our buddy and our best friend. What if you instead got the message that you are seated in the heavens as Ephesians 2 says? What if you were told you were adopted into the family of God, as can be found at the end of Romans 8? I can’t help but think of C.S. Lewis who said we are far too easily pleased. We want to be a friend of God. He wants us seated in the heavens.

Now I do not agree with everything Mischke says. For instance, with challenge-riposte, I think Mischke does go against it some. I think Jesus in fact engaged heavily in it and the resurrection, as Mischke rightly shows, is certainly the ultimate riposte. The early church did the same as did the apostles and where the honor of God is challenged today, we also need often to engage in challenge-riposte as well.

Still, this is the kind of book I wish every pastor would read. It is an excellent introduction to this kind of thinking for those who might not be familiar with it at all. If we could reclaim this, we would not only have much more vibrant Christian lives, but we would also be able to understand the Bible and the historical Jesus far better than we do. In fact, while some have said there could be a fourth quest for the historical Jesus starting with taking the Gospel of John more seriously, I believe the next real quest for the historical Jesus will involve learning to understand Jesus from a majority world perspective.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: 3D Gospel

What do I think of Georges book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

3D Gospel

If you have an interest in missions, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding other cultures, buy this book.

If you have an interest in understanding the Bible and how it would be read in its own context, buy this book.

If you have an interest in seeing the Bible beyond your own cultural perspective, buy this book.

So yes, I want you to buy this book.

The 3D Gospel refers to the three different types of cultures we see in the world. Here in the West, we live in a guilt-innocence culture. Unfortunately, we often think so does the rest of the world, including the world of the Bible, and read our modern culture, perspectives, and individualism into the Biblical text, which can often produce disastrous results. There are two other kinds of cultures.

There are also honor-shame cultures. These are cultures where honor and shame are the main forces at work as people live seeking to cover up shame and claim honor. In these cultures, what happens in the group is of utmost importance as you want to maintain not just your honor, but the honor of your group, and you do not want to be shamed by the people of your group. What you do reflects on everyone who identifies with you. This viewpoint is in the Middle and Far East.

Then there are fear-power cultures. In these cultures, unseen powers play a big role. This is not just God, but also demons, angels, spirits, dead ancestors, etc. In these cultures, you seek the means to gain power over the unseen world and the defenses to protect yourself from what happens in this world, such as following what steps it takes to avoid curses, perhaps visiting someone like a shaman. This is in some southern nations and tribal nations.

It is important that we learn how to interact. As Georges says on location 161, “For cross-cultural workers, a truncated gospel hinders spirituality, theology, relationships, and ministry We unintentionally put God in a box, only allowing him to save in one area.”

And this is the main theme throughout. Georges writes this so that we can understand the Gospel better and realize that it has something to say to all three cultures and we dare not just go by ours alone. If you go to a culture that is honor-shame and start talking about the Gospel in individualistic terms, you will not get much of an audience. You will need to appeal to the need of honor for people, You will need to relate to them passages about honor and shame in the Bible and about seeking the honor of God rather than the honor of men.

If you go to a fear-power culture, you do not want to talk about gentle Jesus meek and mild. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus. You need to talk about the warrior Jesus who in Colossians 2 disarms the powers that are against us and triumphs over them by the cross. You might also need to be prepared for some real work with prayerful preparation as you could really encounter darker powers in places where this viewpoint is prevalent. What we call power evangelism really plays a role here.

This book is also not long. You can read it in a day easily. That will be a day well spent as you will get some excellent insight into how these other cultures work. Note of course that this is just a start. From there, you need to move on to the best works of scholarship in the field, but if you want to get your feet wet, this is an excellent start in order to do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/17/2014: Randy Richards

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of the great mistakes I often see us doing with Scripture is reading it as if it was written for our audience in modern language and terminology and with our culture specifically in mind. This can lead to many errors when reading the Bible. Fortunately, there’s a great book out that deals with these errors called “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes.”

And fortunately, one of the co-authors of that book, Randy Richards, is going to be my guest this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast. Who is he? His faculty page describes him in this way:

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“Dr. Randy Richards loves training students for ministry, both domestically and internationally. He has been teaching since 1986, originally at a state university and then abroad at an Indonesian seminary. Upon returning to the States, Dr. Richards served at two Christian universities before joining Palm Beach Atlantic University as the dean of the School of Ministry in 2006.

His wife Stacia has joyfully accompanied him from jungles of Indonesia to rice fields in Arkansas to beautiful South Florida. They have two fine sons: Josh (Ph.D. 2012, University of St. Andrews, Scotland), a university professor in English, and Jacob (Ph.D. 2014, College of Medicine, University of Florida), a medical researcher.

Dr. Richards has authored or co-authored five books and dozens of articles. He recently published Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes with Brandon O’Brien (InterVarsity, 2012); “Reading, Writing, and the Production and Transmission of Manuscripts” in The Background of the New Testament: An Examination of the Context of Early Christianity (Baker, 2013); “Will the Real Author Please Stand Up? The Author in Greco-Roman Letter Writing” in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics (B&H, 2012); “Pauline Prescripts and Greco-Roman Epistolary Convention” in Christian Origins and Classical Culture: Social and Literary Contexts for the New Testament (Brill, 2012); and a dozen articles in The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Baker, 2013).

This year, he is finishing a new textbook, Rediscovering Jesus, and another popular book, Paul Behaving Badly, both with InterVarsity Press. He is also completing chapters in two other books.

Dr. Richards is a popular lecturer, speaker and preacher, recently in places as diverse as Wycliffe Hall (Oxford), Kathmandu, and Kenya. He was a Senior Scholar at the IRLBR Summer Summit at Tyndale House (Cambridge) in 2013. He regularly conducts missionary training workshops, and currently serves as a teaching pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach.”

Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes is the kind of book I wish every Christian would read. It would prevent a multitude of errors and while love covers over a multitude of sins, accurate knowledge covers and prevents a multitude of errors.

I hope you’ll be listening in then this Saturday from 3-5 PM EST. This is going to be an important show. As always, we will be able to take your questions if you wish to call in. The number will be 714-242-5180. I hope that you’ll be taking advantage of getting to hear a scholar speak on this important issue.

The link can be found here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

How To Not Make A Messiah

If you were to create an account of a Messiah for the people of Israel, what would you not do? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Many times we’re told about how Jesus was a made-up figure meant to inspire the people of Israel and to be a challenge to Caesar. All manner of motives have been given for this great hoax to take place, but I’d like to consider this idea. What kind of Messiah would you make if you wanted one just to win a popularity contest and get the people to follow you? I think it’s easier to talk about what you would not do.

First, you would not have anything that would indicate that the birth of such a person was illegitimate. That is, you would want him to be a descendant of his father and his mother. Some might think it would be good to have a deity bring the child into existence in a more direct way, but for a Jew, this would seem too close to paganism. Therefore, you will have them come from a family of high honor.

You also would make sure that this family would be a wealthy family. This would fit the scene of your Messiah. After all, in the ancient world, poor people were not trusted. Rich ones were the ones that had the favor of the gods and the poor were the ones who were more prone to deceive you because you have something they want.

You will also make sure this Messiah comes from a town that is well-known and honorable. You’d avoid a no-name town that no one cares about such as, oh, Nazareth. The birthplace of your Messiah will be a determining factor of his future after all.

You will also seek to have him come from a region that is not looked down on in the world, such as the area that we call Palestine today. Claims from that part of the world were not taken seriously by the populace as a whole so while this might impress Jews, it would certainly not impress Gentiles.

You would make sure this person has a great career. They would likely be a king or a military leader. For the Jews, this would mean someone in the line of David, who the Messiah was to be a descendant of. For Gentiles, a powerful warrior would earn their respect, especially for those who were not happy with the Roman Empire.

You would not have this person be a miracle man. Why? Because people like Lucian and others made it a habit to debunk miracle claims and the world was full of people who were skeptical of miracles. Adding miracles would make your messiah seem like the modern equivalent of a televangelist.

You would make sure his followers were the best of the best. That would mean people who fully understood his teachings and embraced the reality of who he was. Not having your Messiah be understood would be an indication that your Messiah was not a good teacher. He would also be known by the company of his closest followers.

You would make sure his immediate family accepted his claims as well. After all, if one’s own family doesn’t accept one’s unique claims about oneself, then why should anyone else do so? Having the recognition of your family is important in this field.

You would have him travel abundantly. This is the Messiah who is to save the world after all. There’s no need to limit him to one country or people. Go out and spread him with all the world and make sure he has a worldwide reputation.

You would have him be embraced by all his people. After all, why should anyone think that a person is the Messiah of the Jews if it turns out the Jews themselves do not accept such a claim? How could someone proclaim such a message with confidence.

You would certainly not have him die a shameful death. Now for a shameful death, I can’t think of any more shameful than crucifixion. This was the humiliation given to dissidents of Rome who were seeking to be their own kings. Such people would be branded as traitors to Rome and defeated by the Roman Empire. For a Jew, they would be seen as under God’s curse. In any way, following such a person would mean identifying with him, something that would dissuade people from following him.

If this Messiah figure died, you would make sure he had an honorable burial. That would mean that all the people would come immediately to mourn him. He would be mourned by his family and he would be buried in the tomb of his ancestors and near the place where he lived. Anything else would be dishonorable.

This person if dead would be divinely exalted. This would mean this person was immediately ushered into the presence of God and received vindication that way. Any other way, like a bodily resurrection, would be far harder to explain after all and be the route that could be most easily disproven, which is not helpful if you’re making up this claim. You want something that cannot be disproven at all. Besides, this is what happened to the emperor and you’re wanting to rival the emperor. Who wants a bodily resurrection anyway? That returns you to a prison.

You would also make sure your belief was not exclusive. Your messiah would be a divine figure indeed, but he would be one among many. This would be someone that your Gentile friends after all could worship along with all their other deities.

Now these ideas are important to follow, but it would be difficult to follow all of them, though possible. Still, one should be absolutely certain that any belief that went against all of these would have to be doomed to failure. That would be the last kind of Messiah that anyone would make up and follow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters