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 haveĀ 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

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