After nearly 20 years of missionary work, I have enjoyed finding terms and articulations that explain some of the situations I have experienced while sharing the gospel in China, in an honor/shame society.

honor shame bookThe book Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door by Roland Muller has been an eye-opening read. It has really got my mind going, considering better means of communicating the gospel through Within Reach Global to people who have never heard.

Honor and shame. It’s a popular topic in the missional realm these days. Even the very worst missionaries are talking about it! Here’s why it’s so important:

“Explaining the Gospel to people who hold another worldview is never easy. If we are to be true cross-cultural communicators, we must endeavor to understand how the Gospel is applicable to other cultures.”

“It’s not about the methods,” one missionary just posted in a Facebook conversation. “The love of Christ: That’s how people change. The other stuff can be filled in later.”

Well, yes, obviously. But the love of Christ miscommunicated is fatal. When sharing the gospel to someone who is unreached—never heard of Jesus before—we need to make sure we explain the gospel in terms that are understandable within the audience’s worldview.

The author explains 3 common-ancestral worldviews that, once understood, give us the tool to better share the message of the gospel. These 3 common ancestral worldviews are 1. guilt and innocence 2. shame and honor 3. fear and power. Muller notes that the “guilt aspect of salvation is due in part to our preoccupation with guilt as a western culture…the shame-based cultures of the world span an area from Morocco to Korea, and cover much of what is known today in mission circles as the 10/40 window.” 

As western Christians/missionaries, there are certain scriptures we gravitate toward in explaining the gospel. John 3:16 for example. But sharing that message in the context of a completely different worldview can often create incredible adverse reactions. Read John 3:16 From A Thai Buddhist Worldview—Totally Opposite!

global gospel bookI am seeking to gain more understanding in clearly communicating the gospel to unreached peoples who have yet to understand the message of salvation. I highly recommend Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door. In fact, I was so inspired to continue gaining more understanding that I went out and bought The Global Gospel: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World. It’s next on my list.

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Have you ever dealt with misunderstanding as you shared the gospel to people from other cultures or worldviews? What do you think you can do to communicate more clearly? Have you heard much about honor/shame cultures?

Leave a comment! I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Learn more about honor and shame here.

David Joannes
Founder/President at Within Reach Global
David Joannes is the co-founder and president of Within Reach Global, Inc, which serves the advance of the Gospel in some of Southeast Asia’s most difficult places. He is the author of The Space Between Memories: Recollections from a 21st Century Missionary. David has a love for language, culture, and creative writing, and for the last 20 years, he has witnessed God’s Kingdom established in forgotten parts of the globe. David lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lorna, and their daughter, Cara.
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