Global Missiology English, Vol 1, No 15 (2017)

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Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials

Robert Penner


In the early days of learning the Chinese language, my teacher introduced the word for sin, zui. As an evangelical Christian with experience relating to foreign missionaries, she felt it was necessary to explain that Chinese differ from Westerners in their understanding of the concept. Zui is more akin to a crime, something for which one is liable only in the event of being caught. For us Western missionaries, this would certainly pose a problem, for we had been taught to present a gospel that requires all individuals to recognize their guilt before a holy Creator. How could people who have no conscious realization of internal guilt possibly receive the gospel? Was some change required in their worldview before they could understand and receive the message of Christ’s death and resurrection? Or, conversely, did this Western missionary need to gain a fresh understanding of the gospel so that he could communicate in a way that made sense to people from a collectivist culture? In their book, Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, Georges and Baker attempt to help (evangelical) Christians who possess a Western, individualistic worldview better understand the collectivist mindset of the majority world, specifically those who live according to the moral code of honor-shame. The subtitle for this book – Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials – describes the authors’ methodological approach. Both with extensive experience in cross-cultural ministry among honor-shame cultures, as well as significant training and experience in theological education, their goal is to offer practical help to those from guilt-innocence cultures engage with people who see the world through the lens of shame-honor. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the church in its mission, particularly from the West to the rest. The authors underscore their discussions of biblical theology and cultural-anthropological insights with stories of individuals and groups, providing readers from guilt-innocence cultures with an easy grasp of the issues.