CAUTION: Honor-Shame is “Unbalanced” and “Extreme”!!

“Watch out! Honor and shame can lead to unbalanced extremes!” At least this is the concern of some people when they hear about honor-shame. They worry that emphasizing honor-shame might lead Christians to neglect essential tenets of orthodox, biblical theology. For example, a recent article at TGC warns readers that “the proverbial pendulum can swing too far.” I too believe Christian theology must be balanced and biblical, but I find these concerns about “honor-shame” counterproductive. Ironically, such concerns actually demonstrate the importance of honor-shame. This post addresses three issues with such concerns that honor-shame might be unbalanced.

(To be fair, the vast majority of people view honor-shame as a biblical and positive perspective; such concerns about imbalance are not the dominant view. But the issue surfaces enough to require a response. For a direct response to the recent TGC article, see Jackson Wu’s helpful post “7 Dangers for Missionaries from Guilt-Innocence Cultures.”)

1. Who is Unbalanced?

 If you go into a seminary library, how many theology books assume a guilt-innocence paradigm compared to honor-shame? If you browse a sermon archive, how many sermons emphasize salvation as forgiveness of sins compared to union with Christ or honor from God? What is the ratio—10:1, 100:1? Where is the pendulum at the present time? In the middle? So, who is unbalanced? 

I find the concerns about imbalance ironic for this reason—people warn about “honor-shame” becoming unbalanced, but they don’t ask whether a dogmatic emphasis on a particular 16th century, German contextual theology is perhaps unbalanced.

In the picture above, the Western theologians are standing together on one end of the scale, while the handful of honor-shame advocates try to balance the scale. But the massive imbalance in Christian theology as a whole requires significant effort to rebalance. The goal here is not to re-tip the scales in favor of honor-shame but to balance a lopsided conversation. So we must honestly ask, where is the imbalance? Read more ›

Posted in Bible, Honor Tagged with: ,

4 Practical Ways To Use The Culture Test

Since being released in late 2014, people have found creative and strategic uses for The Culture Test. The following four stories shows areas where an awareness of guilt-shame-fear dynamics can be beneficial.

1. Theological Apologetics

Martin was a Kenyan Christian studying for his Ph.D. at a Lutheran seminary in North America. His attempts to explain the honor-shame aspects of the gospel were not highly regarded by his faculty. They were mostly Western Lutherans accustomed to a theology prioritizing legal imagery such as individual guilt, forgiveness, and innocence. So they had a hard time accepting honor and shame as a valid theological framework. Martin made his case from Scripture, but he also invited his faculty and fellow students to take The Culture Test. Then they discussed, “How might someone’s cultural orientation impact their interpretation of the Bible or theology?” The Culture Test served as a simply and neutral way for people to see their own cultural assumptions.

Read more ›

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Patronage Survey: Your Results

How do people Christian workers understand and engage patronage? Because 378 people completed the short patronage survey we now have a better idea of how people perceive patronage. This blog posts presents my summary of the data for the broader missions community. I trust this offers helpful insights.

Who took the survey?

What is your cultural-ethnic background?

  • 90% White/Western/European
  • 5% Asian
  • 5% other

What is your ministry context?

  • 57% Western, the majority culture
  • 12% Asian
  • 10% Western, a minority culture
  • 7% African
  • 4% Latin
  • 4% Muslim
  • 7% other

What were their opinions about patronage?

When people ask me for money, I feel….? Responses to this question had the starkest difference between Western and Majority World respondents, so I separate out their answers.

The most common Western responses (333 results):

  • awkward
  • conflict(ed)
  • obligation
  • annoyed
  • suspicious
  • guilty

The most common Majority World responses (39)

  • obligated
  • glad/want to help
  • suspicious

People self-rated their response to “When people ask me for money, I feel….?” as:


Note: In hindsight, I realize this question is not clear. People could read “biblical” either descriptively (Does patronage occur in the Bible?) or prescriptively (Should Christians today use cultural patronage?). I meant the latter, but suspect people read it as the former since the results show a very positive view of patronage.

How is patronage expressed in cultures?

What words are used for patron/age in your context?

  • Africa: boss, patron, sponsor
  • West: sponsor, donor, sugar daddy
  • Asia: older brother/sister, aunt/uncle, godparent, master
  • Latin: patron, boss (jefe)
  • Middle East: teacher, old brother

What areas of life does patronage affect in your context? (Number of mentions)



 How do people understand patronage?

How would you define patronage? People noted these 4 thought clusters to explain patronage:

  1. a relationship, a person
  2. helping, providing, supporting, giving
  3. power, status, obligation, loyalty
  4. return, mutual, benefit, exchange

Regarding patronage and evangelism, which statement best describes you?


God is a patron because…(according to people who answered “yes” to above Q) 

  • God gives and provides (by far the most common response)
  • God is the source of everything we have
  • God deserves loyalty from us
  • God possesses everything
  • God is Father/God cares for his children
  • God takes responsibility/initiates our relationship
  • God is sovereign and powerful

God is NOT a patronage because……(according to people who answered “no” to above Q) 

  • God does not expect any return
  • The term “patron” is too corrupted and negative
  • God gives freely, not manipulatively
  • God does not support others’ cause, just his own
  • I don’t think of God in these terms

What questions do you have about patronage?

People asked many insightful questions about patronage, as grouped below. This list was actually encouraging to read, as I address these very topics in my forthcoming book Ministering in Patronage Cultures: Biblical Models and Missional Implications (IVP, June 2019). I will also do a blog series answering each of these important questions.

  • When is patronage good/positive/healthy/biblical? And when is it bad/negative/unhealthy/ungodly?
  • What does biblical/redeemed patronage look like?
  • How does patronage differ from corruption, bribery, dependence, and patriarchy?
  • What is the definition of “patronage”?
  • What are Western examples of patronage?
  • What are real life examples of patronage?
  • What is a patron-focused gospel presentation for evangelism?
  • What are biblical stories of patronage? Where does it help hermeneutics?
  • How is God a patron?

A Story?

There were too many good stories to include, so I only mention a few themes. The first two were the most commonly expressed sentiments. The final three points were frequent scenarios people mentioned.

  1. “I now see how that situation involved patronage.”
  2. “I wish I know before that I was a patron in their eyes.”
  3. Relationships with house-helpers are missionaries’ most common experience of patron-client relationships, often in a positive way.
  4. For good and bad, people often have relationships end because of unmet patronage expectations.
  5. Patronage expectations in global contexts are tied to ethnicity. White skin implies patron(age).

Any surprises or insights from the above summary? Please share below in the comments section below.


Posted in Culture, Ministry, Missiology, Resources Tagged with: , ,

Psalm 23 (HSP)

This post is excerpted from the new book Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase of 15 Psalms.

Psalm 23 is a popular hymn that speaks about God’s generous, honoring patronage. David uses two common metaphors to convey God’s protection and provision for his people—God is both a shepherd and a host. These images worshipfully portray Yahweh’s patron-client relationship with his people. God is always faithful and benevolent.


Honor-Shame Paraphrase of Psalm 23

My patron is Yahweh.

He generously provides for my every need.

He gifts me the finest.

He brings me to the best places.

His perfect care delights my heart.

He gives wise guidance so that I’m never lost.

This lavish generosity makes his name great.1–3


Even when the clouds of shame and despair gather,

I do not worry,

because you, O God, have my back.

Your strong hand gives me complete assurance.4


You welcome me to a lavish banquet,

so everyone sees I’m your honored guest.

You exalt me to prominence;

your favor towards me reaches to the heavens.

Without any doubt, you faithfully provide for me every day.

You always extend hospitality and honor me with your presence.5–6

Learn more about the Honor-Shame Paraphrase or buy the book here.


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Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase (New Book)

Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase of 15 Psalms is now available to purchase ($3.99 Kindle, $8.99 paperback). Along with 1 Peter and Esther, this is the third title in the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series.

Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase of 15 Psalms renders the insights and cultural nuances of biblical writers into accessible, contemporary language. This book includes an extended socio-theological introduction Psalms, a bibliography for further research, and then a paraphrase of Psalms 8, 12, 15, 23, 25, 30, 44, 74, 75, 89, 96, 109, 113, 129, and 146.

When people want to learn about honor and shame in the Bible, I often suggest they read the book of Psalms. The reason for this is simple—honor and shame are profound emotions that people feel, not academic categories or cerebral ideas. People in all cultures use the figurative language of songs and poetry to express the deepest passions of their heart. This is the reason Psalms—a collection of 150 ancient Hebrew songs and poems—offers a rich perspective on honor and shame. This honor-shame paraphrase of Psalms captures these deeply personal and social realities.

Learn more about the Honor-Shame Paraphrase or buy the book here. Click here to request a free PDF copy for classroom use or public review. The next post will feature the honor-shame paraphrase of Psalm 23

Endorsements for the Honor-Shame Paraphrase

“The Honor-Shame Paraphrase series gives us a fresh look at an ancient perspective. As a paraphrase, each book nicely serves as a middle ground between a commentary and a translation. Accordingly, they aptly highlight diverse and subtle ways that honor and shame influence the biblical writers. One easily sees the care given to remain biblically faithful and culturally meaningful. I commend this series both as a useful tool for personal study and public ministry.”

Dr. Jackson Wu, professor to Chinese pastors, author of Saving God’s Face 

“Applying shame and honor as ever present realities in the ancient world, Jayson Georges powerfully accents the cultural values behind the words that would otherwise seem flavorless. His paraphrasing penetrates deeply into the intentions of the heart that often lay hidden from readers. We are exposed to life as it was lived, feelings as they were felt and hidden motives as they were brought to light. The biblical text breathes afresh with meaning.” 

Dr. Duane H. Elmer, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, author of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

“In a rapidly globalizing world cultural differences are confronting us daily. Not only have these cultural differences exposed a cultural bias in our daily lives, but they have also exposed the significant role culture plays in our approach to the Bible. The Honor-Shame Paraphrase provides a great resource that helps people understand how the Bible would have been understood in the Ancient Near East. I am both thankful and excited to recommend a resource that will help us understand the Bible.” 

Spencer MacCuish, President, Eternity Bible College

“This lively and engaging paraphrase of Esther, like all the biblical paraphrases in this series, seeks to illuminate and express key implicit cultural assumptions shaping biblical discourse.  Sumptuous food and fabulous feasting, role violations and status reversals, male honoring and female defiance, enemy plotting and counter-cultural female heroics are all displayed here as strands of a fascinating story of honor denied and honor bestowed.”

Dr. John H. Elliott, Professor Emeritus, University of San Francisco, author of 1 Peter, Anchor Bible Commentary 

Posted in Honor-Shame Paraphrase

Is Africa ‘Power-Fear’ or ‘Honor-Shame’?

People often assume Africa is a “fear-power” culture. The animistic and magical practices of African Traditional Religions (ATRs) reflect the values of fear-power. Although Africa ranks higher in the fear-power category than other regions of the world according to The Culture Test results, it is nevertheless reflects many aspects of honor-shame cultures.

Several African Christians confirm the pivotal role of honor-shame in their culture. Andrew Mbuvi, a native Kenyan and NT professor, notes

“The primary core values that underlie both the African culture and the biblical cultures is that of honor and shame. … There is thus no denying that honor and shame are at the core of the value system of African societies, just as in biblical cultures.”[1]

Professor E. Mahlangu of the University of Pretoria notes the hermeneutical potential:

“The African view of honor and shame could be an interpretive tool for reading the biblical text….Due to the various points of resemblance between the African and the first century Mediterranean cultures, it is indeed possible to approach the Bible optimistically.”[2]

After teaching about honor and shame in theology to Chadian pastors, one student said to me, “We are seeing how the Bible is so similar to African culture. You have opened our eyes. We must consider what this means for us Christians.”

Read more ›

Posted in Culture, Honor, Ministry, Missiology, Shame Tagged with: , ,

A Fourth Category of ‘Pain-Pleasure’?

Along with guilt-innocence, shame-honor, and fear-power, should there be a fourth category of “pain-pleasure”? This post considers the merit of this idea.

The Idea of Pain-Pleasure

Philosophers have long considered the feelings of pain and pleasure to be part of a continuum. In the 4th century B.C., Aristotle described the human inclination to move towards pleasure and away from pain, “We may lay it down that Pleasure is a movement, a movement by which the soul as a whole is consciously brought into its normal state of being; and that Pain is the opposite” (Rhetoric, book I, ch 11). Later philosophers such as Spinoza and Descrates hypothesized about nature of pain and pleasure. The moral theory of Utilitarianism based ethics on the pain or pleasure caused by an action. Modern scientists even research neurochemical realities to study the biological roots of pleasure and pain.

Read more ›

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The Meaning of ‘Fear-Power’—3 Options

The label “fear-power culture” has various meanings, depending on the perspective of the speaker. This posts explains the three ways people have defined “fear-power culture.”

1. Religious: Fear-Power as Spiritual Control

The worldviews of Majority World cultures, especially tribal religions, give special prominence to spiritual realities. People live in fear of unseen forces such as mana, curses, witches, and ancestors. Consequently, they seek spiritual power over those forces through ritual practices. This constant interaction with the invisible world is the religious aspect of “fear-power.” This is the most common meaning of the term.

Read more ›

Posted in Culture, Guilt, Honor, Shame, Spirituality Tagged with: , , , , ,

The Model of Guilt-Shame-Fear—A Short History

The idea of “guilt vs. shame” has a long history in 20th-century scholarship (see previous post). But how did the cultural model of guilt-shame-fear develop? Here is a super short history of the cultural trichotomony. 

In 1954, Christian anthropologist and linguist Eugene Nida in Customs and Cultures mentions, “We have to reckon with three different types of reactions to transgressions of religiously sanctioned codes: fear, shame, and guilt.” This is the first known mention of guilt-shame-fear, but Nida offers no further explanation. 

Psychologists in the 1960’s began to write about the internal aspects of guilt, shame, and anxiety. David Augsburger (Professor of Psychology/Counseling at Fuller) expounded the categories in several of his publications, including Conflict Mediation Across Cultures (1986). Here is his explanation:

“Anxiety, shame, and guilt are the normal and sequential control processes that emerge in the first, second, and third years of a child’s development in every culture. Each culture has its own balanced and its own integrative hierarchy of these internal controls. Tribalistic cultures are dominated by the fear/anxiety motive. Individualistic cultures generally seek to minimize anxiety and shame while socializing the child to have more of a guilt orientation, while many collectivistic cultures generally tend to encourage a shame orientation. … The three function together, although the intensity of each influence varies significantly from culture to culture.” (pp. 82, 126)

Charles Kraft’s Perspectives article titled “The 3 Encounters of Christian Witness” (adapted from his 1991 EMQ article) speaks about ministry approaches in terms of “truth,” “power,” and “allegiance” encounter. Doug Hayward reaches similar conclusions in “The Evangelization of Animists: Power, Truth or Love Encounter?” IJFM (1997). Though they do not use the language of guilt-shame-fear, the overlap with their categories is remarkable.

Roland Muller’s book Honor & Shame: Unlocking the Door (2001) expanded and popularized the notion guilt, shame, and fear cultures for Christian ministry. Though Muller’s book focuses on Muslim evangelism, it has notably influenced practitioners and missiologists.

My publication of The 3D Gospel: Ministry in Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures (2014) sought to outline a biblical/systematic theology and some ministry approaches for engaging each culture type.

There you have it—a super short history of the guilt-shame-fear cultural paradigm! Any others works worth mentioning? Please share in a comment below.

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.


Posted in Culture, Guilt, Honor, Shame, Wesetern Tagged with: , , ,

A Quick Patronage Survey, Please!

Patronage is a common reality in global ministry, but it is rarely discussed in missiology. So unfortunately Christians struggle to navigate patronage. 

To help us learn more about people’s understandings and perceptions of patronage, please take this survey. There are many good reasons to take the survey; you can pick your favorite form of motivation:

  1. It’s short…4-5 minutes, maximum. 
  2. It’s revealing…the questions will prompt some learning reflection.
  3. You know those weekly blog posts from…consider them small gifts that create social indebtedness. Here’s your chance to reciprocate. Or perhaps, this is a way to make me indebted to you! 🙂
  4. I will make a summary of the data available to the greater missions community. The collective results will help clarify the current situation and issues related to patronage. This will allow the global missions community to collectively forge a more precise and more strategic path forward. For example, the results will help inform research topics and conversations at the upcoming Patronage Symposium future blog posts here at
  5. As a thank you, two respondents will be randomly selected to win a free book of their choice from this list: .

Thanks again for taking this short survey about patronage


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The Meaning of ‘Shame’—A Short History

Where do these categories of “guilt-shame” or “shame-honor” come from? Like all ideas, the notion of “shame” has developed over time. This post summarizes the main currents of shame research in the 20th century.

The Beginning: Ruth Benedict

The binary labels of “guilt-culture” and “shame-culture” is often credited to American anthropologist Ruth Benedict. Anthropologists contrasted “guilt” and “shame” in the early 1900’s, but Benedict’s book The Cross and the Chrysanthemum (1946) popularized the classification. World War II pitted Western militaries against an industrialized, non-Western power for the first time. To understand the mindset of their enemy in the East, the U.S. military commissioned Ruth Benedict to study and explain Japanese culture. Benedict explained how Western culture was controlled by internal conscience, whereas shame cultures like Japan use public opinions to sanction behavior. Her book was highly influential in the U.S. military, Western academia, as well as in Japan and China where translations become bestsellers. Once can hardly underestimate the influence of her book in this discussion. Even though anthropology after Benedict critiqued elements of her guilt-shame dichotomy, the categories continued to frame the discussion.


In the 1960’s and 70’s, cultural anthropologists such as Julien Pitt-Rivers of Oxford developed the idea of “honor-shame cultures” by researching Mediterranean cultures. Their research developed anthropological models such as challenge-riposte, patron-client, ascribed vs. achieved, kinship, purity, limited good, etc. These anthropologists explained the nuances of honor and shame in Mediterranean societies with great insight.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s a group of biblical scholars led by Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey began applying those anthropological insights to the New Testament. The Context Group, as they labeled themselves, used “social-science criticism” to expound the honor-shame aspects inherent to the New Testament. Their work was primarily academic, so focused on history and hermeneutics more than practical theology.

Several evangelical NT scholars in the 21st century like David deSiva and Kenneth Bailey leverage insights from the social sciences to interpret biblical texts. Their works are notably less dependent upon constructs of Mediterranean anthropologists of 50 years ago, and points towards pastoral applications of honor-shame.


In a separate field of thought, psychology began discussing guilt and shame in the 1970’s. So the psychology of guilt and shame is rather developed. Christian psychologists like David Augsburger (1980’s), Lewis Smedes (1990’s), and Edward Welch (2010’s) have adopted those insights for Christian ministry and counseling. Compared to anthropology, psychology views guilt and shame as personal feelings, not public social sanctions. They describe the emotional dynamics in an individual, not the social realities between people.

Psychologists typically view guilt as helpful and shame as hurtful. Consequently, Westerner’s perceive shame as mostly negative. So when anthropology defines cultural groups as “shame-based,” negative assumptions get unfairly attached to those cultures. 

This image here summarizes how “shame” has developed in research.

The conflation of anthropological and psychological definitions of shame is a common mistake. It is sloppy and lazy research to use psychological conclusions about shame when making a point about “honor-shame cultures.”

Today: #Shame

Since 2010, two realities have brought “shame” out from the psychologist’s office into mainstream conversation: Brene Brown and social media. Brene Brown is a shame researcher at the University of Houston. Her 2010 TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” become the second most viewed videos on and YouTube. Her bestselling books Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought it Was Just Me offer inspiring stories and practical insights for overcoming shame. Brown proposes empathy, vulnerability, and community as the antidote to shame.

Social media has also introduced shame into mainstream Western culture, but more at an experiential than cognitive level. The explosion of “internet bullying” and “digital shaming” has directly exposed modern people to a reality long relegated to “traditional cultures”—disgrace, shame, honor, etc. Social commentators note social media creates a new “shame-culture.” For example, the March 2015 cover story of Christianity Today, “The Good News About Shame”, proposed “social media is leaving us more ashamed than ever—and more ready to hear the gospel.” The deluge of digital shame has sideswiped Western culture and forced us to reckon with a resurgence of shame.

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.


Posted in Communication, Culture, Honor, Shame, Wesetern Tagged with: , , , , ,

Guilt-Shame-Fear & Other Cultural Models

There are many models that explain how global cultures differ. They all simplify reality in different ways. This post shows how the guilt-shame-fear paradigm compares to other well-known cultural models.

1. Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions

An organizational anthropologist named Geert Hoftstede began working at Europe IBM in 1965. He founded the Personal Research department for IBM in Europe, which provided a global platform for cultural research. From 1967-73, he conducted a survey of national values among 117,000 IBM employees. Hofstede’s subsequent analysis identified six dimensions where national cultures differ.

  • high-power distance vs. low-power distance
  • collectivism vs. individualism
  • weak certainty avoidance vs. strong certainty avoidance
  • masculinity (task focus) vs. femininity (relational focus)
  • long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation
  • indulgence vs. restraint

Although these binaries were not unique to Hofstede, his scientific research helped legitimate the categories by providing a quantifiable theory for cultural differences. His international bestseller Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (1991) mainstreamed the cultural model in academic and business circles.

Read more ›

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The Value of Cultural Models

In 2015 I taught a course in Chad, Africa. I considered bringing gifts for the 12 Chadian students, but we had a very tight luggage allowance. The school director suggested instead that I buy a goat at the end of class for us all to enjoy. I loved that idea!

One morning the Chadian students gathered to butcher the goat for dinner that night. As I stood by watching, I tried hard to repress my shock. I grew up on a farm during my teenage years, so am somewhat familiar with how an animal “should” be butchered. But they cut the animal totally different! Even what they counted as edible was totally different! Everything except the hide went into one the cooking pot—meat, organs, unclean intestines, and even the skull.

Describing a culture is like butchering an animal—there are many ways to divide up a complex entity. A cultural model is a simple system for explaining cultural differences. Cultures are infinitely complex and complicated. However, people crossing cultures need simple categories to help them organize complex realities. So researchers have developed various models to explain cultures. Because cultures are infinitely complex, no particular cultural model in inherently “right” or “wrong.” There are infinite numbers of ways to slice up complex realities, as I learned in Chad.

Read more ›

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3 In 1: Integrating Guilt, Shame, and Fear

People often voice the concern that reducing cultures down to “guilt,” “shame,” or “fear” is oversimplifying reality—“Aren’t cultures a combination of these factors?” Most certainly. Cultures are too complex to be isolated into just three boxes. These are not three distinct categories, but factors that influence every culture to some shape. Guilt, shame, and fear are present in every person and every culture, but to differing degrees. The complexity and richness of human culture is not like Neapolitan ice cream with three separated flavors. This post explains how the three culture types overlap and integrate.

The phrase “guilt-innocence culture” is like the phrase “right-handed person.” When I say that I am right-handed, it does not mean I never use or my left hand (or don’t have a left hand!). The phrase simply indicates my primary preference. The categories are like caricatures—they highlight the most distinctive features to allow for easy identification.

Read more ›

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The Story Behind ‘The Culture Test’

What is the providence of The Culture Test? People have asked this question, as it impacts the validity and authority of the results. The short is: Jayson Georges developed The Culture Test as a ministry training tool. If you want a longer answer, read below.

Like most good ideas these days, The Culture Test started with Facebook! One evening while relaxing on the couch, my wife did a short Facebook quiz titled, “What Country is Your Personality?” She answered the 7 basic questions, then gleefully announced, “I’d be France!” This event introduced me to the entire cottage industry of silly personality quizzes available on social media: “What Scooby-Doo Character Are You?”, “What Flavor of Hot Sauce Are You?”, “Are You Beavis or Butt-head?” I knew for sure there had to be a more helpful way to categorize the world. So I decided to develop a test that helped people discern their “cultural orientation.”

Personality tests are a huge cottage industry. These tests like Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument help people understand their individual characteristics, but they do not identity the group dynamics that shape our worldview. People know their personality type, but not their groupality type. Psychology tests help people to “Know Thyself,” but we must also “Know Thy Culture.” This was my motivation.

Read more ›

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The 3D Gospel: Updated and Revised

The 3D Gospel started in mind as a 2-page PDF that would help people understand the results of The Culture Test. But it mushroomed into an 80-page book that I published on Amazon.

Since then, The 3D Gospel has become a top-selling book in Christian Evangelism and a popular book in mission training. To make The 3D Gospel even more accessible and helpful for readers, I have updated the book.

When I ask people why they enjoyed the book, 90% of the readers appreciate how the book was so short! So I made sure the book is not any longer. Here are the main ways I have updated and revised The 3D Gospel:

  • Added a “Discussion and Reflection Questions” at the end.
  • Edited the final section “Ministry” to be clearer.
  • Corrected typos and unclear sentences.

The changes are rather minor, so there is not much reason to purchased the updated edition if you already have a previous version. Here are the “Discussion and Reflection Questions.

You can purchase The 3D Gospel here. For a bulk discount of 50% off ( 50 copies for $225), click here

The 3D Gospel has also been translated into French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Vietnamese. Chinese (Mandarin) and Arabic translations will be available soon.

Posted in Communication, Culture, Honor, Resources, Shame Tagged with: , , ,

3 Problems with The Culture Test Results

I developed The Culture Test in 2013 to help people better understand cultures. The test is generally helpful in that regard—in five minutes people can get a snapshot of any culture. To help people learn about cultural differences, it is a good conversation start. 

However, The Culture Test, just like all other assessment tools, is not perfect. In this post I explain three issues with the results that I have noticed. As you view your personal results and use the Interactive Map, keep these in mind.

1. Quantifying “Culture”

Problem: The Culture Test purports to quantify a culture with three categories—guilt-innocence, shame-honor, and fear-power. While the simple framework offers some practical insights, we must acknowledge that “culture” in reality is far more complex and nuanced than, say, “62% guilt, 28% shame, 10% fear.” This three-number summary of a particular culture must be taken with a grain of salt. Any attempt to “quantify culture” easily becomes overly simplistic, much like personality tests. For example, my Myers-Briggs profile is INTJ. Those four letters may describe aspects of my personality, but they do not define me as a person. The same applies to The Culture Test.

Solution: Read results from The Culture Test with fair expectations. The results for individual countries should not be woodenly interpreted as absolute values. So if your country is 70% guilt, that does not mean you make seven out of ten decisions based on guilt values. Rather, the results should be interpreted relative to other countries. So, for example, Germany is 20% shame, while Albania is 66%. So we can conclude from these scores that Albania, compared to Germany, is strongly influenced my shame.

2. Accuracy of Answers

Problem: Nearly 30,000 people have answered the 32 questions (25 cultural + 7 personal) on The Culture Test. Of these nearly 1,000,000 total answers, I have not stood over the shoulder of a single person to verify the accuracy of their answers. Though I tried to make the test as simple and clear as possible for people to take by themselves, surely some people have misunderstood a question or entered an incorrect answer. Here are some examples of how answers might be incorrect:

  • There are several results for North Korea, but I wonder if people simply clicked the wrong option on the dropdown menu.
  • For the final question about the respondent’s age, I wonder, “What percentage of people enter their correct age on online forms?” I know it is less than 100%.
  • I suspect people have misread or misinterpreted some of the cultural questions.
  • Even if people answered the question “correctly” it may still be “wrong” simply because the test in in English. For example, a twenty-year-old Japanese person may answer the questions based how they act in their English classroom (because the English-language questions evoke that context), not how they interact with their Japanese relatives in the rest of their life. (Note: the The Culture Test is also available in Spanish, so this may not apply as much in Latin contexts). 

Solution: Though I have not calculated the margin of error, it certainly does exist. The best solution to this problem is to have a global team translate and personally administer The Culture Test in all global cultures. I personally do not have a budget for that, so let me know if you do! Until then, assume a margin of error.

3. The Test-Takers Are Not Random, So The Results Are Not Representative

Problem: The Global Map of Culture Types visualizes the primary culture type of every country in the world. However, the respondents were not randomly selected, so they may not fairly represent the entire demographic of that country. Three examples illustrate this point:

1. Zimbabwe: The average score of 44 results from Zimbabwe is 52 guilt/38 shame/9 fear. Compared to other African countries, this score is strongly guilt-oriented. But a closer look explains the reason. Because of Zimbabwe colonial history, there are effectively two cultures in the country. Zimbabweans who self-identified as “African,” or “Shano,” or “colored” (20 results) averaged 37/51/12—a score much closer to other African countries. However, Zimbabweans who self-identified as “White” or “Anglo” (22 results) scored on average 66/28/6—a score close to Europeans and Western countries. Since about the same number of people from each group took The Culture Test, the average score that is visualized on the map for Zimbabwe splits the difference between these two cultural groups.

However, white/Anglo Africans are only 0.2% of Zimbabwe’s population; yet they represent over half of the results in the data. The 44 people who took The Culture Test for Zimbabwe do not accurately represent the countries racial demographics.

2. China: For Chinese culture, the average score from people born and raised in China (“Culture Type: Primary”) is 47 guilt/ 37 shame/ 16 fear. But among expatriates who have lived in China for 10+ years, Chinese culture was 27 guilt/ 55 shame/ 18 fear. This is a swing of ~20 percentage points from between guilt and shame.

Here is my hypothesis for this discrepancy. The Chinese nationals who took The Culture Test obviously knew English. From this, we could assume they are educated, and most likely urban, younger, and from the East coast. Moreover, they probably learned about this resource from another Christian (likely a Western Christian), suggesting they themselves are Christian and connected with Western Christians. If these deductions are generally true, then the Chinese nationals who took The Culture Test represent a narrow segment of the overall population, and are therefore not an accurate snapshot of “Chinese culture” as a whole.

However, I suspect that the responses from expatriates who have lived in China for 10+ years might better represent China as a whole. This is not because they know the culture better, but because they are more dispersed throughout Chinese society, so their answers are based on a broader set of cultural experiences and social groups.

3. UAE: Of the 30 people in United Arab Emirates who took The Culture Test, only nine answered the questions for “Arab” culture. The other twenty-one are Western, African, or Asian expatriates. This result obviously slants the average score for UAE.

The un-random and un-representative nature of the results is perhaps the biggest shortcoming of The Culture Test. Most people have learned about The Culture Test in one of three ways: reading The 3D Gospel, visiting, or attending a class where it was assigned. This suggests the majority of people who have taken The Culture Test are Christians engaged in ministry or interested in global cultures. Such a particular social group hardly represents the whole of a society.


These issues, IMO, do not render all the results invalid or useless, but helps us understand how much weight we can rightly attribute to the results. The results and the data visualization map are not perfect, but hopefully they serve as first steps towards helping us think through the issues. By making the anonymous data available for others to analyze, I hope further insights will emerge. 

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.


Posted in Culture, Ministry, Shame Tagged with: ,

New Resource: Interactive Global Map of Culture Types

If you like maps and cultures, you will love the new Interactive Global Map of Culture Types. This interactive map visualizes the anonymous data from 25,000+ results from The Culture Test. Of all the resources I have developed at, this one is my favorite!

The map provides a snapshot overview of global culture types and allows for deeper research into each country. My goal in developing this map is two-fold. One, to provide a quick overview of global cultures. Two, to make the data set from The Culture Test anonymous and publicly available for those interested in further research. Even after spending hours interacting with the map, I have only scratched the service in terms of uncovering cultural and global insights. Most people will enjoy playing around with the map, but some will be eager to dig into the numbers. Hopefully the interface will please both groups.

For complete instructions and copyright information, visit Please note the map should be viewed on a laptop or desktop screen.

A special thanks for Lauren LaRochelle for her excellent design work in this project!

Read more posts in this series “Guilt-Shame-Fear: Revisited“.

Posted in Uncategorized

Guilt, Shame & Fear: Revisited

The notion of guilt, shame, and fear cultures has become a common topic in mission conversations. Ministry organizations and teams around the world are discussing the topic.

Four years have passed since I published The 3D Gospel and developed This time has allowed me to reflect on the guilt-shame-fear cultural paradigm.

The next 13 posts in the series “Guilt, Shame & Fear: Revisited” will address questions that commonly arise. Hopefully these posts will clarify the topic and inspire strategic insights.

Here are the forthcoming titles in the series:


Posted in Shame, Shame & Fear: Revisited, Spirituality, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

“Honor Restored”—New Evangelism Tool from Cru

Last summer several Cru staff members attended the Honor-Shame conference in Wheaton. After the conference, they began discussing and designing a new honor-shame evangelism tool that could used in a smart-phone app.
Their new tool “Honor Restored” launched in December 2017. Based loosely on the HonorShame reference bookmark, Honor Restored does a good job distilling the essentials into a aesthetic and accessible resource. 
The tool is available in Cru’s evangelism app, GodTools, which is available at Apple’s App store and at Google Play. First, download the GodTools app, then tap the + sign and you will see the tool Honor Restored.
The app has been translated into Hindi, Arabic, Croatian, Persian/Farsi, Turkish, and Portuguese. They are translating it into Mandarin, French, Russian, Marathi, German, Telugu, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese.
If you have questions, feedback, or suggestions on possible translations, email Chris Sneller at
Posted in Bible, Resources Tagged with: ,