New Book: Ministering in Patronage Cultures

My latest book Ministering in Patronage Cultures: Biblical Models and Missional Implications is now available at Amazon and This book develops a biblical and missional view of patron-client relationships.

As I discuss honor-shame cultures with other Christians, their questions often relate to patronage. People want to know how to navigate the thorny dynamics of these “financial friendships.” In honor-shame cultures, patronage is how society and business operate, so this is a significant issue. Much like my previous book with IVP Academic, Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, I weave together biblical theology, anthropology, and many years of cultural experiences into a clear, practical guide from mission practioners today.

The book is 175 pages with discussion and application questions, so would be great for pre-field training, ministry team development, classroom assignments, and personal enrichment. 

Below is more information on the book. Over the next two months I will post more resources related to patronage.

Cover Description

Patronage governs many relationships in Majority World cultures. But regrettably, Western theologians and missionaries rarely notice this prominent cultural reality. Patronage—a reciprocal relationship between social unequals—is a central part of global cultures and the biblical story of God’s mission.

Misunderstanding patronage creates problems not only for Westerners ministering in other cultures, but also for contemporary people reading the Bible. If we ignore the concepts of patronage in biblical cultures, we will misinterpret Yahweh’s relationship with Israel and miss some of the meaning in Jesus’ parables and Paul’s letters. Understanding patronage will illumine theological concepts such as faith, grace, and salvation.

Jayson Georges, coauthor of Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, now brings his ministry experience and biblical insights to bear on the topic of patronage. With sections on cultural issues, biblical models, theological concepts, and missional implications, this resource will not only serve ministry practitioners but anyone who studies Scripture and worships God.


Introduction: The Problems of Patronage

Part I: Cultural Issues
Chapter 1: The Meaning of Patronage
Chapter 2: Expressions of Patronage
Chapter 3: Misperceptions of Patronage

Part II: Biblical Models
Chapter 4: Yahweh and Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus and the Kingdom
Chapter 6: Paul and the Church

Part III: Theological Truths
Chapter 7: God as Patron
Chapter 8: Sin as Ingratitude
Chapter 9: Salvation as Patronage

Part IV: Missional Implications
Chapter 10: Engaging Patronage
Chapter 11: Transforming Relationships
Chapter 12: The Christian Life

Appendix 1: Further Resources
Scripture Index


“Jayson Georges has established himself as an important interdisciplinary and crosscultural thinker. In this new book, he draws upon classical studies, biblical studies, modern cultural anthropology, Christian theology, and his own (and others’) first-hand missionary experience, offering a comprehensive introduction to patronage in ancient and modern contexts and its implications for biblical theology and missionary practice. He does this in engagingly accessible and clear prose—and with winsome vulnerability as he recounts his own journey. This is an important contribution to articulating a global gospel and to formulating effective strategies for serving and partnering with the global Christian community.”

David A. deSilva, professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary and author of Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity

“Looking at patron-client relationships through a biblical lens Georges challenges us to practice transformed patronage. Read it and grow in knowledge of God and gain tools for God’s mission.”

Mark D. Baker, professor of mission and theology, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

“Few subjects are as significant yet overlooked as patronage is. Many Westerners are suspicious of patronage, assuming it leads only to corruption. In Ministering in Patronage Cultures, Jayson Georges removes the cloud of confusion that surrounds the topic.

Jackson Wu, author of Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes

I enthusiastically commend this book to anyone wanting to serve those who come from the Majority World. While we may be blind to the patronage elephant in the room, it seems painfully evident to them. We overlook it at our own peril. Georges is an experienced and skilled guide, patiently tutoring us individualists on how to minister in a collectivist world.”

Randolph Richards, Palm Beach Atlantic University, coauthor of Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes

“With careful documentation from ancient writing, contemporary scholarship, and his own research, Jayson Georges reveals how the patronage system prevailed as the cultural tapestry in which biblical authors lived and out of which they wrote. … The case studies in the closing chapters provide helpful insights for doing ministry in patronage cultures. I highly recommend Jayson’s book as a worthy contribution to expand our understanding of the Scripture.”

Duane Elmer, G. W. Aldeen Professor of International Studies, retired, Trinity International University, author of Cross-Cultural Connections

“If you see the world and the Gospel as I do, through the lens of an egalitarian, democratic, individualistic worldview, and you desire to communicate crossculturally to people from the Majority World, then Jayson Georges is a voice you must hear. Ministering in Patronage Cultures will expand your understanding of the Scriptures, intensify your crosscultural understanding, and enlarge your capacity to worship responsively as a redeemed servant of Jesus Christ.”

Paul Borthwick, senior consultant for Development Associates International, author of Western Christians in Global Mission

Get the book  Ministering in Patronage Cultures and visit for more ministry resources. 

Posted in Resources, Uncategorized Tagged with:

The Meaning of “Sodomy”

You know the definition of the English word sodomy? The word derives from the ancient city of Sodom, which was famously destroyed for their wickedness (Genesis 19).

So what made Sodom so wicked and worthy of destruction? The standard answer has been “sexual immorality,” specifically homosexuality. Sodom was destroyed because they sought sex with Lot’s two male guests. In Genesis 19:5, the people of Sodom called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852

Yes, the people of Sodom sought same-sex relations, a practice that Bible denounces (cf. Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10). But homosexuality was not the core reason that God judged Sodom. Contemporary debates about sexuality, along with unawareness of honor-shame cultures, have misinterpreted Genesis 19.

The Sin of Sodom

The sin of Sodom was their lack of hospitality. They failed to properly honor their guests.

The story opens:

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.

The opening scene recounts Lot’s extreme generosity and hospitality. When he sees the foreigners he offers to wash their feet and house them for the evening. They offer the mandatory, “No, thanks!”, but Lot insists a second time, “But you must come to my house!” The guests accept Lot’s offer, and enjoy a meal with fresh bread. If you have visited the Middle East (or any non-Western country), you can probably imagine this scene. This is a standard social interaction (cf. Acts 16:15).

The first three verses are about Lot’s generous hospitality and gracious welcome. Lot’s hospitality mirrors Abraham’s hospitality of the (same?) angels in 18:1-5. The parallels are unmistakable:

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” (Gen 18:1-5, NIV)

So Abraham and Lot are portrayed as welcoming hosts who extend a generous welcome to the divine guests. Then, in both stories, Genesis contrasts these righteous actions with the wickedness of Sodom (cf. Gen 18:16-22).

While Lot is hosting the divine guests, the story takes a dramatic turn.

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

The people of Sodom come to gang rape the two foreigners in Lot’s house. They are not seeking sexual relationships for physical pleasure, but they want to assert their power and domination over the outsiders. They wanted to send a message—“This is our territory! We are the masters here!” The atrocity of rape, especially gang rape, is worthy of heavens fire, regardless of the guests gender. The vicious act is one of domination and humiliation, not sexual pleasure (cf. Gen 34; Jud 19).

The scene switches back to Lot and his sacrificial hospitality.

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

Lot’s offer of his daughters is obviously absurd and baffling. Rather than guessing Lot’s intentions or morality here, let’s focus on the narrator’s rhetorical purpose. Lot is so hospitable he is willing to sacrifice everything—not just all the food in his pantry, but even his own daughters! Lot takes full responsibility for his guests, regardless of the cost. This admirable quality is the narrator’s main point. Lot is an honorable host.

But in contrast, the people of Sodom are so wicked, they threaten to rape Lot too.

“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

Their words highlight their intentions—they wanted to treat foreigners terribly. They sought to project power over the outsiders. For the people of Sodom, gang rape was the path to authority and status.

In the end, the guests save Lot, and God’s judgment of fire destroys the entire city.

Ezekiel and Sodom

Despite modern meanings of “Sodom,” the Bible actually equates Sodom with stinginess, and never homosexuality. Ezekiel 16:49-50 explicitly defines the sin of Sodom.

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. 

The people of Sodom had resources to welcome the foreign guests, but they were arrogant. Instead of helping and serving their guests with honor (like Abraham and Lot), they sought to attack and humiliate the guests. They wanted to exalt themselves by demeaning and shaming others.

Sodom was known for being wicked long before this incident. Genesis 13:13 says, “Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” Some therefore assume the sin must have been because of sexual perversion, and not “simply because of inhospitality.” But this reveals more about one’s cultural assumptions than the text of Genesis.

Jesus and Sodom

Jesus likewise assumes the sin of Sodom was the failure to honor outside guests. Jesus portrays Sodom as an archetype for inhospitality and destruction. He tells his disciples:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Mt 10:14-15; cf. Lk 10:10-12)

In Matthew 11:18-24 Jesus denounces Capernaum because they have not welcomed and followed him despite the miracles they had seen. They will be destroyed like Sodom because they have denounced Jesus (much like Sodom rejected their divinely-sent guests).


The people of Sodom refused to welcome their guests, so they were judged and destroyed. Such behavior is the antithesis of Abraham and Lot, whose righteous hospitality brought deliverance and blessing. And in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus warns that all such unwelcoming “sodomites” will face an eternal destruction. 


Posted in OT Tagged with: , , ,

Confronting Theft

A babysitter took $20 from your dresser. The pastor “borrowed” $500 from the church account for a new roof. An elder was skimming tithe money for years. How do you respond when someone steals money?

A common Western response is to tell people that stealing is wrong, and then expect people to feel convicted and change their behavior. But this rarely works out. So, in such situations, how might we appeal to shame to address the issue?

But first a few qualifications based on my experiences in Central Asia and conversations with Christians around the world. One, people often steal because they are desperate. They feel cornered, and taking money is seemingly the only way out.. Two, people sometimes really think they are “borrowing” the money. They genuinely intend to repay the money, even though their intentions may not be realistic. So before addressing the situation, seek first to understand the person.

Here are some ways you may appeal to shame to shape such behavior.

1. Social Shame

People who steal are disgraced by the community. Such people cannot be trusted by the group, so they are scorned and banished. Eventually people who steal money are caught. This brings shame upon them and their family. Speak forthrightly with the person about the social consequences of such behavior. 

2. Theological Shame

Stealing also shames God. Proverbs 30:9 says it “dishonors the name of God.” So not only does the behavior bring shame upon oneself, but also upon one’s God.

How does stealing dishonor God? One, stealing breaks God’s command, thus disrespecting the Lawgiver. Two, stealing smears God’s reputation. Unbelievers look and scoff when Christians are immoral. Three, and perhaps most deeply, stealing impugns the character and goodness of God. The action declares that God is unable to provide for his children. This is how David dishonored and despised God when he “stole” Bathsheba. David was not trusting in God to provide as promised. (See post, “How David Sinned with Bathsheba.”)

3. Relational Shame.

Depending on the circumstances, you may also appeal to the shame you feel. If you have a close relationship with the person, you can say, “You have shamed and disgraced me. I thought you could come to me for help. But by taking money behind my back, that seems like I’m not a reliable friend to you.”

You can play off of the language and concepts of shame in a variety of ways. This approach is not foolproof, but appealing to shame helps reframe the issue.


Posted in Uncategorized

Group Discount for Honor-Shame Conference

You can get a free registration for the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference. Register with 5 persons and the 6th person 
is FREE. This is a great way for your group to learn and explore together. You can get the discount with any 6 people—colleagues, classmates, teammates, neighbors, friends, family.

 Here’s how to get the discount in 2 steps:

  1. Go to the conference website: and register six people.
  2. Write to and request for a complete refund for one of the registrants.

Note: This conference is not a function of Wheaton College.


Posted in Uncategorized

“Westerners Don’t Believe in Sin!”

Guest contributor Dr. Cultir Pundit is an East Asian missions leader. He blogs at, a website equipping Global Christians for ministry in the Western guilt-innocence cultures.

Westerners believe in guilt, but not in sin. The other day I was riding in the car with my Christian friend Jim. As he drove, he followed all of the regulations. He wore his seatbelt, stopped at every stoplight, used his blinker, and stayed in his own lane—even if nobody was watching. Then we came upon a construction zone. We were waiting for 10 minutes, so I said, “Just drive onto the sidewalk and around the tractors.” He was completely perplexed, “I can’t do that, that is against the law.” So as we waited another 10 minutes in traffic, he began complaining. Jim got more and more angry, then opened his window and yelled at the construction workers. “Why is this taking forever! We are late for a meeting!”

I wanted to hide in my passenger seat. I couldn’t believe how verbally disgraceful he was towards that man working in the heat. His actions reminded me of Jeremiah 8:12, “Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.”

Driving on the sidewalk, though completely harmless, was wrong to Jim. But verbally steamrolling another person in anger was somehow acceptable! There was no sense of sin; his conscious was completely numb. He had zero sense of shame. He did not show any honor or maintain harmony in his relationships. He had no concept of sin. 

Jim, like most American “Christians,” feels compelled to follow the law to avoid feelings of guilt, but he has no sense of sin. He feels bad if he breaks the law, but not when he sins. American Christians are syncretistic, constantly following their own culture more than the Bible. They consider government rules as more important than God or people. Our aim in life is to glorify God, but they are missing the mark–the very definition the Greek word for sin (harmartia). 

Americans justify being rude to other people by saying, “What is right is right, no matter what” … as if people don’t matter! Or even worse, they have developed a whole theology about “righteous anger.” If somebody else breaks a rule, then they have some divine mandate to disgrace and offend that person.

American Christianity is a mile wide and an inch because they have no concept of sin. The Holy Spirit must convict them of their sin and brokenness. Then instead of just following their laws, they will follow God.

Western Christians talk about having a clean conscience, as if that is the basis of biblical morality. Paul says that conscience is defiled and corrupted (Titus 1:15), so individualistic morality does not work. Paul even says in 1 Cor 4:4, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.” But Western Christians only care about their own conscience, not their relationship with God or people.

Even in evangelism, Westerners do not talk about sin. Here is a common gospel-presentation:

You disobey God and do not keep his commandments. Every person transgresses God’s Law. The guilt of our wrongdoing is an infinite debt we can never repay. God is a righteous judge who must punish our bad deeds. But, Jesus can to pay the penalty on your behalf.

Did you notice the word “sin” is entirely absent in the above paragraph! Western Christians water down the gospel and compromise the truth by not mentioning sin. Their theology talks about breaking the laws and being guilty but does not mention how we sin against God, the King and Lawgiver. No wonder Western culture faces moral decay. Western Christians don’t believe in sin. 

 What do you think? Is our fictitious guest author correct?

Posted in ethics Tagged with: ,

Can Public Shaming Be Good?

Guest Dan Braga is a church planter in San Diego, CA. He is an M.A. student at Western Seminary (Portland) where I recently taught a course. This post is Dan’s response to the question, “Can public shaming be a good way to enforce morality?” 

Public shaming is the name of the game in our current cultural moment. We are a call-out culture. In some cases the public shaming is warranted, e.g., when sexual assault victims have their day of vindication as they see their attackers reputation burned up in the public flames of dishonor or when the hypocrisy of a politician comes clear and his constituents turn their vocal pitchforks upon him. These cultural forms of public shaming serve two good and biblical purposes.

First, the force of public exposure may give one pause before committing nefarious acts, lest they be caught. Though our law may prosecute and establish standards of punishment, to be paraded before the eyes of society and disdained is a terrible possibility, so terrible that one may choose more wisely lest they be exposed. The mark God placed on Cain worked as a public warning to any and all of what consequences might follow unjust acts.

Second, public shaming provides vindication for those who suffered under the hands of the oppressive, violent, or unjust. The #metoo movement has not removed the pain of assault but has certainly vindicated many women who had silently endured as their victimizer went on with life as they pleased. Both God’s people, and God himself, have their names vindicated as their enemies are brought down by their own evil schemes. Their opponents public shame touts the victory of the righteous and faithful in the end. (Deut 32:36, 2 Chron 6:23, Ps 135:14, Ez 36:23, Rev 6:9-10, 16) The greatest of these vindicating events was the resurrection of Jesus as he shamed the powers and principalities who sought his destruction. (Col 2:15, 1 Tim 3:16) 

While there may be moral benefit to public shaming there is a terrible and dark reality at play in it as well. Our call out culture does not abide by an eye for an eye principle of just punishment. There is a riotous delight in raking another human’s character over the coals. This can lead to exaggerations, false accusations, lies, and the diminishment of another imager bearers being. Jesus of Nazareth had strong words for such behavior. He exhorted humans to look inwardly at their own souls before casting judgement. He also warned that unchecked accusations put one’s soul in proximity of hell’s fires. (Luke 6:41-42, Matt 5:21-22, Matt 7:1)

Social media has provided a platform for whole new levels of ostracizing and shaming innocent human beings. Young girls in particular have created complex means of communicating who is in and out in their social hierarchies by strategically liking and not liking photos posted by their peers. Worse yet, cyber bullying has led to the literal deaths of young people as the vicious teeth of unchecked shaming are unleashed on a soul. The whole of the Biblical narrative stands against such behavior and tells the story of humans once again being restored to right and harmonious relationship with their God, and each other.


Posted in ethics, Honor, Spirituality, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

The Morality of Patronage

For many cultures, the reciprocal generosity of patronage is a moral obligation. Patrons must give favors and clients must give thanks, lest they jeopardize their own reputation and the unifying fabric of society. So when an affluent person fails to function as a patron, he or she is uncaring and unrighteous.

For recipients also, gratitude is a moral category. The failure to respond in thanks indicates a moral deficiency. Gifts create a new condition, a new relationship that must be properly acknowledged. In these ways the dynamics of patronage and social reciprocity are innately moral, a fact Westerners often overlook.

Dr. Richard Shweder, a professor of cultural psychology at the University of Chicago, researches the moral reasoning of cultures around the world. His explanation of morality in non-Western societies is essentially patronage. Collectivistic cultures perceive ethics as “obligations engendered through participation in a particular community. …[P]owerful persons take care of their ‘subjects’: family members, employees, fellow cast members. Along with hierarchy there is an obligatory responsibility for others. The less powerful respond with gratitude and loyalty that “sticks” when the chips are down” (pp 145–46). According to Shweder’s research in South Asia, the moral system of patronage frames Majority World ethics.

The mutual reciprocity of patronage is a moral obligation. Failing to give as one ought is ethically wrong. There may be no laws against stingy patrons or ungrateful clients, but there are obvious social consequences. The notion that “reciprocity = virtue” lies at the core of collectivistic cultures. In their minds, moral people know how to be patrons and clients. For this reason, Greco-Roman philosophers like Aristotle, Cicero and Seneca discussed benefaction in the context of ethics (not cultural anthropology). The opening words of Seneca’s book about benefaction declares, “[Nothing] is more disgraceful than the fact that we do not know how either to give or to receive benefits.” (Ben 1.1.1) Ancient philosophers described patronage so people would give benefits and reciprocate in a virtuous, respectable manner.

The foundational role of generosity in Arab cultures illustrates the virtue of patronage and reciprocity. In Arabic, the word kareem refers to both generosity and virtue. Arabs consider generosity to be the noble trait, the opposite of iniquity. The Arabic word for honor/dignity, karameh, comes from the same root as generosity. So to show generosity, in essence, is to honor. Generosity for Arabs is not a charitable act, but a character virtue, something that reveals the core of who someone is.

These examples illustrate how the system of patronage is foremost a system of ethics focused on relational loyalty and honor. This of course does not imply that all forms of patronage are moral or honorable. People often corrupt and manipulate the system for their own gain, as latter chapters discuss.

This post comes from my forthcoming book Ministering in Patronage Cultures, chapter 1.

Posted in ethics, patronage Tagged with: , ,

Top Books on Honor-Shame Ethics

A stream of 21st-century philosophers are rehabilitating honor in philosophical discourse. Even the collaborative website is “devoted to the study of honor as an ethical value.” These philosophers argue how honor and shame can be redemptive moral values. As one philosopher says,

“honor is purportedly archaic, primitive, violent, patriarchal, vain superficial, discriminatory, conformist, and even silly, [but] we can ignore or banish honor only at our peril. … We need a sense of honor, one duly cleansed of the undeniable ills of honor’s past.”

This post introduces the main philosophy publications on honor-shame.

Top Popular Books

Three books stand out as most readable. These are written for popular audiences, using everyday language with engaging examples.

  1. The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (2010), by Anthony Appiah. This readable book offers four case studies of moral revolutions—i.e., dueling, foot binding, slave trade, and honor killing—in which altering notions of honor caused positive social changes. A thoughtful reflection on the important concept of “honor codes.”
  1. Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool (2015), by Jennifer Jacquet. A short, engaging exploration into social shame and how it might be used to promote large-scale political change and social reform. Guilt shapes individual behavior but fails to change social institutions.
  1. Why Honor Matters (2018), by Tamler Sommers. This recent book convincingly argues for restoring honor to the center of morality. For Sommers, honor offers a solution to the problems of Western liberalism such as alienation, shameless, and cowardiceness. This book is persuasive and provocative. For more, read the reviews by Jackson Wu and Werner Mishcke.

 “On the Obsolescence of the Concept of Honor,”(1983) by Peter Berger in Revisions: Changing Perspectives in Moral Philosophy (p. 172-81) is a classic worth reading. He explains how Western society is shifting from honor morality to dignity morality. 

Another quality book is Honor: A History by James Bowman. He emphasizes on the decline of honor in the the West. 

There are also several academic works. These are technical works, most beneficial for doctoral students or insomniacs.

  • Bagby, Laurie M. Johnson. 2009. Thomas Hobbes: Turning Point for Honor. Lanham: Lexington Books.
  • Cunningham, Anthony. 2013. Modern Honor: A Philosophical Defense. New York: Routledge.
  • Deonna, Julien A., Raffaele Rodogno, and Fabrice Teroni. 2011. In Defense of Shame: The Faces of an Emotion. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Fan, Ruiping. 2010. Reconstructionist Confucianism: Rethinking Morality after the West. New York: Springer.
  • Olsthoorn, Peter. 2015. Honor in Political and Moral Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Oprisko, Robert L. 2012. Honor: A Phenomenology. New York: Routledge.
  • Sessions, William Lad. 2010. Honor for Us: A Philosophical Analysis, Interpretation and Defense. New York: Continuum.
Posted in ethics Tagged with:

CT Interview with Jackson Wu

Christianity Today has published my interview with Jackson Wu about his latest book Reading Romans with Eastern EyesAs their title says, “There’s More to Romans than Personal Salvation.”

I enjoyed learning about the backstory of this book from Jackson. The article is short and offers a nice overview of the book. Happy reading!



Posted in Uncategorized

Workshops for the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference

Workshops were a highlight of the 2017 Honor-Shame Conference. The topics and speakers were excellent. So we are excited to organize more workshops for the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference.  

We are currently accepting submissions for workshop presentations. Complete this form by October 15 to be considered. 

Twenty-eight excellent workshops will be presented at the Honor-Shame Conference. These alone are reason enough to register and attend! The following people plan to lead a workshop presentation at next year’s gathering:

  • Gerry Breshears, professor of systematic theology and chair of the Division of Biblical and Theological Studies at Western Seminary
  • Duane Elmer, director of the Ph.D. program in educational studies and the G. W. Aldeen Chair of International Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Audrey Frank, author/speaker, Fellow at The Truth Collective
  • Sunny Hong, intercultural consultant with SIL International and Wycliffe Bible Translators
  • Philip Jamieson, president of United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences
  • Joshua Jipp, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Jukka Kääriäinen, associate professor of systematic theology at China Lutheran Seminary in Hsinchu, Taiwan
  • Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary 
  • Samuel Melvin, founder of The Church and Race Ministries
  • Juliet November, author and cross-cultural worker in Thailand
  • E. Randolph Richards, professor of biblical studies and provost at Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Ken Roberts serves with Pioneers Int’l, and has walked alongside Hindus in India and America for over 10 years
  • Sheryl Takagi Silzer, adjunct professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
  • Chris Sneller, director of innovation at Bridges International, a division of Cru
  • Trey Thomas, cross-cultural trainer, East Asia

Note: This conference is not a function of Wheaton College.

Posted in Uncategorized

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Shaming

Shaming people can be a powerful tool for changing behavior and establishing norms. Jennifer Jacquet (Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University) in Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool explains how people can shame selectively and effectively.

This post is a summary of her “7 habits of highly effective shaming.” Her suggestions focus on shaming large institutions such as governments and corporations. Keep in mind that these guidelines are not biblical principles per se. These principles do not apply to restorative shaming in personal relationships or small communities. The focus is on institutional shaming for systemic change.  

  1. The audience should care. The social group that learns about the shameful behavior should also be the victim. If a company is polluting a town’s water supply, their shameful behavior should be exposed to those citizens to get them engaged. However, when the pizza man delivers the wrong pizza, that doesn’t affect other people—so there is no need to rant on Twitter, just call the company directly.
  1. The actual behavior should not be desired. There must be a big gap between reality and expectations. Shame is a strong solution. Like antibiotics, you don’t want to overuse it, or it loses its effect. So, shame should be reserved for extreme circumstances.
  1. Formal punishment should be absent. Shaming is a last resort, not a preferred option. You should first try to work through established protocol and systems as much as possible. But when legal recourse of intuitional structures does not allow justice, shame may be your best tool. For example, the financial industry received a $245 billion tax-payer bailout in 2008, then paid executives $20 billion bonuses and took lavish corporate retreats. There was nothing technically illegal with that behavior, so President Obama called them out as “shameful.” The U.N.’s Declaration on Human Rights has no legal teeth, so organizations like Human Rights Watch investigate and expose shameful behavior to enforce behavior.
  1. The transgressor should feel ashamed. The person should be sensitive to the group’s opinion. The source of the shaming is important. Shaming works when it comes from a member of the in-group. This works because the shamed do not want to be excluded from the group; they feel the threat of rejection. So, the people who are exposed must always have a chance to reintegrate into the group. The group must have a process of re-honoring the exposed.
  1. The audience should trust the shamer. People who shame must have credibility. If you expose someone, will others trust your report, or will they suspect your motives? The shame must be above reproach as well. An evangelical leader who says “morality matters” but gets caught cheating has no integrity. A government that lectures other countries on human rights loses credibility when they torture people.
  1. Shaming should have definite benefits. Our attention is limited, so frivolous shaming accomplishes nothing. When a problem is large scale, focus your intent on a specific incident. To limit fossil fuels, shaming 3 billion people won’t work, but you could expose the antics of oil producers to shape behavior. The various “Dirty Dozen” lists are examples of focused shaming.
  1. Implement strategically. Your method for shaming should be carefully considered. You must engage an audience. Sometimes the mere threat of shame suffices: a letter informing people that the names of all non-voters would be listed in the local paper had a significant increase in voter turnout. Other times you need a long-term plan: the ministry Open Doors publishes the “World Watch List,” an annual report of the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. This helps makes religious persecution a factor in international relations.


These 7 habits are not a moral justification for shaming. Rather, they are descriptions of how shaming can be an effective tool for changing behavior. In that regard, I find Jacquet’s list (and entire book) an insightful reflection on the positive uses of shame.


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How to Shame…Biblically

People who act shamelessly should incur a sense of shame.The apostle Paul explicitly shamed fellow believers, on several occasions:

I say this to your shame. (1 Cor 6:5)

I say this to your shame. (1 Cor 15:34)

Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies but warn them as believers. (2 Thess 3:14-15)

But at a time in Western culture when any form of shaming is considered oppressive and hateful, how can shame be a good thing? In other words, how can we shame biblically? In Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, we summarize:

The threat of potential shame acts like a cultural stop sign, helping to preserve dignity and avoid offensive actions. Even though the experience of shame will be painful, we can affirm a group’s shaming when (1) the action in question is something God would consider shameful, and (2) the intent of the shaming is restoring the person to right living and right relationship with God and others. This “reintegrative” shaming is restorative and temporary.  (p. 44)

Let’s explore these two characteristics of biblical shaming.

1. Theological Shame

The action in question must be shameful in God’s eyes. We should only shame sin. Our shaming should expose people to their theological shame before God. People need to realize how their behavior has dishonored God, and thus placed themselves in a state of spiritual shame. Biblical shame involves bringing sin into the light. I appreciate John Piper’s insights here:

Well-placed shame (the kind you ought to have) is the shame we feel when there is good reason to feel it. Biblically that means we feel ashamed of something because our involvement in it was dishonoring to God. We ought to feel shame when we have a hand in bringing dishonor upon God by our attitudes or actions. (Faith in Future Grace, 129)

But tragically, the social shame most people experience is not legitimately shameful. The cultural definition of what is shameful has been warped and twisted. People carry the burden of shame for the wrong things, and this explains our innate suspicion of any shame. Shame has become a manipulative tool to influence, control, and demean at a purely social level, not a process of revealing someone’s condition before the Glorious God.

2. Restorative Shame.

The goal of God’s salvific work in history is community. God wants people to commune with himself and fellow believers for his glory. God is working in this age to form the church, the new people of God. So in that light, the goal of shaming is to strengthen God’s community. The goal of shaming is not to manipulate people into following Christians rules or attend programs, as is often the case. The primary focus of our shaming should be on relationships, not behavior.

Biblical shaming is restorative. The aim is to reintegrate people into the community. Sin ruptures relationships, but shame can also be used to reverse that rupture, to restore and strengthen social bonds. Healthy shame helps people see how they have hurt and dishonored others (including God). The process creates a pathway for the wrongdoer to right the relationship.

Shame involves isolation and alienation. So, when people sin and break relationships, they already have a sense of shame. Therefore, biblical shaming merely helps people to recognize that shame of their broken relationship. Biblical shaming is helping them understand and overcome the shame that is already present. 

Sadly, most shaming is the opposite of restorative—punitive and disintegrative. Unhealthy shaming punishes the offender and makes a spectacle of their behavior. The person is stigmatized and disgraced. The focus on unhealthy control is enforcing the social rules and maintaining power, not sanctification.

Here is an obvious issue—if the aim of shaming is restorative, then biblical shaming can only happen within community. Without community, healthy shaming is not possible because there is no community to which people can be restored. The absence of community (especially in America today) explains why shaming pushes people away instead of drawing them back into relationships.

These two points are general principles. Wisdom is needed to apply them in specific contexts and particular relationships. Thoughts or comments? Please share below.


Posted in ethics Tagged with: ,

New Series: Ethics in Honor-Shame Cultures

Honor-shame is a moral system. Collectivistic cultures use honor and shame to define and enforce ethics. 

This claim may seem strange to Westerners, who generally assume that guilt-cultures believe in right and wrong, but shame cultures do not. This idea that honor-shame cultures are morally inferior dates back to 19th-century evolutionary models of cultures and continues into the present. A recent Gospel Coalition article suggested an honor-shame culture “diminishes disobedience or lacks categories for transgression.” Such thinking is unbiblical, if not ethnocentric. 

Honor-shame cultures do have a moral paradigm and sense of ethics. But this system of ethics is often overlooked and misrepresented by Westerners. Ironically, people of honor-shame cultures perceive individual, guilt-oriented cultures as being immoral and unethical.

To effect moral change (i.e., discipleship) in honor-shame cultures we must rightly understand how ethics works in collectivistic cultures. Confucius offers a nice summary of honor-shame ethics—”Guide [people] by laws, keep them in line with punishments, and they will avoid wrongdoing but will have no sense of honor and shame. Lead them with virtue and regulate them by rites, and they will have a sense of shame and, moreover, set themselves right.” (Analects 2:3).

This series approaches honor-shame ethics from various angles. Forthcoming posts will include:

  • How to Shame…Biblically
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective Shamers
  • The Best Books on Honor-Shame Ethics
  • The Ethics of Patronage
  • How to Confront Sin
  • “Guilt Cultures Don’t Believe in Sin!”

Past posts at which also address ethics:

For a deeper look into this topic, you can watch the training video “Transforming Honor.”


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Register Now: Honor-Shame Conference (Wheaton, 2020)

You can register now for the:

Join us for the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference (June 8-10, 2020 at Wheaton College) to explore how honor and shame influence the gospel, the Church, and disciplines including theology, missiology, pastoral ministry, and counseling. Connect with others who are learning, applying, and researching about honor-shame in Christian ministry and theology. 


The conference cost of $339 includes everything—sessions, campus housing, meals, and snacks. This early discount cost is only for the first 75 registrants, so register early for the best price. Visit the conference website and registration page for complete information. Interested in presenting a workshop? Submit a proposal here.

Plenary speakers

John M. G. Barclay is the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University in Durham, England. He is considered one of today’s most influential New Testament scholars. His most recent book is Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015), which many have recognized as the most significant book on Pauline theology in years.


Jayson Georges (M.Div., Talbot) is the founding editor of He has served cross-culturally for 15 years, and lives in the Middle East. His books include The 3D GospelMinistering in Honor-Shame Cultures (with Mark Baker), and the forthcoming Ministering in Patronage Cultures: Biblical Models and Missional Implications.


Larry S. Persons (PhD, Fuller, Intercultural Studies) was born and raised in Thailand. He has lived in Southeast Asia for more than 30 years. He is the CEO of CQ Leadership Consulting in Bangkok. In addition to leadership consulting, Larry teaches “Culturally Intelligent Leadership” at the graduate business school of Chulalongkorn University. He is the author of The Way Thais Lead: Face As Social Capital.


Benjamin C. Shin has served as a pastor, para-church leader and professor for more than 20 years. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Bible Exposition and Director of the Asian-American Ministry track for the Doctor of Ministry at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He is the author (with Sheryl Silzer) of Tapestry of Grace: Untangling the Cultural Complexities of Asian American Life & Ministry.


Shirin Taber directs the Middle East Women’s  Leadership Network ( She is the author of Muslims Next Door and a contributor to Islam and North America: Loving our Muslim Neighbors. With the JESUS Film Project, she helped produce the film Magdalena. In 2019, Shirin begins her Ph.D. focused on the intersection of women’s right and religious freedom in Tunisia.


T. V. Thomas is Founder and Director of the Centre for Evangelism & World Mission (founded in 1984) in Regina, Canada. For over three decades T.V. has enjoyed trans-denominational and transcontinental ministry of speaking, teaching and networking. T.V. helps lead InterVarsity in Canada, Ethnic America Network (EAN), and Lausanne Global Diaspora Network (GDN).


Jackson Wu teaches theology and missiology in East Asia. His books include Saving God’s Face and One Gospel for All Nations. His forthcoming book is Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes. He blogs at, and is the book reviews editor of the mission and culture section for Themelios from The Gospel Coalition.


Workshop Presenters

We are accepting workshop proposals for the the 2020 Honor-Shame Conference. To submit a workshop proposal, click hereWe are planning for 28 diverse workshops, including these presenters:

  • Audrey Frank, author/speaker, Fellow at The Truth Collective
  • Sunny Hong, intercultural consultant with SIL International and Wycliffe Bible Translators
  • Philip Jamieson, president of United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences
  • Joshua Jipp, associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
  • Jukka Kääriäinen, associate professor of systematic theology at China Lutheran Seminary in Hsinchu, Taiwan
  • Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary 
  • Samuel Melvin, founder of The Church and Race Ministries
  • Juliet November, author and cross-cultural worker in Thailand
  • E. Randolph Richards, professor of biblical studies and provost at Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Ken Roberts, serves with Pioneers Int’l, and has walked alongside Hindus in India and America for over 10 years
  • Sheryl Takagi Silzer, adjunct professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
  • Chris Sneller, director of innovation at Bridges International, a division of Cru
  • Trey Thomas, cross-cultural trainer, East Asia

Visit the conference website for complete and updated information. 

Note: This conference is not a function of Wheaton College.


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Updated Data for The Global Culture Map

The data for the “Global Map of Culture Types” has been updated and doubled. Click here to view and use the map. 

This free, interactive tool visualizes all results from The initial launch (March 2018) included data from the first 23,000 respondents. I have added another 24,000 results, so the map now shows a total of 47,000 results. 


Tips for Usage

  • For best viewing results, access the map on a computer (not smartphone) and click the square full-screen icon on the bottom right.
  • To see the summary results of a country, just scroll over it with the pointer. 
  • To view the full data of a country, click the country, then click the icon of lines after the word “exclude.”
  • To filter the data, use the tools on the right. For a description of the filters, see here. This page also has information about permission and credits.
  • Keep in mind the map has limitations and issues, as I discussed in this post

This map is free and open to the public, with the the hope that it will spur missiological reflection. Let me know if you are interested in conducted extensive research of this data (, as I’d be glad to help however possible.


Posted in Bible Tagged with: ,

Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes (Jackson Wu)

Do you want to see Romans from an honor-shame perspective? Here is the book!

Jackson Wu’s latest book, Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Pauls’ Message and Mission (IVP Academic) is now available. Here is the publisher’s description:

What does it mean to “read Romans with Eastern eyes”? Combining research from Asian scholars with his many years of experience living and working in East Asia, Jackson directs our attention to Paul’s letter to the Romans. He argues that some traditional East Asian cultural values are closer to those of the first-century biblical world than common Western cultural values. In addition, he adds his voice to the scholarship engaging the values of honor and shame in particular and their influence on biblical interpretation. As readers, we bring our own cultural fluencies and values to the text. Our biases and backgrounds influence what we observe―and what we overlook. This book helps us consider ways we sometimes miss valuable insights because of widespread cultural blind spots. In Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes, Jackson demonstrates how paying attention to East Asian culture provides a helpful lens for interpreting Paul’s most complex letter. When read this way, we see how honor and shame shape so much of Paul’s message and mission.

When I teach on honor-shame people inevitably ask, “What about Romans?” They assume the book is foremost about guilt and forgiveness. Scholars are now rethinking such Reformation assumptions about Romans. Jackson Wu demonstrates how honor-shame not only informs the book of Romans, but plays a central role in Paul’s entire letter. The chapter-by-chapter analysis combines exegesis, biblical theology, and missional application in a delightful way.

Jackson has also released a short video and recent blogposts related to this book. Happy reading!


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Malachi 1 (HSP)

The honor-shame paraphrase of Malachi 1 is from the recent book Malachi: An Honor-Shame Paraphraseby Jayson Georges.

A message from Yahweh to his people Israel, through Malachi.1

God’s Proven Covenant Loyalty

Yahweh says, “Israel, you have always been my special people. So why do you doubt my trustworthiness or loyalty toward you? Your current struggles as a nation shouldn’t make you feel rejected or cast aside.”2

“Look how I destroyed your cousin Esau—that demonstrates my covenant loyalty with you Israelites. They are the rejected ones. Their land is a complete dump, a ghost town. Edom is nothing. And even if they try to rebuild, I will prevent them,” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “Everyone will scorn Edom as ‘The Wicked People.’ I am entirely against them, and entirely for you. Your eyes will see my faithfulness, and your tongues will honor me, ‘Great and glorious in all the earth is Yahweh, our God.’”3–5

Israel’s Polluted and Dishonoring Offerings

“Shouldn’t a son honor his father? Shouldn’t a servant respect the master? Of course! But you dishonor me, though I’m your Father! And you disrespect me, though I’m your master!” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “You priests trample all over my name. You belittle my glory. Let me tell you how you insult my honor—you present disgusting offerings to me in the temple as though I’m insignificant.”6

“Then you have the nerve to ask me, ‘But how have our crippled animals tarnished your name?’ Are you really serious—have you no shame? Your question alone insults me. When you bring me a worthless offering, that is morally wrong! It is evil to blemish my name. The nasty animals you present to me belittle my majesty.”7–8a

“Imagine you go visit your governor. Would you take him dirty socks as a gift? Never! He would not welcome you, nor would he grant your request. Rather, that governor would scold you publicly for such an insult! But nevertheless, this is what you are doing to me—offering a lame gift, then expecting kind favors. Do you really think I’m pleased to receive what you offer?” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “It would be better to close the temple and end our relationship. Your attempts at worship are vomitus. You are disgusting and unworthy of my presence. And I refuse to accept the insults you bring me,” says Yahweh.8b–10

“The entire world (except you!) knows and reveres my name. People everywhere give homage to my name with their finest offerings. My name is famous in the entire world. The nations honor me,” says Yahweh the Sovereign.10-11

“But Israel, my special people who should exalt me, steps upon my face. Your behavior reveals what you really think: ‘God’s house isn’t worthy of respect. It doesn’t matter if we bring gross food to him.’ Without a trace of joy, you toss me your scraps as though I’m burdening you,” says Yahweh the Sovereign. “Do you really think I should accept your mangled, diseased offerings as a gift of thanks? Shame on you! You have a nice animal to offer and even promise before others to bring it to me, then you present a defective animal. This is an utter disgrace! Do you know who I am? I am the great King. I am far higher than your local governor, whom you would not dare disrespect. Even if my own people defame me, my glorious name is honored by all peoples,” says Yahweh the Sovereign.12–14

Posted in Honor-Shame Paraphrase Tagged with:

New Book—Malachi: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase

The new book Malachi An Honor-Shame Paraphrase is now available (Kindle edition). Along with 1 PeterEsther, Psalms, and James, this is the fifth title in the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series. 

The prophetic book of Malachi reveals the nature of Israel’s covenant relationships with God in the Old Testament. Malachi rebukes Israel for shaming God and calls them to an honoring life. Through this short, dynamic book, we can glimpse into the entire theology of the Old Testament and religious mindset of ancient Israelites. 

Readers often misinterpret Scripture for a simple reason—our culture is very different from the ancient cultures of the Bible. For example, Westerners are often “blind” to the social dynamics of honor and shame. The Honor-Shame Paraphrase helps you understand the Bible according to its original cultural context. We highlight social nuances to unlock the meaning of Scripture in insightful and accessible ways. This series is ideal for personal devotions, teaching preparation, ministry preparation, Bible studies, and life groups.

Learn more about the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series, 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 Malachi chapter 1. 

Posted in Honor-Shame Paraphrase, OT Tagged with: ,

“Husbands, Honour Your Wives” (1 Peter 3:7)

Andrew Bartlett, QC of Crown Office Chambers, London, is a highly-rated international arbitrator, and also a Deputy High Court Judge in England and Judge of the Upper Tribunal. He has a BA in Theology (University of Gloucestershire) and has served as an elder or churchwarden in various churches. This post is excerpted from his new book Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (IVP, 2019).

The paying of honour to the wife in I Peter 3:7 is not a concession to her relative physical weakness but a recognition of her high status.

The honouring of another person may take place either in a situation where the person honoured is in authority over the person who pays honour (as in I Peter 2:17 – honour the emperor) or where there is no such authority (again as in I Peter 2:17 – honour everyone). An instruction to pay honour does not necessarily imply that such authority exists.

Honour was a concept of central social importance in the Mediterranean societies in which Peter lived and ministered. This is not the case in Western societies today, so it is easy for us to miss the force of what Peter writes about it. A person could gain great honour by being adopted into a high-status family. For example, Octavian’s honour status rose enormously when it became known that Julius Caesar had adopted him as his son and named him as his heir. Octavian subsequently became the Emperor Augustus, and as Caesar’s son styled himself ‘son of god’. There was no higher honour status than this in Gentile society. To be born into or adopted into the true God’s family, and named as an heir of the true God, was even greater than this: it was the highest honour status imaginable. This is the Christian believer’s position (see, 1:4 ‘inheritance’; 1:23 ‘born anew’; 2:9 ‘a people belonging to God’; cf. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship and Purity, 23–29).

In most English versions the connection of 3:7 with 2:17 is not apparent: one would not appreciate from those versions that Peter says ‘honour [timaō] everyone, honour [timaō] the emperor’ and then ‘men, render honour [timē] to your wives’. But this would have been clear to Peter’s first readers, who should not have misunderstood 3:1–7 as affirming that men have a God-given status of being lords over their wives. He has told wives to submit to their husbands. ‘In the same way’ husbands are to pay honour to their wives.

Thus in 3:7 Peter is instructing husbands to show their submissive conduct, like that of wives (3:1), of Christ (2:21), of household slaves (2:18) and of all believers (2:13). They are to do this by honouring their wives in view of their shared highest possible status as God’s heirs in God’s family. This speaks of equality between husband and wife as fellow Christians, and a voluntary giving of honour by husband to wife.

Posted in leadership, Ministry Tagged with: , , ,

My Attempts to Visualize Honor & Shame

I use mostly words to explain honor and shame. I write out my ideas in books, articles, and blogposts. I regret not being more artistic, because honor and shame can also be powerfully communicated visually. On a few occasions, I’ve had the opportunity to represent honor and shame visually.

I consider these visual designs as essential parts of the honor-shame message. Each piece is the result of an intentional design process. This post explains my attempts to visualize honor and shame. Hopefully, this helps you better understand honor and shame and consider non-verbal ways to communicate those concepts

1. The Logo

The logo (developed by Josh Feit of was constructed on a grid of 25 equilateral diamonds. The identical shapes—the second rotated 180 degrees from the first—construct a broken letter ‘S’, which is divided by the ‘H’ created in the negative space. The “H”onor breaks apart “S”hame. The two pieces of the “S” are then combined for the background design.

This design broadly invokes the artistic patterns of honor-shame cultures, without being confined to any particular culture. The red tones evoke the color of blood—a rich symbol for both honor and shame.

2. The 3D Gospel

Every genre has a certain look and feel. You can distinguish a romance novel from a historical biography by observing the fonts, colors, and styles. The cover of ministry books, like The 3D Gospel, often depict the idea of culture, often by showing non-Western faces or something “foreign.” I wanted to depict the diversity of humanity in a dignifying, but not otherizing manner. 

The image combines the dignified profile of six different people: a white/European, a Chinese, a black African, a Middle Easterner, an Indian, and a tribal person. Each of those groups represents around 1 billion people, so together, they roughly represent the global population. Plus, there is balance in regard to gender and age. The gospel is for every person, no exceptions. I purposefully included a Western/European face to show Western culture is one particular culture among others. This affirms the main point of my book—that guilt-theology, shame-theology, and fear-theology are equally valid in Scripture.

I also wanted to illustrate the completeness and wholeness to the gospel. There are not 3 gospels, but 1 three-dimensional gospel. This unity and universality comes together in the single face that is the focal point of the image. The result is a memorable, compelling cover image.

3. Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures

The most common visual for honor-shame is a downward-looking or covered face. I hate that visual. It is lazy, clichéd, demeaning, and inaccurate. And even worse, the face is usually an Asian or women, as if white men don’t deal with shame! We wanted to convey honor and shame without locating the concepts in any particular human. David Fassett, IVP’s award-winning designer, hit a homerun with his beautiful visualization of honor and shame.

The top portion features the heavens, a place of exaltation and divine glory. The lower part is parched dirt, a symbol of disgrace and death. The cover also has two icons: a crown representing royal honor and a trash meaning worthless and rejected. The colors of royal gold and charcoal gray reinforce these values.

The first mock-up featured a teardrop icon on bottom (instead of the trash can), but we felt that reflected the Western definition of shame (a private emotion) more than the biblical reality (a communal evaluation). The central portion features the title, with special prominence given to the words “Honor-Shame,” our desired focal point. I was happy our author names are on the top portion of the cover and not in the dirt!

4. The Honor-Shame Paraphrase

For this cover, I hired David Fassett of InterVarsity Press. I asked him to illustrate this idea—“cultural insights of the Bible made accessible and engaging.” I wanted the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series cover to feel practical (but not sentimental) like a bible study series, and also insightful (but not academic) like a commentary series.

The bold geometrical shapes communicate the authority and confidence of Scripture. Yet, the red Bible ribbon flowing through the cover shows my paraphrase is not definitive or final. The red ribbon also suggests the Bible is laced with honor and shame.  

Regarding the two icons on the picture, the designer David Fassett explained, “Since there is a strong dichotomy involved in the title, I thought it would lend itself well to visual interpretation. The top symbol is intended to allude to a crown or mountains to symbolize honor. The shape at the bottom is playing off the same shapes as the top symbol, only highly distorted/inverted. It’s meant to convey a sense of failure or turmoil. The position of each element is important conceptually too, the top symbolizing raised up/elevated by the group and the bottom symbolizing shame and rejection. I think the bottom shape also feels like a wadded-up piece of paper, which further reinforces the idea.”

These visual elements reflect the social aspects of honor and shame, plus the hermeneutical contrasts of clarity and confusion. These same motifs are echoed by the two contrasting triangles (one right side up and white, the other upside down and black) that fill the front cover. Put together, these elements communicate the aim of the Honor-Shame Paraphrase—accessible biblical insights.

5. My Headshot

I wanted my headshot somehow to play off of the concept of “face.” So, we used darkness to create the effect of being “faceless.” Yet, the emerging light suggests brightness shining on my face as though I am beholding glory face to face.

The picture thus captures both elements of honor and shame. The photographer David Park did a great job with the lighting. In a pitch-black room, I held a flashlight in front of my face while he photographed the back of my head. 


I am truly grateful for such talented creators who helped me visually express honor and shame. They did an amazing job using visuals to reinforce the concepts.

As you endeavor to communicate the biblical realities of honor and shame, consider the visual and non-discursive ways you can reinforce your teaching content.


Posted in Communication, Culture, Honor-Shame Paraphrase, Spirituality, Theology Tagged with: ,