New Book—James: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase

The new book James: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase is now available. Along with 1 PeterEsther, and Psalms this is the fourth title in the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series.

With fresh language and research insights, Dr. Daniel K. Eng unpacks the honor-shame themes of James. He deftly traces James’ main exhortation to remain loyal to God alone and the pastoral strategies for developing biblical community. With an introduction to the socio-cultural context of the epistle, this book clearly presents the original, cultural meaning of James.

Learn more about the Honor-Shame Paraphrase series, or buy the book hereClick here to request a free PDF copy for classroom use or public review. The next post will feature the honor-shame paraphrase of James chapter 1. 


The author Daniel K. Eng is a PhD Candidate in Biblical Studies at the University of Cambridge. He is a graduate of Talbot School of Theology (ThM, Bible Exposition; DMin, Asian American Ministry) and has served as a pastor in churches in California, Texas, and the United Kingdom. He is the author of journal articles on honor-shame as well as the epistle of James. His thesis focuses on divine approval in James in view of the Septuagint, intertestamental literature, and the sayings of Jesus.


“The proliferation of Bible translations today results from debates about the best ‘literal’ rendering of ancient linguistic and grammatical forms into modern languages. Daniel Eng’s paraphrase of James takes this a step farther by highlighting more subtle social and cultural matters of the ancient world, related to family, community, loyalty, and allegiance. Its implications for our theology and our church cannot be underestimated. Indeed, it offers an important corrective for today’s Christianity informed by Western cultural values.”

Dr. Alexander Chow, Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, author of Chinese Public Theology

“Daniel Eng is imminently qualified to write an honor-shame paraphrase of James. His doctoral studies have given him a thorough understanding of the book, and his experiences in an Asian culture enable him to readily see the honor-shame nuances of the letter. Equally significant, he shows that James is not simply a collection of disconnected pearls, but is instead a progressive unfolding of a single theme—“God esteems those who persevere in loyalty to him.” An added bonus for preachers are the many delightful contemporary expressions for biblical phrases. This is an engaging and valuable book!”
Donald R. Sunukjian, Professor of Preaching, Talbot School of Theology, author of Invitation to James

“I plan to use this translation in future courses on the epistle of James to help my students break out of their preconceptions of this challenging little text.” 
Dr. Mariam Kamell Kovalishyn, Professor at Regent College, author of James: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

“Daniel K. Eng’s Honor-Shame Paraphrase of James is a true treasure and an excellent tool for studying the social-cultural background of James. With language that exposes implicit nuances hidden beneath the text, Eng brings the modern reader back into the original context by capturing the implied-values of honor and shame. Values such as loyalty, allegiance, family, and social status come to the surface. Seeing the communal pressures of bringing honor or shame to one’s family is a critical undertone that is often lost when reading through the individualistic perspective of Western Christianity. These passages are helpfully rephrased to reflect the communal paradigm of the original audience. Pastors ministering in cultural contexts that are steeped in an honor and shame framework will find language that is directly applicable to their congregations. Preachers, in general, will welcome this paraphrase as a powerful resource for illustrating the biblical text. I highly recommend this work for any serious student of James.”

Rev. Hanley Liu, English Pastor, First Chinese Baptist Church of Walnut

“What Eng has successfully done with his paraphrase of James is provide modern readers access to the ancient context of an important New Testament epistle. We now know that the benefits for understanding the ancient world of the Bible are inestimable. This work is a valuable part of that pursuit. Anyone interested in the New Testament should read this book.”

Dr. Jeffrey P. García, Assistant Professor in Bible, Nyack College

Posted in Uncategorized

Honor-Shame Presentations at EMS

Many people couldn’t access the 5 EMS talks from the previous links—sorry about that.
You can now get all the audio files in Dropbox here. Or, clink the following links to open separate tabs in your web browser: Chris SnellerChris Flanders, John Ferch, Bud Simon, and panel discussion. Full descriptions are below.

The most recent national conference of the Evangelical Missiological Society (October 12-14, 2018 in Dallas, TX) featured a track exclusively devoted to issues regarding Honor & Shame. These 7 excellent presentations and discussions highlight the growing significance of honor & shame issues for the global missiological community.
Here are downloadable audio files of the presentations (some presentations are not included due to security concerns or technical issues). A special thanks to the EMS for their gracious permission to make these available for free, and to Dr. Chris Flanders for chairing the session!  These are the descriptions of the 5 available files:

Honor Restored: The Compelling Story of Creating an Honor-Shame App, by Chris Sneller, Bridges International, Houston Baptist University

This presentation explores how Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) developed Honor Restored, a digital evangelistic tract for honor-shame contexts. In the 1950s Bill Bright, Cru’s founder, wrote the widely-used “Four Spiritual Laws.” The yellow tract focused on explaining the gospel from a guilt-innocence perspective. In recent years Cru created GodTools, an evangelistic app, which recently hit 500,000, downloads. Dr. Sneller will tell the story of the creation of these tools, focusing on Honor Restored, which was launched in December 2017.

Conviction and Elenctics: Bringing Shame upon an Honored Missiological Paradigm (Chris Flanders, Abilene Christian University)

Eminent Reformed theologian, Francis Turetin, and noted missiologists Herman Bavinck and David Hesselgrave are among those that helped create a sub-discipline of missiology known as “elenctics” (conviction). Such resulted from a strong reaction against liberal 19th and 20th-century theology that minimized the seriousness and personal awareness of individual sin, particularly in missionary proclamation. Recent honor-shame approaches to scripture highlight how this approach was based more on western legal notions, outdated anthropology, and individualistic psychology. This presentation highlights how the biblical notion of “convict” is much more closely related to the experience of shame and why this is important for evangelism and global missiology.

Shame and Secularization: A Collateral Rise in American Society, by Bud Simon, Asbury Theological Seminary

The twentieth century has seen the United States undergo major changes in cultural values. Secularization has risen as a process in society, which pushes the church to the margins as a determinant of values. This has diminished the role of organized religion as a factor in establishing morality. At the same time as secularization has occurred, shame has increasingly taken the place of guilt as a moral imperative, changing the way culture determines right and wrong. Scripture provides insights for how to express good news to those who primarily define their cultural orientation through honor-shame relationships. This duality in cultural transitions motivates the church to reexamine evangelism and how ‘good news’ is expressed in the twenty-first century. A related article, “Honor-Shame Cultural Theory: Antecedents and Origins,” was published earlier this month at

Secularization and Social Control in Alaskan Eskimo Culture: Shifting from Fear/Power to Honor/Shame, by John Ferch, Western Seminary

The American colonization of Alaska during the early 20th century brought rapid change to the Yupik and Inupiat cultures. As the shamans succumbed to disease and the supernatural realm was called into question by Western technology and economics, the ancient methods of regulating social behavior lost much of their relevance. This paper traces how secularization has influenced the Eskimo cultures to shift from a Fear/Power-based worldview towards greater emphasis on Honor/Shame, with a view towards helping the church maintain appropriate approaches to ministry in this context.

Panel Discussion: The Impact of Honor/Shame Issues on Mission and Evangelism, with Chris Flanders, Werner Mischke, Wayne Dye, Mark Harlan, Kurt Richardson, and John Ferch

Posted in Uncategorized

Recordings from Patronage Symposium

We are excited to share the audio recordings of the Patronage Symposium (Beirut, October 3-5). They can be accessed and downloaded from here.

All the sessions were truly excellent, so this marks a key launching point for a conversation about patronage. Assuming you don’t have time to listen to all of them, I suggest picking the titles that best fit your interests and ministry contexts—you really can’t go wrong. Except for the 2 panel sessions, all presentations are 30-35 minutes long. These resources are available for the public, so feel free to share with others.

Below is a complete list of the presentations, along with my short summary of each one. Lynn Thigpen and Jackson Wu developed webinar-style presentations with their slideshows (see links below). 


Richard James—Patronage Symposium: Interdisciplinary, Intercultural, Interfaith Opportunities…introduces the nature and importance of patronage through three engaging stories. (Note: available as PDF-text only)

Panel—Closing Summary….has Richard James, Martin Accad, John Barclay, Jayson Georges, and Andy McCullough summarize the Patronage Symposium by sharing their thoughts on “the main takeaway of our time” and “next steps for patronage missiology.”

Panel—Lebanese Community Leadership…was an excellent 2-hour discussion with 5 prominent Lebanese leaders (a politician, Islamic mullah, pastor, psychologist, & NGO leader) about navigating the good and bad of patronage in Lebanese daily life.


Randolph Richards—Paul the Broker…identifies the ways Paul functioned as a broker in his letters and ministry, both good and bad examples.

Jayson Georges—2 Principles of Biblical Patronage…presents a practical model for transforming patronage relationships to be God-centered and life-giving.

Gerry Breshears—Abrahamic Righteousness…exegetically examines Genesis 12-25 to consider the basis of God reckoning Abraham righteous.

Werner Mischke—Abraham’s Model of Patronage… studies the various instances when Abraham functioned as a patronage.

Julyan Lidstone—A NT Perspective on Patronage/Leadership…offers a practical study of leadership styles (both good and bad) in 1 Corinthians.

John Barclay—How the Christ-gift Alters Patronage: NT Reflections…examines how Christ (esp. in 2 Cor 8-9) redefines the exchange in reciprocal relationships.

David deSilva—Stewardship: Paul’s Transformation of Patronage Within the Ekklesia…identifies key motifs in of patronage relationships in Paul’s letters and ministry.


James Tino—Patronage and the Search for Blessing in Latin American Religiosity…gives a functional examination of patronage dynamics in Latin church relationships.

Ekkhardt Sonntag— Wasta, Mediation and Patronage in Arab Cultures…explains wasta is relational mediation among Arabs, with applications for Hebrews 2 and refugee ministry.

Cristian Dimitrescu— Patronage in Discipleship & Mission in Asian Cultures…explores cultural patronage dynamics for ministry in Philippines/Asian contexts.

Patrick Chan— Confucianism and Chinese Patronage Relationships…explains social patronage in Chinese society.

Lynn Thigpen—Moving from Spiritual Patronage to Supra-Patronage: A Cambodian Story…presents a biblical model for supra-patronage through a compelling conversion story. The webinar style PPT presentation is on YouTube.

Anonymous—Consequences Of Benefaction in Developing Communities: An Asian Case Study…shows how patronage dynamics affected an NGO development project.

Jim Harries—Side Stepping Patronage with Vulnerable Mission…cautions against the use of outside funds in favor of using only local resources.

Chris Flanders—Becoming Clients: Thai Conversions to Christianity…analyzes 20 conversation narratives to see how God’s patronal provision was central.

Robert Oh—Patronage in Korean-Cambodia CP Relationships….traces his personal narrative and the meaning of fatherhood in ministry contexts.

Cathy Hine—Patronage in Women’s Discipleship…analyzes the dynamics of social networks in conversion and identify formation.

Jackson Wu—Reciprocity, Collectivism, and the Chinese Church….analyzes forms and meanings of reciprocity, using Chinese culture as an example. The webinar style PPT presentation is on YouTube. The paper is available here as a PDF.


Posted in patronage, Resources Tagged with: , ,

The Patronage Symposium: A Recap

Last week 54 people gathering in Beirut, Lebanon for The Patronage Symposium. All presentations were recorded, and will be posted in a few weeks here at In the meantime, Andy McCullough wrote this recap for those who could not attend. Andy is the author of Global Humility, and has lived in Cyprus, Middle East, India and UK. 

It was quite an extraordinary experience for me to be in a room full of people who I read—i.e., John Barclay, Randy Richards, Jayson Georges, Gerry Breshears, Werner Mischke, Jackson Wu. If an anti-honour-shame terrorist had wanted to take out all the leaders in this field of discovery, this was the room to bomb! This was the Patronage Symposium: Exploring the Gospel in Patron-Client Contexts in Beirut, October 3-5 2018, which I was privileged to attend.

Amidst all the world-leading papers presented from a dazzling array of different perspectives, the stand-out moment for me was a panel of Lebanese leaders, Muslim and Christian, talking about how they navigate the dynamics of patron-client expectations in real life. This “view from the inside” changed the conversation irreversibly, as views from the inside invariably do.

Changed was the conversation, from black-and-white to grey, from cognitive assent to intuitive navigation, from “what” to “how,” from “is patronage good or bad?” to “patronage is a morally-neutral cultural reality, but people can be good or bad.” Proximity always begets empathy.

Cathy Hine, in her paper, defined patron-client reciprocity as an “adaptive response to inequalities inherent in a hierarchical structure.” In Serbian Pastor Vlada Stojanovic’s observation, “such reciprocal relationships are beautiful. The wisdom required to dance this dance in my culture is enriching. I do want to see hearts redeemed. I don’t want to see my culture flattened.”

What happens next? Perhaps making and strengthening interdisciplinary and intercultural relationships, the reciprocity of mutual learning and the increase of our kingdom social capital is sufficient outcome! Perhaps, to use Jackson Wu’s phrase, relational collectivism is reward enough!

Hopefully, the West came East to learn, not just to teach. Hopefully theology in the academy learned something from theology on the road. Maybe the harder sciences gleaned something from the softer. Reciprocal exchange of gifts, after all, was the theme of the week!

I believe that this robust, interdisciplinary and intercultural understanding of patronage-clientelism will find application in three directions.

  1.  Exegetical. Biblical studies need to take account of this social reality in both NT and OT worlds.
  2. Missiological. Clearer understanding should lead to more thoughtful contextualisation.
  3. Pastoral/ Practical. Those working, ministering, living as outsiders in patronage-based societies will be better equipped for evangelism, business, church formation, relationships, and caring for the poor.


Posted in Uncategorized

Amy Carmichael, Jewels of Honor & Discipleship

Sandra Freeman has served with her husband in Botswana since 2001 doing discipleship and business mentoring. She blogs at

A difficult issue often arises in ministry when the matter of ‘honour-code’ replacement isn’t only a personal matter, but significantly impacts one’s spouse. A man may be willing to forego his personal honour, but a wife may not want him to. She sees her honour as attached to his, and doesn’t want to lose the honour that comes by being married to someone of honour.

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), missionary to India for over 50 years, can be an inspiration in this area. The below story (from A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliott’s biography) reminds us that when a wife is willing to let go of her honour in the eyes of the community, her choice impacts her husband’s honour. She may be hesitant to let go of what brings her honour, because others will see her as shameful for dishonoring her husband!

Relationship complexities can be significant obstacles in replacing ‘honor-codes’ in the process of discipleship.  But this situation faced by Amy Carmichael can help us persevere in developing a new ‘honour-code’ in life and ministry.

“The great passion of Amy Carmichael’s life was uttermost love, which meant uttermost obedience. … This was the spirit she sought to instill in the members of the Starry Cluster [Amy’s band of Indian women believers who lived and ministered together]. The question of jewels illustrates their earnestness. Jewels, a word that embraced all gold or silver necklaces, bracelets, bangles, and rings (for nose, ears and ankles as well as fingers), were in Tinnevelly [a major city in the South of India], by far the most important elements in a woman’s appearance. “It is a pretty custom,” Amy wrote, “and we thought nothing of it. Our Band members wore the usual quantity. It is considered part of their dress.” Its significance however, went far beyond prettiness. Women were more or less sold to their husbands for so many rupees’ worth of jewels—a man with a B.A. could command so many, an M.A. so many, this cast so many, that one so many.  In this way the quantity of jewels a woman wore declared her husband’s honor as well as her family’s wealth…

Gradually as we sought to know more of our Lord and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, the conviction grew upon us that these things (i.e. jewels) were out of place in His own chosen workers—His separated ones—and that this conforming to the law of fashion of this world was of the flesh and not of the Spirit.” Hair oil, hairstyles, and shoes were not, in Amy’s view, an indication of the conformity to the world’s fashion, any more than were topees and umbrellas, which were believed indispensable if foreigners’ brains were not to melt.

Jewels on the other hand, were in a separate category. “I love the old native customs. I cannot bear the foreignizing element so common in much mission work in India, so it was much against the grain that I faced this thing at all. But here God’s Word ran one and custom another. There was no help for it. We prayed that if God wanted the question raised He would raise it among our workers, apart from us, and He did.”

A man had asked that his wife be allowed to travel with the Band for a while in order to learn to serve others.  They consented, and he came one day to ask her to give him her jewels. He did not think them appropriate for the sort of life he desired for her. [Amy’s beloved co-worker and friend] Ponnammal overheard his words with intense interest. Only the evening before she had heard a child (referring to Ponnammal) say, ‘When I grow up I will join that Band so that I may wear jewels like that sister.” Ponnammal asked the Lord about this and the answer came, “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.” The message was unmistakable. She saw herself as the Indian world would see her—unjewelled, a marked woman, an eyesore, an offense. To take off her jewels was unnatural, disgraceful, even hypocritical. But in the Lord’s eyes?  He would see the love that lay behind the action. She went home, took off the jewels, laid them at His feet.

“Lord, Thou didst empty Thyself for me. I empty myself for Thee.” One by one the other women of the Band followed. The “outside Christian world” laughed them to scorn, but an English preacher, F.B. Meyer, came just in time to strengthen the Band in its conviction. He was the first they had ever heard mention the jewel question. Other women who heard him saw it as utterly impossible. “Where would my glory be if I took them off?” said one. “Where would my husband’s be? Tinnevelly women never will!”  So the Band became a “peculiar people” knit together in their desire to be “otherworldly, separate unto Jesus.” When a teenaged girl escaped from her Hindu home and joined them, Amy had a talk with her about jewels. The child, with very bad grace, tore off two foot jewels. No, said Amy, Jesus was now her jewel—would she not give Him all? The girl took off all but one ring. She looked at the members of the Band jewelless, singing “Jesus is my jewel.” Off came the ring.

Years later the oddity appeared as an eminently practical thing when a watchman of the robber caste said, “If those girls, those hundreds of girls, wore jewels according to custom, not all the money in the world could hire a watchman to guard the place.”

Excerpted from “A Chance to Die- the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael” by Elisabeth Elliot, chapter 18.


Posted in Uncategorized

Honor-Shame at Missio Nexus Conference

The upcoming Missio Nexus Conference—Partnership—will have several honor-shame related events, along with many other great opportunities and speakers.

Here are some of the honor-shape events:


In this week’s email to all attenders, Missio Nexus is inviting all attenders to take Missio Nexus president Ted Esler will summarize the data in his opening “who’s here” address. So if you are going to Partnership, be sure to click that link take TheCultureTest!

2. Workshop

Werner Mischke will lead a workshop “Giving Honor: A Key to Healthy Cross-Cultural Partnerships” (Friday at 3:30p) in the executive leadership tract. Here is the workshop summary:

Objective 1: Observe from Scripture and social science that RIVALRY was a problem in the N.T. world; correspondingly, honor competition and rivalry was a major challenge for the N.T. church.
Objective 2: Examine what rivalry and honor competition look like in mission agencies, networks, or cross-cultural partnerships today. Bring to the surface honor-status issues that often remain unstated in cross-cultural collaboration.

Objective 3: Explore the Scriptures showing Jesus and Paul revealing that serving and “giving honor” undermine rivalry and honor competition.
Objective 4: Consider what “giving honor” looks like in cross-cultural partnerships today. It often looks like empathic listening.

The corresponding article will be in the October 2018 issue of EMQ.

3. Display Table 

You can connect with the Honor-Shame Network at Missio Nexus. Werner Mischke is representing the Honor-Shame Network, one of the 30 global mission networks featured as part of the “Network Hub.” To connect, visit the Honor-Shame Network display at the Network Hub during networking times, or email Werner at
Hopefully you can attend and benefit from these events. And don’t forget about the 7 honor-shame papers at the national EMS gathering
Posted in Uncategorized

New Article: Theology of Honor & Shame (by J Wu)

The recent edition of Themelios journal (The Gospel Coalition) published Jackson Wu’s article “Have Theologians No Sense of Shame? How the Bible Reconciles Objective and Subjective Shame.” This article clearly sets forth a biblical theology of honor and shame. I recommend this article because it is:

  1. free, no paywall!
  2. biblical and comprehensive, filled with biblical citations
  3. accessible and clear, easy to grasp
  4. a major corrective of the half-biblical misconceptions of honor and shame

Here is the article abstract: 

Everyone agrees shame is a pervasive problem; yet, in book and articles, we find writers often talk past one another. Missionaries and anthropologists speak of “honor-shame” cultures. Psychologists describe shame as an individual, emotional experience. Strangely, theologians typically say little about the topic. Christian scholars tend to treat guilt as “objective” and shame merely a “subjective.” This misunderstanding undermines our ability to develop a practical theology of honor and shame. Therefore, this article demonstrates how the Bible helps us have an integrated understanding of shame in its theological, psychological, and social dimensions.

The article explains 6 biblical problems that concern honor-shame…

  1. People have shamed God.
  2. People are shameful
  3. People feel shame.
  4. People shame others.
  5. People suffer shame from others.
  6. God will put people to shame. 

…then explains the 6 aspects of biblical salvation in honor-shame terms.

  1. God glorifies himself.
  2. God gives us a heart to honor him.
  3. God in Christ removes shame and restores honor.
  4. We get a new identity and belong to the Church.
  5. Because of a new identity, we no longer feel ashamed.
  6. We are able to honor God and others. 

I suggest you print out this article, sit down with a pen, and dive into Scripture with this article. 


Posted in Bible, Resources, Theology Tagged with: ,

Biblically, What Is Your ‘Name’?

Author and teacher Lois Tvarberg is co-founder of the En-Gedi Resource Center. This post is adapted from her recent book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus 

International communications trainer Sarah Lanier has traveled the globe to teach about cultural differences. In her book Foreign to Familiar, she tells about how she handled some Arab boys who were taunting her with catcalls on the street one day. To their surprise, she turned and addressed them in Arabic, asking their names.

Startled, the boys identified themselves, wondering why she wanted to know. Because, she would tell their fathers about their behavior, and how they were being an embarrassment to their families. Horrified, the boys apologized profusely and pleaded with her not to do such a thing.1

Lanier asked the boys their names because she knew that their family’s public reputation, their “name,” was of critical importance in their society. Knowing this helps us decode a much misunderstood word in our Bibles, the Hebrew word shem, which overlaps with the English word “name” but is actually much broader. In older translations we often encounter the word “name” being used in odd ways. Grasping what shem actually means will often help us a lot.

Your Shem Is Your Communal Identity

The key to the puzzle of shem is to consider the Bible’s collective context, where a person’s identity within the wider community was of utmost significance. There, the word shem is much more about one’s identity within a community than the verbal label that a person bears, like “George,” “Bill,” or “Mary,” even though the word shem does mean “name” in that sense too.

Imagine that a stranger walks up to you and asks, “What’s your identity?” You could answer by saying “Mary Smith,” but your identity, your shem, is much bigger than that. In our culture, it comes from your education, your job, and how others perceive your status, your reputation, or your authority. To speak “in the name” of someone, biblically, is to speak by his or her authority.

To us, the word “name” usually brings to mind a person’s first name. Notice, though, that the name the Arab boys were far more worried about protecting was their family name. Their family’s shem (in the sense of their identity or reputation) was far more critical than their own.

Shem in the Bible

When you read the word “name” being used in an odd way in the Bible, you are likely encountering the word shem in its communal context, where honor and shame are everything. To have a “great name” is be well-known and influential, and to have a “bad name” is to be an embarrassment to everyone who knows you. This is why the word shem sometimes doesn’t even make sense translated as “name,” and is better understood as fame, renownreputation, authority, or honor. See how this clarifies these verses (ESV):

  • I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth (Zephaniah 3:20).
  • From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. (Joshua 9:9)
  • …So they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. (Nehemiah 6:13)
  • Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper…This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever. (Isaiah 55:13, NIV)

The Promise of a New Name

In collective, hierarchical cultures, one’s “name” is closely associated with honor and authority. When the Scriptures talk about God giving a person a new name, it denotes that they are being given a new status in society. Abram, a withered-up wanderer, becomes Abraham, father-of-nations! Sarai, a barren old matron, becomes Sarah, mother of princes! God changed their identity and gave them a new role in society, and it came with a change in name.

In a collective society, rejecting your family heritage will cost you dearly and even cause you to be expelled from your community. …

In many cultures, publicly accepting Christ means giving up one’s family, heritage, prestige, and any chance of success in life. This is why Christ promises to give a “new name” to his followers who refuse to deny him in the face of persecution (Rev. 2:17). In this world they may have forfeited their “name,” their reputation, for his sake. But when he comes to reign in glory, these are the people whom he will single out for acclaim. No more will they be known as outcasts but as leaders and princes, with renown to replace the shame they bore during their lives.


Posted in Bible, Communication, Culture, Relationships, Theology Tagged with: , , , ,

“Patronage”: A Quick Definition

For the upcoming Patronage Symposium we developed this document “Patronage—A Quick Definitions Sheet.” Since “What exactly is patronage?” was a common question that people asked in the patronage survey, I figured this resource would be worth sharing more broadly. 


This definitions sheet is for all participants to be familiar with the basic concepts and terms. This is of course a starting point. You should not feel bound by these definitions. Speakers may feel the need to clarify their precise nuance, local specificities, or otherwise disagree with these definitions. We should also note that various expressions, metaphors and language formulas are used in particular languages and cultures to evoke patronage expectations (e.g. father and son, shepherd and flock).

The Patron-Client Model and Terms

Patronage is a social model used to describe a certain kind of relationship. It is also often called benefaction. Patronage occurs in many forms and varies considerably. The use of models oversimplifies, but does enable us to make some general descriptions of the characteristics of patronage/benefaction.

Patron-client relationships are asymmetrical relationships which exist between more than one unequal party. What distinguishes patron-client relationships from other asymmetrical relationships, is that they are voluntary, so not formalised in law. There are (usually) no treaties or legal documents, but a set of informal reciprocal expectations. Patron-client relationships are usually not one-off exchanges, but relationships maintained over a period of time.

Patrons are the stronger party. They provide benefits (or favors) to the weaker party. These benefits may be in the form of finance, material aid or other material items, but they often also include non-material benefits, such as social capital, connections, protection and other things the weaker party requires.

Clients are the weaker party. They receive benefits from the patron, and reciprocate with other favours, such as the giving of gratitude; expressions of thanks, loyalty and obedience, as well as other things.

Reciprocity is a key feature of patron-client relationships, which are based in expectations of gratitude, obligation, faithfulness, allegiance, and honor.

Brokers are agents who function between patrons and clients. Patron-client relationships are rarely only between two parties. There are often intermediaries or a chain of patron-client relationships. Brokers are often a client of a patron, as well as a patron to their own clients.

3 Other Explanations

Hereare definitions from three academics that paint a similar picture of patronage:

1. A commonly-referenced description from a Roman historian and classicist:

“First, [patronage] involves the reciprocal exchange of goods and services. Secondly, to distinguish it from a commercial transaction in the market- place, the relationship must be a personal one of some duration. Thirdly, it must be asymmetrical, in the sense that the two parties are of unequal status and offer different kinds of goods and services in the exchange—a quality which sets patronage off from friendship between equals.” —Richard Saller, Personal Patronage Under the Early Empire (Cambridge, 1982), 1.

2. A functional, descriptive explanation by a missiologist:

“The patron, like a parent, is totally responsible for the welfare of his clients. … Clients in fact can ask a patron for whatever they think he may grant, but this is not considered begging—no more than Christian think they are begging when they ask God for help. Clients for their part, must be totally loyal to their patron. … The patron gains power and prestige within the society, and the client gains security.” — Paul Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries (Baker, 1986), 124.

3. A broad, generic definition by a biblical scholar:

Patronage is a form of exchange that is personal and that involves someone with superior status giving something to those with inferior status, leaving the inferior party owing honor and loyalty to the superior party.” — Zeba Crook, “Benefaction/PatronageOxford Bibliographies (June 2015).


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

7 Honor-Shame Papers @ EMS

There will be 7 sessions in the “Honor-Shame” tract at the national meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society (October 12-14, 2018 at SIL in Dallas, TX). The track moderator Chris Flanders has pulled together some great presenters and topics. This event will definitely be worthwhile if you can attend. After many years of honor-shame being overlooked in missiology, this is a delight to see such a rich conversation taking place. 

Here are the paper titles:

  1. Avoid the Shame of a Message that is “Bad News” for the Eastern Mind (Mark Harlan, Dallas International University)
  2. Honor Shame Dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa (Rick Calenberg, Dallas Theological Seminary, and S. E. Freeman, LogosLife International)
  3. Honor Restored: The Compelling Story of Creating an Honor-Shame App (Chris Sneller, Bridges International, Houston Baptist University)
  4. Conviction and Elenctics: Bringing Shame upon an Honored Missiological Paradigm (Chris Flanders, Abilene Christian University)
  5. Shame and Secularization: A Collateral Coalescence and Implications for Evangelism (Bud Simon, Asbury Theological Seminary)
  6. Secularization and Social Control in Alaskan Eskimo Culture: Shifting from Fear/Power to Honor/Shame (John Ferch, Western Seminary)
  7. The Impact of Honor/Shame Issues on Mission and Evangelism (Panel Discussion)


Posted in Uncategorized

Honor Is Not One Dimensional

Rich Y. (B.Th) has worked in the Arab world for eight years.

When I was new to the Arab world, I used to have a one-dimensional view of “honor” and a stock approach to discipleship with Arabs—“Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

However, as I have listened to Arabs, I have reached the conclusion that honor is multidimensional. It defies one-size-fits-all approaches to discipleship. That may seem obvious now, but it wasn’t at first.

2 Kinds of Honor

Habibollah Babaei of the Academy of Islamic Sciences and Culture in Qum, Iran, distinguishes between two kinds of honor—Al-Karamah and Al-’izzah. Arabs believe that God gives Al-Karamah to all humans at birth. It is the minimum honor people have. It is, therefore, unjust to degrade someone’s Al-Karamah. Al-’izzah, on the other hand, is different. It is the sense of having high self-esteem. It includes having a high standing and refusing to bow down to factors which would dishonor you.

Read more ›

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

Honoring Covenant: The Key to Psalms

This post is excerpted from the introduction of Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase of 15 Psalms. To read the paraphrase of Psalm 23, click here.

Readers must interpret the Psalms within the social context of covenant. Yahweh formed a special, reciprocal relationship with Israel at Mt. Sinai. He promised to protect and exalt Israel among all the other nations. In return, the people of Israel were expected to honor God with loyalty and obedience. This socio-cultural framework of covenant informs the theology of ancient Israel. The message of Psalms, in honor-shame terms, is the honorable God faithfully keeps his covenant by honoring his people and by shaming their enemies. Most psalms either celebrate or lament this patron-client relationship between Yahweh and Israel.

Praise Psalms

When Israel experiences God’s covenant faithfulness and favor (e.g., a strong king, military victory, economic prosperity, international renown), they rejoice and honor God. Salvation in the Psalms is not just forgiveness of sins and entrance into heaven, but it also involves vindication of honor, restoration of status, deliverance from shame, and the humiliation of enemies. In response to this divine salvation, the psalmists honor God by recounting his faithful deeds. As God told Israel, “I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (50:15). Psalms of praise glorify God for his benevolence, patronage, faithfulness, covenant loyalty, favor, and generosity as a trustworthy covenant partner.

Lament Psalms

But when God’s people experience shame, they call upon God to vindicate their status and humiliate their enemies. In moments of shame, Israelites feel betrayed by their covenant partner. God’s apparent disloyalty jeopardizes the very relationship that defines Israel’s identify and value. Psalms of lament plea with God to remember the covenant and rescue his people from disgrace.

5 Theological Motifs

The Psalmists’ theological worldview centers upon God’s covenant relationship with his people and reflects honor-shame values. These five theological motifs pervade the book of Psalms.

1. The Honor of God. God is the ultimate source of honor. Humanity must look to God, not human strength, to be lifted up and honored. Yahweh alone blesses people with honor.

2. The Shamefulness of People. The book of Psalms portrays the default state of humanity as one of lowly shame. Compared to the eternality of God, humans are a shadow, a breath, withering grass, dirt. These metaphors symbolize the insignificance and innate shamefulness experienced by humans after the Fall.

3. Honoring the Faithful. Many psalmists petition God to notice and remove their shame. They expect God to vindicate their honor.

4. Honoring the King. The messianic psalms (2, 45, 72, 89, 110) envision the exaltation of David’s royal family above all other kings. God has honored the Davidic king as his favored son and appointed him to rule as his royal representative over the earth.

5. Shaming the Enemies. Imprecatory psalms ask God to shame enemies. The recompense for opposing God and his people is disgrace and humiliation. Many psalms request that God’s shaming judgment occur soon.

In sum, “honoring covenant”—in all sense of the phrase—is key to interpreting Psalms.



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

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 ›

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

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.


Posted in Honor-Shame Paraphrase Tagged with: , ,

Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase (New Book)

Psalms: An Honor-Shame Paraphrase of 15 Psalms is now available to purchase. 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 ›

Posted in Bible, Culture, Ministry Tagged with: , , ,

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: , , , , ,