Christian mission mediates God’s honor into the world. The church is the very means by which people experience and understand the glory of God. We are God’s instrument for overcoming shame.
Communicating God’s honor happens relationally, not just verbally.
How can we as the church operationalize the reality of God’s honor? We must codify our theology about God’s shame-reversing salvation into practical ministry. What ministry forms and principles faithfully embody the reality of God’s honor? In other words, how do we put honor into practice? Remember honor is not a theological idea, but the fruit of relational connection.
Most evangelicals initially approach the topic of honor-shame for the sake of evangelism—how can I more effectively share the gospel with people? Learning to contextualize our verbal proclamation of the good news is a natural and obvious starting point. But the centrality of honor in God’s mission throughout the Bible warrants a fuller impact on our missiology. Along with evangelism, personal relationships and discipleship are two more areas reframed by a biblical understanding of honor-shame. Honor-shame is not just some magic key for increasing conversion rates, but a fundamental component of God’s entire mission. Honor and glory are the end of God’s mission, so honor and glory inform the means of Christian mission. The means must cohere with the ends, “because the means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process, and ultimately you can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree” (MLK sermon).
The very structures of ministry we develop must communicate God’s honor to people, for three reasons.
- People will hardly understand the message of God’s honor we proclaim if they don’t see it embodied in our life. Our public ministry must cohere with spiritual proclamation, especially in unreached contexts.
- Communicating a healthy sense of honor leads to general social flourishing and allows people to experience God’s common grace. Redeeming honor is essential for social change.
- Honoring people is a commandment in the Bible. (Rom 12:10; Rom 13:7)
While in Central Asia we approached ministry as “honorification”—connecting honor-seeking people with the honor-granting God, in both word and deed. This meant the various “bridges” or “platforms” we established to get visas and to connect with people were designed to be inherently honoring and dignifying. In light of this, we did not view our “platform” and “evangelism” as two separate compartments, but integrated by the common vision of mediating God’s honor in all aspects of our lives. This made it easier to answer the question “What do you do?” with integrity. That question wasn’t as much of a landmine.
Do the channels and structures through which you engage people naturally honor their dignity? In your context, what would be a good way to symbolically communicate God’s honor and dignity to people?
Embodying God’s honor can take on thousands of concrete forms. The possibilities are as numerous as the cultures of the world and passions of God’s people.
What are relational ways you bear witness to God’s shame-shattering love? How can we put God’s honor into action? What ministry forms operationalize and embody the truth of God’s saving glory?
Here are concrete ideas and videos to fuel the imagination.
- Because who is Perfect? (video)
- Restorative Justice: The Idea
- Restorative Justice: 3 Applications
- How Dignity Resolves Conflict
- A Paraguayan Story of Dignity and Reconciliation
- How to Give Aid without Shaming
- Solving Addiction via Shame