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.

A typical Anglo-American obviously knows that Kenyans people talk, dress, and eat differently. But without actually living in another culture, it is difficult to fully comprehend and appreciate the worldview differences. Most Anglo-Americans rarely have the opportunity to examine their own culture from a different vantage point, so remain fairly oblivious to their own cultural assumptions. People assume their view of the world is normal. Western theologians in particular assume their guilt-oriented cultural values are just “normal” and even “biblical.” Considering these realities, The Culture Test can help Western Christians see how their cultural assumptions may influence hermeneutics and theology.

2. Ministry Strategy

Joe was an American missionary in Thailand. His evangelistic ministry created and disseminated tracts, booklets, and other materials to introduce people to the gospel. To develop culturally appropriate tools for Thai people, he used The Culture Test to do cultural research. He translated the survey into two local languages and had friends throughout Thailand take The Culture Test. He wanted the cultural values of Thailand to inform his evangelistic strategy. The exercise yielded insights, such as:

  • Non-Christians living in mountainous villages rated highest in fear-power.
  • Christians ranked higher in guilt-innocence than non-Christians, in all contexts.
  • People in urban settings, especially Bangkok, rated higher in guilt-innocence than expected.

Joe knew his research was informal and not scientific, so he held the results with an open hand. With a missionary colleague, he weighed the results against their personal observations of the culture and adjusted their ministry resources. The main value of The Culture Test is not the factual data, but the collaborative ideas and strategic discussions it triggered. Cultural research should inform, not govern or dictate, our approaches to ministry. Data is one factor to be considered.

3. Culture Learning

Jason and his wife were preparing to become long-term missionaries. During their pre-field training program, one assignment was to take The Culture Test with a person of another culture. When talking with an English-speaking refugee from Afghanistan, Jason asked his friend permission to ask questions about Afghan culture. Using his smartphone, he verbally asked questions from The Culture Test. However, Jason hardly finished the survey because his Afghan friend wanted to elaborate on various aspects of his culture. The question “Weddings start when…” prompted a long conversation about Afghan marriage customs and wedding traditions.

People love to explain their own culture. You can just ask, “I’m learning about your culture, can I ask you some questions from this survey?” The value of doing the quiz with someone is not in the actual results of the survey, but the conversation that the survey initiates. The Culture Test can provide a natural bridge into a broad range of cultural topics and values: time, work, safety, health, religion, education, family, politics, etc. The Culture Test can be a simple tool for entering the world of another culture. This may be especially helpful for people beginning ministry in a new culture, or even short-term ministry trips.

4. Teaching and Training

Sean taught at a Bible college in Haiti. During his theology classes he had his students take The Culture Test in Creole, and then they discussed the ministry implications. Then, during their mid-term break, the students’ assignment was to take the survey with 10 other Haitians. Their research project involved several interesting surprises for both the national Haitians and the Western missionary. One student in turn, used the Culture Test in his research on effective children’s ministry in Haiti for his bachelor’s in theology thesis.

The Culture Test has been used in a variety of teaching venues: a Bible study during Sunday school, a pre-field missions training program, and even a ESL classroom with adult language learners. One person even used it during a leadership workshop with Muslims in Afghanistan! Virtually every person in the world, Christian and non-Christian, stands to benefit from greater cultural awareness. The Culture Test provides a simple tool for teaching and training.

Have you used The Culture Test in another way? Please share below.

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


resources for Majority World ministry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.