Six Reasons to Gain a New Skill: Sharing the Gospel in the Language of Honor and Shame

by Werner Mischke 

Common Feature to the Majority World 
Some mission and culture experts recognize that the majority of the world’s peoples are from societies for whom a primary cultural value is “honor and shame.” This may be distinguished from a primary cultural value of western background, which is “innocence/guilt.” 

Resistance to a Western Gospel  
Many secular as well as Majority World peoples are resistant to the gospel. Christianity is perceived by many as a western religion—an American-style religion—opposed to their own cultural values. (PowerPoint: Knowing and Sharing the Gospel of Christ in the Language of Honor and Shame.” The presentation unwraps the cultural assumptions of a law-and-guilt-based western presentation of the gospel, and explains where theological blind spots come from.

Ever Increasing Diversity 
Because of mega trends such as globalization and the migration of peoples, most North American cities have growing communities of Latin American, Middle Eastern, East Asian, South Asian, and African peoples for whom a primary cultural value is honor and shame. 

Unprecedented Opportunity 
The increasing diversity of North American communities represents a huge opportunity for Christians to share the life and gospel of Jesus with their neighbors. This requires fresh thinking and resources to equip believers to share the gospel with their neighbors from other cultures. 

The Cross as a Remedy for Guilt and Shame 

The common way for evangelical Christians to present the gospel message is to focus on the salvation work of Christ as an answer to the problem of sin and guilt. 

But the fall of humanity also resulted in the problem of sin and shame. Therefore, the common way is a truncated way. The Bible arose out of the ancient Middle East in which honor/shame is the pivotal cultural value; therefore, it has much, much more to say about the problem of shame than what the majority of Christians realize. We can learn how to share a more comprehensive gospel – one that offers a cure for both guilt and shame.

Shame Hurts More
Social science research indicates that shame has far more negative effects on people than guilt. (More information on comparing guilt and shame.) The research has consistently found that shame motivates people to “hide, escape, or strike back”.  In striking contrast, guilt motivates people to “confess, apologize, or repair”. 

Could it be that the cure for guilt is not nearly as urgent and transformative as the cure for shame? Could it be, that when God’s Word is taught with a focus on guilt while ignoring shame, Christians are by default withholding that which most deeply heals the human soul?

A simple new resource, The Father’s Love Booklet, is based on the parable of the prodigal son. Memorize the parable, learn the honor and shame dynamics within the parable, or use the simple artwork and questions to engage anyone in a conversation and be ready at any time to share the Gospel of Jesus.


Werner Mischke is director of training ministries for Mission ONE. He is passionate about equipping the Church for fruitful cross-cultural partnerships and helping believers know and share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the “language of honor and shame.” Learn more: