Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Worldview

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Book Review: Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine

In his recent book, Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine, Kevin Vanhoozer makes the claim that everyone is a disciple of someone else. Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine by [Vanhoozer, Kevin J.]We all follow someone else’s words or stories. The question is whose words, whose stories are we following. We often follow the stories that provide meaning for our culture. The book identifies as a pastor’s guide but has valuable insights for missionaries. Vanhoozer makes use of Charles Taylor’s (the author of A Secular Age) concept of social imaginary. He explains:

A social imaginary is the picture that frames our everyday beliefs and practices, in particular the “ways people imagine their social existence.” The social imaginary is the nest of background assumptions, often implicit, that lead people to feel things as right or wrong, correct or incorrect. It is another name for root metaphor (or root narrative) that shapes a person’s perception of the world, undergirds one’s worldview, and funds one’s plausibility structure. … Social imaginaries, then, are the metaphors and stories by which we live, the images and narratives that indirectly indoctrinate us. Yes, we have all been indoctrinated: filled with doctrine or teaching. The doctrines we hold, be they philosophical, political, or theological, feel right or wrong, plausible or implausible, based largely on how well they accord with the prevailing social imaginary or world picture. – p.8, 9

Book Review: Two Stories of Everything

Why review another book comparing Islam and Christianity? Two Stories of Everything: the Competing Metanarratives of Islam and Christianity by Duane Alexander Miller take a different approach than most. Rather than comparing Islam and Christianity as religions, Miller compares the metanarratives that Islam and Christianity tell. Metanarratives are the overarching story that includes and defines all the smaller stories of a people. It is the story that communicates the worldview of a group. I find it interesting that Miller never uses the term ‘worldview’ (if he did I missed it). I think he wanted to stay focused on the stories of everything rather than get bogged down in a philosophic analysis. He has lived in the Middle East and has personal experience interacting with Muslims for whom he shows great respect. He explains his approach in the introduction:

People often talk of Islam and Christianity as competing religions, and compare their doctrines and practices. When I moved to the Middle East ten years ago I shared this opinion. But over that time I found this approach to be deficient. Which is not to say it is wrong, but it fails to grasp the genius of either of these collections of doctrines and practices. … In this book I will outline the stories that Islam and Christianity tell. Furthermore, all these stories (or narratives) find themselves included in a great story of everything, which is to say a metanarrative. Islam and Christianity, whatever they may be, certainly do propose to tell a grand story of everything, from creation of the world and time all the way to the consummation of history and the eternal fate of human souls. -Duane Alexander Miller, Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and Christianity, Grand Rapids: Credo House Publications, 2018, xi.

Book Review: Worldview-based Storying

Tom Steffen’s book, Worldview-based Storying: The Integration of Symbol, Story, and Ritual in the Orality Movement, is the first book in the Series “There’s More to the Story” written by the consultants of Worldview Resource Group. I reviewed book two (July 2018) and book three (December 2017) – the books were not published sequentially. Each book stands on its own yet reading them in the order intended would be beneficial to the reader.

In the Preface, Steffen describes the concerns addressed by the series:

Cross-cultural communicators of the gospel all too often neither provide adequate backstory nor sufficiently know whom they address, much less how they story. In fact, some even consider such awareness totally unnecessary! This all too often leads to an ineffective, truncated biblical story. This series “attempts to preempt the rapidly-prepared, quick-fix approaches that tell only small portions of the biblical story, and in their place, present a comprehensive, big-picture, local-culture sensitive, viable, reproducible, and thoroughly biblical alternative.” -Kindle loc. 259

Worldviews are interpreting your stories

In communicating the gospel message, whether through Bible stories or Discovery Bible Studies, we need to be aware that our hearers will interpret what they hear through their worldviews. In a 1993 issue of the MARC Newsletter, Bryant Myers wrote about what happened after showing the Jesus Film in a Fulani village in Africa:

The white missionary walked back to the village with the women, listening to their animated conversation. Something didn’t make sense. “What was it that so captivated your attention?” He asked.

“The Christian man from the coast who made the magic!” they exclaimed. Confused, he asked, “What magic?”

“We’ve never seen a shaman who had the power to make people get up and move about on a sheet and talk,” they explained.

What message had the village women heard? From the point of view of the missionaries showing the Jesus film, they had heard the good news about Jesus Christ, but most of the women talked about magic and power. The message that they took away was that the West African Christians from the city had a magic more powerful than any they had ever seen.

Bryant Myers, “What Message did they receive?” MARC Newsletter, December 1993, 3.

Book Review: A Novel Approach

Story is a common topic in mission circles, and often is understood primarily as a way of communicating the Gospel and Scripture in oral cultures. But story is more than a communication tool; it is a key to understanding culture as well. It is often overlooked when talking about ethnography.

My friend, Mike Mathews, has written a helpful book explaining how story can help us understand culture – A Novel Approach: The Significance of Story in Interpreting and Communicating Reality, 2017. He writes in the introduction:

Review of Paul Hiebert’s Transforming Worldviews

Cover Art

Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change is variously described as “the capstone of Paul Hiebert’s work”, “Hiebert at his best!”, and “mission anthropology at its best.” (from the back cover). A. Scott Moreau writes, “For the first time, all of his major missiological insights – from set theory in church growth to the flaw of the excluded middle to critical contextualization – are integrated into a single volume.” (back cover).

Hiebert’s central focus is that the transformation of worldviews must accompany change in behavior and beliefs. Without the transformation of worldviews, change in belief and behavior remain on the surface level. He writes:

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