Tag Archives: Storytelling

Quick Review: Cross-Cultural Conflict

This past weekend I read Duane Elmer’s Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective Ministry. There doesn’t seem to be a kindle version of the book, which would be a shame. The book has some great stuff and in some ways is a forerunner to the recent honor-shame “movement” in missions and Christian scholarship.

This book offers some basic primers on cross-cultural relationships, especially honor-shame dynamics in collectivist cultures such as in Asia and Africa. The focus is still on helping Western missionaries think more cross-culturally and contextually in terms of relationships, conflict, and ministry so there is a lot here designed to help Westerners self-reflect about their own cultural biases.

There’s actually a lot of common ground between this book and Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures by Jayson Georges, which I shared some thoughts on last week. That book has benefitted from a couple decades of additional scholarship, but Elmer’s book includes some fantastic insights on collectivist culture and dynamics.

There are several chapters that deal with indirect approaches to dealing with conflict but goes much more in-depth than Georges does in his relationships chapter in his book. In addition to discussing patron-client dynamics in a chapter on the one-down position, Elmer also offers some great stuff on storytelling as an indirect strategy for resolving issues in honor-shame contexts. Of great help to me at a time where I am studying mediation was Elmer’s chapter on mediation and the mediator with an honor-shame culture in view. The role of a mediator is really interesting as expressed in different cultures. Each culture celebrates some forms of mediation and rejects others it seems. Mediation in Asia from what I’ve experienced tends to function very differently than mediation in the United States.

Elmer also unpacks a great negotiation, honor-shame conflict case study from Joshua 22. I’ve heard some helpful things on this case study before, but I enjoyed Elmer’s treatment of it.

One additional benefit of Elmer’s book here is that there were numerous examples drawn from the Philippines, where I currently live and serve, which I found actually really helpful. There’s a lot here that I can draw from for my current context.

So while there is a lot of commonality with Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures, this book goes a bit more deeply into the arena of conflict especially as the title suggests.  I’m really glad I read it.  I was fascinated by the reviews – some of which are highly positive and some are negative. It’s clear that some people really have a hard time looking at conflict, relationships, and the Scriptures through an honor-shame lens.  There’s so much to be gained.


Quick Review: Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller

I recently finished another book in Gary Burge’s Ancient Context, Ancient Faith series.  This one was called Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller with the focus being many of the parables that Jesus taught in the gospels.

I really have enjoyed this series because of the cultural insight into the ancient near east and the time of Jesus.  This edition of the series added helpful insight to the ways in which Jesus captivated people through stories.  The book is grouped into topical storytelling themes that illustrate some of how Jesus tried to convey powerful teaching into contextualized stories.

The chapters focus on the banquet and excuses, hospitality and honor related to prayer (Luke 11), compassion, forgiveness, materialism and inheritance, the lost and general storytelling in the culture.

My favorite chapters related to prayer (Luke 11), excuses and the Kingdom of God (Luke 14), and forgiveness (Matthew 18).  All three of these chapters brought such great cultural insight into the text that provided a deeper and more robust interpretation and reading that have stayed with me over the past week since reading them and will shape my spiritual formation and understanding of these areas of faith.  I had not read Luke 14 with the honor and shame categories before and applied to the literary context of prayer.  It really has built my confidence in prayer.

If you want to go deeper into some of the parables from a cultural and literary standpoint, it’s worth checking it out.  I’m really enjoying the series.


Review: A Man Called Blessed and Thoughts on Bill

So three years after reading the Christian fiction novel “Blessed Child” by Ted Dekker and Bill Bright and I came back to read the sequel.  I’m going to do a review and share a couple observations about the founder of my organization.  I got these books free given that Bill Bright was the founder and President of the organization I work for until he passed a few years back.  I was curious what such a book would look like with Bill’s fingerprints on it.  I did a review on “Blessed Child” three years ago here.  I figured I’d do a short review on the sequel – “A Man Called Blessed.”

My experience of A Man Called Blessed was very similar to the first book.  There were parts that were surprisingly good and engaging and there were parts that called for a real effort on my part to remember what kind of genre I was reading as blatant expressions of supernatural faith are just uncommon in my reading.  There were some cheezy parts and I thought there could have been better character development, but there was a lot of value for me in reading it.

I find it very interesting that in his later years, Bill Bright began to shift a lot of his focus to storytelling and fiction out of a conviction that there was an important need to sow into the culture.  This is pretty important in my mind because he and the organization I work in have at times been disproportionately wed to the notion of “harvesting” when it comes to evangelism.  If there’s negative reputations associated with our organization – it’s because harvesting was elevated to an unhealthy standard at times while sowing was overlooked or not valued because it’s often not “measurable.”  But Bill in his later years invested more of his time in strategies or literature that promoted storytelling that would point to Christ – believers and non-believers. But to be clear – Bill was ready to harvest anytime and anywhere.  But despite the clock ticking on his earthly life, he began to invest more in sowing through cultural art forms and storytelling mediums and not merely the harvest.

Regardless of his success, this change that took place in him when he knew his time was limited is one of the things that I appreciate most about him in reflection.  While some on the verge of death feel like they have to harvest as much as possible, I think it speaks to some of his vision and conviction and even personal growth that he invested much of his final years into storytelling.   I think this is a lesson that all of us continuing on his legacy should keep in mind.  Harvesting and sowing go together and we should not forget that (though it seems we all too often do).

A Man Called Blessed is a story of a pure spiritual child who grew up apart from the world, now grown up as a 25 year old.  The story is how this young child of faith gradually lost his first love of Christ over time in favor of safe rules and Christian things. His passion for the person of Christ faded along with the obedience that follows.  The story is how this man rediscovers his first love and repents of his sin and complacency while being available to be used by God in big ways.  The storyline is a political thriller of sorts involving the middle east and Israel and expectations surrounding what would happen in Israel if the ark of covenant was discovered and returned to Israel.  Within that context is a more personal story of a few characters and their faith journeys.

Personally, while this wasn’t exactly Lord of the Rings for me I found it to be very edifying spiritually and convicting.  I had several moments where I could remember Bill Bright’s voice from different times I heard him speak urging me on to not lose my first love and walk by faith in obedience.  The echoes of Bill’s faith are all over this book.  And while Bill Bright has his critics (and some critiques are quite valid), Bill walked in faith on a level that few if any of his critics can hold a candle too.

So I rather enjoyed reading this book and it added great value to my life despite the fact that this general genre (supernatural or Christian fiction) is not what I tend to gravitate to in reading.

If you’ve read it, what did you think?  (assuming mostly people I work with might have read it)