As part of his Doctor of Ministry (DMin) inÂ Ministry to Emerging GenerationsÂ (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Tom’s written a number of book responses and given several short presentations (personal and group). In this series he not only “shares the wealth,” but also looks forward to your feedback as he refines his project: An argument for vocational discernment for graduate studies in the context of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (Stay tuned to learn more!). Earlier posts on the program: Ministry to Emerging Generations and The Big Picture of Ministry to Emerging Generations.
Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change
With Christmas and the Urbana Student Missions ConferenceÂ less than a month ago, Paul Hiebertâ€™s Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008) opening considering of Santa Claus in a South Indian Christmas pageant hit a nerve. Although I have read a lot of material on worldview, I do not remember the â€œgarbledâ€ missionary message and responses–behavior, beliefs, and worldview in the context of a community–receiving proper attention. Yes, it is time to develop â€œAn Anthropological Understanding of How People Changeâ€ and continue to refine its application in our â€œglocalâ€ missional contexts (122).
Except for some very helpful figures, Hiebertâ€™s outlining of â€œThe Conceptsâ€ and â€œThe Characteristicsâ€ of Worldviews in â€œHuman Contextsâ€ (Chapters 1-3) did not bring new material to the table. But â€œChapter 4: Methods for Analyzing Worldviewsâ€ engaged me with the introduction of ethnosemantic analysis in the â€œartâ€ of uncovering worldviews (91-97). Although much to gain from the several methods offered, I desire to revisit and focus upon â€œthe words people use and how these words are grouped into larger semantic sets and domainsâ€ (91).
â€œChapter 5: Worldviews of Small-Scale Oral Societiesâ€ sent me back to stories of â€œthemes that are difficult for modern people to understandâ€ (105), in particular the holistic worldview of small scale societies which I heard at Urbana through the years and a Fall class on Epistles taught by a professor from Tanzania. In Epistles, the professor shared the different lens for understanding biblical passages offered by his native village. In particular I was struck by how the â€œpresenceâ€ of ancestors and spirits in a rural, communal setting (i.e., shared intergenerational familial living) led to a more dynamic entering of the biblical story. This has led to deeper conversation with a friend from Africa. For the Small-Scale Oral Society, storytelling in the context of the creation is part of oneâ€™s way of life.
In â€œChapter 6: Peasant Worldviews,â€ the figures on belief systems reminded me how simplistic I have become in categorizing â€œreligion.â€ I gave time to prayerfully considering the relationship between â€œVillages and Modernityâ€ (138-139). I confess an idealized, dare I say â€œRomanticâ€ longing for village life. Hiebertâ€™s engagement of Jacques Ellulâ€™s perspective on technique, at the heart of the mechanistic worldview (163-164) [stay tuned for an upcoming post on Ellul’s The Presence of the Kingdom], brought a number of the pieces of the puzzle together for me as I reflected upon â€œ[t]he [positive and negative] effects of modernity on missions from the seventeenth to the centuriesâ€ (210). But what about today? â€œChapter 8: The Worldview of Late Modernity or Postmodernityâ€ and â€œChapter 9: The Post-Postmodern and the Glocal Worldviewâ€ inspired me to continue reading. The relationship of globalization to localization and material such as offered by the Appendices [â€œAppendix 1: A Model for Worldview Analysisâ€ (335), â€œAppendix 2: A Comparison of American and Indian Worldviewsâ€ (337-344), and â€œAppendix 3: Modern/Postmodern Shiftâ€ (345-346)] requires more attention at the Urbana Student Missions Conference.
Hiebertâ€™s building toward, instead of starting with, â€œBiblical Worldviewâ€ (Chapter 10) and â€œTransforming Worldviewsâ€ (Chapter 11) was an excellent approach. His humble Jesus-centered love story encourages me as I wait upon the Lordâ€™s transformative work (cognitive, affective, evaluative, 312-314) when sharing the Gospel across cultures with individuals and communities. â€œAt the core of worldview transformation is the human search for coherence between the world as we see it and the world as we experience itâ€ (315). Hiebertâ€™s challenge for missionaries and ministers to â€œremember that transformation must begin in usâ€ is humbling: â€œWe must first experience transformation in ourselves and our churches. Only then can we bear authentic witness to the gospel and exemplify the transformation to which everyone is calledâ€ (316). AND his concluding thoughts regarding the dynamic nature of personal and cultural/communal worldview is vital, a perspective in contrast to the older static and ordered rendering of worldviews. May Christ the Lord truly be the center of our lives (320) as we go forth sharing Christ through word, deed, and way of life as part of the Body of Christ.
To God be the glory!
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!