Cultural Transformation

Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change: Paul G. Hiebert (Author) – a must read though for the casual reader it will be a challenge to grasp the language of this highly respected anthropologist. “In the past, changes in behavior and in belief have been leading indicators for missionaries that Christian conversion had occurred. But these alone–or even together–are insufficient for a gospel understanding of conversion. For effective biblical mission, Paul G. Hiebert argues, we must add a third element: a change in worldview. Here he offers a comprehensive study of worldview–its philosophy, its history, its characteristics, and the means for understanding it. He then provides a detailed analysis of several worldviews that missionaries must engage today, addressing the impact of each on Christianity and mission. A biblical worldview is outlined for comparison. Finally, Hiebert argues for gospel ministry that seeks to transform people’s worldviews and offers suggestions for how to do so.”

Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development by Bryant L. Myers (Jul 20, 1999) – this is another classic. Very thorough study on poverty and what it takes to be an effective agent of transformation in a cross-cultural setting. “

Working with the Poor: New Insights and Learnings from Development Practitioners: Bryant L. Myers (Editor) – a follow up to Walking With the Poor. I have not yet purchased this book but plan to soon. Here is a review from its Amazon site:

“How do Christian practitioners express authentically holistic transformational development? This is the challenge to World Vision development practitioners and to all nongovernment organizations concerned about community development that addresses the whole person and the entire community.

This dilemma is rooted in the western assumption that the physical and spiritual realms are separate and distinct from one another. Such a dichotomy leads to a belief among practitioners that restoring people’s relationship with God has nothing to do with restoring just political, social and economic relationships among people. Even Christians often believe God’s redemptive work takes place in the spiritual realm, while the world is seemingly left to the devil.

But the Bible never separates the physical from the spiritual – the rule of God permeates both. In this volume, development practitioners struggle to overcome the problem of dualism and find a way toward a more genuinely holistic approach to helping the poor. Experienced development practitioners reflect on:

  • Understanding poverty
  • Participatory learning and action
  • Appreciative inquiry
  • The Bible and transformational development
  • Sustainable economic development
  • Community transformation in the urban context
  • Community development and peacebuilding

Everyone wanting to engage in transformational development will find new insights and essential learnings from these hands-on practitioners.”

Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Mission: Sherwood G. Lingenfelter (Author) – another I have not yet read but will be: “Lingenfelter sets out a model for understanding the workings of a society and then applies this model to conflicts missionaries and nationals often face over economic and social issues. He makes the second edition more accessible than the first by clarifying concepts, adding case studies, and reducing the book’s length.”

Agents of Transformation: A Guide for Effective Cross-Cultural Ministry: Sherwood G. Lingenfelter (Author) – “A social system relates individual to group and sets up bias against the gospel. Anthropologist Lingenfelter helps cross-cultural ministers understand and transform culture, instead of Westernizing it.”

Christianity versus Fatalistic Religions in the War Against Poverty [Paperback] Udo Middelmann (Author) – an excellent work. “Most literature and many aid efforts concerned with poverty relief and development function on mathematical assumptions. Those who have more should share with those who have less, thus creating equality. Some would add a moral component saying that those having more are morally wrong and must have gained their surplus from outright theft or unfair trade.

But on the side of the needy, religious and secular efforts see only a material problem. Both neglect the devastating power of bad ideas based in religion and social customs. Yet what anyone believes about the building blocks of life will have results; their ideas are like eye glasses that either distort or bring into focus an objective reality.

Development work must focus on developing people’s ideas. Cultural change must precede material changes.”

Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures [Paperback] Darrow L. Milller (Author), Stan Guthrie (Author) – one my favorite books of all time. His work “Nurturing the Nations” is also excellent and deals with the role of women in the church. A review of Discipling nations at the Amazon site: “The power of the gospel to transform individual lives has been clearly evident throughout New Testament history. But what of the darkness and poverty that enslave entire cultures, even nations? Have Christians underestimated the power of God’s truth to transform entire societies?

In Discipling Nations, Darrow Miller builds a powerful and convincing thesis that God’s truth not only breaks the spiritual bonds of sin and death but can free whole societies from deception and poverty.

Discipling Nations will challenge, re-energize, and re-equip Christians everywhere who labor to see “His kingdom come, His will be done.”

The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View [Paperback] Brian J. Walsh (Author), J. Richard Middleton (Author) – not one I have read yet but its on my Amazon wish list. Dr Fountain references it in his work, “Health, the Bible and the Church.” From the Amazon site: “Science, technology and economic growth motivate our society. Each is carried on with little regard for Christian concerns. Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton yearn for change. They long to see Christianity penetrate the structures of society, reforming and remolding our culture. From scholarship in the universities to politics, business and family life, the Christian vision can transform our world. To stimulate such change the authors analyze our troubled age, show us how it got that way and suggest a solution. Their clear presentation of a Christian world view forms the basis of their hope.”

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World [Hardcover] James Davison Hunter (Author) – I have read and re-read this book a few times and find it more interesting each time. It will challenge what many are thinking and saying about cultural transformation.

Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible [Paperback] Charles E. Van Engen (Author), Dean S. Gilliland (Author), Shawn B. Redford (Author) – if we are to be about cultural transformation be it through health related mission or not, this book will help us understand what it is we should be announcing. Its not the advent of higher tech “things” to help us in disease management but it is to be HIS kingdom, coming to this earth. “Announcing the Kingdom provides a comprehensive survey of the biblical foundation of mission. It investigates the development of the kingdom of God theme in the Old Testament, describing what the concept tells us about God’s mission in creation, the flood, and the covenant with Abraham. It then describes God’s mission through the nation of Israel during the exodus, at Mt. Sinai, and through the kings of Israel. The book then examines God’s mission as Israel is sent into exile and the stage is set for the Messiah’s coming. Finally, the book considers the fulfillment of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ and the church. It examines Jesus’ parables and ministry, his proclamation of God’s kingdom among the nations, and the work of the Holy Spirit through the church. Announcing the Kingdom is the product of Arthur Glasser’s more than thirty years of teaching and has been used by thousands of students at Fuller Theological Seminary. Now revised by Glasser’s colleagues, this study provides mission workers and students with a new understanding of their calling and its biblical foundation.”

The following is a list of some important secular writings on culture and its importance in transformational development.

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress [Paperback] Lawrence E. Harrison (Author), Samuel P. Huntington (Author) – there is a lot to be said for biblical truths showing up in secular writings. This ground breaking work has finally helped put to rest what was for so long believed and practiced by many doing “development” work. Culture matters a whole lot when working to help develop nations.

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor [Paperback] David S. Landes (Author) – another classic that should adorn all bookshelves.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order [Paperback] Samuel P. Huntington (Author)

The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself [Paperback] Lawrence E. Harrison (Author) – Lawrence Harrison is one of my favorite authors dealing with culture and its effects on development. There is a lot here to be learned by the Christian community. His other works are also helpful, especially for those involved in transformational work in Latin America. These include: “Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind,” and the “Pan-American Dream.”

The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good [Paperback] William Easterly (Author) – you may ask yourself what this theme has to do with transformational development and I would say it has much to do with it. In this landmark work Bill Easterly shatters the model for helping develop poor nations by clearly showing that rich westerners have not and probably never will be able to come up with the most effective means by which to help poor countries progress. Much of what he writes can also be applied to the churches efforts to evangelize the most difficult regions of the world. His work “The Ellusive Quest for Growth” is another classic for this writer who isn’t afraid to shake things up.

Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto for Ailing Nations by Vishal Mangalwadi – From the perspective a leading intellectual from India, Mangalwadi sets out to critique the spirituality that has developed in Western nations that Os Guinness describes as “privately engaged but publically irrelevant” and which seeks technological solutions to spiritual problems.  He identifies Truth as the root from which vigorous and wholesome societies flourish, and from which nations can heal and be transformed.