A description of one key topic we have been focusing on in our classes here at New Tribes.
By Jacob DeValve
It’s been a little while since we last posted an update, but we hope you will forgive us as we have had our hands full with a little bundle of joy who entered into our lives on August 27. Gideon Michael was born extremely healthy at 9 lbs. 1 oz. and 22″ long. Since then he has been feeding and growing like a champ (which is really good but also a little hard on mom). We are loving our little guy and learning how to be students of our son.
As we learn more and more about how to be better parents, we have also begun our studies here at the MTC. We are well underway in our classes, and we are thoroughly enjoying school as we seemed to be challenged every day. So far our studies have focused on the topic of worldview. This concept of worldview is the reason why our training is going to take so much longer than other organizations. Let me attempt to explain.
A worldview is essentially the lens through which one sees the world. We all look at the world through a specific lens and no two lenses are exactly alike. However, lenses are often highly influenced by the culture in which we mature. One’s worldview is made of basic core assumptions which always deal with topics like, “who am I,” and “who is God,” and “what is the purpose of life?” These assumptions comprise a person’s beliefs about the way the world is. Now here is where you’ll need to try and follow me. One’s beliefs or one’s worldview affects one’s values. In other words, a person’s values are determined by one’s worldview or beliefs. An individual’s values in turn effect socio-cultural relationships, or the way in which a person relates to people and to institutions. These relationships in turn determine one’s actions or behavior, which is what we actually see when we view a person. The following is a diagram to help show how worldview works.
Blue = Behavior
White = Relationships
Red = Values
Black = Worldview
The reason why concentric circles are used is because one’s worldview is at the heart of everything. Every value a person holds, every relationship a person is in, and every behavior a person expresses, comes back to that individual’s worldview. Let me demonstrate this with a real-life, tribal example.
Suppose you are in Papua New Guinea and you meet a husband and wife who cannot have children. After months of trying to get pregnant to no avail you witness them go to a specific man in the community who claims to be descended from the buai tree. This man greets the couple and after hearing about their predicament, he collects some fruit from this tree and gives it to the wife to eat while doing performing certain rituals. After this short ceremony, he tells the couple that she will be pregnant in just a few short months without needing to have intercourse. You have just witnessed an outward behavior. Now we must begin to dig deep to understand why this couple behaved the way that they did. As we go down to the relationship level we see that this couple relates with people and spirits in a very specific way. Their relationships with people often revolve around knowledge of the spiritual realm. In turn, their relationship with spirits is one in which they try to appease the spirits in order to live in harmony with them. As we travel down to the level of values we see that this couple values relationships with those who are spiritually knowledgeable. They also feel that one ought to live in harmony with the spirits, and so they ought to appease the spirits. Once you understand one’s values you can know a person pretty well, but to truly know a person you must dig down to their worldview. At this level we see that this PNG couple believes that spirits are in everything. One worldview assumption they hold is that spirits oftentimes must be appeased in order to get them to do something for you. Another belief they hold is that the physical is always rooted in the spiritual. There is never just a physical explanation, but always a spiritual one. These beliefs are in turn effecting everything that they do. This couple went to the buai man because of the beliefs they held concerning spirits. The point of this example is to show that worldview effects one’s behavior.
The problem is, we so often do ministry by trying to change one’s behavior. Or sometimes we get to the value level and try to change one’s values. But if we only ever change one’s behaviors or values, we have not actually made any change to the core of that person. In fact, we cannot truly change one’s actions or values without changing his or her worldview. We must do ministry at a worldview level, which is a very difficult thing to do. We must seek to actually help bring people to a biblical worldview.
Now some of you are probably thinking, “Why don’t you just go and share the Bible with people and let God’s Word change their worldview?” This is a fair question. The answer to the question is that we must be prepared to share God’s Word in a way that is understandable to its hearer, and in a way that confronts the hearer’s worldview. In other words, if we do not know a cultures worldview before we teach God’s Word, we will teach in a way that will not truly be understood by the hearers. For example, imagine for a moment that you are teaching God’s Word to the couple in the example above and you never address their beliefs on the spiritual realm. This couple would probably accept Jesus, but they would accept him as just another spirit that they would lump into the “good spirit” category.
This is a sad example of what happens all over the world in many ministries. People hear God’s Word, but they never truly understand it, and end up adding Jesus into their pantheon of gods. So without understanding worldview, we cannot present the gospel effectively. If this concept is difficult to understand, try reading the story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman in John 4. Note how as Jesus talks with her, He gets down to her core beliefs. Also note where the conversation goes and reflect on how much less effective Jesus would have been if He did not know about her worldview and the specific beliefs she held concerning worship. Now the trick is figuring out how to change one’s worldview. The trick to this is to present the gospel in a way that confronts a person’s worldview. This is what we are currently being trained to do.