Priscilla Reid from CFC in Belfast gave an interactive seminar exploring "A Culture of Honour" at New Wine Ireland's summer conference - Sligo15. Here VOX Editor Ruth Garvey-Williams brings you a summary.
It is interesting that outside of Christian circles "honour" has very different connotations. In other societies a culture of honour is about defending your honour, usually with violence and usually because of perceived wrong. I have enjoyed looking at the subject in the Christian context.
We mustn’t underestimate the importance of culture in our churches. Visitors are looking around to see: what sort of people are they and could I fit in here? If we have never thought about it, it is good to start thinking about it. It is good to be intentional. What kind of atmosphere do we want to create? We all have blind spots when it comes to the culture of our churches.
WE create the culture within our own church. If there is a lack in our churches, we need to take responsibility for it. We can’t point the figure at other people!
It is interesting how Jesus talked about being limited in His home town because the culture of unbelief. The culture we create can facilitate the Holy Spirit… or not! It is exciting that we get to play a part in facilitating what the Holy Spirit is doing in our church family.
We need to be counter-cultural in terms of our attitudes between genders, races, across-generations… we need to be those who say, “This is what the family of God looks like.” In our culture, there is often a culture of suspicion and dishonour.
What things come to mind when you think of your church culture?
We need to be able to honour the younger generation. We can’t always be saying, “That will never work.” We need to allow the younger generation to try new things and to allow them to make their own mistakes.
There is a danger of self-sufficiency within your own denomination. Not being willing to bless other churches. And yet ou can go into a very small church and learn profound lessons.
Churches believe they are welcoming to it is easy to only express welcome to those who are already members (the "in crowd"). A pastor in the States invited five people from the community to come in and tell him honestly what they thought of his church. Sometimes we have a perception and we need to be honest with ourselves and maybe ask an unbiased opinion.
I was praying for years for our daughter to come back to church and when she went to church, no one spoke to her! When you experience it, you understand how important it is.
What is a culture of honour?
The Bible has a lot to say about honour. The first person we are told to honour is God. If we truly have a sense of honouring God in our lives and in our corporate lives together, the rest of the honouring should flow naturally from that. We honour others because we first honour Him. (Love God, Love your Neighbour).
The Bible talks about honouring our parents, about honouring marriage, about honouring the government and about honouring the more “humble” parts of the body of Christ. We should not be giving more honour to the more visible members of the body. Sadly, so many people question their sense of worth and value because they can’t do certain things. We need to be counter cultural - ensuring that every single person in the church is honoured and valued.
The Bible talks about honouring elders and widows and about honour in relationships before people get married - putting it bluntly, that means not having sex!
1 Samuel 2:30 "Those who honour me, I will honour.
The Lord also says that He will give the poor and needy a throne of honour. Honouring in our churches has got to go beyond our borders. We need to learn to honour those who God honours. One of the ways we do that is to be servants of the poor.
Romans 12:10 "Honour one another above yourselves."
To honour is to show great respect, to recognise, give credit to, pay tribute to, show appreciation of, sing the praises of and so on... when I read that list, I think this is hugely counter-cultural in Ireland. Both north and south, we find it really difficult. We are embarrassed to sing someone’s praises.
We don’t do it easily and we don’t do it well. We given Americans a hard time but they do this well. We can think it is cheesy but I’ve heard American pastors expressing affection and love for people who are serving. It challenged us and taught us that there is something about expressing honour that is important. Too often we are thinking, “Don’t give them a big head.”
Most occurances of the word honour in the Old Testament is Kabod meaning heavy or weighty (to give weight to someone). One word that reflects what we are talking about is “value”. A culture of honour is when we value one another.
God honoured humanity at the cross. He valued us enough that He would give His Son to die for us. That was honour where it was not due. We can think we should only honour someone who “earns” it. We need to value people and honour them even when they don’t deserve it. When we get how much we matter to God, we start to look at other people with different eyes. Even in our day with everything that is happening in our world, it can be more heartbreaking to see the reaction of Christians! Even the worst of humanity that we see in the world, God is saying, “I died for that person.”
We need to create a culture within our churches in which every single person is treated with value and respect. Too often, we all indulge in wading in and cutting the feet from under someone.
What does a culture of honour look like?
If we honour one another and value each person, what does it look like in our churches?
A culture of prayer - we play lip service to it but we don’t always do it. The way you can show value to people is to pray for them. We value our community by setting aside time to pray for them. That is the joy of praying for people who are not Christians - they are so overwhelmed that someone cares enough to pray for them.
A culture of thanksgiving
A culture of honour between leadership and congregation and vice versa (a two-way street). We need to speak well of and believe the best of those who lead us but it is also great when leaders honour those in their congregation.
NB: We dishonour people by not accepting honour - being able to say, “Thank you.” We are so good at saying, “it was nothing.” When someone gives you a compliment in Ireland we say, “Oh this old thing… I picked it up in a charity shop!”
We need to learn to fail well - when I screw up, I need to apologise. We expect other people to acknowledge wrong but we often try to pretend it doesn’t happen. There is something powerful about being willing to humble ourselves and say, "Sorry."
No favouritism. Giving as warm a welcome to a homeless or smelly person as to a friend. Not overwhelming people but embracing everybody with the same kind of warmth and respect and value.
Be careful about the assumptions you make. I don’t want to become politically correct but when we think about our communication and valuing all people.
Showing kindness, gentleness and respect
Choosing to listen. It should be natural to us but it is not. If you are not prepared to have the conversation, don’t ask. Be real and authentic.
Acts of service - don’t just pray for something, do it. We can be even more creative.
Protecting people from themselves. Really valuing everything people contribute to the life of the church. If we honour what peole are doing and show that we value it. Saying “thank you”. Making sure people are not taken for granted. If I’m cleaning the toilets and you are preaching the sermon, we are both serving the Kingdom of God.
Preferring people - putting their ideas first. Having a generosity of heart. We have all got our own passions. A culture of honour understanding that your passion is equally valid to mine. Even coming down to practical things like budget. Would I be willing to pull back a bit on my passion to allow the money to go towards someone else’s passion?
Leadership succession: When you are getting older, to pass on leadership. Many young people are lost because there is no succession. There must be honour across the generations. We need to train, mentor and then release the younger generation. Also honouring the older generations, especially when they feel they can’t do as much. It is important for the younger generation honours the older generation, what they have invested and how they served - recognising that we are living in the good of that! You might hand on a baton of responsibility but you get a new one. Whatever age you are, you are still running the race!
Learning how to deal with conflict and confrontation - how to disagree agreeably. Forgiveness is an important part of honouring
Encouragement is vital.