By Their Fruits You Will Know Them

When we first encounter a people group, we learn about them through their actions—the words they speak, the way they treat others, and their responses to the things that happen around them.

What they do—their behavior—gives us insight into their worldview. Their behavior around special times like the birth of a child, rites of passage, marriage and death are especially reflective of their worldview.

While some actions can lose their connections to values over time, there are others that continue to be directed by and reinforce deeply held values, beliefs and one’s worldview. For example, common greetings historically grew out of worldview. But over generations, many using these no longer have any sense of connection. They have become empty traditions.

Too often, missionaries of the past focused great attention on actions that were dubbed “Christian.” Calling people to imitate the behavior that is important back home, may actually encourage syncretism. Here a thin veneer of “Christian” behavior camouflages an unchanged worldview.

Certain behaviors are clearly antithetical to a biblical worldview (for example, idolatry). Others are not and can be adopted for the sake of winning people to Christ. Another category may have to be adapted to intentionally prompt spiritual discussions.

Next week we will consider the values we hold which shape our actions.


[NOTE: Diagram comes from Lloyd E. Kwast’s article “Understanding Culture,” pages 397-399 in the 2009 Perspectives Reader, which was edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthore.]



  1. John, these “assumptions” of views are often difficult to see because they are formed very early in our experience on earth. They are so basic they seem natural. I would imagine that the missionary to a new and different culture, first step is to assimilate, listen and learn the underline beliefs that forms the conversation of the group. And then the opportunity to “tie in” to the conversation the “Unknown God” will become apparent. In this light I see the wisdom of your approach to Bible study in the small group. I believe the opportunity to listen and hear is so much greater. Conversions without discipleship run the risk of that shallow soil experience. The new believer is hard pressed to withstand the heat of opposition simply because he came forward at a large tent meeting. Blessings


    1. Doug, you are correct about these being formed very early in life. The Discovery approach not only gives time and opportunity to hear these, but the best way to deal with the stories that underlie a worldview is to hear true stories that replace them. God gives us the true story in Scripture! We will be exploring this further over the next couple of weeks. Thanks for commenting!


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