If you were to ask a few of your friends, “What is a biblical worldview?”, what thoughts and emotions might be awakened within them and emerge across their tongue? My experience tells me that if these friends were an accurate cross-section of today’s western culture, some might respond with painful words like judgmental, arrogant, narrow-minded, exclusive, hypocritical, and out of date with reality. However, others might react with comments like absolute truth from God’s word, faith, hope, love for God and others, assurance, and compassion for others.
For the past ten years, I have had the privilege of serving with a mission organization that trains, mobilizes, and deploys men and women who sense God’s calling to join Jesus in His mission of making disciples, especially among the least reached peoples of the world. During these years, I have learned invaluable principles of communicating the gospel cross-culturally.
One of the foundational values is becoming incarnational as we build relationships with those in our life and ministry context. That is, we model our approach to life and ministry after the example of Jesus. We seek to live among those we serve, learn their language, and take the posture of a humble learner and servant rather than a position of dominance and arrogance as we engage others with the life-transforming message of the Gospel. Paul expresses this incarnational approach to the Philippian church:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross [emphasis mine].
Is it safe to say Jesus didn’t follow the typical path toward living out the American Dream? Even for those with limited biblical knowledge, this attitude in Jesus is counter-cultural to the usual human mindset. Even a cursory reading of any of the four gospel accounts reveals Jesus had a different worldview than other human beings on the planet. Isaiah put it this way when describing the mind of the Lord in chapter 55:8-9:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thought.”
So, how does one describe the concept of worldview? In recent years, I have discovered the closest word in the New Testament scriptures to identifying the concept of worldview is the word in Philippians 2:5, commonly translated “attitude” or “mind.” The Greek word is phroneō. This word refers to “holding a view or having an opinion with regard to something.” We find this word again in Galatians 5:10, when Paul warns the churches not to follow another view of reality contrary to the gospel that Jesus and his apostles taught: “our union in the Lord makes me confident that you will not take a different view.”
Let’s take a quick look at a definition of a worldview and how our worldview impacts our lives on a daily basis. A person’s worldview is primarily one’s central assumptions, concepts, presuppositions, and values about reality. In short, a worldview is how one views or interprets reality. It is the framework or lens through which a person makes sense of the data of life. A worldview makes a decisive difference in one’s view of God, origins, evil, human nature, values, and destiny. A worldview is derived from people’s experience of their social and physical environments and provides a more or less coherent way of thinking about the world. Our worldview is formed significantly during our first ten to twelve years.
Years ago, while enrolled in a Perspectives On The World Christian Movement course, I discovered an image that has helped me understand where our worldview fits amid the concept of culture. The following image comes from the late Lloyd E. Kwast. In his article on Understanding Culture, Kwast claims that one’s worldview is the core element of culture, of all cultures, including our own. Kwast maintains that no real change of any significance will or can occur in the lives and hearts of people until it has deeply touched peoples’ worldviews which is the core of their cultures. Therefore, if we are going to be effective Gospel communicators and disciple-makers, we must understand the following four layers.
The first layer we observe is people’s behavior. Our behaviors are influenced by the deeper layers of values, beliefs, and, ultimately, our worldview. Those behaviors are birthed out of a second layer called values. These values are formed by what they consider good or best for their lives. A third layer reveals that these values are based upon their beliefs. These beliefs are shaped by what they deem is true. At the core, the fourth and final layer is one’s worldview, resulting from what we think is real.
As followers of Jesus, we must yield to the teachings of the inspired, sacred Scriptures for how we should behave, what we value as good or best, what we believe is true, and what we view as real. And, if God is truly speaking to us through His Son, Jesus (Hebrews 1:1), and if Jesus is the very image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), and if the words that Jesus spoke came from the God who sent Him (John 7:16-17), then we must especially turn to the life and teachings of Jesus.
However, during the last ten to fifty years, fewer and fewer Christians have held onto a biblical worldview. Therefore, we must first take a serious look at how our own worldview, beliefs, values, and behaviors align with the teachings of Jesus. Are we genuinely practicing the way of Jesus as a lifestyle, or have we become conformed to this world? Once we get our lives back in alignment with following the ways of Jesus we must live incarnationally by loving people enough to spend time with them, learning their values, beliefs, and worldview.
So, let’s look at a vivid example of an incarnational lifestyle. Let’s take a brief look at how the apostle Paul modeled this throughout his life as a disciple-maker and church planter. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul gives us a vivid description of how to live out a biblical worldview among those who need to see it lived out in high-definition, living color.
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! (MSG)
During my ten years of serving cross-culturally and training cross-cultural leaders, I have discovered that neither church attendance nor preaching alone will extend deep enough into a person’s life to transform their character and worldview. This kind of transformation only comes through a lifetime of discipleship to Jesus! Just imagine how different our world would be if every believer took their calling seriously to be a disciple of Jesus and make other disciples of Jesus?
In his epic work on spiritual disciplines, Dallas Willard reveals the global impact of intentional discipleship to Jesus, “Widespread transformation of character through wisely disciplined discipleship to Christ can transform our world. It can disarm the structural evils that have always dominated humankind and now threaten to destroy the world.”
If there were ever a time in our history when structural evils dominated humanity and threatened to destroy the world, I’d say it’s now! Are you and I willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be the visible image of Jesus to those who have yet to know and follow Him? I can’t imagine a higher calling!
This post originally appeared at: Biblical Worldview — The Bonhoeffer Project
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 364.
 Norman L. Geisler, “Worldview,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker Reference Library; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 785.
 Ronald A. Simkins, “Worldview,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1387.
 Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians, a Barna Group study
 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p.xi