A Question from a Friend

So an old friend of mine…meaning she has been a friend for a long time, not that she is old…sent me this question on facebook.  I’m going to try and answer it through the week, but for now I will just send you the question to ponder.  Here you go:

I have a question u can blog about…  How do you show culture relevance to the people and not let that define or consume the church?  Culture isn’t bad; but it can not become an idol.  Sort of like be in the world but not of it.  Meet people where they are and relate to them and show them God knows them, loves them, accepts them as they are, and understands them.  Yet, the church (the people and the way they worship, serve, minister, and live) remain set apart, holy, distinct, standing out; bringing about life, repentance, healing, and freedom?  Being invitive, alluring, awakening, refreshing without the bells and whistles of culture?  People not being led into comfort but into a struggle; in which they are forced to do business with themselves and wrestle their flesh because they can’t deny the Holy Spirit and truth coming alive inside of them?
Then I asked for clarification and she (my young friend that I’ve had for a while) rephrased:
For example, a lot of churches these days say they are striving to be culturally relevant and “up with the times” so that people can relate and the message can be relayed in a way they can hear and understand it.

Like if church worship gatherings were done sans technology in this day and age, then the people would think Christianity was outdated and that God doesn’t understand their generation and so they wouldn’t be open to the gospel and therefore the church wouldn’t be able to grow.

Another example would be an American church implanting itself in Africa and after meeting with the people and inviting them to worship, the people come and have no idea what’s going on and are turned away because they can not relate to anything that they are doing. Instead, missionaries engage the culture and take on the culture they go into.  They seek to understand the people and reach them with God’s love in a way they will understand.  This is good.

Also, take the seeker-church mentality.  They do everything they can to draw people in and entertain them just like other things in our world do.  They look at the culture around them; what the people like and do and they bring it into church worship to show the people that church can be fun and entertaining too.  But when it comes to time for worship, should the church be seeking to entertain and please the people?

Some Pastors also worry about stepping on people’s toes when talking about the truth, so they will avoid some topics.  And some try to just make people feel good with a bunch of “ear candy”.  It is like it is a numbers game; just get people in the door.  Yet, if no real life comes to the people, no repentance takes place, no brokenness unsues, etc. then what is the point?

I think a major problem with the church these days is that it has gone too far, it has lost its focus.  I see people more focused on the getting than the giving.  They focus on “I get to go to heaven” and forget about “giving their life to Christ”.  Just as the culture in America is selfish and pleasure focused, so is the church.  When truly, one of the marks in a saved one should be Christ-centeredness; we die to self and pursue Him, letting Him rule in our hearts.  So in that sense, the church should look diff than the world.  Where is that “changing” that new life?

We need to trust Him with our needs and focus on worshiping Him with our life.  Our needs and preferences are not central to this new life.  We worship Him for who He is, not for what He will do for us.  Even if we are led to the most uncomfortable reality we can think of, we should still worship; it is not a conditional love, it is not about us.

So, the church is alive and growing.  Church = people, and people change and grow over time.  However, God does not change and His model for the church, based on scripture, shouldn’t change either; the Bible is applicable for all people at all times.  But we need to take that model and place it into time/culture.

How do we do that successfully?

We can look like the world without thinking like it.  We can interact with it and yet still hold diff values.  Aspects of culture can be wonderful tools for ministry.  But if we find ourselves beginning to take on cultural mentality, think like it and value what it does contrary to God, then something is wrong.

It isn’t that we look different, but it’s that we are different inside and that difference causes use to have something different about us that is noticeable and should be “attractive” outside.  We are compelled by something greater than ourselves from within, the life and power of God in us should shine through.

So how can we make sure that we are meeting the culture, the people, being authentic, etc. and yet keep God as the center- not the culture or the people- so that the church does not compromise itself and get pulled down into the culture, but rather rises up among it?

Kick that around for a while.  I will start mad posting tomorrow.
A Question from a Friend

5 thoughts on “A Question from a Friend

  1. Kary Oberbrunner did such an awesome job tackling this subject in The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture. I had struggled with this question, too, and he made it so simple. Zondervan actually has the audio book available for free download at http://www.zondervan.com/m/finelinedwnld.zip Listen to “Chapter 4 – The Ancient Donkey” first to get the quick answer. (The book is way better than the audio book, though, because the reader doesn’t read it with the same passion and edge that I hear in Kary’s words.)

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