Too many Christians still think of cultural life as just a setting in which the message of salvation can be communicated, not the site within which the consequences of redemption begin to be worked out, in which ramifications of the order of human life are faithfully enacted.
Tag Archives: Culture
I realize, of course, by the nature of their questions that they have been listening. It’s because they understand very clearly that Paul’s world is different from our world, that Paul faced different challenges than we do today, that Paul’s assumptions do not translate directly into out context, they must ask “So what?” They want to take Paul’s advice seriously. It’s not enough for them to understand the historical meaning of Paul’s letters. They want to know-they must know!-if Paul’s gospel still matters today, especially since the apostle dealt with some of the same issues we face: gender battles, social contests, racial prejudice, marital struggles, sexual vices. Indeed, Paul didn’t hide behind vague theological ideas when he wrote his letters to the churches of the first century. He deals with the messy details of daily life for Christ believers. Do we eat this or that? Should I have sex with her or not? Do we have to believe everything you do? Should I get married? Should we help the poor who refuse to work? Because Paul’s instructions are so specific on his experiences and ideas about what the gospel should look like in his time, we can’t help but wonder: is Paul’s timely advice timeless?
Trying to answer the “So what?” question has brought Paul’s gospel into better focus for us-not just his theological ideas, but his personal experience of the gospel of Jesus Christ, his spirituality. Typically, Paul’s letters have been used as resources for his theology. We’ve grown accustomed to studying Paul for his theological insights, siphoning from his letters what he believed, distilling the contents for “hard doctrine.” Yet, for Paul, the gospel was not merely what he taught, but how he lived. He wanted his converts not only to believe what he had “received”; he expected them to follow “his ways” in Christ (1 Cor 4:17).
Remember, the answers to the crisis won’t come from within the current thinking. We have to both transcend and include our surroundings in order to go on a search for new answers. Key leadership must initiate and guide this journey, first by getting other leaders in touch with this sense of disorientation, anomaly, and crisis. Second, leaders should try to resolve the problems without recourse to the prevailing thinking, with its overused repertoire of solutions.
Terry Storch gave a talk at MinistryCOM 2007 entitled “Communication Revolution.” In this talk he highlights how our culture is slamming into the traditional ideas of the way churches operate. He list the top five impact points as:
1) One Way Communication vs. Participatory Conversation – No longer is the expectation that you will tell me what I need to know. I want to be part of discovering what I need to know.
2) Service Times vs. On-Demand Content – Our world will not wait for us. They want the content when they want it. We need to provide access so that can interact with content at point-of-need.
3) Walls vs. People – We have tended to think about church inside the building. We need to move the practice of church out into the community.
4) Going to Communities vs.Being in Communities – The way we think about missions and outreach needs change. We need to change from going to communities to becoming involved in the communities we want to reach with the Gospel.
5) Asking People to Just Invite One vs. The Power of One Inviting Everyone – Addition through just bringing one friend is not overcoming the attrition churches are experiencing. We live in age when one person can invite so many more to experience Christ. We need to find and equip those people.
The Incarnation lies at the heart of the early church’s wrestling over what it meant to be the church in specific cultures. The concrete, material revelation of God in Jesus Christ was the basis of their thinking and practice. This is why the character and identity of those leading the church were articulated in terms of participation in God. But this participation was not about some private, otherworldly, spiritual practices having nothing to do with the public, political, social life of a people. it was in fact the very opposite. Participation in God meant forming a community of God’s people whose lives often challenged the political and social institutions of their day.
What do you want to change about your life? Go for it! You have 30 days!