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Monday, May 31, 2010

Engaging the Culture

Culture is an interesting concept. It is not easily defined, though we are very often ready to blame all of our problems on "the culture." One helpful way of thinking about it is defined by Rodney Clapp who says that culture "takes in media, advertising, information technology, fashion, ritual, worship, academic disciplines, public symbols, lifestyles and everyday practices such as automobile commuting or childbearing." That is to say, culture is made up of those things which are a part of the world around us that influence us or that we influence others through.

This seems incredibly boring and I commend you if you are still reading! But it is important. One thing the church always struggles with is where we fit into the culture around us. It used to be that the church had a very influential role in the culture. But, increasingly we are seeing that the church has less and less influence or power in the culture. In fact, in some cases we are beginning to see the culture turn against the church.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The church has thrived (though suffered) when the culture seems to be working against it. However, we need to ask ourselves a question: How are we as Christians to engage a culture that either finds us and our message irrelevant or hates us?

Well, the easy and not-so-easy answer is to love the culture. Even when they hate us and want to be rid of us? Absolutely. This is what Jesus did. Romans 5:8 says that this is how God treated us when we hated Him. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And I John 4:19 tells us that "We love because He first loved us."

So, what does that actually look like? How do we honor God by loving the world when the world/culture seems so bitter towards us without becoming like it? Do remove ourselves from the world and lovingly hope they figure out their sins? Probably not, Jesus left us in the world though we are not of it. (John 17:11-16) I think we are called to engage it, to introduce Jesus to it by spreading the good news of salvation. (Luke 24:47) This, of course, is easier said than done. So what does such an engagement look like?

Well, I am not going to be able to answer that question here because every situation has different answers. Certain cultural trends need to be dealt with in one way and other trends in other ways. And, as the church, we need to work together to deal with the culture we find ourselves in. So, starting June 6th, in our Sunday morning Bible study (@ 9:15 am in the fellowship hall), we are going to begin to work together in engaging the culture. We are going to seek out what the Holy Spirit would do with us in the world in which we live. We will have what is sort of a topical study where we will engage major issues happening in our world and in our culture and work together through the Bible to see if we can find faithful ways of speaking to the world. Here is what we will do: Throughout the week, look for newspaper articles, news stories, or personal encounters that you are dealing with, bring them to class and we will discuss them. How is the church to respond to the issues we face today? What does God's Word have to say? Please join us on Sunday mornings so we can, together, learn how to faithfully engage the culture.

Pastor Bob

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