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Cultural Influence

October 14, 2008

How much? It would seem that at some point the church has lost discernment when it comes to chasing culture. I must confess that many years ago I read about Paul at Athens and I was inspired to use items and ideas outside of the Bible to prove that God is real and Jesus is His son.

It would seem that this passage has really become a mantra with people today when it comes to using cultural cues to teach eternal truth. Now I still think this is important for the church today but it would seem that we have lost some of the context of this story.

While Paul was teaching in Athens he was also going around setting up communities of faith throughout the Roman empire that were rooted in the Jewish experience. He was not setting up kingdom outposts that mimicked pagan temple worship. In fact he rebukes the church in Corinth for such practices.

I share this because I have become more and more convinced that in trying to communicate with the culture of our day we have lost the ability to tell when what the culture wants is actually counter productive to what God wants. As personalization becomes more and more common and everyone gets to program their own experience does the church cater to such individualism at the cost of self sacrifice?

Does the church become more and more disconnected because our culture has become more disconnected? Do we become more and more desensitized to language and words, to images that are graphic, because our culture has?

I agree we can use the methods of our culture and I think we should but when does using the method also become the message? When does conforming to the method also send a message that is counter to truth? The idea of sacrifice and community, what happens to them in a world that demands everything my way with very little real connectivity?

What are your thoughts?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2008 4:52 pm

    I think the method of the message should be ever changing….but the truth of the message should never change.

  2. October 14, 2008 5:24 pm

    Darin, I think we have discussed my position before, but I do believe that the church has tried to engage culture and that it isn’t as effective today as it was 10 years ago. The seeker-sensitive movement led to mega churches with resources to provide lots of staff and programs for the congregants as well as professional sounding worship and lots of media presentation. At the same time things like removing the cross from eyesight in order to make a non-threatening environment for the seeker happened. People lost sight of Christ and began to want an experience. If the experience wasn’t what they wanted they tended to move on to another church. People were going to church rather than being the church.

    With this style of presentation what we are now seeing is people that won’t give financially anymore for fear that they may not have their own needs met first. Church budgets and subsequently church staff are shrinking. Programs are being cut. Buildings are being put up for sale.

    It is at such a time that God’s Word must become relevant and that as people seek to know the truth it is revealed to them in transforming ways. The Greatest Commandment to love God above all else with our hearts, minds and souls and loving others ahead of ourselves should become the result.

    If we lure people to the church because of a program, then what happens when the program is no longer sufficient to keep them coming or they require more and more programs, yet the church doesn’t keep up with the pace? They leave and seek another church with the right programs for their needs. Is the church about fulfilling the needs of mature Christians or is about meeting the needs of the hurting and dying in the world that need to see Christ’s love in order to seek him and be saved?

    I don’t desire to be critical of the seeker-sensitive church, but instead offer my observation of how I see a culture shift happening and the church losing its place in the lives of some Christians as people try to figure out what is next. When even Willow Creek–the church that was the always used as a model for the success of the seeker-sensitive church movement–looks within itself and deems itself a failure and tries to reorganize to become relevant says the seeker-sensitive movement must change, that is a huge indicator to me that things are about to change.

    Knowing that Paul tells us that we are to live in the world, yet not conform to the world, I think we can agree that Christ is to stand above the world and we are to make it known that he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow regardless of what the worldly culture may think. If we stand upon the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and not upon the crumbling sand of a fickle culture, Christ will be glorified.

  3. October 14, 2008 9:27 pm

    Dave…

    I think your connection between trying to be relevant to culture and seeker sensitive is wrong. Being relevant can mean a lot of things. Clearly Willow believes isn’t abandoning being relevant…they are finding a different way to be relevant.

  4. October 15, 2008 12:38 am

    I think the genius of any movement is to adapt to change. If the church isn’t willing to change with culture then it will fail. We must make a difference in the culture in which we live. Yes, the message of the good news never changes but we must continually be changing. God calls us to change. As I mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago. Even Paul says, “I become all things to all people so that I might win some.” Darin great post and thoughts. Keep up the great work brother. Love ya!

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