Intimidated by the Culture, Part 2
by Tom Goodman
December 13, 2007
It's hard to reach a culture you don't love. You'll make an impact in those who live and work around you only when you feel grateful to be a part of their community.
It's the second step in overcoming cultural intimidation.
Last week I mentioned a conversation with a missionary couple that got me to thinking about our own mission field. "The believers in our part of the world just don't interact much with their non-believing neighbors," the couple said. "The
culture has become increasingly secular and more sophisticated in their objections to Christian faith. Over time, people have just become intimidated by their culture."
That phrase captured my attention: "intimidated by their culture." Around the world and in our own town, churches lose their effectiveness in a community when they feel threatened by it. How can we lose our fear of engaging the city God
has placed us in? Three things will help:
In last week's edition of LeaderLines, we looked at the importance of knowing what you believe. In this week's edition, let's think about loving what is honorable in our
When you consider your community, if the only things you can think about are the things that need reforming, you won't make much of an impact. Obviously, we have to address sin and its consequences, but we we'll be more effective if we're seen
as part of the cultural family when talking about what needs fixing. Outreach requires a visceral appreciation for the culture, a sense of deep gratitude that you have the good fortune to be situated among the neighbors and coworkers that you
Think of it this way: You don't serve as an Army chaplain if you have no interest in the military culture and no appreciation for what drives the men and women in uniform. You don't become a foreign missionary if you don't want to eat the food
and sing the songs and align with the day-to-day rhythms of the people to whom you are sent. Likewise, Hillcrest can only reach a community we're a part of.
The missiologist Andrew Walls said, "Christ took flesh and was made man in a particular time and place, family, nationality, tradition and customs and sanctified them, while still being for all men in every time and place. Wherever he is taken by the
people of any day, time and place, he sanctifies that culture -- he is living in it."
As Paul reached out to the Athenians at Mars Hill (Acts 17), he obviously felt he could share the gospel without denigrating what was important to his audience. He noted the artistic work of their statues and their poetry, and commended them
for the innate religious longings that such art demonstrated.
The artistic projects of our culture express those same longings: Just open your eyes and ears to the spiritual questions raised in popular songs, books, films, and TV shows. Like Paul, you can use these things as conversation starters.
But only if, like Paul, you're actually familiar with them. A frequent comment from guests to Hillcrest is how they like our references to the books, films, and music of contemporary culture.
Recently, my heart was captured by a line in the book of Revelation. We read that as people of all the nations come into the City of the Lamb at the end of time they will "bring into it the glory and honor of the nations." (Rev 21:24-26)
"The glory and honor of the nations." The word "nations" is ethnon, from which we get the word "ethnic." Each ethnicity, each people-group, will stream into the Holy City at the end of time bringing whatever is splendid and impressive
and noteworthy about their own culture.
My imagination soars with that thought! When our "Third Coast tribe" walks in, what "glory and honor" from our culture will be presented as an
offering to the Lamb? You won't be threatened by a culture when you envision our community's "glorious and honorable" cultural artifacts being brought as an acceptable offering to the Throne!
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