By: Demetrius Minor
The church’s role in a social interacting and advanced, technological paradigm-shifting world is very intriguing, but yet so important to world culture. The big question surrounding this is: How does the church engage in culture outside the theological remedy without violating its core principals?
Culture is all about engagement. To be engaged, of course, means that you cannot be an isolationist. Culture is about expressing ideas, lifestyle and beliefs in various manners. The church, at times, can be so culturally isolated, that it could risk becoming an outreach mechanism to becoming an elitist oasis for the religious folks.
The church has the ability to embrace cultural diversity and should engage in differences. I strongly believe that we constantly learn and grow from individuals who are different from us. While we may or may not agree with the various socio-cultural views of people, we can at least learn in the aspect of approach and having a dialogue with them.
The importance of the church being culturally relevant is to welcome diversity. Regardless of the church’s religious platform, the most important way to grow the church and to make it a significant contribution to society is to make people feel welcome. People are not interested in embracing the church’s concept if they feel intimidated or judged by their lifestyle or acts.
Even Christ, in his infinite wisdom and sovereignty, embraced the cultural differences that surrounded him. He ate with tax collectors. He solaced a troubled harlot when the “religious” ones wanted to excommunicate her from society. He embraced Paul, an ardent murderer of Christians (talk about a cultural difference!) and turned him into an apostle. Christ didn’t attempt to circumvent the cultural and spiritual struggles and differences of his era. Instead, he produced a message of love and hope for those in despair.
There are so many times that the church’s attempt to reach out becomes strained and contentious. We live in a culture that is more engaged in progression. One way to unravel the church’s attempt to engage culturally is by means of aggression. If the messenger’s attempt to convert society to the church is in an aggressive, judgmental and abrasive way, then the message of love, hope and spiritual connection becomes diluted, ignored and irrelevant.
The fact of the matter is this: The church’s staunch opposition against a carnal and secular cultural nation does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Homosexuality exists and is rapidly increasing and becoming more socially acceptable. Pre-marital sex still occurs and is undeniably common in today’s culture. Alcohol will still be consumed among today’s teens and young adults and bars and nightclubs are still going to be a common scene among many cities. The church is more than welcome to stand opposed to these issues and doesn’t have to compromise on principle. However, a stern message of hell, fire and brimstone to those who are engaged in such lifestyle will not exactly persuade one to change his or hers course of action.
Conviction is a divine, supernatural God-sent message to alter one’s ways, not a man-made or human attempt to change one’s self. I strongly believe that God changes people’s hearts and minds. If there is something that needs to be changed in our lives, he will give us discernment and convict us of whatever the wrong may be. That’s not man’s job. It will never be. Man cannot presumably condemn people to eternity in hell….or transport them to paradise in heaven, for that matter.
Love and transparency can relate to many people. Welcoming people with open arms and offering hope for them in their darkest situations will always be more helpful than immediate criticism and cynical views on one’s lifestyle. Cultural relevancy is essential to just mere understanding of why people live the lives that they do and the views they perceive. It’s not so much conversion, which may occur at a later given time, but it’s more being able to leave the comfort of the church walls, and being engaged and active in a community that is looking for someone to be a difference, minus the judgmental and religious condescending rhetoric.
If the church is cultural relevant, it’ll be spiritually relevant. Church growth and expansion correlates with the ability to love the individual and allow God to put the remaining pieces together. If the church adopts this method, it will be a thriving and live-changing force in today’s cultural landscape.