United Baptist Church 

Following the Lord Jesus Together

A Pastor's Heart

Culturally Comfortable or Culturally Challenging

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 7:40 PM

Churches ultimately create their own sense of culture.  While there is nothing immediately wrong with the culture that emerges within a local church, there are times where our culture can become sacred to us and even an idol of worship.  As a church we are called to be culturally challenging to the world around us, but many times we settle into a culture that is comfortable for us to exist within.  This mindset is littered with obstacles that can and often do limit our ability to fulfill our charge faithfully.

Missiologist Harold Dollar, in his book St. Luke’s Missiology; A Cross-Cultural Challenge, asks this probing question: “Suppose that a group of Sawi people from Irian Jaya visited your church on a Sunday morning. They want to see an authentic expression of Christianity. What would they see? How much of the service would be biblical?”

Dollar raises what I consider to be a probing evaluative question for our church as we seek to make disciples under the Lord Jesus’ command. When we look at our churches how much of what we do reflects the Biblical elements of the church that we witness in the Scriptures? How much of what we do is done simply because it is “the way we do things”?  How much of what we do is mission driven and how much is driven by our comfortable culture?

When we look at our ministries and our activities as a church are we willing to put on our evaluative lenses and begin to ask the hard questions that must be answered if we are to remain faithful to the task the Lord has appointed us too? Often we do things because we have always done them. Other times we do things that have eroded since their inception and we are unwilling to change them or stop doing them because of the discomfort that change might require.

Many times our churches can resemble Montgomery Ward. 100 years ago they were one of the largest retailers in the United States and today they no longer exist. The failure to adapt their methods culturally and to evaluate their activity purposefully led to their demise. The inability and unwillingness to make changes that were necessary led to their closure.  No matter how healthy or strong a church is today it cannot and will not remain healthy and strong going forward without taking a purposeful evaluative look at their activity with regularity and determining to change that which must be changed.

For a church to truly fulfill its calling it must first be able to distinguish that which is Biblical and culturally challenging from that which is culturally comfortable and to place the proper emphasis on those elements. Secondly, the church must be able to determine if they are ministering in culturally relevant ways within the community they have been called to serve and not simply in ways that are culturally comfortable to the church. Third they must have a clear objective for all that they do and be willing to evaluate everything they do based on that objective. Fourth they must be willing to say "No" to those things that do not fit within their cultural parameters and clear ministry purpose.  Finally, they must be willing to make changes as they are necessary to better accomplish their objectives and fulfill their ministry purpose.

The good news is that the ministry purpose has been given to us by the Lord Jesus in his great commission. We are to make disciples of him. Everything we do as a church should be helping people become a fully functioning follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our worship should strive for this, our ministries should strive for this, and our activities should strive for this.

This Sunday a new family who has never been to church before is going to visit your church. How much of what they are going to see is Biblical? How much of what they are going to encounter is culturally challenging and relevant? How much of what they are going to experience is going to help them become a more mature disciple of the Lord Jesus than they were before they visited? What are we willing to do make our answers to those questions better than they were before we asked them?

God bless

Categories: Discipleship, Culture and Society, Evangelism

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