Wednesday, April 14, 2010

why we MUST study our culture (11 reasons)

(This is somewhat of an offshoot from #2 of yesterday's post. But really this is a major passion area of mine.)

I will shout it from the rooft... well, from my deck and front porch (because my roof is really steep and I'm a little afraid to shout anything from up there) that = we (the Western Church) MUST study our culture like (cross-cultural) missionaries ferociously study the culture that they are sent to! 

We are missionaries to Western culture and we've gotta start acting like it. When I move to sub-Saharan Africa one day, I am going to study the heck out of that culture. I should do the same as a missionary here in Charlotte!

So, of course I'm excited when I read Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger (both profs @ Fuller - my 2nd choice according to THIS) writing awesome missional lists like this one in their book I've been reading, Emerging Churches. Below is their awesome list with my thoughts and commentary following.

*11 Key reasons why the church must seriously study culture:
1            Because of the Incarnation
Jesus took on our culture and practices = “As Jesus did, we must immerse ourselves in the local cultures of our time.” “As Jesus did, we must provide a critique, but that evaluation must come from within rather than be imposed from outside the cultural context.”
*Jesus critiqued as fully a part of the culture and immersed in it! right on - this should be obvious. We can’t be missionaries to China and not be fully immersed in their culture, but still condemning and critiquing their culture! we don't get it when we do that!

2            Because Cultural Understanding has Always been Essential to Good Mission Practice
“Questions regarding the relationship between church and culture are critical to the mission of the church. Faithful mission practice requires understanding of the culture in which one is serving.” of course it's the same in Western culture - just like in any other culture.
Missionaries historically engage the culture, “seeking to communicate the gospel in indigenous forms while remaining faithful to Scripture.”
*duh. BUT, in the West we sell culture way short! We're convinced we understand the various cultures in the West, but this is a big mistake… because we obviously don't. we need to study it.

This is great advice = “The church must recognize that we are in the midst of a cultural revolution and that nineteenth-century (or older) forms of church do not communicate clearly to 21st century cultures.” A major transformation MUST occur in the way the church understands culture!
*And I think this is a fair and important warning on this point = “The church must embody the gospel within the culture of postmodernity for the Western church to survive the 21st century.”

3            Because Christendom and Modernity are in Rapid Decline
The Church does NOT maintain the central place in society anymore. The Church is pretty much non-influential.
More often than not the church has found itself taking the side of modernity, defending its project against all viewpoints.” = ouch.
**So, this shift from Christendom and modernity has profound implications for the Church, the nature of ministry, mission in postmodernity, and the ways next gen leaders are equipped for these new challenges!
We can hunker down/run away or move forward in this new mission!

4            Because the West is in the Midst of Huge Cultural Shifts
It used to be that a certain culture hung around for an entire lifetime. Now, the church can’t even relate to its surrounding culture which is why we’re perceived as irrelevant.
*A few cultural changes Gibbs & Bolger say have contributed to marginalization of the church:
1) shift to postmodernity
2) shift from Westernization to globalization
3) communication revolution = shift from print to electronic-based
4) shift in our economic mode of production = transition from national and industrial-based economies to international, info based, and consumer driven.
5) we're on the verge of breakthroughs in human biology
           6) a convergence of science and religion that hasn’t been seen in centuries
“Any one of these shifts requires significant theological reflection. Pastoral leaders must listen carefully to culture and be prepared to abandon cherished forms if necessary.”

5            Because the Church is in Decline
A big reason (imho) is that culture has drastically changed and we haven't kept up. Somehow we can be missionaries when we cross oceans, but we don't apply those same principles in our cities here in the West!
I'm stoked to be a part of a generation that has a completely different philosophy on this. I'm stoked to see how God might use us to be a part of changing the way the Western Church looks at culture and therefore the scope of our influence for His Name's sake!

There are thoughts on the 1st 5 reasons. Check in tomorrow for thoughts on the 2nd 5!


Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

Good stuff, grace is about meeting people in their comfort zone.

Recently learned about the
10 Million Words blog

patrick mitchell said...

that is an awesome blog, Joseph! thanks so much! I'm going to have to check that one out frequently!