Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Counter-Culture of a Church

discusses the topic of culture and counter-culture.

What is culture anyway?
"Culture" is a set of shared practices, attitudes, values, and beliefs which are rooted in common understandings of 'the big questions'—where life comes from, what life means, who we are, and what is important to spend our time doing in the years allotted to us. No one can live or do their work without some assumed answers to such questions, and every set of answers shapes culture.
What should we not strive to do?

  • We are not forming a sub-culture in which we externally dress and talk differently and avoid certain gross behaviors, but internally we have the same values as the surrounding culture. (E.g. believers may not get drunk or commit adultery, yet in their core beings they may be as materialistic and individualistic, and status- or image-conscious as the society around.)
  • We are not forming an anti-culture in which Christians feel highly polluted by the very presence of the unbelieving schools, entertainment, arts, and culture. (E.g. They feel they cannot really function in the society without getting the cultural power back through legislation and storming institutions directly or at least becoming very legalistic and judgmental.)
  • We are not forming a para-culture expecting a miraculous, sweeping intervention by God which will convert many or most individuals and explosively transform the culture. (E.g. Many Christians are more concerned about getting people saved FROM hell but not saved TO heaven. Many churches are more concerned with building up their membership roles than building up the community in which they are located -- those churches are "takers" not "givers." Rather we should become deeply engaged with the society and communities around us, working with others as co-citizens of this world that our God created to deal with the troubles and problems that have been caused by our sin.)
  • We do not despise the "city of man" in which we live so that we turn our church into a fortress.
  • We do not become like the "city of man" around us as if we are just a mirror (like so many liberal churches and emergent churches are).
  • We do not selfishly use the city as if the church is some space capsule.
In a simple way, what are we to do?
Rather we should love the city in which God has placed us and seek its "peace" as God told his people in Jeremiah 29:7. Our church is leaven, salt, a city set on a hill.
How is the church to react? Jason sees the messages of the prophets, apostles and those who faithfully followed as developing a counter culture. He summarizes the role of the church:
We are an outpost of the kingdom of God, the body of Christ. Jesus incarnated himself into humanity in order to reach humanity. Why? Because humanity was not the problem but the prize. God loves humanity -- we were created in His image for His glory. Jesus loves the world and came to release us from the bondage of sin.
How are we to relate to the culture around us?
Thus, we are too are to be externally quite like the surrounding culture (positive toward and conversant with it), without 'jargon' and other Christians trappings--yet in worldview, values, and lifestyle, they demonstrate chastity, simplicity, humility and self-sacrifice. (E.g. We are quite different in the way they understand money, relationships, human life, sex, and so on.) By the way, for another great case study compare Hananiah and Jeremiah in Jeremiah 28-29. Hananiah is an example of the 'para-culture' in Jer.28; Jeremiah is a proponent of the 'counter-culture' in Jer.29.
How does a Christian worldview impact what we do everyday?
Most fields of work today are dominated by a very different set of answers than those of Christianity. But when most Christians enter a vocational field, they either a) seal off their faith from their work and simply work like everyone else around them, or b) simply spout Bible verses at people to get their faith across. We should help the people of God to know how to persuade people by showing them the faith-based, world-view roots of everyone's work. We should help the people of God to know the implications of the gospel for marriage/family, art, business, government, journalism, entertainment, and scholarship.
Jason concludes by asking and answering the question:"How can we form a community that is rich and deep in love for one another and exhibits to the world the distinct life, individually and corporately, that we have in Christ?"
The answer is: we must demonstrate every day of the week how the gospel effects our leadership/structure/decision making, our infra-structure, our music and arts, and our ethical themes. In other words, everything we do (4-wheeling, quilting, eating, career, athletics, working out, worshipping, teaching, parenting, friendships) matters to God... and God matters to everything we do. We haven't just been saved from hell but we have been saved to glorify God in this world so that people may see our works and glorify our Father in heaven. So our Christian lifestyle is our culture and our culture exists here ....we hope the cities are transformed by our living here.

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