Culturally Relevant

here are some questions that a friend of mine sent a couple of weeks ago:

So, some questions:

What does it mean to be culturally relevant?  If you are actively engaged in the culture, how do you distinguish yourself while you are blending in?  How would this not be confusing to a non-believer?

I understand Paul saying I have become all things to all people so some might be saved . . . but in your words, Keith, what does that look like?

Where do you draw the line?  Ok to open a Christian bar?  Have a Christian rave?  

Does tradition not have a place at the table??  This is all very interesting indeed.

I am not sure exactly what “culturally relevant” means. 

To me what it means is taking people as you find them and not as you want them to be. In other words going where they are, loving them and speaking their language. That is why the term missional is important. Being a missionary here where we live.

I used to live in Algeria and we knew missionaries to the Algerians from England. They spoke French and some Arabic. They knew Islam’s tenets very well. They understood that when they asked someone to place their faith in Christ, they were asking that person to embark on a life of ostracism and danger from their family and friends. They loved the Algerian people, mixed with them, made friends with them, worked with them (several of the missionaries were nurses working at hospitals) and spoke about what God had done for them as they had opportunity. Always aware that the Algerians they were living among needed Jesus and trying in every way possible to show His love for them. These English missionaries were culturally relevant to the Algerians.

By contrast, there seemed to be an atmosphere in some of the churches I have gone to of wondering why people were on the lake enjoying themselves on Sunday rather than in church.  It seemed to me that we would sit huddled in our box with a steeple wondering why those heathen didn’t get it and come to church.

I am not sure what being culturally relevant looks like. That uncertainty has been my problem and now I am in the middle of the journey anyway. Not having a positive vision of what else to do has been my reason for staying put. I do know that what it looks like is not about line drawing. It is about serving and loving people as they are where they are. Beyond that, I just don’t know.

Whether or not tradition has a place at the table depends on what you mean by tradition. I think that any new incarnation of the church is building on what came before. Thus tradition will inevitably play a major role. I think that too many smart people who loved God with all their heart have looked at these questions to throw out history in the hubris of the present.

However, if tradition means allowing non-biblical customs and practices to hold sway over the pattern of worship and more particularly over what we expect people to do and be if they come to Christ, then God willing, it will have no role.

Really good questions. I just don’t know is the real answer.


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