Church Culture

Cultural Gap

I remember in 2005, I went to men’s conference with a group of 15 men. To this day, I remember one thing from this conference. It was a skit done by two men. The idea was to show what an unchurch person thinks when a Christian uses regular church speak in their conversation. It was meant to be humorous but I felt a sense of how important it is for God’s people to try to use the language of the day to be effective in reaching our world for Christ. Not everyone is fluent in Christianese except for those who are active in their church.

The church shouldn’t push a “church culture” on the people we are trying to reach. To an unredeemed mind, sex outside of marriage is fine, homosexuality is part of life, and abortion is a woman’s choice. We should preach Christ alone to salvation. It’s the Holy Spirit who will pull people in as we share the good news. We are to love them and share Christ with them. Culture in general plays a role in reaching others for the Kingdom of God. What we do in the U.S. in reaching our communities and how we talk with people is different than say how a foreign missionary reaching out to the people of the country they are serving.

From the point of view of a westerner, I would say that a church movement should express the cultural identity of multiple people groups. I know that global missions would suggest a church movement should express the cultural identity of a single people group to be most effective. In Donald McGavran’s People Movement Approach, he stresses the importance of concentrating on one people group.[1] There are three different movements (Insider, People, and Church Planting)[2] that seem to stress the importance of single people focus; however, I think this is more in a global sense. I know what works in the United States may not always work in other countries.

I was involved with church planting at one time, and I read at least 6 books on the subject. I was trained by the North American Mission Board to be a church planter. I am not expert at all. In fact, I am part of the group where the church didn’t last 2 years. I’m sharing this because I see a church planting movement through the eyes of an American. Our country is made of a many socio-religious identities.[3] We are a melting pot; that’s our culture. The church I work with now has the sense of cultural identity of multiple people groups. We minister to diverse races and cultures. We have people from other countries part of our body. It is possible to have the cultural identity of multiple people groups and be effective in the U.S. Other countries, it seems to be a better fit to focus on a people group.

 

The single culture identity I think plays in the equation is say being a missionary in a Muslim country. The people who are trying to reach Muslims should try to understand their culture and design an evangelism strategy to reach them where they are. We are to contextualize the message of the cross to the culture we are trying to reach.[4] In the U.S., we can focus on a reaching multiple people because of our culture, but with foreign missions the People Movement Approach that one people group should be concentrated on at a time.[5]  I think the approach for the foreign field missions is to reach a single people group. This approach was developed over the past several decades through trial and error, and it works best in fields such as Latin America. In non-western countries, I see focusing on a single culture does work better and produces converts where focusing on multiple groups in the U.S. works well along with the focusing on the sub-cultures of our overall community.  Andrew Jones writes on the idea of reaching the sub-culture in the U.S. He says that missions in America can be more difficult because of the way people see the church so a multi-directional approach is needed.[6] The end result in both approaches is to share Christ and grow the converts in their new relationship with their Savior.

 

[1] Donald A. McGavran, Perspectives On The World Christian Movement: Reader, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 629.

[2] Rick Brown and Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives On The World Christian Movement: Reader, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 676.

[3] Rebecca Lewis, Perspectives On The World Christian Movement: Reader, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 674.

[4] Phil Parshall, Perspectives On The World Christian Movement: Reader, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 663.

[5] Donald A. McGavran, Perspectives On The World Christian Movement: Reader, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 629.

[6] Andrew Jones, Perspectives On The World Christian Movement: Reader, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 650.

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