Here is a post I just wrote for that blog.
Mark writes in the previous post about the quest for the radical middle - being radical because of what God has done in us - and has jotted down a few areas for being radical and standing apart. I'm going to throw one more idea in the ring - and that idea deals with culture.
Of course, the term 'culture' can be a huge and massive concept. Specifically, I think we need to think about the idea of engagement with the culture that we live in. As the Mosaic crew likes to say, "Relevance to the culture is not optional."
Foreign missions work has known for a long time that to impact a community, one must contextualize into the community. This entails studying the local culture, learning the language, experimenting with food. It also means understanding subtleties of religious background and beliefs, worldviews and superstitions. Cross cultural workers study local legends, myths and belief systems.
We need to understand that contextualization is not just a requirement for cross cultural ministry. Rather this idea of contextualization should be standard for all of us as Jesus followers. After all, Jesus embraced his context. And when we look at through the stunning stories of Scripture with the lens of culture, we find that they are pretty serious about engaging with the worldview of the people they are relating to. Paul preaching in Athens, Daniel serving in Nebuchadnezzar's court, and Esther relating to the king - they all were students of their context and culture.
Here are a few ideas:
- Be students of the culture. Donald Larson, in one of the papers for the Perspectives course, categorizes three postures for being students of a different culture - Learner, Trader, and Storyteller.
- Consistently watch some movies. Movies have a huge role in our culture today, film is the dominant medium for story telling. We could learn a lot about how to tell a really good story just by watching some movies and good films give us some great opportunities to dialogue about the human condition.
- Listen to some music that you don't like. We are all aware of the phenomenon where rap music that started in the inner city has permeated all youth subcultures, including rural America.
Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC, has more ideas along these lines in a post entitled Cultural Exegesis, especially along the lines of music and film and the dominant roles those cultural elements play in our culture today.
"We've had more than one noted evangelical leader tell us, 'You can examine culture and understand contemporary trends if you like. As for me I'll just preach the Bible.' In many cases where we ignore principles of contextualization our preaching of the bible may well have as much impact as preaching in Swahili to English speakers."- The Shaping of Things to Come