After looking for the last few weeks about who God created us to be and what he put us here to do, it’s appropriate to pause and think through the question:  How do we attempt to do what we were called to do in a sin-sick world?   The question is really one of understanding culture and how to go about change in a culture steeped in sin.  To think through this, it helps to remember Colossians 1: 15-20.  In this passage, Paul takes us back to creation and reminds us that Jesus was there.  Everything was made through him and for him.  And then he unveils the powerful truth that the One who designed us has redeemed us and is reconciling ALL THINGS to himself!

Jesus will come again and set up his kingdom in full.  Until that day, we are called to be a part of that work of seeing ALL THINGS reconciled to Him!  This means understanding and engaging culture.  What follows are a few notes from a class I took from Greg Thompson at CTS on Christ and Culture.  You can listen to an explanation of these points at:

Why do we care about culture?

–          The fact of culture is the fruit of creation- had there been no sin there would have still been culture. Culture is not bad in and of itself. It is the “stuff” of creation.

–          The corruption of culture is the fruit of sin- what we care for has been corrupted by what we hate- sin.

–          The stewardship of culture is the responsibility of human vocation-  we have been given stewardship of creation as one of our primary callings. We will help or hurt the world with our actions.

–          In the midst of cultures the context of personhood- you are going to come of age as a Christian in the midst of a cultural reality. You will be a product of the culture you grow up in…and that is OK.  God is bigger than our culture and can handle this fact.

–          The renewal of culture is the trajectory of divine action- the renewal of culture is where things are headed.  Grace repairs nature and is opposed to sin.

We care about culture because God does.

What do we mean by culture?

–          Culture is inescapable– it does affect us and we are an active part of it. We cannot remove ourselves from it.

–          Culture is historically mediated– It is handed down by a natural movement of history.

–          Culture is complex– it is a network of ideas (how we think and believe), actions (what we do, what are our habits), and institutions (the structures and avenues). All of these things are not bad unless they are taken by themselves.

–          Culture is dynamic– Ideas, institutions, and actions are always influencing each other.

–          Culture is normative– It provides structures of Plausibility (what is possible), and structures of obligation (what we ought to do).

Culture is an inescapable, historically mediated, complex and dynamic network of mutually informing and reinforcing ideas, institutions, and actions that provide normative structures of plausibility and obligation for its inhabitants.

For us to think about making an effective change in our culture seems overwhelming.  How can I ever make a difference?

What do people do to engage culture?

–          Avertive response– I will fortify against the culture. It comes out in the way we handle culture- condemn culture or we can critique it. However, that won’t bring about change.

–          Acquiescent responses– I can’t beat it to so I will join it- consume culture…or make a Christian version of it – copy culture.

–          Formative response– Most Biblical- We were made to create and cultivate because we were made in the image of God.  However, we do need to be careful not to be prideful.

  • Cruciform version of the formative response is “hopeful realism”- seeing change in culture for what it is- complex…but realizing that God is doing it– Christ is reconciling everything to himself.  God says something can be done to affect and effect positive change.

What are some practical things that we can be about?

–          Cultivate the whole gospel– hear clearly what sin is and its effects but also hear redemption.

–          Cultivate cultural understanding

–          Cultivating a counter culture– this doesn’t mean creating a “sub” culture separate from the world.  It means that we as a church need to tell the story of scriptures. The church has lost its excitement to tell the Christian story as real and true.

–          Cultivate a counter culture in the world– actively and strategically being involved in PTA, community, government, business, every level of community functioning.

–          Cultures change when grassroots elites (read influencers) and networks partner together to create and cultivate new vision for the good, new institutions for the good, and new habits for the good.  This is not an individual effort.

I learned a long time ago…there is a direct correspondence between time and effectiveness when it comes to change.  Any long-term effective change will take time, tears, and tenacity!   Let’s work together to see change come- It may be hard and take much more than we imagine, but it’s what God is up to!