December 2, 2004

Church & Culture

Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

Christianity is a distinct culture with its own vocabulary, grammar, and practices. Too often, when we try to speak to our culture, we merely adopt the culture of the moment rather than present the gospel to the culture.

Our time as preachers is better spent inculturating modern, late-twentieth-century Americans into that culture called church. When I walk into a class on introductory physics, I expect not to understand immediately most of the vocabulary, terminology, and concepts. Why should it be any different for modern Americans walking into a church?

This is why the concept of “user-friendly churches” often leads to churches getting used. There is no way I can crank the gospel down to the level where any American can walk in off the street and know what it is all about within 15 minutes. One can’t do that even with baseball!

The other day, someone emerged from Duke Chapel after my sermon and said, “I have never heard anything like that before. Where on earth did you get that?”

I replied, “Where on earth would you have heard this before? After all, this is a pagan, uninformed university environment. Where would you hear this? In the philosophy department? Watching Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood? No, to hear this, you’ve got to get dressed and come down here on a Sunday morning.”

It is a strange assumption for Americans to feel they already have the equipment necessary to comprehend the gospel without any modification of lifestyle, without any struggle — in short, without being born again.

The point is not to speak to the culture. The point is to change it. God’s appointed means of producing change is called “church”; and God’s typical way of producing church is called “preaching” — William Willimon, “This Culture Is Overrated,” Christianity Today 41.6 (May 19, 1997): 27, originally published in Leadership.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:11 pm | Discuss (0)

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