The Gospel & Culture

“…there are features of every culture which are not incompatible with the lordship of Christ, and which therefore need not be threatened or discarded but rather preserved and transformed. Messenger of the gospel need to develop  deep understanding of the local culture, and a genuine appreciation of it. Only then will they be able to perceive whether the resistance is to some unavoidable challenge of Jesus Christ or to some threat to the culture which, whether imaginary or real, is not necessary.” – The Lausanne Committe, The Willowbank Report

If you read my blog regularly, or talk to me about missions work and the apologetic behind it, you know that I often talk about it’s relationship with cultures. Specifically, I think it’s amazingly important to recognize two facts (that are hinted in the previous quote) regarding the Gospel’s interaction with any culture. The Gospel (not necessarily the people bringing the message, but the Gospel itself) will do two things:

  1. Affirm some things in that culture.
  2. Oppose and condemn other things in that culture.

The Gospel is a respecter of cultures, but not blindly. The Gospel may affirm our American ideal of charity, openness and honesty, but it opposes our desire for comfort, utter safety and self-sufficiency. Much ink has been spilled and electrons inconvenienced on the topic of missionaries historic insensitivity, utter disdain for and destruction of cultures – particularly those of peoples who were lower on whatever socio-political structure the current empire was enforcing; but they were overwhelmingly wrong and destroyed and distorted cultures that many would say echoed the creativity of their mutual Creator.

Fermenting on Advance09

I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week in the Durham, NC area at the Advance09 conference. It was a conference about the resurgance of the local church. I’m not talking about a political power and I’m not talking about something that involves violent war metaphors, protests and bait-and-switch events. In the past decades the Church has failed to take it’s role and responsibility seriously and has largely lost its direction.

The conference included some of the most powerful and cogent pastors and teachers who are bringing the message of Jesus into some significant and historically dificult places. Some of this difficulty comes both apathetic arrogance and from innoculated ignorance, both of which are our own fault. In the north and the west we’ve failed to engage the cultural conversation with anything significant to say and in the south we’ve assumed that everyone should know better and have engaged using blunt arguments that don’t address people’s hearts or minds.

I’ve been thinking and dwelling on some of the messages that I heard and I’m hoping to post a series of reactions to the conference and its implications.