Friday, November 7, 2008

How Should a Church Respond to Culture?

This is a debate that affects a lot of churches. There are two extreme positions on this question – imitation and isolation.

Those in the “imitation” camp believe that the church must become just like our culture in order to effectively minister to it. Churches in this group sacrifice the Biblical message and the mission of the church in order to blend in with society’s culture. They get caught up in fads and fashion. In an effort to relate to today’s culture they compromise the message and lose all sense of being separate. They are likely to endorse worldly values such as wealth, materialism, radical feminism, relaxed sexual standards, and even homosexuality. They might also sacrifice sound theology, doctrinal distinctives, and especially the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At the other extreme is the “isolation” camp. This group retreats into isolation from today’s culture. While most do not go back as far as the Amish have, many churches seem to think that the 1950s was the golden era, and are determined to preserves that era in their church. This group insists that we must avoid any adaptation to culture in order to preserve the purity of the church. They fail to see the distinction between the sinful values of society and the non-sinful customs and styles of culture. They reject new translations of the Bible, current musical styles, and any attempt to modify their man-made traditions. Isolationists often have a dress code, and a list of what is permissible and what isn’t regarding issues that the Bible is silent on. They will erect theological walls to defend their personal preferences.

Our approach at PCC is infiltration. We go "into" the world, but we are not "of" the world. We are serious about doing ministry, not just theorizing about it. Therefore, we are willing to live with the tension of an “ambidextrous calling” (i.e., both left & right handed). On one hand we have to remain faithful to God’s unchanging Word. On the other hand we must minister that Word in an ever-changing world.

There is a way to minister in our culture without compromising God’s Word. The solution is to simply follow the example of Jesus Christ. He never lowered the standards, but He always started with people where they were. He was contemporary without compromising the truth.