the baby and the bathwater

The Meaning
April 22, 2009, 8:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, if culture has changed since our grandparents or parents generation, what are the biggest cultural changes that are happening around us at the moment?  What is the culture that we need to be relevant to?

Well firstly, at least in the west, we are largely living in a post-Christian society. We are, as many people have put it before, aliens in a foreign land. At one time this was a Christian land, where the language of the Bible was common place. It’s not any more. We can’t assume that people know what the 10 commandments are any more. And we can’t assume that people have heard of the sermon on the mount (except maybe because they watched the Vicar of Dibley). People probably don’t understand what it means to be ‘born again’ (they are probably more likely to think it has something to do with stem cell research). They don’t understand what it means to have ‘a ministry’ (they are more likely to think it is something to do with Government).

And whilst we’re on that – just think about it. Can you imagine a youth pastor going into a school and saying to the young people that he is there because he ‘has a ministry to youth’. They would  be laughed out of the school gates. The word ‘ministry’ is such a condescending, irrelevant word for those outside the church. Please stop using it.

Secondly, we are in a culture that looks for meaning more than information. People are unimpressed when we quote bits of the Bible to them but they may be impressed when we stop and talk to a beggar on the street. They are unimpressed when we spout our creeds, but are likely to take notice when we perform our deeds. We can see this emphasis on meaning rather than information in the very fact that branding is such a big part of our culture. People relate to brands – the story around a product – more than anything else – especially more than the facts about the product. Take Nike for example. My daughters would love to wear Nike things, but would not be seen dead in M&S. If I had a discussion with them about the standards of manufacture for each, they would not care two hoots. It would have to be Nike, because it means something different, they believe the story of Nike, and it is far more powerful to them than M&S. Facts just don’t come into it.

I may not like it. My wallet certainly doesn’t like it. But it is a part of life now. Meaning is more important to them than information.

When Paul went on his missionary journeys, have you noticed that he started by going to villages and towns and teaching in the synagogs? He didn’t go into the towns and set up a big tent and try and attract people. He just went to where they were and started there (read Acts 17 for example). He engaged with people where they were. Eventually, they moved on and set up churches. But that came later. He never compromised the truth, never lessened the blow. But he did start where the people were. And in our day, in our time, people live in a Post-Christian culture where they don’t understand our Christian jargon, where they are unimpressed by our creeds and are looking, above all, for meaning.

Wake up church, and take note.


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