Elevating Culture towards Jesus
Is American culture fundamentally different from all other cultures?
What is the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word “culture”? I grew up learning that culture is trying to influence you away from God, so you need to resist it. But as I got older, I started to realize something quite interesting. The very same Christians who taught me to resist culture in America were teaching me to adapt to culture in other countries as a missionary, even adapt to cultures filled with far more evil than America.
It is as if people believe that influencing American culture for Jesus is completely different from and unrelated to influencing other cultures for Jesus. But it’s not. Foreign missionaries and American Christians could learn a lot from each other if they viewed their task of influencing culture for Jesus as having more similarities than differences.
The message of the gospel is for the good of every culture, but it also challenges every culture. It’s true in America and abroad. And navigating culture skillfully is critical to reaching people in that culture for Christ.
At times, we all navigate culture in harmful ways such as these:
#1 Fighting Culture
The culture fighter believes culture is bad, therefore we must aggressively seek to change it by force and loudness. The culture fighter notices some legitimately harmful aspects of culture, and is good at standing up for truth and resisting being polluted by the sins of the world. But the culture fighters are a lot better at offending and becoming bitter against the people around them than actually influencing them for Jesus.
#2 Copying Culture
This is the opposite extreme of fighting culture. A culture copier becomes just like the people around them. These people claim to be Christians, but their lives are completely filled with the evil in the culture around them. These people don’t influence people for Jesus either because there is no need for people to be a Christian if a Christian’s life is exactly the same as that of an unbeliever.
#3 Hiding from Culture
The hider from culture, like the culture fighter, views culture as bad. But instead of trying to change it through fighting, he or she interacts as little as possible with unbelievers. Hiders from culture do not influence culture because they are completely removed from it.
#4 Accepting Culture
Culture accepters do not copy the sin of the surrounding culture, but they communicate that sinful people do not need to change at all. They have the attitude of, “your way of life is good for you, and mine is good for me.” The culture accepter does not influence culture because his or her message is that no change is necessary.
A Better Way... Elevating Culture
Elevating culture means making it better. People who do this have a deep understanding of the culture they wish to elevate. They know how to connect with people in the culture and help them grow. They are an integral part of the culture, but they are not influenced to evil by the culture. Instead, they influence the culture towards Jesus and raise the standard of everything. They help the culture do better business, music, school, art, sports, etc. for the glory of God while also helping the culture maintain a unique identity in God’s beautiful creation.
There is a great need for Christians to elevate the culture around them, regardless of where they live. Let’s make culture better in all areas of life. Let’s influence cultures toward Jesus. The goal is that every culture would be a unique expression of God’s love, majesty, and creativity.