Throughout the years culture has continued to be a dilemma for many Christians. As people we have a tendency to be skeptical, fearful, antagonistic, and even attack that which we don’t understand. Throw religion into the mix and we can turn into crusaders. Ironic isn’t it?
Is culture bad? Should we separate ourselves from the world and build our own culture? Should we embrace the culture and simply change with the times? What about fighting, campaigning, and politicking for change? Or should we just ignore culture all together? Fortunately, in Acts 17 the Apostle Paul gives us a great example of 4 steps we should take to interact with the culture around us.
1. Take time to understand the culture
“…for as I was walking along I saw your many altars…” Acts 17:23
Don’t assume and attack what you don’t understand. You don’t like it when it happens to you and guess what, no one else does either. If you can’t talk intelligently about it…then don’t talk about it. Better yet, express genuine interest and curiosity. Most people are happy to speak to others who express legitimate and respectful interest in them and their culture.
2. Be positive, not negative about the culture
“So Paul, standing before the Council, addressed them as follows: ‘Men of Athens, I noticed that you are very religious…’” Acts 17:22
People feel like you’re rejecting and criticizing them when you reject and criticize their culture. Don’t do it! Sounds simple enough.
3. Use the culture to connect with your audience
“His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – through he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As one of your own poets says, ‘We are his offspring.’” Acts 17:27-28
If you want to be heard and understood, then you have to learn to speak the language of the culture. Your presentation needs to be wrapped in the cultural context your audience is living in or it will never be received.
4. Relationally speak truth into the culture
“For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31
Jesus broke through time and space, wrapped infinity in time, and put on flesh to speak in a manner that He would be culturally heard and understood. And He did it in the context of relationship, not from a distance. Scripture teaches that He truly understands the human condition because He made Himself fully human while retaining His Divine Personhood, all the while sinless. All so we could understand Him and perhaps He us. Make no mistake though there was a message, but it was for the sake of relationship.
Unfortunately many Christians have not handled engaging culture very well. As a result they’ve made it harder on the rest of us and reinforced a false stereotype in the minds of many who are outside of the faith about what Christians are like. Do me a favor. If you’re not going to follow this scriptural model for engaging culture then please don’t tell people you’re a Christian and make it harder on me.
Posted in Leadership