BEING THE CHURCH IN THIS CULTURE

BEING THE CHURCH IN THIS CULTURE keller

It has been on my mind for some time now, to try and advertise some great places on the net, places where you can find answers to questions that you may have been asked or indeed may have been troubling you. You may have dearly wished that you could answer these difficult question in a way that is strait forward but at the same time hold true to the teaching of the Bible. I love listening to Dr Keller his humble yet authoritative attitude coupled with very insightful teaching easily wins people over to his side. You will want to be his friend regardless of whether or not you agree with him.

Here is another great resource that is free and of a very high standard. Whilst I can’t say that I agree with everything in Tim Keller’s theology I can however appreciate his great ability to engage audience and deliver fantastic message.

Kind regards

Defend the Word

BEING THE CHURCH IN OUR CULTURE

Tim Keller

Reform & Resurge Conference 2006

Introduction

The relationship of Christians to culture is the current crisis point for the church. Evangelicals are deeply divided over how to relate to a social order growing increasingly post-Christian. 1) Some advise re-emphasis on tradition and on ‘letting the church be the church,’ rejecting any direct attempt to influence society as a whole. 2)Others are hostile to the culture but hopeful that they can change it through aggressive action, in large part political. 3)Still others believe ‘you change culture one heart at a time.’ They see culture as basically neutral and look mainly for ways to bring more individuals to personal faith. 4)Finally, many are attracted to the new culture and want to re-engineer the church to modify its adversarial relationship with it. Many in the ‘one heart at a time’ party play down doctrine and stress experience, while some in re-engineering group are changing many distinctives of evangelical doctrine the name of cultural engagement. That is fueling much theological controversy, but even people holding the very same doctrine are fighting over what to do with our doctrine to reach our culture. None of the strategies just listed should be abandoned. We need Christian tradition, Christians in politics, and effective evangelism. And the church has always ‘contextualized’ itself to a great degree into its surrounding culture. There are harmful excesses in every approach, however. I think that is because many have turned their specialty into a single ‘magic bullet’ that will solve the whole problem. But I doubt that exists. But just bundling them all together is not the sufficient. Here is an approach for relating Christians and culture:

Every generation of Christians gone to the book of Acts to learn ministry practice. But we have now a double reason to do so. Our age is more like the 1st century world than has been any other era since that time. Therefore, the book of Acts is more directly and simply applicable than at any time in the last 2,000 years. I would like to isolate several features of mission strategy in the book of Acts that are crucial in our own world and time.

1. MORE CHRISTIANS LIVING LONG-TERM IN CITIES.

ACTS 8: 4-8 Text: So let’s ask Acts 8:4-8 the question—how do we reach our world for Christ? The answer is: a) go to the city, b) communicate the gospel, c) for the joy of the city. From vv.1-4 we learn that after the stoning of Stephen the Christians church in Jerusalem was persecuted. Most of the believers dispersed for their own safety. 1) One of the church’s leaders, Philip “went down to the city of Samaria” (v.5.) If this was the only place in Acts where we saw a Christian missionary go to a city, we could hardly draw any conclusions from this for our own strategy. But as been pointed out constantly (by scholars as diverse as Wayne Meeks in The First Urban Christians to John Stott in his The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church, and the World) the missionary pattern of the first Christians was almost completely urban-centric. As we will notice tomorrow, in Acts 16 we see Paul called to reach the region of Macedonia. He responds to the challenge by going to the largest city region (16:16), planting a church, and then leaving the whole area. The apostle consistently targeted the largest city of a region and did extensive urban church planting and then left for other places. 2) v.4 tells us that the Christians went out preaching the Word v4. That could be read as simply ‘teaching the Bible,’ but v5 puts a finer point on it. We are told Philip- preached Christ. It is crucial to remember that when the early church leaders preached and expounded the Word, it was always the Old Testament. And yet, they showed that the point of every passage was Jesus. This is so much so that to ‘preach the Word’ (v4) and to ‘preach Christ’ (v5) was the same thing! In other words, the first Christian missionaries never simply exhorted people to live according to Biblical, moral precepts. They invited them to be changed from the inside out through faith in Christ. The gospel is not the same thing as religion. 3) v.6-8 tells us that along with the preaching of the gospel, Philip also brought spiritual/emotional healing (‘evil spirits came out of many’) and material/physical healing (‘many paralytics and cripples were healed.’) In other words, ministry was in both word and deed. When that happens, the whole city rejoices. Notice it doesn’t say there was just joy ‘in the converts.’ The whole city benefited by the ministry of the gospel. This is exactly what God told the Jewish exiles in Babylon to do—to “seek the shalom (the full-flourishing) of the whole city” (Jeremiah 29:7) and not just of their people. 2

The First Global Cities. The triumph of Rome’s power created the Pax Romana and an unprecedented mobility of people, capital, and ideas. As Wayne Meeks put it–travel during the Pax Romana was easier than it ever had been and ever was again until the 19th century. The works of Wayne Meeks and Rodney Stark have shown that the rise of early Christianity was largely an urban phenomenon. Globalized cities became furiously multi-ethnic and international and thus became more enormously influential and central then their nations–essentially they were city states. Antioch, for example, was really a United Nations, with Asian, African, Jewish, Greek, and Roman section. From Antioch there were powerful networks that led back into three continents. Capital and culture flowed back and forth through those networks.

What happened when Christians went there. And thus Paul’s mission strategy (and that of the early church) was remarkably ‘urban-centered’. They virtually ignored the countryside. Why?

• Personal openness. In the village people live in very stable environments. Thus they are suspicious of any major change. Because of the diversity and intensity of the cities, urbanites are much more open to radically new ideas–like the gospel!

• Cultural centrality. In the village, you might win the one or two lawyers to Christ, but if you wanted to win the legal profession, you need to go to the city where you have the law schools, the law journals published, etc. Cities continue to be the main place that the culture develops. As the city goes, so the arts, scholarship, communication, philosophy, commerce, etc. goes. People who don’t live in a city are at a disadvantage. They are marginal to the centers, the places of “cultural forging.”

• Global connection. In the village, you can win only the single people group that is there, but if you want to spread the gospel into 10-20 new national groups/and languages at once, go to the city where they can all be reached through the one lingua franca of the place.

By 300 AD 50% of the urban populations of the Roman empire were Christian, while over 90% of the countryside was still pagan. In fact, our word ‘pagan’ probably comes from the Greek word paganus that meant ‘rural person.’ But when the cities went Christian the society and culture went Christian despite the face that so much of the countries were pagan. Since cities are the “culture forming wombs” of the society, whatever captures the cultural centers captures society. As the city goes, so goes the culture. Cultural trends tend to be generated in the city and flow outward into the rest of society. Note: This was also true for the first millennium A.D. in Europe—the cities were Christian, but the broad population across the countryside was pagan. (Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion) But when the cities are Christian, even if the majority of the population is pagan, the society is headed on a Christian trajectory.

Today in the U.S. we have the reverse—the cities are pagan and much of the country is Christian, but until Christians live and work in the cities at least in the same proportions that they occupy in the rest of the country, the society will continue its current drift.

Therefore, people who live in the large urban cultural centers, occupying the jobs in the arts, business, academia, publishing, the helping professions, and the media tend to have a disproportionate impact on how things are done in a culture. Having lived and ministered in New York City for 17 years, I am continually astonished at how often the people I live with and know affect what everyone else in the country is seeing on the screen, in print, in art, in business. I am not here talking so much about the ‘elite-elite’—the rich and famous–but the ‘grassroot-elites.’ It is not so much the top executives that make MTV what it is, but the scores of young, hip creatives just out of college that take the jobs at all levels of the organization. The people groups that live in the center cities in the greatest numbers tend to see their ‘values’ expressed in the culture.

To read to the end of this article go here:

http://www.journeyon.net/media/being-the-church-in-our-culture.pdf

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2 Responses to BEING THE CHURCH IN THIS CULTURE

  1. The older I get being falsely persecuted in the House of God, evangelical churches firstly now, seems to be a norm for me rather than an exception..
    http://postedat.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/get-real-now/
    http://postedat.wordpress.com/2008/09/19/dispensationalists-it-seems-to-compensate-for-their-often-rejections/

  2. KPLI says:

    Brilliant post there..i really like the way you elaborate this thing with simplicity and hey, i would like to write about this kinda of thing too after reading yours…good job there

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