August / September 2015 - Vol. 81
The definition of enculturation has some variations over academic disciplines, but for this discussion I mean: absorbing or acquiring the values and behaviors of the culture that we live in. All of us do this somewhat, but there is a degree to which we are changed; where our decisions, our recreation and even our schedules are more determined by the world around us than by the Christian life we have chosen. I think the key factor is that we absorb or acquire the world’s values which are frequently opposed to the values of the Kingdom of God.
When worldly success is more important than the Christian life, we’ve got a problem. When education is more important than Christian mission, we’ve got a problem. When Christian parents will not raise the values of the Kingdom of God far above the values of the world, we’ve really got a problem. Now, I’m not against worldly success, good jobs, and good education, but the eternal values and consequences of the Kingdom of God far surpass most earthly activities and pursuits in importance. Much of Christianity is involved in living out this reality!
Several years back I put together a hard-bound picture-book of my engineering career: projects, designs, inventions, etc. It was purposely designed to get my grandchildren to say, “Oh, look what Pappy did!” as they turned the pages. And then at the end I let them know that it doesn’t begin to compare to how I value my work battling for souls. I would lay down my entire professional career to help a person to give his life to Christ. I hoped that my grandchildren could begin to see that eternal consequences and salvation far outweigh earthly accomplishments; and while we’re working on education and careers, we should also be firmly invested in the Kingdom of God. A man who is a friend of Jesus, counted as his disciple...what can be smarter than that? Who can be more successful than that?
When we warn against becoming a “worldly” people, most people envision a hedonistic “party animal” when desires are out of control. We might have a spring-break image in our minds. These courses are usually presented to newer Christians so we might think that more mature Christians are less susceptible to becoming worldly. That might very well be a deadly error. In fact, it’s many of the good things of the world that can lead to faulty personal discipleship or faulty parenting. Sports are good, an active life is good, a well-paying job is good, education is good, success is good. But when any of these things take on more importance than our Christian calling we have become an enculturated person. We tend to think that most of our desires are godly; and some of them are. But, when my plans become more important than God’s we have a colossal error.
Most of us have heard the frog in the pot of water on a stove does not notice that the temperature of the water is rising until it is too late and he is unable to jump to freedom. Some of these earthly values are that way. The desire for success slowly becomes more and more important to us until we seem unable to escape and now it controls us: our decisions, our relationships, and all of our energies.
Some things in the world are good and worth absorbing. All are worthy of caution and many are capable of destroying our lives.
In the early years of our network of communities, a common pattern for developing a talk would be to identify some aspect(s) of the world or culture, apply some scriptures that address these aspects, followed by practical advice. We have become more multi-faceted in our approaches to outlines, but this article is following that common template.
Common, Repeatable Cycle
Old Testament Scriptures
We are ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador brings his culture to a foreign land. His embassy is a microcosm of the nation he represents. He (or she) is not there to absorb the culture around him but to represent his homeland and its government. The values, culture, and lifestyle of his home nation is represented to the foreign land. He has no lasting home there and he knows it. He is on assignment.
“Come out from among them,” seems harsh. “Be separate from them,” seems elitist. But these statements are true; they are the end game...the way things will end up at the end of the day. The promise is even greater, “...then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Our treasure and our heart... is success more important than the kingdom of God? Is our children’s success more important than the kingdom of God? Have we let them know that Jesus and his kingdom is more important than success and education? In the world, education and money are thought to be the solution to just about everything. If there’s a problem “throw money at it.” Or maybe a course will solve it. Yet we know the solution: Christ-centered living is in fact the solution to just about everything.
Evangelism and discipleship can bring such life if we just made it our “go to” contribution to society’s needs. My wife, Bobbie, just survived a bout of heart failure, and while discussing the great benefits she had received from the medical treatment, she said, “And my recovery was due in no small part to the many people around the world who were praying for me.” (She has a lot of friends!) The doctor questioned, “Do you believe that?” We both said, “Yes!” He said, “Good! I believe that too!” It seemed good that the Lord and the body of Christ got some of the credit since the battle for her life had been fought spiritually as well as physically and medically. It was a good example of the best of our culture and the best of the Kingdom cooperating to save a life. (Actually, the best of medicine is from the Lord. I doubt that the devil is teaching anyone to save lives.)
“A city set on a hill...” “a lamp on a stand...” they are both distinct; they both stand out. Communities of Christians living a Christian way of life are like snapshots of the kingdom of God, and our families are like “wallet-size” pictures of a better way. We should not try to blend in as much as we try to show forth the life of God. That brings hope; that brings conversion.
Ancient Pattern and Daily Life
One of the main effects of the pattern of Christian community life is when our parents model their goals and expectations for their children in the same fashion as the world. Important decisions like the choice of college or courtship approaches can undo years of strong parenting.
How Are We Doing? Are We Immune from This Ancient
In trying to personally assess our own enculturation, we could ask the question, “Am I still other-centered and willing to serve?” If we are willing to serve and can place other’s needs before our own, that’s a good sign. Another revealing question is, “Is ushering in the Kingdom of God a driving force in my life?” Or is it a side interest?
A Few Practical Steps in Response to Enculturation
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