“What would happen if everyone in the church was focused on loving everyone else?”
Think about this—a man is in his car driving around. He turns the radio on and their favorite station is blaring. A song comes on that he really enjoys, and he is singing it at the top of his lungs. Perhaps it is his favorite country giddy-up. Maybe it is a heavy rock anthem and he is nodding his head to the beat. The words of the song are etched into his mind and he knows every refrain and guitar lick. The beat drops and shivers are sent down his spine.
The feeling I am talking about is likely familiar to many of us. Now imagine if he is in the zone with his music and his friend gets in their car and turns the tuner knob. Now someone else is playing music that is not HIS music—annoying!
As a musician/songwriter creates a piece of music, he or she is informed by one main force: life. “Life” includes our childhood home, our parents who raised us, our societal status, surrounding culture, and much more. No song is made without life. And life is informed by the people, activities, beliefs, and relationships within it. Another word for this is culture. Culture is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” Culture is also defined as “the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.” Given these definitions, it makes plenty of sense when I say that music is informed by the culture around us. In fact, EVERYTHING we do or say is informed by the culture in which we grow up and/or live.
What does this have to do with the church?
Take a moment to read Acts 2:1-13.
God is in the business of assimilation. In other words, God is in the business of Christians understanding one another. In this passage, we see God perform a miracle. People from “every nation under the heavens” were present in Jerusalem and were hearing God’s truth spoken in their own language, even though the ones gathered together were Galileans! God didn’t simply expect the people in the surrounding city to learn another language in order to hear His truth. No! He made it possible for them to still hold on to their culture so that He could transform them and reveal his truth through the Holy Spirit.
We live in a country that is considered “the melting pot of the world.” While it is great that we have so many cultures, it often creates more division than unity. The church is no exception. In Grant County where Lakeview Wesleyan Church is located, the culture is fairly diverse, even amongst differing age groups and social classes. People of different generations often differ in values and thoughts. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a part of God’s design, that we would all be unique and work together as the Body of Christ. Problems arise when a church holds fast to her values, behaviors, perceptions too tightly and puts up walls to keep out anything that threatens those values. The church begins to create its own culture that is separate from the surrounding community. This is what I like to call a “church bubble.”
Think of a soap bubble. Delicate in nature, it likes to be comfortable, freely floating through the air or on top of a liquid. If anything touches the bubble that isn’t also appearing to have the same nature as the bubble (for example, a soapy finger), the bubble will immediately pop. In the same way, the church that has created a bubble for itself often feels uncomfortable with those on the outside. Those on the outside could include people from another church or unchurched people. The horrible reality of this is that those on the outside are the ones we are supposed to love.
Go back to thinking about the man listening to music in his car. That song that he loves or station he constantly plays represents his culture. When his friend gets in with him, he wouldn’t ask his friend to conform to his culture would he? Instead, he would ask his friend, “What kind of music do YOU like to listen to?”
The church doesn’t need to cater to the outside world. What the church does need to do is pay attention to the surrounding community and its very unique culture. The measure by which we assimilate the culture surrounding our churches will determine the length and impact of the ministry we do and the love that we share. Assimilating the surrounding culture effectively pops the “church bubble” and leaves us more vulnerable to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Let us take a look at the attitude of our own church and our own heart, and see how we can understand and fully integrate with the surrounding culture in a biblical way. Burst the bubble!
Christian D. Kelley, Worship Intern