I am not necessarily advocating the work of Geert Hofsteed, but I find his attempt at defining a concept as difficult as the abstraction behind the word “culture” is more than adequate: “[Culture] is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.” So the question is, what is the dominating thought and behavior that contributes to American culture and how is today’s culture influencing the church at large? I thought I would take a different approach in answering this question other than simply reviewing the basic parts said to define culture. I decided to let actual people regurgitate today’s consensus, after all it is collective thoughts (conceived and suggested) that give birth to the kind action that influences culture. Below are ways popular culture has affected compromise in the church:
Open-minded and accepting
Ministry leaders shouldn’t settle for the common denominator among philosophies and world religions, the driving force should be knowing the truth of who God is and holding to that truth even if it results in division. Open-mindedness insinuates not knowing, and while there is a great deal of things we don’t or can’t know this side of heaven, the things that are clearly revealed as truth should close the door to all other possibilities. God has revealed through His word and through creation itself, important truths that render us without excuse.
Cynical of the truth
Judgment begins in the house of the Lord, so it shouldn’t surprise us when God exposes many church leaders, revealing hidden sin and hypocrisy. This can result in widespread cynicism within and without the church. If you confront the skeptic or the scoffer you may find their cynicism comes from being offended by another man’s failing and has very little to do with realizing their own responsibility to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God. Encourage confidence in God alone.
Excessive personal liberty
If we were as committed to loving God with all of our being and to regarding others as more important than ourselves, this subject wouldn’t bring up so much debate. Yes, we are free – we were prisoners to sin, some were in bondage to the law, but we are now set free. But as the apostle Paul reminds us, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13). Our culture says to look out for self first; when the church follows suit it creates a lawless and selfish community of people.
Freedom of choice
This follows along the lines of the previous category but is deserving of its own. Concerning the issue of free choice in abortion, I am not sure how it crept into the church –or how it crept into a “civilized” nation for that matter. Proverbs 6:16-19 lays out seven things that God hates, one of them is shedding innocent blood. Over 57 million tender little lives have been cut short since 1973. As the church why aren’t we more heart broken over these statistics? What are we doing to reveal the insidious nature behind this supposed free choice and making more effort to love, encourage and support precious women in our church and community who are wrestling in hurt, pain and confusion?
There is a general malaise regarding God’s word because so many are fat and happy on “processed substitutes”, or suffer from malnourishment so severe that they fail to realize starvation has set in, or they have simply given up on life. Many no longer care for the nourishment that truly satisfies. Whatever the reason, a vast number of people are on the destructive cycle of spiritual eating disorders that only God’s word can heal. Encourage a church culture that is committed to the fundamental truths of God’s Word.
Death is a taboo topic
In order to avoid controversy some of the more important topics, are avoided altogether. It seems today the outlet for this form of repression is vampires, walking dead zombies, and gross obsession with age-defying products and techniques. Solomon said “it is better to go to a funeral…” We are more apt to think about our eternal, spiritual lives after a funeral than after a party. We all have an appointment with death, after that we will stand before God in judgment. I am all for parties, but let’s put more importance on the topics that carry the weight of eternal significance.
A consumer looks to acquire goods or services for his or her own personal needs; it is not much of a stretch to see that mentality acutely defined in many of today’s churches. The hedonistic practice of pursuing pleasure and self-gratification comes in many forms so that even acts of benevolence can be tainted with ulterior motives. Obedience to God and his word is a sure way to clear out misconceptions so that a self-serving church can be transformed to body of believers in it for the glory of God and the furtherance of His kingdom.
Resurgence of New Age doctrine
Because of apathy and peer pressure, many churches have glided so far from the biblical truth and sound doctrine that their message is vague, misleading and in complete error. The spiritual trend toward eastern mysticism, humanism, and the seductive promise to uncover hidden knowledge and gain supernatural power is an easy pill to swallow for such congregations.
Watch your step
Most people are not even aware of suggestive influences that rule their mindset. Very few can actually trace their ideology back to anything in particular, but it’s there, a root that forms the general consensus of thought and action; all of it powerfully contributing to culture and repeating itself throughout history. Don’t let culture rule the day, look into the mirror of scripture to protect against any cultivation of the soul when it is opposed to God.
Kristi Winkler is a contributing writer for Sharefaith, a veteran eLearning developer, writer/editor, and business software analyst. Her writing gives a voice to the ministry experts she consults with and interviews.