As followers of Christ, we won’t always fit into the world in which we live. In fact, we’ll often
find ourselves going against the flow of popular culture in certain areas of life. It’s necessary for us to have a solid biblical foundation on which to stand in the midst of a rapidly shifting cultural landscape. In that very shiftiness, we need to know how the eternal Word of God shapes our understanding of current issues and how we can share the gospel compassionately and courageously with the people
We can have several responses to the changing culture. We can conform. We start compromising what we believe and the way we act in order to appeal to the surrounding culture. However, we have to realize that our goal isn’t to make following Jesus easier. The message of the gospel is countercultural and many times offensive to the human heart.
The opposite extreme is to secede from culture or check out — distancing ourselves so completely that we never have any interaction with the world around us. We can also take the combative approach by being antagonistic and defensive. This response sees culture as an enemy to be defeated instead of people to be saved. Our goal is to show Christ to be true and worthy. Driving people away from the church is just as wrong as running away from our culture.
The approach we should have is to engage the culture with conviction and compassion. We stand firmly on the truth of God, empowered by the Spirit, to extend the love of Christ to the world. Our desire isn’t to conquer but to redeem. It matters what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Engaging our culture is literally a matter of life or death, for both the unchurched and the church itself. A wrong response to culture is both unhealthy and ungodly.
So let’s learn both how to evaluate the culture and various means of practically engaging our culture. How do we reach millennials for Jesus? How can we reach people who are different than we are? Why does it matter what we do in the church? Are our current ways of reaching the unchurched and, for that matter, the churched effective or just “the way we’ve always done it”?
In the Cultural Engagement focus group, we’ll hear from church leaders who have used various methods and
are thriving in ministry because of their abilities to engage their culture in their context and setting. That’s the power of God at work when we fulfill His calling to “go into all the world.”
Raisa Fabre is the founder and senior pastor of GracePoint Church near Lowell, Massachusetts; the metro Boston area regional superintendent of the Acts 12:24 Free Methodist Churches; and the leader of the Cultural Engagement focus group at General Conference 2019 (gc19.org).1