Monthly Archives: November 2011

Culture and Missions: Culture as “People Art”

This post is in response to a topic that was suggested to me. This suggestion was about  cultural influences and their effect on the church and missions. The idea of culture and missions is a vital discussion in both how we view and approach the world. Please feel free to post your thoughts or questions!

The concept of Culture has been horribly disfigured by the Church. You often hear of Christians “battling” against the World and see them huddling inside their churches in order to protect themselves from this sin that is “out there”. But rather than reversing the effects of sin in the world, a wall has been built between the believer and non-believer and between the “sacred” and “secular”. We have elevated our ethno-centristic love for American ways of life to a level of Biblical authority and degrade the traditions and histories of other people groups. We have also divided these cultural norms within the “American Judeo-Christian” way of life. We have created an enemy that is flesh and blood when Scripture tells us that our enemy is principalities of darkness. Our battle is not against people, or culture, or music, or movies, or native languages; our battle is against the Evil One, Satan. The only way to counter evil is not to avoid it, but to show the transforming and redeeming power of our Savior and the ultimate Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. That means that culture should not be rejected and labeled as “evil”.  We call “things” evil when we fail to recognize that sin is in the hearts of all people and not in the things of the world. A professor of mine once told me that “Christians are too often known for pulling weeds instead of planting flowers.” We are known for what we are against, and much less so for what we are for. As Christians we are for Christ and against Satan, the great deceiver and liar who only seeks to destroy. The reason we cannot reject Culture is because the rejection of Culture is the rejection people: Culture is “People Art”.

I know that calling Culture “People Art” sounds strange, but I think its the best way to portray its importance. God, the initial creator of all things, called all that he had created “good”. He then created man and called us “very good”. From that point forward we were called to be creators of good things which show the glory of God to the World. That means the things all cultures create from music, to art, to movies, to traditions are not inherently evil. As Christians these things  should be done with excellence, but sadly this is not the case. Culture is the accumulation of the things that people create, and these people are all images bearers of their Creator. Therefore, just as oil is the medium for an oil painting, and film is the medium for movies, so too are people the medium for Culture. Thus, Culture is “People Art”. Now, because we are sinners, the things of this world can be used in evil ways. However, we must make a distinction between something being used in an evil way and some “thing” being evil in and of itself. Music in and of itself is not evil, but can be used in an evil way. Traditions and languages are not evil, but they too can be used in opposition to the Will of God. Yet just because we see sin in something does not mean we are to abandon it. If this were the way Christ approached the world, then we would all be hopeless creatures- zombies in our sin- walking death. Our job, when it comes to culture, is to bring Christ to it, to show Him in all his beauty, and to allow his Spirit to transform the World.