Is Christian cultural engagement worth all the challenges?
As Christians, we are to live out our faith in every area of our lives.
But we live in a secular environment that has many wrong perceptions of Christianity.
And candidly, it can sometimes feel like an uphill slog.
You might wonder, for example:
- “Is it worth the hassle to continue to share Christ?”
- “Is my lifestyle evangelism helping others see Jesus in me?”
- “Is the effort to be “salt and light” make a difference?”
In a word, yes.
What Is “Culture,” Anyway?
Culture means a “particular way of life.” It includes tradition, beliefs, behaviors, values, and objects shared by a particular group. These include language, customs, clothing, and history.
A Christian worldview sees Jesus Christ as Lord of all. And cultural engagement includes all areas of our lives.
Consequently, Christians can’t pick and choose what cultural arenas we will and won’t express our faith. Therefore, every aspect of our lives must relate to our beliefs.
Are You Afraid to Share Your Faith with Non-Christians?
Indeed, some Christians feel anxious about sharing their faith in certain circumstances. This anxiety makes sense. Especially because we live in such a polarized society (“You’re either on this side or that side”).
But overcoming your fear of man can be an enormous first step towards greater intimacy with God. It also allows you to create genuine friendships.
So let me give you a piece of advice:
I can promise if you want to destroy your enemy. Make them your friend--even if it is challenging at times.
Another reason I encourage you to live out your faith is that you are a rarity!
Did you know 98% of Christians do not live our worldview?
Now I don’t mean to sound like a scolding parent. On the contrary, young Christians live in a challenging culture they didn’t create. Instead, my generation bears most of the responsibility for this abysmal situation.
Don’t miss the point! As far as you are concerned, you really are special. You are the “real deal,” the genuine Christian that most outsiders have never met.
So why not take the next step in cultural engagement with non-Christians?
Ways to Overcome Cultural Misgivings about Christians
As a genuine believer, it’s up to you to change the culture’s perception of Christians. But it means continual preparation on your part. You need to be able to respond to secular misconceptions about Christianity (1 Pet. 3:15).
And that starts with building sincere friendships. However, a friendship begins with mutual respect and time.
- First, be a good listener to understand the other person’s beliefs.
- Second, be courteous and civil.
- Third, ask thoughtful questions.
- Fourth, find areas of shared agreement.
Follow this simple advice. And with God’s help, you won’t fear meeting with non-Christians in any stream of culture.
Cultural Engagement is Worth It: Lifestyle Evangelism
But knowing how and when to share our faith with others can be a thorny issue.
As an illustration, I asked a physician who was a Christian an obvious question. Did he ever share the gospel or pray with his patients? “No, I don’t,” was his unapologetic reply.
His answer is not uncommon for many Christians. They keep their spiritual lives private. They view their jobs, leisure activities, and community involvement as separate from faith. As in this doctor’s case, caring for patients was his “day job.” And it didn’t involve his faith commitment.
What about you? Do you see your spiritual life distinct from other areas of your life?
Do you behave as a Christian in comfortable or safe surroundings like home or church? But ignore your beliefs in different settings (like your job)?
On the other hand do you practice lifestyle evangelism? In other words, seeking to honor God in every area of your life. Especially when opportunities for cultural engagement arise.
Lifestyle evangelism coupled with culturally sensitive evangelism is a power witness to outsiders.
Cultural Engagement is Worth It “Be Salt and Light”
Jesus characterized our influence in the world as “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16), implying we are to be distinctive and influential in our surroundings.
- Salt flavors and preserves food. In the same way, we are to promote goodness and hinder corruption in society. But flavorless salt has lost its usefulness and distinctiveness. In the same way, Christians who refuse to engage in culture become useless.
- The light clears away the darkness, conquering gloom. Nothing can hide from it. And light guides the way. Jesus expects us to give spiritual light to this world rather than hiding from the world around us.
- Salt and light bring about noticeable changes without being noticed themselves.
As salt and light, our witness extends beyond “lifestyle evangelism.” Living a distinctive Christian life is not enough.
We should be sharing the gospel with others. And our evangelism should be faithful and uncompromising (Heb. 3:1-2) without being unnecessarily offensive (John 20:21).
Cultural Engagement is Worth It… In the Long Run
The British author, A. N. Wilson was an Oxford-educated writer. He spent one year training for the priesthood.
Then at 38-years-old, he converted to atheism. His friends included other prominent atheists. A former schoolmate was Richard Dawkins. A dinner companion was Christopher Hitchens.
During his years as an atheist, he produced many anti-Christian publications.
Then at the age of 59-years-old, he returned to Christianity. Why? In 2009 Wilson wrote,
“My return to faith has surprised no one more than myself.… My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.” (1)
What persuaded this intellectual atheist of Christianity’s truth?
It was the lives of ordinary people in a variety of cultural streams of life.
What can Wilson’s testimony teach us?
When our faith impacts every arena of our lives, we can have an eternal impact on others.
To sum up, cultural engagement is worth it!