If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know that engaging culturally in our society can be challenging.
As a result, you are probably well on your way to figuring out cultural engagement yourself.
And even though it can be difficult, we should make an effort to engage with the world around us.
However, that raises several questions. For example:
- How should we talk at work?
- What friendships should we seek to cultivate?
- And what events and forms of art and entertainment should we enjoy?
Since God calls us to represent him in our surrounding culture, we must obey.
Dr. Bruce R. Ashford’s, Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians provides excellent insight into engaging several areas of culture.
1. Engaging Culturally with Biologic and Church Families
Basically, the “family” is God’s fundamental unit of humanity. For example, Scripture uses family metaphors. These describe the relationship between God and his people.
Furthermore, marriage between husband and wife should reflect two things.
- First, Christ’s love for the Church
- Second, our passion for Christ (Eph. 5:24-25).
Therefore, if you’re a parent, you should model and teach a Christian worldview to your children. That way, they can learn and see how to live wisely under God’s lordship (Eph. 6:4).
Also, if children learn to love and honor their parents, they know how to glorify their heavenly Father (Eph. 6:1-3; Exod. 20:12).
Singles are another essential group within the Christian family. Singles have a spiritual bond with other Christians that is beyond blood.
This bond exists because we all share the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4)!
In God’s sight, the various callings of singles are crucial to the church family (1 Cor. 7:7-8).
2. Engaging Culturally in the Church Requires Our Active Involvement
Above all, God created every human to love Him and worship him. And that takes place in part within a local community called the “church” (little “c”).
We also worship globally in the “Church” (capital “C”).
Overall the church is many different people with one belief. That is to say, the Church is “unity-in-diversity,” held together by the Spirit.
Therefore every local church fundamentally has the same mission. And that is Jesus’ “Great Commission” in Matthew 28. “[G]o and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
And that mission to make disciples stretches from across the street to across the world!
We are to share the gospel and then mentor new believers (discipling).
3. Engaging Culturally within the Workplace Starts with Lifestyle Evangelism
God built humans to work (Gen. 2: 15-16). With this purpose in mind, our work creates products, services, and communication. We also create value in this world. Therefore our work ethic makes a difference (Col. 3:23).
In the workplace, cultural engagement starts with lifestyle evangelism.
Lifestyle evangelism (acting like a Christian) is essential in work settings.
We should be honest, humble, and helpful. And pursuing excellence at work supports our words with actions.
The workplace provides an excellent opportunity to create relationships with non-Christians. In most cases, they have likely never met a real Christian. And most don’t know anything about authentic Christianity.
4. Engaging Culturally in Community Offers Many Opportunities
Being intentional about our community is vital to our evangelistic mission.
By being active in various community activities and volunteer organizations creates a local presence and reputation.
As a result of community involvement, we meet a variety of people. And make lasting friendships based on mutual interests (1 Thess. 4:10b-12).
It is vital to maintain a godly character, among others (1 Tim. 3:7). Remember that we often have to earn opportunities for valuable spiritual conversations. And these conversations occur after you have been hospitable and gracious to others. Especially those with whom you disagree (Col. 4:5).
Choosing the right places for conversations is crucial. For this reason, select quiet, intimate environments. For example, coffee shops, restaurants, and homes are perfect. They encourage transparency and a genuine exchange of ideas (Acts 28:28).
You can be a Christian voice in your community by communicating publicly. Of course, they should be intelligent, wise, and polite. Publishing them in local newspapers, blogs, or social media is influential.
Also, consider participating in public forums and events. But in light of the venue, be careful of how you respond to other’s sinful responses. As a matter of fact, they shouldn’t intimidate you into silence or cause you to behave in an uncivil manner. Demonstrating a Christ-like demeanor when facing hostility may make an impact on observers.
5. Cultural Engagement in Government & Politics Requires Wisdom
The government always legislates morality. The question is, “whose morality is being legislated?”
As Christians, we should be good citizens within a democracy. By all means, we should participate political process but have realistic expectations.
It is vital to realize that our right to vote is an enormous gift that we should never neglect. Consequently, we should dialogue politely with political opponents, regardless of whether this conversation is in person or on social media. As a representative of Jesus, how we communicate is as important as what we say (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
Lastly, our leaders are a gift from God to us. Notwithstanding who the leaders are, only Jesus is King; and only he is the one who rules perfectly (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2).
6. Engaging Culturally in Education Can be Challenging
Education can be a challenging issue for Christians. Many educational settings don’t want biblical morality.
Despite this disadvantage, we can all play a role in this stream:
- Students should pursue academic excellence with a humble attitude. But as they strive to do well in school, they should never compromise their Christian beliefs (Prov 1:7-9)
- Parents should embrace their responsibility to teach their children God’s ways (Deut. 11:19; Prov. 1:8). Parents should do two things. Be available to answer questions. And second, be able to tackle challenging questions about Christianity.
- Within the educational realm, Christians should be advocates. Everyone’s involvement is helpful. Whether alumni, a staff member, educator, student or interested community member.
7. Engaging Culturally in the Arts and Entertainment Needs Discernment
Without a doubt, Christians were creators of the finest works for hundreds of years. For instance, they created beautiful paintings and sculptures. As well as their contributions to design, music, literature, and performance art are enormous. And their gifts reflected our God-given capacity for creativity.
God’s nature and creation are the sources of all beauty (Gen. 1; Ps. 27:4; 50:2). And as his image-bearers, all humans appreciate the beauty of the arts (Eccl. 3:11).
However, every Christian needs to be discerning. Our choice of arts and entertainment reflects our view of what is good, true, and beautiful.
On the negative side, it can feel risky for creative Christians in the church. In general, they can feel unwanted by believers who do not understand them.
Nevertheless, they must continue engaging others and, at the same time, learning how to integrate God’s truth and presence into what they create.
If you are an artistic creator under the Great Creator, build a community around you. They are essential for encouragement and accountability. And most importantly, to help you flourish spiritually.
Are you satisfied with your current cultural engagement? Does your life actively represent Jesus in all of these cultural streams? If you say “no,” you are in good company!
We are all on a journey figuring out how to take our next steps in looking more like Jesus to a watching world.
This month, pick one cultural stream that seems relevant to you right now. Commit to growing in engaging others and the Lord.
And as you continue to engage the seven streams, something surprising might happen. The Lord may grow a passion within you for areas you never expected.
After all, he is by our side as we engage in the marvelous world he has made. And as we interact with the people God loves, we learn to use the hands he has given us to help shape our culture.