Being a Christian in American culture is challenging. It can be hard to figure out the best way is to interact with others in our larger community. 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?
God calls us into culture. And here are seven streams of cultural engagement that we can pursue, no matter what season of life we are in.
The family is God’s fundamental unit of humanity. Scripture uses family metaphors to describe the relationship between God and his people. And marriage between husband and wife should reflect Christ’s love for the Church and our passion for Christ (Eph. 5:24-25).
If you’re a parent, you should model and teach a Christian worldview to your children so that they can learn and see how to live wisely under God’s lordship (Eph. 6:4). If children learn to love and honor their parents, they are on the path toward learning how to honor their heavenly Father (Eph. 6:1-3; Exod. 20:12).
Singles are another essential group within the Christian family. Singles are knitted together with other Christians creating a spiritual family beyond blood: this bond is so close because we as fellow Christians of the same “family” share the same Spirit (Eph. 4:4)! Singles should both embrace and be embraced in the Christian family. And in God’s sight, the various callings of singles are just as valuable as those who are married (1 Cor. 7:7-8).
God created every human to love Him and worship within a community locally called the “church” (little “c”) and globally the “Church” (capital “C”). The church is many different people with one belief or “unity-in-diversity,” held together by the Spirit.
Every local church fundamentally has the same mission. It’s 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).
This mission for us to make disciples in the world stretches from across the street to across the world! And it involves both sharing the gospel so others can start their journey as a disciple of Jesus and then helping Christians grow in becoming mature disciples as they follow Jesus.
Every Christian is called to commit to a local church to be a part of this mission together.
Humans were built by God to work (Gen. 2: 15-16). Our work creates products, services, communication, and value in this world. But our work ethic makes a difference (Col. 3:23).
Lifestyle evangelism (acting like a Christian) is particularly important in work settings. Being honest, humble, helpful, and pursuing excellence at work corroborates our words with actions. The workplace is often an excellent opportunity to create relationships with non-Christians who don’t know anything about authentic Christianity.
We all live somewhere. And being intentional about the community where God has us is vital to our evangelistic mission.
Being involved in a variety of community activities and volunteer organizations creates a local presence and allows us to bump up against people we would never meet otherwise and make lasting friendships based on mutual interests (1 Thess. 4:10b-12).
Maintaining our character is essential among others (1Tim. 3:7). Opportunities for valuable spiritual conversations often come only after you’ve been hospitable and gracious to others, especially those with whom you disagree (Col. 4:5).
Having conversations in quiet, intimate environments like coffee-shops, restaurants, and homes encourage transparency and a genuine exchange of ideas (Acts 28:28).
Also, you can be a voice in your community in what you communicate publicly--writing intelligent, wise, and polite opinions in local newspapers, blogs, or social media, or participating in public forums and events.
5. Government & Politics
The government always legislates morality. The question is, “whose morality is being legislated?” As Christians, we should be good citizens within a democracy, actively participating in the political process but having realistic expectations.
Our right to vote is an enormous gift that we should never neglect. During election seasons, civilly dialogue with people who have different views, whether it is in person or 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. But no matter 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).
Education can be a challenging issue for Christians because of the many settings where biblical morality or Christian worldview is unwanted. Despite this disadvantage, we can all play a role in this stream:
- Students pursuing academic excellence, having a humble attitude, but not sacrificing their personal spiritual convictions or their own personal spiritual development (Prov 1:7-9)
- Parents embracing their responsibility to teach their children God’s ways (Deut. 11:19; Prov. 1:8)--and help them answer questions about their growing faith
- Having a voice in various education venues as an alumnus, a staff member/educator, student, or interested community member
For hundreds of years, Christians have created beautiful paintings, design, music, literature, and performance art that reflect our God-given capacity for creativity. Ultimately, all beauty is grounded in God’s nature (Ps. 27:4) and in his creation, which reflects his beautiful intentions and artistry (Gen. 1; Ps. 50:2).
Appreciating the arts is part of the common ground we share with all people being made in God’s image and living in a God-created world (Eccl. 3:11). But we have to make important decisions in what art we support (by watching, buying, following on social media), consume, and create--because all of these choices are a reflection of validating or denigrating what is ultimately good, true, and beautiful.
For those who are deeply creative, it can feel like a risk to engage with other Christians who may not understand some of your perspectives. But continue to engage, commit to others, and commit to both learn how to integrate God’s truth and presence into what you create as well as deepen your community around you to help you spiritually flourish as a creator under the Great Creator.
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.
So, this month, pick one cultural stream that seems relevant to you in this season and seek to grow in engaging in this area with the Lord over the next thirty days. Oftentimes, God grows a passion in us for these areas as we engage. After all, he is by our side as we engage the marvelous world he has made, interacting with the people he loves, and learn to use the hands he has given us to help shape our culture.
Ashford, B. R. (2015). Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.