Theme for 2008
Impart 2 Impact (i2i)
PASTOR TOM STIMPSON
PASTOR TOM STIMPSON
Our goal is to discover Biblical principles and pass them on in relevant ways for the purpose of impacting our culture for Christ.
There is a fight going on all around us. It’s like a giant tug of war with each side pulling hard. The battle lines are drawn: Cultural relevance versus biblical faithfulness. It is true that cultural relevance can be confusing.
On the one hand, the church can be so focused on cultural relevance that it loses its distinctive message. Don’t think it won’t happen—it has happened to countless churches and denominations. On the other hand, it can decide that culture does not matter. That leads to a church whose message is indiscernible and obscure to those who are “outside.” Let me propose an alternative: our church needs to be a biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter culture community.
Not everyone buys into what I’ve just said. Whole ministries exist just to tell you not to pay attention to culture. To them, a virtuous church is one that is culturally irrelevant. In their view, a mark of holiness is not just being disconnected from sin but also being disconnected from sinners and the culture they share with us every day.
Preaching against culture is like preaching against someone’s house—it is just where they live. The house has good in it and bad in it. Overall, culture can be a mess—but it is the water in which we swim and the lens through which we see the world. And the gospel needs to come, inhabit, and change that and every culture (or house).
Culture clearly does matter! For 2000 years, missionaries have courageously sought to take the message and make it understandable. Through these two millennia, changing cultures have impacted the church and its missional strategies. Conversely, in many cases, the church has also impacted culture. The reason ministry models have to change is because they have an unchanging message that must be conveyed in a changing world. That message is Christ, the gospel, and the Scriptures. Jude 3 says that we are to “contend for the faith once delivered for the saints.” That’s essential.
But, the Bible also clearly gives us a mandate to make the message understandable. We do more than just translate it into a language. We also have to translate it into a culture. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “I have become all things to all men…” Why? Because the message needs to be contextualized. The “how” of ministry is, in many ways, determined by the “who, when, and where” of culture. That’s also essential.
We have to both contend and contextualize. This brings a balanced focus in our proclamation and practice. When we contend for the gospel, we remain biblically faithful. When we contextualize, we communicate the message effectively. When we contend and contextualize, our church will be a biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter culture community.