Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Truth About Culture...

Someone recently said something to me that I have not been able to get off my mind. We had been discussing ministry and he made a statement that got my attention. He said, “CULTURE ALWAYS TRUMPS VISION! No matter what your vision is, your culture will always determine the possibilities of it coming to pass.”

At first the “spiritual” side of me kind of sat up and thought, “Well, with God all things are possible. Nothing can stop Him or His will.” However, as I began to process this statement I realized the truth in it.

“Culture” does not reveal itself overnight. Culture is cultivated and coddled for decades. It is passed down from generation to generation and depending on the elasticity of the previous generation it may or may not have room for “give.” “Vision” is ever evolving. It evolves, develops, and transforms generationally.

The problem with the two is rarely do we try to adjust our culture to make room for vision to manifest… no, instead we try to force “vision” into our culture. We don’t want to change who we are, our traditions, and the way we have always done it so in the end our culture trumps the vision God gave us and we are at a standstill… running the same lap over and over and over.

Those of you reading my thoughts on this may disagree wholeheartedly and I can respect that. However, before writing me off completely, think about it. Though “vision” is revealed and ordained by God, people initiate “culture.” The word culture is defined as the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.

Imagine an obstacle course between yourself and your God ordained destination. In order to reach your destination you must navigate through various challenges and hurdles. As you begin the first few challenges are easy, jump over this, crawl through that. Suddenly you reach a huge wall, it is too big to climb and too wide to go around. The only way this wall is coming down is to tear it down, but that will take too long and it will get pretty messy. It will require a lot of work and you just don’t know if you are up to this, besides, this wall has been here a long time. Many people look at it as a “sacred cow” however, if it doesn’t come down, you will never reach your destination. Because of its obvious size and girth it is already “blocking your vision,” you have already lost sight of it. Because it will never come down many others who joined you on this course are already walking away looking for another way to reach their final destination. You throw up your hands and go back to the drawing board thinking perhaps there is another way to reach your destination without encountering the wall.

If you have not figured it out yet, the “wall” represents culture or a part of your culture that is more important than the vision. If the vision says that we are going to dig a ditch yet our culture dictates that we only wear white clothing somewhere culture WILL be challenged. Why? Because obviously, you cannot dig a ditch without getting dirty and wearing all white while digging ditches will result in the color of our clothing changing within moments of digging. Instead of realizing that wearing all white just because those who were before you did may not serve the same purpose now that it did then we make the decision to cling to our culture. After all, it is what we know, right? But what if what “we” know is no longer relevant? What if it no longer works? According to our definition of culture, culture depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. In other words, we can determine whether or not the culture that we are currently experiencing needs to be altered.

Recently I was watching the local cable station. There was a couple of women doing a tag team sermonette. One was very tall so the camera cut off the top of her head and the other was short and had a very short mic cord. Personally I really cannot stand to watch these programs because they are done poorly and in my opinion do not resonate excellence. If you don’t have the money to do it right then leave it to those who do and find a way to impact your sphere of influence with the excellence with what is in your hand. Okay… that was me going down a rabbit trail… back to the topic.

Anyway, these two women were going back and forth, “Hallelujahs!” and “Thank ‘ya Jesus”… and then they began to share. I listened as one of the women began to bash pastors who bring dance, drama, technology and other “wordly” things into the church with the hope of reaching young people for Christ. The other woman was all up in it with her, “That’s right! Preach it!” She went on to say, “We came into the church as young people and we didn’t need any of that stuff!” Right there.. she lost me completely. I am personally of the belief that ALL things belong to God and that the enemy has perverted them. The arts, music, money, marriage, parenting, sex… THE CHURCH- just to name a few.

Ii is interesting to me that these women found it necessary to pick and choose what they would like to use as mediums to reach the lost. They were using television and media equipment and I am sure they both had mobile phones tucked into their purses and computers in their homes and offices. What they were actually doing is choosing which obstacles and challenges to overcome and the brick wall that would make the most impact by coming down would remain. Therefore, the vision remains unfulfilled, unclaimed, and in many cases not even pursued.

In closing, culture can be something to celebrate or it can be an albatross that hangs dead around our necks, weighing us down, the stench preventing others from coming close to us. Mark Batterson, pastor and author of “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” has a statement that relates perfectly to this topic… “Irrelevance is irreverence.”

I don’t know if that is the best way to leave this post but to be honest, this is a “hot topic” with me right now. I am “thinking it through” and really, praying it through. In all actuality if I allow culture to determine how far the vision God has for my life will go then I am bound up. To me this is quite the same as having a “religious spirit.”

I want to run the obstacle course toward accomplishing the vision God has for me with both an open hand and a sledge hammer ready to tear down those walls that keep me from reaching my destiny in Him!

God’s plan for my life is very much wrapped up in Isaiah 61:1, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." How in the world can I accomplish this if I am bound by a culture which trumps the vision He has for me?

1 comment:

Deanna Shrodes said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you on this whole post.

I think the question is - are you in position to change the culture? Do you or Craig have the influence to work on changing the culture?

If so, might it not be God's will to not only bring the vision for your life to pass, but knock down cultural barriers that have been in place? There would be a dual purpose...

If not you must be somewhere that you can fulfill your call, plain and simple.