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Types of culture; understanding & using culture in evangelism
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Communicating wisely with the world
There are right and wrong ways of relating to the culture around us. “Draw three large boats in relation to the sea: the first a submarine under the sea, the second a hovercraft above the sea, and the third a ship cutting through the sea. Imagine the sea is the culture that surrounds us and that the three boats represent three relationships Christians can have with culture. There are those who are submerged in it, those who hover above it, and those that are in it but not of it. Which boat most represents your relationship to the culture that surrounds you?” (Matt Bird, Joshua Generation Guide to Manifesto for Life) We must listen to the heartbeat of the sick culture around us and also need to learn how non-Christians think. John Stott writes:
“The great tragedy in the church today is that evangelicals are biblical but not contemporary, while liberals are contemporary but not biblical. We need faithfulness to the ancient word and sensitivity to the modern world.”
“I have sometimes called this ‘double listening’. Listening to the voice of God in Scripture, and listening to the voices of the modern world, with all their cries of anger, pain and despair.”
Chameleons show the way! A light-hearted illustraion from nature
Of course our lives should also be different – wildly different – but people must be able to meet us on an area of common ground, so that they can see the difference.
In the context of online evangelism, we have the opportunity to create pages about many secular topics of mutual interest, including hobbies, sport – just about anything. We call this the bridge strategy. It is very under-used, so much so that we can liken it to a missing key, as illustrated by this short story.
Interesting chameleon factsAmong lizards, chameleons have several unique features:
- pincer-like feet which are valuable for climbing.
- prehensile tongue can be twice as long as the body – used to catch insects with a highly-targeted precise movement.
- indepedent swivelling eyes giving almost 360-degree vision which can focus on different things at the same time. They also judge distance using the same mechanism as a reflex-camera, rather than by 3-D triangulation.
- the color-change mechanism is not just to merge into the background – it is also used to communicate specific attitudes to other chameleons.
- achievable colors: brown, green, blue, yellow, red, black or white.
Ministries which help us to understand these issues include Facing the Challenge which offers several acclaimed group-study courses on this and related subjects. See also Damaris | To the Source | Relevant Magazine and our book recommendations.
related pages within the Bridge the gap & Using culture menu links
recommended books on culture, including free downloads
valuable online videos about web ministry