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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

Hover your mouse over the Charis the chameleon. Then click on her
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It is easy for Christians to fall into two traps, sometimes at the same time in different ways. One is to be almost indistinguishable from the world’s standards and agenda, with a desire for material standards and career objectives. The other is to be so shut off from an understanding of the people and culture around us that we can barely communicate effectively with them. 1 Cor 9:19-23 shows how we should identify with our culture and those around us – by every means that does not require us to compromise standards of biblical morality. In areas where we can adapt and identify – like the chameleon, we are called on to do so. Our chameleon has been given a name – Charis – ‘grace’ in Greek, for she will need God’s blessing and wisdom in her life in the jungle.

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 facts

Among lizards, chameleons have several unique features: Perhaps we can see some light-hearted parallels with effective witness here! We need to be able to climb anywhere. But we need 360-degree vision, not only to be aware of danger, but also to have insightful understanding of the culture around us and how we can address it. And we need to be able to use our tongues (or written words) to extend and communicate far beyond ordinary limits – and to ‘catch’ in a highly-targeted way, those who might have their defenses up for ‘normal’ Christian witness. The Gray Matrix is very helpful in visualizing where people are in their spiritual understanding and attitudes.

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.

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