A year-long series of weekly essays re-imagining the Reforming Church. This is not a scholarly effort, crafting neither an ecclesiastical nor a theological system. Rather, it is simply a futurist’s snapshot – it is how I imagine the church proceeding forward through the next decades in the tradition of the Reformation.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:2
I’m back, having spent two weeks on the classic Trek, Tour du Mont Blanc! I will host at rmwgrace.com my daily journal with pictures at a later time. For now, back to the Reforming Church. . . .
For the Reforming Church, the matter of culture is two-sided. On the one side, the Reforming Church adapts its witness to the cultural group of its context. On the other side, the Reforming Church is itself intercultural, reflecting the cultural identity of its context. The Reforming Church’s witness is no longer monolithically composed of one group. In isolated areas, yes, but on the whole, the cultural context of the Reforming Church is very mixed and the Followers of Jesus Christ reflect that mix. As language is one of the bearers of culture, the Reforming Church, in the great tradition of the Reformation witnessing in the language of the people, is fluent in the language of the people. Similarly, whatever the cultural customs, norms, “learned and shared values of a group of interacting people”[i] the Reforming Church is both at the same time, of and witnessing to persons of that same shared cultural context.
The Apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians 9 his intent to identify with all people for the sake of the gospel. He writes, “I have become all things to all people so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (NRSV 22b-23). When the Reforming Church finds itself witnessing in a context foreign to its own cultural identity, like the Apostle Paul, it takes on the cultural identity of its context.
The Reforming Church, at the same time, seeks to be transformative in its context. Always vigilant, the Reforming Church appropriates cultural customs and norms critically. The Way of Jesus Christ is in culture with a vision of the world as God intends. And so also, in as much as possible, the Reforming Church. The Reforming Church cannot exist comfortably with customs that do not reflect God’s world view and thus stands for and witnesses to its context the hope of God. Even more than this, the Reforming Church is counter-cultural taking measures to be transformed into the image of God.[ii]
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever!” – Romans 16:27
[i] I am helped here by Mari D. González’s article, “Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural.” In the article she cites this phrase, attributing it to Milton J. Bennett who she identifies as an intercultural communication pioneer. See https://ixmaticommunications.com/2011/02/03/cross-cultural-vs-intercultural/
[ii] I am particularly grateful to my pastor, Rev. Danie deBeer for challenging me to revisit this essay. He reminded me of H. Richard Niebuhr’s wisdom regarding culture and how the church is to be above culture “and contra-cultural, being able to change the culture. . . .”