Everyone has a culture. Culture is what we are born into and live in. Culture is a set of expected behaviors and thought patterns society says we are to do to be a good citizen. It is what we think is normal because it is all we have ever seen. When in reality it is normal to us but maybe not to people from other areas of the world who grew up in another culture. Our culture is not everybody else’s culture.
I am American which defines a big part of my culture. I am also an American from the southern USA. This means I have an additional set of behaviors that are considered normal that people from other parts of America will not have. Americans have many good cultural values. These include generosity, friendliness, and we are innovators.
I want to talk today about 5 cultural values I see in Americans that conflict with the values of being a Christian. I call these the 5 C’s. These values are called normal in America but God does not. Let’s check out the 5 C’s.
Consumerism – Multiple Options are required. For example the bigger the shopping mall the better, at least 200 TV channels, etc. The more choices the better!
Convenience – Let’s make it easy and now. For example Americans lead the world in fast food and online shopping. The less wait the better!
Competition – Let’s get ahead and win the race now! There is no place for second. Let’s win at all costs.
Commitment – Me commit? Are you kidding? Americans are reluctant to commit to marriage, parenting, and jobs unless forced too. I have to keep my options open.
Celebrities – Americans love our movie stars and athletes. Grocery aisles are full of magazines about people who are know simply because they can act. We love to put people on pedestals.
Do you agree?
I am not saying these are bad or good as an American. I like a big choice as much as the next guy. The problem is these 5 cultural values are not God’s values. So, if I as a Christian want to mature in my relationship with Him I have to adopt God’s culture.
Unfortunately, most of American Christianity is just a reflection of the 5 C’s. Most of the books on Church growth say to be successful as a Church you need to do the 5 C’s.
Consumerism – Multiple Options are required. Go to the church with the most ministries!
Convenience – Let’s make it easy and now. We promise we will get you out on time!
Competition – Let’s get ahead and win the race now! Work with other Churches? They may ‘steal my sheep’.
Commitment – Me commit? There is no need too. Just come and give and we will all be happen! On top of that our services won’t take much of your time.
Celebrities – Generally, the most famous churches are centered around a person. We often know the person’s name and not the church’s. We want gifted and anointed people, but we need to realize they are just people like me and you. There is only 1 man who needs to be lifted up.
Of course they don’t use the same wording as above but we have redefined Church and Christianity to reflect the American cultural image instead of His. Frankly, this does cause the most church growth because we are creating a church in the American image. Americans are comfortable with these values and so easily come to something that looks like them. They feel the most comfortable in 5 C value churches because that is what they have experienced all of their lives. Unfortunately, this is not often God’s image. I don’t blame Americans. Most American Christians don’t realize that they are living in a church with American culture. But the problem is that maturity will never come by living out in the 5 C values.
Jesus said, “thy will be done not mine.” How many options is that? Just 1.
Jesus said, “take up your cross daily.” How convenient is that? Terribly inconvenient.
Jesus said, “the greatest among you is the servant of all.” How competitive is that? What does that do for our celebrity idolization. None.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How committed is that? Quite a bit actually
So what do we do? Honestly, this is not an easy problem to solve. The first step is to realize as Americans we are who we are and will probably not change our culture quickly. But we do need to start comparing the lifestyle of the typical American with the lifestyle of Jesus and the Apostles in the 4 gospels. Where these values differ we need to acknowledge the difference. From there we can pray as to how to change our behavior as Christians.
People will call us strange and different. As humans we have a hard time with this. But when we became Christians we became a new creature who also has inherited a new culture. We have to learn what that culture is like.
It is my understanding Christians in the first century were the first to be called a cult. This is considered a very bad word to be called today. But all it means is you are a people with a different culture. I don’t want us to get weird or have bad doctrine, but maybe it would advance Christianity in America if we were called people with a different culture ever once in a while.