When my oldest daughter was first learning to speak, she once asked me, “daj baws?” I would usually smile and just respond with confused laughter assuming it was a new exploration in her ability to form sounds, but she was persistent. “Daj baws?” The same question arose all week long and my response only grew more perplexed with time.
Later that weekend I sat down to spend some time with her. I placed her on my knee and began talking to her as a cartoon appeared on the television. It was an old episode of Care Bears (thank you, Netlfix) and my little girl immediately drew her attention to the screen exclaiming, “Daj baws! Datch beaws! … Watch bears!”
Suddenly, a breaking point in the language barrier occurred and, because I took the moment to engage the culture of her little world, a new found connection was made to what I thought was childish nonsense.
When you spend time with your children, engaging them and emerging yourself into their realm of awareness, you learn about them and find new ways to communicate with them. Similarly, as the church we carry a tenuous responsibility to love people who make violently poor decisions for themselves and others every day, and wrestle with the Gospel as it relates to a ragingly evolving culture. All this while keeping our head above water long enough to catch breath and center ourselves before diving back down after those around us who are drowning.
Culture inevitably offers opportunities to reveal the heart. Social Media, for example, becomes a platform for impatient and angry people to hurl flaming statements in haste, arrogant people to boast about their successes and post pictures of themselves for validation and to ensure they aren’t ignored, skeptical troublemakers to post inflammatory comments, and perverts to illicit sexual affairs.
As culture changes, we are forced to respond in one of three ways – reject it, receive it, or redeem it.
Rejecting cultural trends is a grievously common response among Christianity because of human tendency to abuse the opportunity for selfishly decaying purposes. By rejecting it we assume we can avoid the sin. But in doing so, we shift the blame from the heart to the behavior – which only reveals the heart. The result is always legalism.
Receiving the culture has the opposite effect. We find ourselves compromising the truth of the Gospel for the approval of people attempting to fit church into the mold of a culture that places no value beyond affluent hedonistic behaviors. The result is always liberalism.
As leaders in our community, however, we have chosen the third response – to redeem it. This requires faithful intentionality, honest reflection, and strict accountability because we believe passionately that social media should and can be used for the glory of God and the advancement of the Gospel in every way possible. That is why, even as a church of under 100 people, our leadership places so much effort and time behind our website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook. We want to labor in the responsibility of using the opportunities of cultural trends to encourage and enrich the lives of those around us towards a community of repentance and redemption under the authority of Jesus.
We recognize that when we seize these opportunities with humility, then it becomes a breaking point in the language barrier of the church to engage and connect a culture with the Gospel that would otherwise seem as childish nonsense.