30 May A New Kind of Citizenship
To be culturally engaged as the Church is to foster relationships that provide opportunities to share the gospel and care for those in need. This is a fundamental value of Grace Church that serves to further the mission to grow the local church by proclaiming the gospel, investing in strategic relationships, and equipping people for a life of service that glorifies God.
How can we be culturally engaged in a culture that doesn’t know God? Whether we are aware of it or not, culture shapes the way we think; culture has ideas—it wants to take us somewhere. For those in the family of God, being able to engage and shape culture carries influence among all people; it means being faithful in assessing the state of our communities and the beliefs and values of the people around us.
1 Peter 2:9-11 reads, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires,which wage war against your soul.”
Thus, the people of God have a new kind of citizenship. The culture we live in is not our primary culture; we are part of a different world. Each of us in the family of God is a foreigner to the physical earth, and our hope must be found in heaven. In other words, to be culturally engaged in a way that is pleasing to God, we must first rest in the truth that this world is not ours, and as we interact with this world, we have a heavenly motivation to pursue it without actually succumbing to the ways of it. We are called to live in such a way that this world doesn’t consume us, and the next world compels us.
“We are called to live in such a way that this world doesn’t consume us, and the next world compels us.”
To have a hope set in heaven frees a believer to engage culture and care for those in need with an identity set on the hope Jesus gives. If we find too much of our identity in America, this world, or our “stuff”, we fail to faithfully pursue the culture of the lost and instead give into the idolatrous lie that cultural standards can satisfy our souls. Even worse, engaging culture without this clarity creates the possibility to be a believer without having any sort of vision for proclaiming the name of Jesus. This has no value in furthering the kingdom of God, and the core issue becomes finding more identity in our nationality and lineage than we do in our King who offers eternity.
In Matthew 22:19-20, Jesus gives the great commission to His disciples. At this moment, it becomes clear that in Jesus’ mind, having a conversation with people about the hope of eternity is the clearest and greatest act of discipleship. He calls for it, gives instructions on how to do it, and thus leads the charge in the first act of engaging the lost with the Holy Spirit. For this deeper spiritual life to continue as Jesus commands, there is a need for believer-to-unbeliever relationships. The church must ask, “What was the world once like? What went wrong? What is God doing about it? What does this mean for us now?” God took on flesh for us, in the form of a man named Jesus, to offer salvation to the entire world. Once we all were lost, and now those who find themselves as partakers in God’s grace have a mission to engage the lost and join Him in what He is doing.
“To be culturally engaged is to be on mission to pursue those with the same grace Christ extended to us.”
For the Church, that means engaging in a conversation. It means diving into the Word of God and being clear on the gospel message. It means praying for and pursuing opportunities to engage culture, and it means doing so in normal language. It means believing and trusting God in the biblical practices of pursuing the lost and being prepared to always share the Gospel of Jesus and His redemptive work in the greatest act of compassion. To be culturally engaged is to be on mission to pursue those with the same grace Christ extended to us. God has a plan, and the Church’s mission is to join Him in fulfilling it.
This post was adapted from the Decade 20 talk on being Culturally Engaged by Mark Moody. Decade 20 is a gathering in which we seek to challenge the 20-something cultural narrative with an honest look at Jesus and the Bible. The next Decade 20 will be from 7:00-9:30pm on June 13 at our Downtown campus.