[This guest blog was written by LifePoint’s Executive Pastor Brent Kimball. Enjoy.]
The recent news of the U.S. branch of World Vision permitting its employees to enter legally valid same-sex marriages prompted me to process once again the subject of cultural relevance and the church. What does it mean to be culturally relevant? Why does it matter?
Culture is about the shared knowledge, beliefs, practices, values and norms within a group of people. It is what distinguishes one group or category of people from another. The term “culture” comes from a Latin source, which refers to the tilling of soil. From this we understand that culture is learned, not inherited. What I mean by that is that culture concerns one’s social environment not one’s DNA. From this we also realize that it isn’t static. It evolves.
To be culturally relevant means to be in touch with the culture around you; to have commonality with those who you live among. The Biblical precedent for Christians and for the Church being culturally relevant is set in the writings of the Apostle Paul, probably best defined in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
The general challenge that Christians and the Church face in being in touch with the culture at large is not a new challenge. There has always been a strain and a tension in understanding what should be accepted, what should be disputed, and what should be rejected without debate. As culture evolves the church has to again and again ascertain these things, always striving to be true to God and his word.
Let us recognize from the noted passage that when the Apostle said that he became all things and sought by all possible means to save some those “all things” and those “all possible means” didn’t include the compromise of core Biblical values. Sure there were some things that he engaged in within a Greek cultural setting that he definitely didn’t engage in while in Jerusalem and vice versa. But there were many constants for Paul too, so that whether in Philippi or Antioch or Jerusalem he was a faithful Christ follower.
It seems to me that the U.S. Branch of World Vision has, in its desire to be culturally relevant, gotten confused. It has, at this moment, lost sight of its core beliefs, which had come from the Bible historically. In endorsing an anti-Biblical definition of marriage they have accepted what should be rejected without debate. I do hope they reconsider.