In any church or ministry we have to be prepared to live our lives as followers of Jesus from within the culture and context where God has placed us. This is a foundational consideration for a church planter. It is not an accident that we are serving God in our city in 2015. It is not an accident that we serve in America. It just so happens that most of the core truths of the Christian Faith collide with the worldview of much of the American culture in 2015. This is not a new phenomenon. The Christian faith and the world’s culture are most generally not in agreement with one another. Sure, we face many ‘new’ issues today within a post-modern and post-christian culture in America but there is a long history of that. How does the Biblical record teach us to handle ourselves in faith & culture collide? Let’s join Peter and John directly after they had proclaimed the Gospel in the Jewish temple.
Acts 4:1- 22(ESV) – https://www.esvbible.org/Acts%
First, we see that the leaders of that local culture where ‘greatly annoyed’ (Acts 4:2) by the fact that Peter and John were proclaiming Jesus. They were so annoyed that they arrested them but not until over 5,000 had been saved! They put them in custody so that they could question them about the collision between two competing world views. When your faith collides with the culture and context of your ministry you will face annoyed people. You might even face worse. This is not a new thing. If you match annoyance with your own annoyance you have not cashed in on the opportunity that God has given you. This is an open door to have an audience with important and influential people within your ministry field. Put on the armor of God and the love of Christ and get ready!
Next, we see these cultural, political and religious leaders question them directly…they put them on the spot about ‘where this was coming from’. Peter and John don’t shy away from the platform. They proclaim Jesus to them. They go further when they proclaim that these leaders had rejected this Jesus. They refer to these men as ‘builders’. Then and now, there are builders of culture. There are architects of world views. Rarely do these happen by accident. Faith and Culture collide when what has been built has been constructed from a ‘man-centric’ perspective instead of a ‘God-centric’ perspective. The builders that were doing the questioning on this day had begun their journey within the most ‘God-centric’ worldview ever (The Nation of Israel) but had slid into rebellion against that worldview when they could not accept that Jesus was the fulfillment of their own faith. They took a left turn at Jesus and became ‘man-centric’ when they denied the cornerstone of their own belief system. Everything they did from that point should have been expected. Asking a culture to operate within Christian behavior but knowing they do not have Christ in their heart is going to end in you going insane. Peter & John new this…it is high time we come to the same conclusion. This does not mean we give up on our culture. It just simply means we should not be shocked when our faith collides with the culture and context of our ministry. It is that collision that can change lives. It is that collision that we should anticipate and prepare for…again, with the love of Christ in the center.
Lastly, how do we handle it when our culture and context tells us to stop doing what we do and stop saying what we say? This collision on this day ended with the leaders warning (Acts 4:17-18) Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. It was a gag order. The ‘man-centric’ culture said we don’t want to hear it. Sound familiar? Acts 4:19-20 gives us our great challenge. This is the bar of measurement for the Christian when faith and culture collide. ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. Peter and John knew that these leaders had the social power. They laid themselves at the feet of their judgement. However, they knew ultimately that God was God and that they had this truth to judge how they would behave underneath man’s authority. They said they couldn’t stop. It would be wrong. In a culture that said ‘be true to yourself’ and ‘if it’s right for you, then it’s right’ had decided that the Christian faith would be the one area of objection to those statements. Peter & John didn’t throw a fit…they just said they couldn’t do it. It was love for God that guided this action. It was love for the culture and context that guided this action.
Your faith will and is colliding daily with the culture and context of your ministry. How would God have us handle this? We are facing some large social changes that will give us very real opportunities in the days ahead.