To say it mildly, when LCI teaches leadership in other cultures, we have fascinating and important conversations. When we help leaders wrestle with new paradigms of leadership that emerge out of the Scriptures, sometimes the lights go on and there are "aha moments." Other times there is major resistance.
Tim shares how he engages with leaders as we teach new ideas of leadership that are quite different from "the way things are normally done around here." As I was reading Tim's thoughts, it hit me again - we North Americans have the same resistance to these counter-cultural ideas of Scripture! -bkr-
Any student of the Bible would have to acknowledge that communicating the gospel within the context of a culture is vital. To ignore the culture and how the Bible comes to and engages its host cultures, is to add hindrances to the acceptance of the truth.
This theme is seen in the differences of the Synoptic Gospels. Even thought Matthew-Mark-Luke seem very similar, they are quite different.
Matthew wrote to the Jewish culture, Mark to the Roman and Luke to the Greek. Had Luke used as many Old Testament references as Matthew they would have been lost on the Greek reader. The Old Testament scriptures did not carry the same weight with the Greeks as the Jews. What were Matthew, Mark and Luke doing? They were considering the culture to which they wrote and approached the presentation of truth from that culture. Obviously, truth never changes but the approach must.
When I travel cross culturally, I sometimes find a resistance to certain leadership ideas I am teaching. On two recent occasions, as we were talking about biblical leadership (which is really quite radical and often "counter-cultural,") the argument against these ideas was simply - “You don’t understand our culture. What you’re saying won’t work.”
As we processed these questions (and challenges) it became clear there was a lack of understanding of two things.
ONE: Christ came not only to redeem individuals, but also culture. Just because an entire culture functions in a certain way, that doesn’t mean what it is doing is righteous.
TWO: As Christ changes individuals, so He can and wants to, change culture.
The pessimistic conclusion from not understanding these realities is that culture won't change, the Biblical truth doesn't apply (i.e. won't work here) and that we'll continue to do things in the church as they do in the cultural world around us!
Here are a few of the ideas we unpacked.
(1) Changing an entire culture is far beyond any one individual, yet all followers of Christ are called to be agents of cultural transformation.
(2) Culture develops over generations and to say it is deeply rooted and established is a vast understatement. It is the way things are, we are rooted in a culture and the culture is established in us.
(3) Cultural transformation will be a slow, gradual process.
(4) It is the work of leadership to lead cultural transformation. We who lead for Christ must be re-rooted in the culture of God's kingdom and Christ's Way. That Kingdom/Way is seeking to break into this present reality and change it (redeem it, heal it, purify it, transform it).
Having seen the failure to grasp these concepts, here is my observation: It seems to me that we are resistant to the above ideas for three reasons.
Theologically: We don't understand how the eternal word is incarnated in to culture. We have not had the eyes (or paradigms) to see the beauty of the cultural diversity in which the Gospel was revealed to us.
Missiologically: We haven't understood the process of how the Scriptures encounter and change the cultures to which they come.
Personally: We are fearful of change. This rone eally hit me. Sometimes we hear the concept of cultural change and suddenly realize - this concept will require personal change. In my opinion, this is the greatest factor in the resistance I’ve encountered.
So, what does one do?
For a start we must become Self-Aware. We must examine our speech, attitudes, actions, and any other aspect of leadership, which is more concerned about cultural norms rather than biblical truth.
We must decide which is more important to us, the way things have always been done in our culture, or the new biblical Way we are invited to walk. This is being Highly Intentional.
We must then do the very hard work of understanding models and methodologies of biblical study and cultural transformation (being Wisely Strategic).
And since this will always come with a price, Deep Surrender to the will and work of God is contantly needed.
Church of the Revelation
The Bronx, New York