Posted tagged ‘Culture’

Tim Keller at Urban Plant Life

November 20, 2010

Steve McCoy pointed us to some Tim Keller gold last week.  Here are eight newly formatted PDFs of Tim Keller talks from the recent Urban Plant Life Conference and Consultation in London.

You can get these and three more talks from Keller on MP3 as well.

While downloading these, I was reminded of a project that I undertook last year called the “Coach K Reading Group.”  I had a hunch that other people were, or at least were interested in, reading available articles by Tim Keller.  So I compiled about 14 of them and made a Tim Keller Reader and pitched it solely on Twitter.  The result was 74 people from 24 states and 11 denominations who joined in, where I moderated a live video conference chat every two weeks.  It was a really cool time of learning from Tim Keller, encouraging one another, and focusing on the mission of the church.  Looking over these articles makes me wonder if we can do something like that again . . .

Dever on Culture

October 13, 2010

Here’s a good, short video clip where Mark Dever speaks on how culture is a reflection of humanity, both in its goodness (imago dei) and in its fallenness (depravity) and how the gospel, rightly proclaimed is both attractive and offensive at the same time.

Exegeting the Context

January 19, 2010

As someone who is still relatively new to preaching, I am finding myself given more and more to not only the content and delivery but also reception.  In other words, I am giving myself not only to rightly understanding the text of Scripture but also the context of people’s lives.  We often stress the importance of faithfulness to the biblical text (and rightly so), but as pastors there is a call to faithfulness regarding to the context as well.

One of the reasons why I love the Puritans so much is because they were to “earthy”.  As Phil Ryken puts it in his book, they were “Worldly Saints.”  In his excellent little book on preaching, William Perkins displays this in giving multiple categories of hearers, such as unbelievers who are ignorant and unteachable, unbelievers who are teachable but ignorant, unbelievers who have knowledge but have never been humbled, those who believe but have fallen back, and those who believe and are growing in their faith.  For those of you prepare messages on a weekly basis, a large majority of your time is in the text with very little time left over to working through the context of people’s lives.  But it is here where we learn that faithful expository preaching is inadequate apart from ongoing pastoral ministry.


Christ the Builder, Christ the Perfecter

December 1, 2009

The church is a people who are called out and set apart from the world who are also called and sent into the world.  The goal of the Christian life is complete conformity to Christ, and such conformity is both in character and in mission.  In other words, the church is to be both a holy people (set apart) and missionary people (sent) at the same time, all the time.

I come away with this when considering the promise that Jesus will build His church and the purchased goal that Jesus will perfect His church.


Insight Podcast: Interview with Tullian Tchividjian on Gospel, Church, and Culture

April 9, 2009

My good friend Doug Baker has continued his long list of excellent podcasts with his most recent addition – Tullian Tchividjian.  It was recently announced that Tullian accepted the position of pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, suceeding Dr. D. James Kennedy.  Tullian is the author of several books, most recently Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (which we will be giving away at this year’s Band of Bloggers fellowship).

The podcast is broken down in two segments, and the flow of the interview is listed below. To download, click on MP3 next to each part.


A Church Like the World – What We Need?; Wanted:  Servants not Celebrities; The Big Business of Evangelicalism; “Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same”; Relevance – What is It?; The Irrelevance of Relevance; Against the World for the World; The Bible as God’s Listening Post; An “Emergent” Humility?; Evangelism – God’s One Great Work?


Culture – What is it?; Sola Scriptura or Sola Cultura?; Jesus and Cosmic Renewal; The Cultural Mandate – What and Why?; What is the Kingdom of God?; Contextualization – What is It?  Do We Need it?; The Church as God’s Greatest Evangelistic Tool.

I’m grateful for Doug continuing to offer informative and engaging discussions on topics that matter from some of the most respected voices in Baptist and evangelical circles.  To subscribe to the Insight Podcast on iTunes, go here.

Cultural Exegesis and Contextual Research

September 17, 2008

I am curious to know if any of you have done the work of exegeting culture, especially in regards to church planting.  If you have, I would like to know what questions you asked and what methods you implemented in the process. I know that good exegesis requires current and accurate demographic and ethnographic research as well as field surveying, and I am hoping learn more about how to gather, interpret, and come away with helpful implications for strategy and design for the indigenization of the plant.

Here’s some stuff I am currently working on regarding a new church plant:

Demographic Research

This is a graph of some demographics I pulled on the area which I found quite telling:

While there has been exponential growth in population, the ethnic groups have grown at an even faster rate.  Given their education and work force, the population is comprised of blue-collar workers who commute on average 35-40 minutes to their jobs (which in turn affect the usability of work environment for target purposes).  The commute is mostly due to housing options and cost-of-living (affordability).

The second chart deals with the number of unchurched in the area:

What I did was gather the total attendance of all Southern Baptist churches according to the 2007 Annual Church Profile, and the number came to just under 1,800 people.  Then, having gathered information from other denominations, I came up with a close proximate number of 2,900 people in a population of over 67,000 residents.  Granted, there are residents who may attend church outside the city (as some of our members do), but I can safely say that 60,000+ residents are unchurched–9 out of 10.  And this in the Bible belt of the South.  There are other charts and graphs, but I will spare you all the details.

Field Survey

I am currently working on learning the culture and helping the core group better understand and apply their knowledge to the mission at hand. While it is tempting to rely solely on hard statistics, such information needs to be validated and/or challenged.  Fortunately within our core group, there are families who have lived in this area since the early 1900’s and know the culture very well.  Yet, I am hoping to dig deeper, looking for the following information from the culture:

* Determine worldviews and religious beliefs
* Discover community and culture centers
* Discern idols of the city and idols of the heart
* Draw from customs, traditions, and other socially shared ideas
* Delineate between the biggest changes, challenges, and needs of community

These aspects are important for the purposes of being conversant with the culture, confronting its idols, communicating the gospel, and connecting with others with the love and compassion of Christ.  Having laid out the context, one can connect the text with the context with a philosophy of mission and design of ministry that is unashamedly biblical and unrelentingly intentional.

Doing good cultural exegesis is something that requires considerable time and attention, listening and learning.  Paul certainly knew that to be true.  He knew the culture of the Jews and the Greeks, the way of life for those under the law and those without the law.  He was able to connect with the religious folks in the synagogue and the secular folks in the marketplace.  The culture did not dictate his message, but neither did he deny its existence.  Within the missional matrix of God, gospel, mission, and church, the culture should be understood and interpreted so that we communicate Christ effectively in our own neighborhood.  And this is where I am finding myself as we aggressively pursue the 90+ percent of unchurched across the street.

One of the questions I am thinking about asking the core group in this area is, “If your job was to be a tour guide around your city and neighborhood, what would you show me, and where would you take me?” If you’ve got any observations or good questions to ask regarding cultural exegesis, please pass them on.

Is Relevance a Liberal Assumption?

November 9, 2007

While the Board of Trustees were in town for the SBTS Heritage Week, Mark Dever held a IX Marks lecture in Broadus chapel in which he opened up by speaking to the issue of relevance in gospel ministry (I was in attendance). Writing for Baptist Press, Garrett Wishall quotes Dever who said,

“I would like to suggest that the most fundamental problem in the church is not that we are not relevant enough in relation to the world, but that the church is not distinct enough from the world. Our churches must reflect the character of God.”

I remember Dever also arguing that churches are becoming “culturally determined.” In light of this, Wishall notes,

The idea that the Gospel must be made relevant is a liberal assumption which, if taken to its end, can result in the theological liberalism of Friedreich Schleiermacher, the father of Protestant liberalism, Dever said, adding that numerous church models seek to be relevant and do not reach the unorthodox conclusions of liberalism but remain unhealthy because they are based on an unbiblical definition of success.

Dever then goes on to explain a little of what he means by “an unbiblical definition of success.”

“The problem with the seeker-sensitive model, emerging church model and even the traditional model that say, ‘Get as many people into a room as possible and share the Gospel with them,’ is that they view success in light of visible fruit,” he said. “All three of these approaches say, ‘Change your techniques and let’s get some numbers.’

“Instead of being directed by [visible] success, we should be directed by faithfulness. We should say, ‘If the Lord doesn’t like our product, we will change the product.’ We shouldn’t take the idea that if we don’t have X number of conversions in our church, then we must be doing something wrong. I am glad Jeremiah didn’t think that. And I am glad that Jesus Christ didn’t think that. Let us remember that we are following the One who was crucified as a revolutionary.”

So I am curious as to what you think. Is relevance inherently a theologically liberal idea? Is it possible to reflect both the character of God and the culture in which you live? Can churches be culturally engaging without being culturally determined? Biblically faithful and culturally fruitful?

Tullian Tchividjian with Books on Church and Culture

November 7, 2007

Tullian Tchividjian has compiled a nice list of books on church and culture.

  1. No Place for Truth by David Wells
  2. God in the Wasteland by David Wells
  3. Losing our Virtue by David Wells
  4. Above all Earthly Powers by David Wells
  5. Engaging God’s World by Cornelius Plantinga
  6. Not the Way it’s Supposed to be by Cornelius Plantinga
  7. Heaven is a Place on Earth by Michael Wittmer
  8. Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper
  9. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin
  10. Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
  11. Where Resident Aliens Live by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
  12. American Evangelicalism by James Davison Hunter
  13. The Transforming Vision by Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton
  14. He Shines in all That’s Fair by Richard Mouw
  15. The Gravedigger File by Os Guinness
  16. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
  17. Rumor of Angels by Peter Berger
  18. A Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp
  19. Being the Body by Charles Colson
  20. Chameleon Christianity by Dick Keyes

There are some books I am quite familiar with, including those by Wells, Kuyper, Newbigin, Plantinga, Guinness, Mouw, Pearcey, and Colson. But I must say there are quite a few I have never heard of(!), such as Clapp, Keyes, Walsh, and Wittmer. Some that come to my mind that were not mentioned include:

H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture
George Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture
Kevin Vanhoozer’s Everyday Theology
Os Guinness’ Prophetic Untimeliness
Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
Henry Van Til’s The Calvinistic Concept of Culture

Any other good books on church/Christianity and culture that you can think of?

On Cultural Engagement

October 24, 2007

Given our recent discussion on church and culture, I was jazzed to see that soon-to-be-father-of-three Joe Thorn has written a nice piece on cultural engagement.  Before he lays out six rules, Joe provides a helpful cultural framework that addresses the aspects of culture that are broken (to be redeemed), evil (to be rejected), and good (to be accepted). Joe’s six rules of cultural engagement then follows:

1. Be present.
2. Practice discernment.
3. Develop your theology.
4. Find courage.
5. Speak clearly.
6. Love.

Good stuff. Be sure to read the whole article.

Speaking of Church and Culture

October 11, 2007

[For context of current discussion, see my posts here and here.]

Phil Ryken at Reformation 21 blog asks the question,

Does Scripture call the local church (by which we mean the local church as the local church, not as individual Christians) to the work of cultural transformation?

There is a sense in which the answer to this question must be “no.”

The church’s primary calling is to preach the gospel and to worship God in the ministry of the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. While the worship of God and the proclamation of the gospel have a transforming influence on the surrounding culture, this does not happen directly, but indirectly, as the people of God live out the implications of their faith in every aspect of life.

Yet there are also ways in which the answer to this question must be “yes.”

In its priestly ministry of intercession, the local church prays for the needs of its community — all of the areas where the surrounding culture needs to experience the transforming influence of the gospel. In its prophetic ministry of preaching and teaching God’s Word, the local church disciples its members to fulfill their various callings as parents, teachers, artists, students, politicians, business people — callings that have culture-transforming power. In its diaconal ministry of mercy, the local church offers practical service in the name of Christ — service that transforms the lives of the poor, the homeless, and the elderly, as well as children, prisoners, and internationals. In these ways, at least, the local church is called to the gospel work of cultural transformation.

A church that regards such transformation as its primary goal may well miss its more fundamental calling to glorify God in preaching the gospel. Yet a church that minimizes the importance of its legitimate calling to cultural transformation may fail to do the full work of discipleship or of bearing full witness to the kingdom of God.

Whatever you call it–missional, cultural transformation, priestly/prophetic/diaconal ministry–this is part in parcel what it means to be kingdom citizens who live between two worlds. Lest we think this is some novel idea, we would do well to revisit some of the writings of Abraham Kuyper, Carl F.H. Henry, Francis Schaeffer, and David Wells.

From Rural to Suburban to Urban, or The Kellerizing of the SBC

October 4, 2007

One of the changes I have seen in recent church revitalization and church planting is the move to the cities.  Southern Baptist churches have predominantly been located in rural areas, although the megachurch movement eventually led churches to start in booming suburban populations.  Yet it is a relatively new emphasis and change to see more and more Southern Baptist churches go back to urban population centers and plant their outpost in the heart of the city.  Much of this new emphasis can be attributed to the efforts and writing of Tim Keller who pastors Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.  Here are some of his article on cities, church planting, and urban life:

>> A New Kind of Urban Christian: As the City Goes, So Does the Culture
>> A Biblical Theology of the City
>> Preaching in a Postmodern City, Part 1
>> Preaching in a Postmodern City, Part 2
>> The City: Why We Are Here (vision paper)
>> Why Plant Churches?
>> The Missional Church
>> Planting a Church in the City
>> Ministry in the New Global Culture of Major City-Centers, Part 1
>> Ministry in the New Global Culture of Major City-Centers, Part 2
>> Ministry in the New Global Culture of Major City-Centers, Part 3
>> Ministry in the New Global Culture of Major City-Centers, Part 4
>> Advancing the Gospel into the 21st Century, Part 1
>> Advancing the Gospel into the 21st Century, Part 2
>> Advancing the Gospel into the 21st Century, Part 3
>> Advancing the Gospel into the 21st Century, Part 4 (city-focused)
>> The City–We Have a Strong City (MP3)
>> Should I not Love That Great City? (MP3)
>> The Meaning of the City (MP3)
>> Love for the City (MP3)
>> For more resources from Keller, go here, here, here, and here.

Now the new move to urban life and culture centers of North America and around the world present a whole new set of challenges for Southern Baptists.  For instance, this means that they must engage the culture and ideological thought.  Those who minister in the city and live in the city are advocating a “drive-by” Christianity that is often found in attractional suburban churches.  Megachurches flex their muscles when they get people from all over the region to come to where they are.  Missional, urban churches flex their muscles when they live in the community centers and go out to where the unbelieving community exists.  Evangelism is not door-to-door, but it is sitting on the downtown park bench talking to the homeless man who would likely not be allowed to sit in most suburban churches.  You see, suburban churches have done well to reach the white, middle-class family of four who have the social refinements of gated communities, two-car garages, and a healthy pocketbook to contribute to the many causes in the megachurch enterprise.  They also seem to “have it together” if you know what I mean.  Nice clothes, trendy hairdo’s, manageable sins, and a respectable place in community.

On the other hand, urban churches are a little more messy.  When you walk out of the front door where the church meets, you are likely to engage in conversations with gays and lesbians, and on the other corner of the block there may be an abortion center where unwed, pregnant teenagers are looking for an “out.”  Down the alley will be men struggling with drug addiction and gambling and prostitutes who are selling themselves to the highest bidder.  When you are in the city, you cannot just change the channel.  It is where you live and minister.  These people may not have much to contribute to the church, but it those for whom Christ came to redeem.  I am glad to see Southern Baptists move into the cities, because it is correcting a lie which we have been believing for a long time.  It is a lie perpetuated every time we walk outside our worship centers to manicured landscaping, high-priced vehicles, and police escorts who part the traffic for our busy schedules.

When you are face to face with some of the most radical manifestations of sinful lifestyles, you are faced with such questions as, “Is the gospel really the power of God unto salvation? Can Jesus really set these people free from enslavement to sin?”  Either you believe God can perform the miracle of conversion or you shut down shop.  The temptation and seduction of a morally refined people well-versed in church etiquette and Christian vocabulary is that we subscribe to behavior modification and moralism.  We think, “I am not as bad as they are,” and yet there is nothing different in their state of depravity than the prostitute or drug addict except the suit and tie.  Lest we forget, Adam was quite adept to covering himself with a suit of fig leaves, and heirs to such sinful nature, 21st century Christians just have a better logo to go with the outfit.

Living in the culture centers of the world means you will build relationships with person working at the coffee shop across the street who has an altogether different worldview and understanding of life than you.  He will be asking tough questions about the environment, social justice, and loving your neighbor, and why churches seem to look so selfish with their money.  They may ask questions like, “Why are there Southern Baptist conferences that give Hummer H2’s as door prizes when that money could provide H20 to thousands in need of it around the world?” (okay, maybe not exactly, but the example is legit).  Being in the city will not only mean that we must believe in the power of the gospel but that it should dominate every area of our lives so that being missional is merely the normative outworking of gospel-centered Christianity that encounters culture, confronts ideologies and sinful lifestyles, and redeems the broken lives and humanity around us.

So much more could be said about being in the city for the cause of Christ and His church, but I will pause here and simply encourage you to check out some of the articles and messages by Tim Keller.  The movement from rural to suburban to urban could be one of the most promising aspects of Southern Baptist life in the 21st century, and I hope that we get on board with what our Presbyterian brothers and sisters are already doing.  Did I mention that the PCA is currently the fastest growing denomination in the United States?