Culture. Country, ethnic group, state, town, family; there are cultures within cultures.
Culture is defined as all the values, beliefs, behaviors, symbols, and the way of life for a group of people. Think about the culture of your family, your work culture, groups you belong to. What are the “norms” of that group and what are the expectations of the members of that group?
Within any given culture the members conform to the cultural norms, right? People outside those cultural norms aren’t usually welcomed; if there is an attempt to welcome others into a particular culture, it is oftentimes half-hearted and the expectation is that the new member will conform in order to “fit in”. Cliques in school are a micro-culture; the training ground for entering the world at large!
The “church” has it’s own culture. I tried for years to fit in, but it required me to be someone I was not. The church, in my mind, should have a culture where everyone is welcomed, however many church cultures are exclusionary. That exclusionary culture is part of the reason many churches are dwindling in numbers and will likely result in their demise.
Some churches today are trying to be more inclusive by offering contemporary services with praise “bands” who rock out to Jesus, whose dress is casual, and the message is delivered in a relaxed style. I’m not knocking the effort by any means. In fact I have gone to a couple that I really like, but the bottom line is the underlying traditional culture is still there.
The belief system of many churches isn’t entirely scripturally based. Some issues like smoking, drinking, dancing, or tattoos are either not addressed by Jesus, or a scripture has been taken out of context and the activity now “banned”. In the days Yeshua (Jesus) walked the earth would He have shunned those who didn’t fit the “mold”? I’ll make it easy; the answer is no!
I used to teach Messianic Dance as a form of worship and I had a church ask me to teach a class. The pastor’s wife told me that it would be introduced as “exercise” since they didn’t believe in dancing. What???? Apparently God was going to be fooled by disguising dance as exercise. Wow.
What does the culture of many churches look like from the outside looking in? An “I have arrived” attitude is often projected from Christians steeped in Western Christianity, and yet the Bible clearly states that all have fallen short of the glory of God. No one has arrived! Some “Christians” are more knowledgeable about scripture, haven’t walked down as many rough roads as others, or were raised in a “Christian home”, but that doesn’t make them better than another by any means. Appreciating our differences would be a better “norm” to aspire to rather than forcing conformity. The church would become a rich tapestry of colorful threads that would complement one another!
What is the culture of the church you belong to, or have gone to? Where did you fit into that culture, or did you? If the church is going to survive, church leaders will have to take a serious look at what the culture of the church is and what it says to the outside world.