Christians often talk about “the culture,” referring to the non-Christian values on display in the media and entertainment industries, or we expand that to include the influence of a secular world-view. For some Christianity is at war with culture.
But we don’t just talk about culture in a negative way. We also use culture positively to describe things that are difficult to understand, but are causing good results. Whether it’s a winning sports team, or a company where people love to work, culture seems to be part of the answer.
Christianity and Culture
As Christians, we have started using culture to describe the kind of change we want to see in our churches and communities. We will talk about a “culture of discipleship” or a “culture of serving.” In that sense, we are describing an attitude, or willingness to act and think in a certain way.
But it’s more than that. We’ve always had expectations of how we act and think. But now our emphasis has shifted away from those behaviors being enforced from the outside, to some kind of internal motivation.
There’s a motivation, or sense of momentum that we want to describe as “culture.”
Something about that term captures what we want, and it seems that others understand its significance. (Read more about this at FaithCulture.org)
But what exactly is “culture?” Culture is a difficult thing to describe. The usual definition is that it is the “shared beliefs and values of a group of people.” I recently heard this shortened to “values + behavior = culture.”
While that definition may be true, it’s not necessarily helpful. It still leaves us with the question of values, and how values relate to behavior. How do we change values, and how does behavior change when values change?
That “beliefs, values, behavior” definition doesn’t help us know how to respond to issues of culture. In fact, it may be why culture seems so difficult to change in the first place.
It turns out there’s much more to culture than meets the eye. And the deeper we dig, the more connections we find to scripture. But maybe not in the ways we expect.