Church Culture II

Aspects of Culture – There are many aspects of culture both in society as a whole and in smaller groups such as corporations, social clubs, and churches. Here I take a look at just a few of these items and how they relate to society in general. How do these cultural maters affect the church?

  • Language – One of the most obvious aspects of culture, and one which is often the most sensitive. French have a gov’t bureau to protect theirs; we have a constant issue about English as national language; Canada has areas where signs must be in French – no English allowed. The church, of course, has its own vocabulary.
  • Art and literature – Very often the morality of a nation is seen through its art and literature, including music. Especially, but not exclusively, music has been an ongoing battlefield for many churches over the past twenty years or so.
  • Technology – Very often our obsession with our technologies will say a lthot about our culture. During the decades of the Soviet Empire, their only technological growth was in those areas which provided military applications, including the launch of Sputnik in 1955. Other areas suffered (medicine, agriculture, etc). How does your congregation employ technology?
  • Dress – How people dress does help to give understanding to the moral health of a nation – or congregation. My wife refers to the church as the “mudroom to heaven.” How do we dress as we prepare to enter the church? How does the pastor/preacher/presenter/facilitator (we see a cultural issue right there) dress?
  • Law – Homosexual marriage; state-sponsored gambling; marijuana laws all affect the entire nation and conflict many church groups. How does the church relate to the society? This affects the internal workings of the church, not just its relationship with the culture-at-large.
  • Relationships – How we treat one another. Battle of the sexes – at the same time as the sexual revoltion. Hip Hop demeaning women; racial tensions continue. Do these attitudes get carried into your congregation?
  • Communication – How do we communicate? Important field of studies with departments at many major universities. The big publication in this field was “The Medium is the Message” by Marshall McLuhan (though it was many years ago). He introduced the idea of a global village as a result of communication technology (like the fax machine. This was the 1960s. Anything by McLuhan is worth reading, BTW. He actually coined the term “media.” This is one of the most fascinating aspects of culture to me. It is very important in the culture of the church. How do we communicate with one another?
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What is Your Church Culture?

A few years back, I led a weekend retreat regardingculture church culture. Looking over that material this week, I have decided to revisit the topic. There were four topics for the weekend. They looked like this:

  1. What is Culture?
  2. What is Church Culture?
  3. What is Your Church’s Culture?
  4. What is a Biblical Church Culture? How Do We Get There?

I will, of course, edit and update. Feel free to jump in and make suggestions or criticisms.

Our topic is not church and culture. We are not looking primarily at how we deal with the culture outside the church doors, although that will come into the discussion. Our overall goal will be to figure out what our own church cultures are; what they are supposed to be; and what we need to be and do to affect positively the culture of our congregations.

Part One: What is Culture?
I. Intro and Definitions.

The word culture has a lot of definitions.  For some folks it is an appreciation of good literature, music, and art.  Some of us call that “Cultchuh.” In biology and medicine, it may be a colony of bacteria or other micro-organisms growing in a Petri dish.  For people who are referred to as Social Scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behavior patterns.

Culture is an amazing thing. It’s slippery. You can’t always figure out what a culture is and where it’s going, because it really isn’t made up of tangible things. It isn’t buildings and machines. These are only products of our culture. Another thing about culture is that once you begin to figure it out it has probably changed.

Here’s the definition I’m going to be working with: Culture: The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation.

Some questions to ponder before I continue on this journey next week:

What do you think of when you think of culture?

  • How about the culture of France?

  • The culture of the South?

  • The culture of New England?

  • What are the differences?