The Cultural Commute to Church
Though a church may be in people’s neighborhood, they may still have to make a cultural commute when they enter a church. Keith Anderson lists some of the cultural commutes people make:
- from increasingly diverse neighborhoods and workplaces to a homogeneous congregation
- from flat screen TVs and smart phones to no technology at all, except for a decades old sound system
- from an increasing awareness and appreciation for the gifts of different ethnicities to a focus on one particular ethnic tradition
- from everyday conversational language to specialized church language
- from digital media and contemporary art to images, art, and banners that are decades old
- from contemporary shared cultural reference points to stories, events, images, music and movies that happened before we were born
- from a majority of society supportive of gay rights to conflict or silence about it in the church.
For those who were raised in the culture of the church, we forget that newcomers are making a cultural commute, sometimes a strange and uncomfortable one, to attend church.
The solution is not to jettison anything that may be different from the culture around us. If we do, we diminish our distinctiveness and lose some of very traditions that have spiritually nourished people for millennia. Nor is the solution to hold fast to every aspect of church culture. If we do, we lose touch with what’s important to people today.
The difficult task of a church is mentoring people in the ancient spiritual practices that are life-giving sources for one’s life, all while letting of those things that are dead traditions that become barriers to people who seek to grow in their faith. The reason it is difficult is that one person’s dead tradition is another’s life-giving practice!
A long cultural commute to church isn’t necessary, but we’ll never know how to shorten it unless we engage one another in conversation about it. We need to be asking one another: what are the practices of the church that breathe life into you? What are those things that seem stagnate?
No matter where we stand in the conversation, our goal is the same: we desire to focus on those things that God uses to bring abundant life.