The speed of cultural change has taken our breath away and it has become extraordinarily difficult to stay on top of these rapidly shifting social trends. Nearly everything we hear and read about today is interpreted through a politically explosive lens. Social Justice warriors press their message. Celebrity scolding is wearisome and predictable. And virtue signally is increasingly the latest marketing strategy of major corporations. Today, the litmus test for securing a hearing on any kind of social or political platform is conditioned upon a person being “woke.”
Culture is something we build on to what God has created. A river is nature; a canal is culture. A rock is nature; an arrowhead is culture. Human socialization is nature; group behaviour is culture. Culture is how we talk, how we do things, and how we behave. Culture is also what we see – the way we would see the top 10% of an iceberg. What undergirds culture is often unseen; the invisible 90% of the iceberg. And so, what we see and experience in culture today is the expression of a worldview that is secular, humanistic, and significantly removed from the Judeo-Christian foundations of the past.
In Romans 12:1-2, the Apostle Paul states, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
There is a great deal of gold to be mined from this passage, however I want to identify only one critical observation. Paul warns us, “Do not be conformed to this world…” To conform is to allow our natural default to kick in. We are usually quite passive when we simply allow our given environment to influence or worse, dilute our beliefs, values, and convictions. In this state, we quietly choose the path of least resistance and we become like everyone else. But Paul says, “Don’t do that!” Rather, we need to be “transformed by the renewal of our minds” and this is something active. It takes choice, intentionality, and requires wisdom, courage, and often sacrifice. We are choosing to be different, to think different, to act different, and to let the Holy Spirit empower us to be different from our culture.
Christian leaders (pastors, educators, mission leaders, board members) all carry multiple concerns for their ministries including finance, succession, HR, viability, strategy, internal cultural health – we could go on. However, a concern that weighs heavily on leaders today is the impact of external culture on the work of the Gospel. Today’s culture of wokeness is pounding on the sentient boundaries of the church and “Progressive Christianity” is gaining momentum throughout the evangelical church.
The best way to identify worldviews which are contrary to a biblical worldview is by immersing ourselves in the teachings of the Bible. As the oft-used illustration reminds us: Bank tellers are taught to identify counterfeit bills by being thoroughly trained in the distinctives of the authentic currency. Similarly, the more we are saturated in the Word of God – the more effective we will be able in identifying even nuanced messages which might distort the truth.
May God bless you as you continue to saturate yourself in His Word – and let Him transform you!
Michael Pawelke, President