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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Innovating Culture

A great unused opportunity.

Engaging Culture (5)

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke
it, and gave it to them saying, “This is My body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22.19

Cultural innovators
From the beginning of the Christian movement, the followers of Jesus Christ have blazed new trails in creating culture. God has used the followers of Christ to innovate a great many new cultural forms that have brought glory to God and benefit to others to this day.

Jesus Himself showed the way in this by innovating two new forms of culture for use by His people in worship—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These two venerable sacraments dramatize so many powerful truths of the Christian faith that it is all but unthinkable for a body of believers to gather without regularly making use of them.

Christians over the centuries have innovated other forms of culture as well. We promoted the expansion of literacy and education; changed the face of civil law; enlarged the possibilities of music; created new literary forms, such as the sonnet; improved working conditions by creating the craft guild; invented new types of architecture; standardized vernacular tongues through the translation of Scripture; institutionalized care for the sick and marginalized; and birthed the scientific revolution and all the basic practices which still define the terms of that now-secular enterprise.

The first Christians even changed the way letters are written. A typical letter during the waning years of the Roman Empire would begin with a greeting that said something like, “Greetings and good health.” Then on to the body of the letter.

Compare that with Paul’s, “Grace to you, and peace, from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Christians worked to create freedom for slaves and to repurpose waste lands for cultivation and development by draining swamps and improving tools for cultivating the soil.

Christians invented movable type printing, the popular book, and mass pop culture—in the form of prints, etchings, banners, songs and hymns, and inexpensive broadside publications.

Christians created the university and public education. The list goes on. Because culture in all its forms provides opportunity for glorifying God and blessing others, it’s not surprising that Christians—who enjoy not just God’s common grace but His special, redemptive grace as well—have employed their minds and talents to innovate a wide variety of cultural forms and improvements.

Called to innovate
We don’t all have to be geniuses to innovate in the way we use culture.

For example, what if we were to repudiate, once and for all, all gossip and all carping and complaining, and instead were to work hard day by day to redirect our tongues toward building others up (Eph. 4.29)? We would have to innovate some new ways of engaging people in conversation, by getting to know people and taking a real interest in them, becoming better listeners, asking good questions, making sure all our words were seasoned with grace, and always speaking truth in love. Would that not be a radical and innovative improvement on much of what passes for conversation today?

If every believer just worked a bit harder to innovate new forms of conversation, I’m persuaded the world would certainly notice the difference!

Or what if believers decided, let’s say, just to be a bit provocative, to innovate our approach to Sundays. Suppose we decided we were going to honor the Lord’s Day and not indulge our favorite cultural pastimes, diversions, or interests—encouraging a variety of Sabbath-breakers as we do—but instead give ourselves, in various ways through the day, to meditating on God, reflecting on the wonders of His creation, rejoicing in His redemption, enjoying the fellowship of His saints, resting in His abounding goodness and love, and ignoring the goings-on of the world?

Actually, that wouldn’t so much be innovating the Lord’s Day as rediscovering its proper use—a use which we have innovated amiss in order to accommodate the weaknesses of our flesh.

Sending a signal
What if we all took up the discipline of encouraging one another? Of writing real letters? Inviting our neighbors for a meal? Creating reading groups or film-viewing groups? What if we rediscovered the joy and mutual edification that we can know from singing together? What if we went as a group to a local museum, seeking representations of the grace of God in great works of art, then sat around at a café or restaurant talking about what we’d learned?

What if—heaven help us!—we learned to love great poetry and delighted to discuss it together?

Innovations like this would send a sure signal to the world that we are a different people, who serve a different King, and live according to a different economy and different values. And that, after all, is what living the Kingdom life is all about.

The opportunities for innovating new forms and uses of existing forms of culture are endless. If we can learn and practice the disciplines of repudiating, appropriating, redirecting, transforming, and innovating culture, we might just find our use of culture to be one of the most exciting and satisfying activities of our busy lives.

For reflection

1. What will be required for you to innovate some new conversational practices in your daily life? Why should you seek to do this?

2. What about churches? Should the role of churches be in helping us engage culture in the ways we have been considering?

3. Do you agree that there is room to innovate how we as Christians observe the Sabbath? Explain.

Next steps—Transformation: What will you do today to transform your use of culture through some innovative practices?

T. M. Moore

Two books on culture are available to accompany this series on “A Christian Approach to Culture.” Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars shows how important it is that we consider culture as a way of bringing glory to God. Order your copy by clicking here. Redeeming Pop Culture examines the nature of pop culture and some ways we can make good use of it for God’s glory. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for ReVision comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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