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 forms 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. They 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; and birthed the scientific revolution and all the basic practices which still define the terms of that now-secular enterprise.
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 free 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 books.
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 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 in order 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, making sure all our words were seasoned with grace, and speaking truth in love at all times.
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, 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, 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
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.
How does your church work to equip members for their cultural lives? Talk with some church leaders about this question.
Sign up for ViewPoint Leaders Training and start your own ViewPoint discussion group.
Want to go a little deeper with culture? Order T. M.’s book, Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars from our online store.
Men, download our free brief paper, “Men of the Church: A Solemn Warning,” by clicking here.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.