30 Jan Finding Your Voice in Today’s Culture By Joe Cameneti, Sr.
Have you ever stopped to think that people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus? Why was that so? Here was a Man who could not have been more counter-cultural, and yet He remained culturally relevant and authentic in the eyes of the people He sought to reach.
Jesus was tempted in all ways just as we are, but He never sinned. He could identify with sinners, with people who were struggling, being tempted sexually, dealing with anger issues and the like. In fact, Jesus was loved by the sinners. Without being in their mess, He could identify with them, and they loved Him for it. It was only the religious people who didn’t like Jesus, and that’s because He was pulling the curtain off the game they were playing. That’s why His life is so interesting to study. He was as culturally relevant and effective as anyone could be.
Because He had developed a voice in His culture, Jesus was able to as the sinners who listened to Him to do the toughest things: die to self, forsake all, follow Him, and make Him first place in their lives. He led them from identification to salvation. We can do the same.
As I thought recently about how we as pastors can become more culturally relevant and authentic in our ministries, I came up with four unique points I’d like to share with you.
1. We must continue doing the obvious. We must pray our hearts out. Ask God to show up in our cities. Petition the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin and place the desire in them to serve Him. A lot of us do this already, and we expect the Holy Spirit to show up, but if we don’t also know and employ the next three points, I think we can lessen the impact of our prayers.
2. We must understand what makes us likable. A UCLA study on what makes people likable revealed three defining factors in likability:
– Likability is not inherent.
– Likability has nothing to do with being attractive or sociable or talented.
– Likability is the result of learned emotional intelligence.
Isn’t that encouraging? You can be an introvert. You can even be socially awkward. As long as you develop emotional intelligence, you can become likable to the people around you.
The study went on to share five things we can do to learn emotional intelligence: be positive, smile a lot, listen, display empathy, and choose not to be judgmental.
Positive people have more friends. They also live on average ten years longer! Smiling people are deemed more approachable. Listeners show by their actions that others matter. Empathic people identify and care about what others are going through. And non-judgmental people display mercy and grace, showing the love of God to others in verbal and tangible ways.
1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV) tells us, “We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” In other words, knowledge is great and we need it, but if it’s not given in love, if it’s not building people up, it’s not going to do any good. We must think, How do I deal with this really tough subject and not come off as judgmental?
3. We must answer questions they cannot ask us. If we’re going to be culturally relevant, we have to ask ourselves what questions people may have (maybe that they don’t even know they have) as we minister on a particular subject. Our culture is always force-feeding ideas and mindsets. We have to be aware of it. This may require you talk to younger people every once in a while to maintain a pulse on what culture is feeding them.
A while ago, I did a series called “Let’s Talk About That” on the LGBTQ community. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me answer the questions that people in my church and community needed answered. As a result, my first two weeks I didn’t even deal with what the Bible says about living the LGBTQ lifestyle. I referred to verses occasionally, but jus focused on laying the groundwork, that God loves the homosexual, that He loves them very much! Then I began to answer their questions.
In lesson three, I opened up with them about a series of studies performed in Scandinavian countries on the effects of homosexuality. Scandinavia is the most homosexually open region of the world, if you didn’t know. These studies show that homosexual people live on average twenty years less than heterosexual people. Studies like this reaffirm that God’s stance against homosexuality is a stance of love for the individual. I took these studies and showed with biblical support why God’s love for the individual places him in opposition to homosexuality.
4. We must identify with their struggles. It’s not easy to develop in the faith. Every believer needs someone to disciple them, to take them under the wing and show them how to navigate the road ahead.
In Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV), Jesus instructs us, saying, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I believe that there are different callings, some who plant and some who water, but as leaders of the local church, we have to disciple believers. Jesus told us to teach them to obey everything He commanded us. We must get Christians to take the next step in their journey of faith. A critical step in this process, to me, is to find your voice amidst today’s culture. Become culturally relevant as Jesus was, not participating in the activities and beliefs of the current day but able to identify with those who do. Then, with Godlike authenticity lead those who are willing to follow out of the world’s culture and into the culture of the kingdom. It’s not going to be easy, but seeing your congregation growing in the faith and in spiritual disciplines will make the challenges all worthwhile!
As you do, work to keep your messages positive and uplifting so that the lost, who will attend service from time to time, will not feel condemned and as if there is no hope. Let them see the difference in you, and let them be moved, as the sinners were with Jesus, to surrender their lives to Christ and be made whole.