God in Christ took on the context of culture to communicate his love, and now he is calling his church to do the same. See my blogpost from two weeks ago to understand the role of culture in God’s plan: http://wp.me/p4ybbl-8B
Of course, the most obvious calling card of culture is style. “Indigenous,” a term meaning “natural or inborn,” is helpful in understanding the concept of native culture. Indigenous style most easily identifies who we are in the context of our own culture. But again, just as with culture, we sinful humans tend to condemn any style that is not our own. Whether musical style, architectural style, dress and fashion, or a myriad of other things, our sinful nature aspires to put our favorite style on the worship throne and condemn other styles. Dwayne Moore, in his Bible study on worship entitled Pure Praise, noted: “The Bible simply makes no reference to a preferred style . . . So, if God’s Word is apparently not concerned with style, why should we be so up in arms about it?”
When we deify our personal preferences, we stop using culture as a tool and put ourselves on the throne. Again, this is idolatry. Christians must join God as he uses culture and style to connect both Christians and non-Christians to himself.
While on a mission project to a Latin American country, we worked with a local pastor in our host country. Upon arrival, we asked him if our singing group could sing a gospel song for their worship service that was written in the salsa style. He graciously explained that he would prefer that we not sing songs in that style. He shared that he and his wife had accepted Christ in their adult years. In their younger pre-Christian years, the two of them frequented bars and dance halls where salsa style prevailed. For him, this style of music represented his former life before accepting Christ. So our group politely agreed to omit the salsa style praise song from our concert there. After spending a week working shoulder-to-shoulder for Christ in his town, the pastor came back to me before our final concert. He wanted me to know that he had changed his mind and wanted us to sing the salsa style praise song for our final concert. I asked him what brought him to this change of heart. He shared with me that his two college-age sons had pulled him aside and talked with him. They explained that salsa style did not have sinful connotations for them. The sons said that the exciting salsa rhythms actually captured for them and their generation the joy of loving and serving God. So the pastor relented. He said that it was time he stopped being the keeper of standards based on his prejudice from the past. He said he was ready to give God the salsa style to use for his glory.
While we are the gospel incarnate to a culture, the church must never stoop to embrace popular fads as a means of fitting comfortably into secular culture. Beth Moore, expressed this concept well in her study of Daniel: “They (Daniel and his friends) learned the language, literature, and customs all right, but only so God could use them in the midst of it. They read the language of their culture with the lens of God. Thereby, they became culturally relevant without becoming spiritually irrelevant.”
Let’s follow Paul’s instruction when putting style preferences in their proper Biblical place: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”
— Mark Powers
Moore, Dwayne – Pure Praise, 110.
Moore, Beth – Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy, 26.