Building a Culture

Culture is the shared set of attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes a group of people. Every group of people has a unique culture. In the corporate world, companies spend millions of dollars and work tirelessly at establishing a culture that helps them meet their goals, organizing teams around a common mission and shared set of values.

In the religious community, we think changing up our dress codes and removing some of the old hymns makes us progressive or relevant in some superficial way. We focus on revising the most trivial aspects of our church cultures and hope that somehow this will trick the world into embracing us. However, simply modifying our dress or updating our music will never establish the kind of culture that produces fruit and changes lives.

Most churches I’m families with have great faith for a harvest of souls but little understanding of the the culture they are seeking to impact. We have been so fearful of becoming “worldly” that we have no idea of how to reach anyone beyond our little niches. Despite this trend among contemporary Christians, the most culturally relevant person in human history was without a doubt Jesus Christ.

He understood His target audience. His message was incredibly effective and accessible to large crowds and small groups alike. He could speak to the hearts of anyone He came across—from prostitutes to tax collectors or the sick in body, there was no one He couldn’t minister to. Though Christ in no way condoned their behavior, He never made them feel uncomfortable in His presence.

In fact, the only people who didn’t receive Him was His own. The religious community gave him trouble on every level. He was the Messiah, the change agent the earth was waiting on, but they never accepted Him because He didn’t look anything like what they expected.

So often people rally around the idea of change. The concept of change is applauded but implementation is often met with entirely different emotions. The Jews wouldn’t have had a problem with Jesus if He could have conformed to their ideology and tradition—this is an example of a rigid culture standing in the way of purpose and plans of God.

Culture shock is something we understand from the stand point of the differences between geographic regions—the culture in African countries differs radically from the culture in America and adjusting to a markedly different culture often provokes unpleasant emotions and anxiety. The real question becomes is this the reason people in the church community are so afraid to deviate from their tradition and liturgy? Maybe it’s about preserving our comfort and predictability.

I don’t understand all of the apprehensions Christians have to change but one thing is certain, fundamental changes to church culture must come if Christianity is to remain the religion of this nation. Although the great reformers of history came from England, now England, and the rest of Europe, is post-Christian. The city of London is experiencing an explosion of Muslim followers, building thousands of mosques to accommodate this growth. You might believe such a shift could never happen in this nation, but I’m certain Spurgeon and Wesley thought the same of England not long ago.

We must being willing to allow God the opportunity to speak to us all concerning how He wants His church to function in contemporary culture. What is clear is that church has to be more than singing, preaching and offerings—the maintenance of the saints can no longer be our primary objective. While this is part of the local assembly’s role, we cannot allow pursuing the comfort of the saints trump our work on the Great Commission.

Why shouldn’t we change, with purpose, to better reach the lost? We know who it is we are to reach, so why can’t we reach them? If we truly understood our target audience as Jesus understood His, we would get the same results. After all, it is His church and He set the ultimate example we should follow.

Taking the gospel to the lost in an effective, relevant way should be our greatest goal. To do it, we have to build a strong culture in our churches that places connecting the lost with Christ as a greater priority than entertaining the saints. Part of my commitment this year is to build a culture in our church that is conducive to carrying out the great commission, energizing the saints and organizing our efforts to reach the lost.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll introduce the core values that will anchor our culture to this mission. The first of these values is we don’t save seats. To create a culture that emphasizes the lost, we must be more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

His Love Answers All

In this series of blogs from 1 John 4:7-21, we have already observed several wonderful facts concerning God and His love for us. In this blog, I’d like to take a moment to outline a few more truths that will help us to identify God in all things at all times, for His love is the answer to all of our human problems, struggles and questions.

Acts 14:15-17, NKJV:
And saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

1) His love explains creation.

Everyone has wondered why God created the world at one point or another. Why did He create us? Does the earth testify to the existence of God or are we here by chance?

If God is love, He cannot exist in lonely isolation—He must have someone to love and someone to love what He has made. Acts 14:15-17 speaks of all God made from Heaven and Earth to the sea and all that’s in it. When He created, He wasn’t willing to leave us without a proper witness to His handiwork. This is why there is a natural theology where all that God has done testifies to His great love for us.

2) It explains free will.

In order for love to be genuine, it must be freely given and freely received. If God was only law then He would have made the world to obey, like robots, responding without genuine feelings. But where is the love in that? By definition, love has got to be a free response that comes from the heart.

So God, as a deliberate act of self-limitation, made man with a freewill, so we could freely choose to love Him, as an autonomous response to the fact that He first loved us. We can’t help ourselves as it relates to salvation because we were all dead in trespass and sin—we can, however, respond to the love of God when we hear the gospel message. This is the only way God could have a true, loving relationship with His creation.

3) It explains His providence.

God plays an active role in the administration of the earth. He takes pleasure in the lives of people and the care of all created things. This is so much better than the deistic view of a God who exists on autopilot, not giving care or attention to His creation! People seek to indict God by pointing to the bad or evil in the earth, but remember God is not capable of evil—all good and perfect things come from above. Believers can trust in the providence of God and that He takes care of all that belongs to Him.

4) It explains redemption.

If God were only concerned with law and justice, He would have left us to ourselves, resulting in the consequences of sin crashing down on us. Jesus would have stayed in Heaven and we would die in our sin and be eternally separated from Him.

Thank God for redemption! Because God is love, He came to seek out the lost and offer salvation. He provided the remedy for sin, redemption.

5) And, God’s love explains eternal life.

If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you understand how difficult it can be to imagine life without them. If God were simply a creator, then the fate for men would be death. All created things would cease and God would, again, be in isolation. But thankfully, because of His love, God has offered us the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus Christ.

To all who have accepted this sacrifice, physical death is merely a doorway into His eternal presence.

For me, it truly is God’s love that causes things to make sense. So many of the questions that trouble us fade away when we shift our focus towards the love of God and embrace a relationship with Him. I hope something I’ve written here will help make sense of something for you too.

– Ps. Ken

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Ken is senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Listen to his messages online at the Spirit Life Church website.

We Are Doubly His

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During our worship service this morning, God opened up a truth that blessed me deeply. Even though I shared this briefly with my congregation at Spirit Life Church, I wanted to take an opportunity to expand on it in this blog.

Genesis 1:4, KJV:
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

I believe the entirety of the Bible is valuable in the life of the believer and it’s filled with symbols and metaphors of Jesus and our relationship with Him. This verse is no exception and to understand the contemporary significance of this verse in our lives is to understand the power of what God has done for us, through His son Jesus Christ.

Matthew 3:17, KJV:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Ephesians 1:6, KJV:
To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the light of God manifests in our hearts. He separates our light from darkness and He never loses His focus on this light. Regardless of what anyone else sees or believes, even when you struggle to see the light in your own heart, God is ever-watching the light of our salvation and is pleased by it. Just as He was pleased by His beloved Son, He is pleased by us and openly accepts us into His beloved—we are eternally His.

The ownership of God over the life of a Christian is two sided. First, we belong to the Father as a matter of creation because we are made in His likeness and image. More significantly, we belong to the Son through the spirit of adoption. When we become members of the beloved through salvation, we simultaneously become adopted sons and daughters of God. In other words, we are doubly His. What an awesome, undeserved position we find ourselves in as believers.

Our security in Christ should come as an incredible consolation to all of us. He understands our weaknesses and our shortcomings, but because we belong to Him, He divides our light from darkness and continues to help us all obtain the great prize of Christ and everlasting life.

When you are faced with challenges or even failures, remember that you belong to God and your salvation is firmly anchored in this powerful relationship. You have the best counsel in the universe because Jesus Christ Himself is your advocate. The accuser of the brethren will come and try to shake you, but just as Job’s faith was unmoved so it will be with your faith because Jesus is on your team!

You have received incorruptible seed and unshakable faith and the darkness of this world no longer has any power over you—He has separated your light from darkness and accepted you into the beloved with His son.

This is the year for You. Be determined to know Christ in the power of His resurrection!

– Ps. Ken

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Ken VanHoose is the senior pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Listen to his messages online at Spirit Life Church’s website.