A culture crossing other cultures

I just finished reading The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again, by George G. Hunter, III. I was struck by his application of the premise in the last chapter. He observes, and rightly so, that our society is becoming increasingly secular. Fewer students are coming to our campuses with a Christian background or understanding. Because they do not respond to apologetics or truth claims, Hunter says that it is in this context that the “Celtic Way” of evangelism is meaningful.

  1. First bring them into the fellowship of your community of faith. 
  2. Within the fellowship, you engage in ministry, conversation, prayer and worship.
  3. In time, as they discover they now believe, you invite them to commit.

(I referred to his basic premise, contrasting the Celtic and Roman ways of evangelism in an earlier tip.)

One example of how this applies is the way the “Culture of Addiction” exemplifies so many. Whether, addiction is to substances (alcohol, drugs, etc.), or to processes (gambling, sex, relationships or even religion), it takes over lives and renders them powerless. Apparently, geneticists say that as many as 1 out of 8 have a genetic predisposition toward addiction. That is a large part of our audience. We may not have considered how pervasive the addictive culture is. Addiction is only part of the issue–the culture that the addict is immersed in is even more powerful.

Most of us have probably shared Christ with someone that we knew was addicted, maybe to alcohol or to pornography or possibly a member of a cult. I have seem people come come to Christ, see victory for a period, but then watch them get pulled back into the community that they were a part of and back to the addiction. Can you relate? William L White’s Pathways from the Culture of Addiction to the Culture of Recovery says “the addictive personality is sucked into a ‘tribe’ or a ‘social world’ that values, introduces, reinforces, and celebrates drug abuse and even shapes people over time into a different identity.” But what is true of drugs is also true of pornography, of cultic practices, etc. Hunter says that breaking free from the addictive culture is more difficult than breaking free from the addiction itself. He goes on to say that “White’s ‘culture of recovery’ also validates the Celtic Christian emphasis upon the role of community experience in people finding truth, life, and a new identity…”

Certainly, all that we attempt to do by taking a new convert through follow up, involving them in Bible studies and introducing them to other Christians is needed. I have been quick to criticize celebrities who run into difficulties and check themselves into rehab. But the principle applies: join a recovery community first and learn to internalize the beliefs and lifestyle of that community.

I think we want to help our student and volunteer leaders to consider:

  • Just getting people to pray a prayer will not ensure life change. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1,2) Growth is a process. Slow, sometimes painful, often with setbacks, but it is a worthwhile process.
  • The students our leaders are trying to reach are part of other cultures. Some good and some bad. Some we want to applaud their involvement and see those relational networks as potential carriers of the Gospel. With others we want to encourage replacing, because of their destructive influence.
  • Let us not minimize the value of the body witness in attracting students to our movements. Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Invite non-believers, encourage them to join and invite them to faith.
  • Why not ask your leaders to decode the types of addictions experienced by the students they know? How pervasive is the addictive community? What will it take to impact them?

I realize that I have only scratched the surface here. I expect that I raised more issues than I settled. Let me encourage you to read The Celtic Way of Evangelism. http://www.amazon.com/Celtic-Way-Evangelism-Christianity-West-Again/dp/0687085853 We all want to reach and impact our world for Christ. Maybe there is more here for us.


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