Russell and Duenes

Can Local Churches Be Transcultural, Cross-Cultural, Counter-Cultural and Contextual All at the Same Time?

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A friend of mine has argued that the Church should be “transcultural, cross-cultural, counter-cultural and contextual.” I would agree that the church should be these things, but my contention is, that this should be true of the Church Universal, or the Church Global, if you prefer, rather than characteristic of the church local. I am simply unable to see how any local expression of the church can be all at the same time “transcultural, cross-cultural, counter-cultural and contextual.” Perhaps my failure to see how this would work practically is a lack of insight and wisdom on my part, or simply ignorance, all of which, if true, I should like to have corrected.

I suppose a local church can be “transcultural” in that it would be teaching and preaching doctrines that are not bound to any particular culture. However, such doctrines are certainly are preached in a specific language, in a specific cultural location (Topeka, as opposed to, say, Berkeley), at a specific cultural moment (the early 21st century, as opposed to the late 8th century). So in that case, even though the message is not a “western” or an “eastern” or a “Chinese” message, that is, not bound to any of these expressions, it is still culture bound in its transmission. It has to be. That’s the nature of human existence. The local church can also be counter-cultural, and indeed, should be if it is preaching the gospel. It will also be contextual, although, when one says that the local church is being “contextual,” my question would be: Contextual toward whom? The hippie subculture? The first generation Asian population? A sort of melting-pot?

Further, local churches can have a bit of cross-cultural expression. We might sing a song or two in Spanish and/ or some other language, but if a Mandarin Chinese from western China showed up in a church in Minneapolis, he’d be welcomed, but his culture would be subsumed in the Minneapolis culture, I suspect. If a black man from southern Mississippi showed up, who is used to singing spirituals in his church, he is not likely to hear a spiritual in the new church, though he certainly could, if the church was intentional about singing them. In other words, what part of your Sunday church service and your overall ministry is going to cater to the outsider’s cultural folkways and mores? To enlarge the point, is it really possible to have a local church where you’ve got a Spanish-speaking-only Castillion person, a Urdu-speaking-only Pakistani, a Farsi-speaking-only Iranian, and a majority of white midwesterners? Whose culture is going to be subsumed in the others? For they cannot all be given expression. Even if you had such a composition of congregants, would all of them stick around for long? Should they?



Written by Michael Duenes

August 11, 2013 at 6:24 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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