3 Thoughts on Culture


Culture is everywhere. Culture is deep. Culture matters to God.

These three thoughts formed the theoretical framework for one of the seminars at Sonburst last weekend. Wes Foster and I had a great time leading A Beginners Guide to Crossing Cultures.  And I thought I'd pass these thoughts along to you ...

1) Culture is everywhere

If we're going to cross cultures, we need to know that the world is full of culture.  You can't escape culture.  There's no such thing as an acultural space.

Some cultures are distinctly marked by "cultural blindness."  Deeply in the majority, folks from these cultures often feel that they don't have a culture at all. [For more on this, check out J. Alex Kirk's excellent blog post Why McDonald's is Ethnic Food]

But we know, from our experience in missions and in student ministry, that everyone who engages in cross-cultural ministry starts somewhere ... starts in their own culture.

Seeing that culture is everywhere makes it possible to ...
  • Understand why crossing cultures is necessary
  • Figure out how to get started crossing cultures
2) Culture is deep

If our only principle around culture was "culture is everywhere," we might expect that crossing cultures is easy, comes naturally and happens all the time.  But that's not our experience, is it?

While some cultural artifacts float on the surface (music, food, fashion), there are powerful and almost immutable cultural forces residing in the depths of our souls (hierarchy, time-sense, communality, perception of determinism).

The deeply entrenched culture we carry with us into cross-cultural interactions could serve as an anchor, holding us back, or as a foundation, allowing us to build.

3) Culture matters to God

From Genesis to Revelation, culture matters to God.  God creates culture, shapes culture, enters culture, redeems culture.  And God sends his people to the ends of the earth, crossing cultures along the way.

So often, when we talk about crossing-cultures and diversity in the university, we ignore God's deep passion for cross-cultural relationship.  We forget that God can help us cross cultures.  We forget that all of this matters to him.

But the God who sent Jesus to redeem us sends us across cultures to tell the story of his love.  And if God could take on flesh, crossing from heaven to earth, ultimate culture crossing ... he can help us.

What other principles would help us cross cultures?

Anyone interested in culture would do well to read Andy Crouch's Culture Making

Photo courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com and grietgriet

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