Blog - Embodying Truth
Intersecting Our CultureThursday, July 31, 2014
To intersect, says Webster, is to "meet and cross at a point" or to "share a common area.” Where is that point or common area where we as Christ-followers most often intersect our culture?
Some time ago, a pastor friend said he and his church were looking for some way to build relationships with their community. Although he didn’t use the term, they were seeking a way to intersect the culture around them. But how can any church do that effectively?
In church buildings? Clearly we need to gather regularly with other believers. The New Testament, in urging us not to give up meeting together, leaves no doubt about that (Heb. 10:25). But as important as our (typically) Sunday meetings are, they are hardly an effective way to intersect the surrounding culture—for at least two reasons. First, most profess the same faith in Christ. Unbelievers, if any, are few and attend intermittently. Second, once-a-week meetings do not amount to any significant contact even with the few who may be present.
In church outreach programs? Some churches draw in hundreds of neighborhood kids for VBS summer events. Others staff food booths at local fairs, selling pizza, hot dogs, or ice cream. Work days at a local school or picking up litter along a highway can provide useful services. But as with all events, these come and go. They usually do not result in repeated or long-term relationships.
In our neighborhoods? One study revealed that a mere 25 percent of us know the names of those in nearby homes. A Gospel Coalition website tells of a Christian group "eager to do something big and evangelistic.” Suggestions included a festival or cookout. "These are all great ideas,” said their coach, "but let me ask you something. What’s the guy’s name in the house next door?” The group’s leader had no idea. "How ‘bout across the street?” This time, the leader could say the man’s name, but not those of his wife or kids. Nor did he know what work the neighbor did. In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam wrote that neighborhood relationships are "measurably more feeble now than a generation ago.”
But what about the workplace? Suppose your church includes 100 adults. Assume 60 of them work in paid jobs. On average, each of them will have 16 coworkers. Say each knows another 20 in his or her job network (customers, patients, students, vendors, and so on). In that case the workplace "salt-and-light” reach of your 100-adult congregation would total 2,160. And those on-the-job relationships will continue with some regularity week in, week out, year in, and year out.
Nearly two out of three adult believers spend 40 percent of their waking hours on the job. What proportion of our church meetings should aim at equipping them to season their workplace relationships with salt and shine light into the surrounding darkness? Has the time come to equip Christians to intersect our culture in that shared common area where believers and unbelievers constantly cross paths?