Pastor Keith Pavlansky
Faith Fellowship Church, North Carolina
Among the New Testament Church, there is not widespread agreement on what cultural engagement means. But most Christians agree that we should do more of it, whatever it is. Some pastors have "cultural engagement teams" at their church. The biggest function ends up being raking leaves and cleaning gutters for elderly or widows. (These are certainly noble causes.) Others suggest that cultural engagement is when the pastor dresses in the latest fashions or quotes from pop culture movies and TV programs.
I'm going to use the term the same way the military would. The apostle Paul had a tendency to use military terms, too. We have two opposing cultures--a Kingdom culture and a secular worldview culture. An engagement of these two opposing views will invariably cause a clash of forces. (James 4:4 Friend of the world = enemy of God, 1 John 2:15-17 "…do not love the world…") The scriptures are clear--we are not trying to negotiate or compromise with the world's system; we are at war with it.
Having just come through Independence Day celebrations, I want to use a Revolutionary War illustration from the Battle of Bunker Hill to suggest an important determination of HOW and WHEN to engage the culture.
Taking up arms against Great Britain was not popular or politically expedient in the colonies in 1775. Perhaps as few as 25% of the population supported the idea. The popularity disparity was even more pointed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Other than the element of surprise and a slight terrain advantage, the colonists were completely outmatched and outgunned going into an unpopular battle. They knew it, too. They did not have near enough personnel or ammo to hold the hill country above Boston. They fought the battle almost exclusively on principle (with a bit of hope).
Sometimes our determination to engage the culture in 2020 is based more on the popularity or the outcome of the engagement, instead of principle. This is a bad strategy.
Taking on the prevailing culture in politics, discussions of sexual abstinence, marital fidelity, homosexuality, gender fluidity (today's subject du jour), taxes, child training, etc.--these will NEVER be popular with the world, and they may be unpopular in some church settings. But it is the fundamental rightness and Truth of our Kingdom position that necessitates a battle response or a "cultural engagement” (even when we are up against insurmountable odds). There are many cultural battles that need the Church proclaiming unpopular Truths in public settings, even if the odds are stacked against us. (Luke 6:26 "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you…") Our goal is not to be popular.
For the record, the patriots fought bravely at Bunker Hill; but on paper, they lost that battle. After 6 more years of losing many more battles than they won, the colonists were finally victorious in the war. Let us engage in the same way.