I was reading a blog I found on Youth Culture Report from Andy Blanks about dealing with culture and how to engage the battle for our students hearts and minds. There are many in ministry who settle for playing games with students and entertaining them for a couple hours each week but this is not what Christ intended! We have all been commissioned to make disciples! Disciples know and understand culture, how to interact within the culture and how to change their culture. Real life disciples don’t flee from culture into a nice, quaint sub-culture where everything is controlled and managed. To the contrary they engage culture and wisely live within that context making a difference however subtle. Jesus told his disciples : 16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 Jesus did not seek to escape culture but rather he equipped His disciples to effectively engage it. How can we better do this?
Dissect The Culture. As with any scientific methodology, dissection and cross-section is a great way to not only understand but engage a species. Culture seems to change about every year to year-and-a-half making understanding it an epic challenge. As soon as you think you have a grasp someone flips the script and dramatically shifts the paradigm. Taking time with your students and parents on a regular basis to work through the lyrics of a song, album cover art, music videos and movie clips are great ways to study the culture and gauge where it is and where it is headed. Host media weekends or seminars to help parents know how to find resources and use technology. Allow the students to be the teachers! Now that’s a novel idea, right? Bring the outsiders in! We have to do a better job understanding culture instead of simply judging it!
We fear what we do not understand.
Dialogue About Culture. Talking about the mores and values of the society are vitally important. Many students and adults have a clouded understanding of why they do what they do and the reasons for which they feel strongly about certain beliefs or ways of living. Having dialogue and discussions are healthy and necessary to flesh out real belief and doctrine of scripture.If we never talk about these things in church how do we really expect our students to be equipped to address the issues in the real world? Dialogue is the bridge between generations and cultures. Conversations give birth to relationships and relationships change culture! When relationships with parents and families become stronger the culture becomes stronger. Churches should be the place where most dialogue about culture happens! Talk to God about the culture. Pray on behalf of the city, nations and world. Don’t just talk to your children or students but talk to God! Pray together as families at church. Pray together as the Body for the culture.
Disciple Into Culture. If we are to be successful in helping our students and their parents engage culture we have to disciple people correctly. This means we have to biblically train them and disciple them through God’s Word and by His Spirit. Jesus could not have been more clear about this than when he prayed:
14 I have given them Your word.
The world hated them
because they are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
15 I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
16 They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
18 As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
19 I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth.
Jesus had prepared His disciples and made them fishers of men. He trained them by living with them and allowing them to peer into His life for three years. Can we do any less and anticipate success? Hardly! Yet many of today’s generation and culture at large are biblically illiterate, un-discipled, and lost and tossed about by every wind of doctrine because they do not have an established discipleship relationship with any kind of spiritual mentor or coach.
Many pastors, youth pastors and even lay leaders “preach” and teach but who is discipling? Who is investing days, months, and years into the lives of students on a regular basis? We need men and women, moms and dads who will step up and disciple their children, raising them to live godly within the context of a messed-up generation. If we expect our kids to be godly leaders we cannot neglect the fact that time together, living and breathing in close proximity, along with clear and definitive teaching and modeling is the only way to disciple! Without these things in concert and harmony the next generation will not only be self-absorbed but un-discipled as Christ-Followers. They might know about God but they will not glorify Him with their lives.
Changing the culture can only happen when people of the culture are changed from within. This only happens with relationship. Relationships with each other and God. It’s not about taking our kids out of the “mean, nasty, bad, and evil” culture but equipping them with every tool, value and resource available to withstand the cultural onslaught.
3 For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, 4because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. 5 And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5: 3-5
MTV, Wiz Khalifa or Lady Gaga are teaching our kids what to believe and they are buying it at a rate of 17 billion dollars a year! Someone new will be teaching them within a year or so… I hope it’s you! To effectively confront cultural norms we have to dissect the culture, dialogue with our kids about it and disciple them in the things of God and ways of Jesus. Otherwise, they will go the way of mainstream culture living obscured lives rooted in virtual obsolescence and irrelevance…not at all what God intended for any generation.
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as the Youth Pastor at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA