Month: May 2007

Two Great Commissions: Cultural and Evangelistic?

James Emery White recently raised the evangelism flag at a well known church and culture conference. He rightly noted that there are trends in Western evangelical/post-evangelical Christianity that make much of engaging culture, while making less of evangelizing people.

Is this trend due to the fact that there are two Great Mandates for the Christian–the cultural mandate (Cultural Commission, Gen 1) and the discipleship mandate (Great Commission, Matt 28)? If so, did Jesus intend for the Great Commission, the redemption of souls to trump and subsume the cultural commission? On the other hand, are current misisonal-cultural trends in danger of obscuring the discipling of the nations?

Much could be said in response (and i hope it will). Briefly, I believe we need Christians “who redemptively engage peoples and cultures through Christ,” which is an excerpt from Austin City Life’s vision statement. In fact, redemptively engaging people and cultures should be done hand in hand, not first and second. All peoples, are enculturated beings…their worldviews, values, etc are shaped by culture, positively and negatively.

Our task is to connect with culture by praising the positive, building bridges and showing the biblical foundations for positive culture and for the origins and purpose of culture, AND for redemptively critiquing, questioning, and disowning negative and questionable parts of culture and society.

The gospel is for God’s glory in people through culture, as well as through culture for people. Of course, cultural renewal and social transformation happen through people and their innovations, so we can’t have one without the other. If we want to reach people, we have to deal with culture, intelligently or ignorantly. If we want to engage culture, we will necessarily affect people redemptively or religiously. There is no either/or.

Four Principles for Cultural Engagement

Principles of Culture Change (taken from Prof. Timothy Tennent)

1) Understanding – Missionaries must first understand the element to be changed or affirmed from the point of view of the indigenous people.

2) Focus – Missionaries should focus on a minimal number of negative paradigm changes rather than peripheral ones.

3) Dialogue – conversation partners

Contemporary – seek out and enter into dialogue with indigenous leaders and their perspectives and opinions working with them for biblical change.

Historical – appreciate historic creeds and their wisdom. “Tradition is the greatest expression of democracy.” – Chesterton

4) Time – accomplishing biblical change in the culture takes time, which all too often doesn’t settle with Westerners. Issues like homosexuality will not vanish overnight. “Dot forget you’re preaching to the grandchildren.” – Walls

Adoptive Fathers Website

Some adoptive fathers and good friends of mine recently launced a new web minstry to adoptive fathers. Here is the purpose/welcome statement:

“This is a resource site for guys connected to adoption or foster care at any level. Whether you’re an adoptive or foster dad yourself, or have siblings, in-laws, friends, or even children thinking about/investigating/diving head–first into adoption or foster care, this site’s for you. Welcome! ”

Check out