So I’ve been reading a book called “The Shaping of Things to Come” by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsh. It’s about being missional churches in the midst of the secularized society we’re increasingly finding ourselves in, and has some great points about the contrast between the way today’s Church does things and the way the early Christians of the first three centuries did things. I understand their view of the Church, and of missions, except I ran into something today that seems hard to apply in our setting. After describing how some foreign missionaries in a Muslim country “contextualized” the Gospel (i.e. made it possible to understand in terms of that country’s culture), they say this on page 93: “Their approach is to fully embrace the host culture in every way, but without sinning.” Excellent point. But if we turn it around and apply it to how we reach out to American culture today, can we fully embrace our culture without sinning?
Overall, it seems American culture is based solely upon consumerism, which can quickly become sin. Add to that the fact that most of what’s marketed in our society is sinful in some way: explicit sex in pop-music and movies; sweatshop labor in the clothes we wear; unabashed gluttony in fast-food chains; etc. If we were to strip away consumerism and all its companion sins, what virtue is there left in contemporary American culture which Christians can “fully embrace . . . but without sinning”? I do not intend to seem anti-American in this – I’m just having a very hard time understanding what there is in our culture that is not sinful, and would welcome any suggestions. What is there about American culture that Christians can honestly endorse and embrace? How do we contextualize the Gospel to communicate it to this culture without compromising our integrity and getting caught up in a host of other sins? Any ideas?