Many years ago seasoned missionary campaigner Leslie Newbigin wrote: “From whence comes the voice that can challenge this culture on its own terms, a voice that speaks its own language and yet confronts it with the authentic figure of the crucified and living Christ so that it is stopped in its tracks and turned back from the way of death?”
Back in the year of 1521, a young Roman Catholic monk who had undergone a conversion encounter with the resurrected Jesus stood on trial for his challenge to Catholicism at the Diet of Worms. Fearless and full of conviction He stated:
“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of Popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
Sounds like a voice challenging his culture in a language the people could understand.
In the early to mid-1700’s in America, a young theologian was growing in Christ-likeness and fervor for God’s glory. His name was Jonathan Edwards and he became a main preacher in the American Great awakening. In his writing “A Divine and Supernatural Light” Edwards writes:
“There is a twofold understanding or knowledge of good, that God has made the mind of a man capable of. The first, that which is merely speculative or notional…The other is that which consists in the sense of the heart: as when there is a sense of the beauty, amiableness, or sweetness of a thing… thus there is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness… When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension…which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.”
I think you would agree that a statement such as that flies in the face of cultural relevancy, and instead presents a God who alone is worthy of all honor from His creation.
Then there was Eva Price. She was from America’s Midwest and in 1889 she agreed to accompany her husband Charles in his venture of missionary service to China’s interior region.
The Price’s and their two young sons set up home on an isolated mission station in Shansi. There the winters were brutally cold and the summers brutally hot. Shansi boasted open sewerage and street garbage and was renowned for its typhoid and smallpox, which would steal in death both of the Price boys.
Their mission to China proved unsuccessful and in 1897 the Price’s returned to the United States. After much soul searching and seasons of severe depression the Price’s returned to China with a fresh vibrancy and expectation of experiencing the Spirit work.
Because of her experiences, Eva could write: “My capacity for loving has enlarged in all the discipline of sorrow…….”
Eva’s spiritual renewal came just in time for herself and Charles to lose their lives in the Boxer Rebellion soon after their return to China.
The sensibility of a western culture might have cried out, “Don’t go back there, you have already lost your two sons.” But for Charles and Eva it actually made sense to return to that harsh alien culture with the hope of sharing the Gospel, even at the cost of their own lives also.
Alan walker was an Australian evangelist and theologian in the latter part of the last century. In 1987 Walker was named as on of the one hundred people considered as an Australian Living Treasure.
He would preach throughout Australia and New Zealand during the 1950’s and it is estimated that he preached to more than half the populations of each country.
Walker later became known for his stance against the “White Australia “ policy. His views and opinions caused him to be expelled from South Africa on two separate occasions due to his anti-apartheid stance. He was knighted by the Queen; befriended by Martin Luther King Jr .; and he was nicknamed “The conscience of a nation “by the Governor General.
However, with all of that Alan walker’s greatest statement was his heartfelt cry of love for Christ: “Let it never be forgotten that it is Christ we offer.”
How true a thought that is for our modern and post-modern church fellowships. That means that like Alan walker I realize that church is not about “me”. And like Alan walker, I get that church is not about the music of my cultural era. Also, like Alan Walker, I begin to appreciate that “my faith “ is all about God——and all about others.
Well, then of course, there was Jesus. He is the supreme example to every believer as to how we should live… and even die.
“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised . And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
Basically, Peter is telling the Creator of the universe; “That’s not going to happen because I’ve got your back”.
In ignorance, Peter is attempting to dissuade the Lord from accomplishing the will of God the Father which meant the offer of salvation for you and me.
The way of Jesus may not have seemed either reasonable or logical to the bold Peter, but then “God’s ways are not our ways”.
It seems that by willingly going to Calvary as an innocent, sin-free Saviour, Jesus went against every cultural expectation anticipate by his own close colleagues, called “disciples”.
Well, that’s just a few of the tales of some of God’s great followers who challenged “the culture they found themselves in”, so that through their lives God would be glorified. I’m sure you can think of many more such God-followers. As you think, why not take a look in the mirror and see if there’s one you might just have overlooked.