Very rarely are we ever able to define our culture, but it is an ever-present reality influencing and driving the way each group thinks and acts. When
we speak of ‘culture’ we often mean the literary, scientific, artistic, religious and philosophical principles that influence our way of life. It is
therefore not unusual to hear of broad definitions like Western and Eastern culture, or of other cultural sub-groups. Within those broad categories
we can be more specific and speak of a church culture or a school culture or work culture, which is reflected in how things are played out within those
contexts.To put it simply, culture is ‘the way we do things around here.’
Every local church has its own way of doing things, which has an impact on relationships, behaviour and structures. Perhaps we accept stale corporate worship, placate forceful individuals, accommodate ungodly behaviour and fractured relationships because it has always been like that.The important question is, what is it that drives the way we do things around here? What drives the culture of St Paul’s? It can be biblical values, or it can be lesser values like our ethnic heritage, church traditions, personal comfort zones.
In our church there is vast difference in our cultural heritages which plays a significant part in how we approach everything that we do. I found the following table useful in understanding some of the broad differences.
The table is a generalisation but it is useful in highlighting the very different framework that Western and Eastern cultures have.
Our basic world-views are different. The most important lesson however, is that neither Western or Eastern perspectives align with the Biblical perspective. Whatever our starting point, God is in the business of reshaping our culture into one that is aligned by the gospel.
Cultures are driven by a set of values, which in turn are a consequence of a particular worldview. The values we hold both individually and corporately determine our attitudes, our vision, how we relate and behave, and therefore our culture. Real growth in churches is not the consequence of somebody putting more effort into the same old things that have not produced growth in the past. Rather, it is the result of embracing biblical values that the whole church is committed to, so that growth becomes a by-product.The following illustrates how culture is developed:
In the end it isn’t a matter of Western or Eastern as we look to the future and our mission to Chatswood, but of transforming every corner of our individual
and corporate life so that it reflects a gospel worldview.
At St Paul’s our worldview is shaped by the Christian gospel. It is the good news that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and creator of all that is, came from heaven to live among his creation. He lived the perfect life that we couldn’t live, and died the death that we should have died. He triumphantly rose from death, ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father where he rules all things. One day he will return and put every wrong right.
This good news brings people together. That’s generally what good news does! This is good news for people of every ethnicity, culture, age and socio-economic background. One of the greatest demonstrations of the power of the Christian gospel, is the coming together of all people in unity. The beauty of Christ and his work is displayed in a trans-cultural community. It’s a community where we ‘go beyond’ our ethnicities and inherited cultural identities to be thoroughly changed into a new entity. A new community. This new community reflects our new identity in Jesus, as children of God first and foremost above our own cultures and ethnicities. With deep security in Christ we are willing, together, to go through discomforts and difficulties to cross over, to give up, in order to understand and embrace people who are different than us. This is who we are and what we increasingly seek to be at St Paul’s.