What. Is. Culture. ?
For those of you who may not know, my husband and I are in full time ministry at an amazing church here in CO. We have lived here for 5 and half years, and before this move, although I had lived in other countries, and even other states (other than NC - where I grew up) for a year or two here and there, I was always in a sort of bubble. There was the very obvious difference in culture living in El Salvador, but in the states, I didn't always recognize it.
In churches, we hear the term "culture" to describe those living outside of the church world. A progressive term for "secular" is really what it has become. My thoughts are stirring from this... the term "culture", especially as we use it in the church world, is so very relative. Culture in life, churches, systems, changes between small towns and bigger cities within the same state, between different states there are cultural differences based on what the main influences of that area may be, and when you take a look from region to region, culture changes significantly. Sometimes so much that a seemingly similar culture, such as the church for example, may not have many things resembling one another. From the outside at least.
In the South, people (not everyone, but in general...) have twangy accents, they love sweet tea, fried foods, good home cooking, they have been four wheeling/off roading many a time for fun, they have played in creeks, swam in rivers and lakes on the regular, have attended Chicken Stews and Fish Fries, and most everyone has had a vacation at Myrtle Beach at some point in their life. :-) Southerners know what hospitality is, they are sure to use their manners, the women typically don't leave the house without makeup or fixing their hair. Its not uncommon to see someone in WalMart with heels on, and regardless of how they may live throughout the week, church is a norm. Hence the "Bible Belt" nickname.
If you were to attend an evangelical or charismatic church in the South, you are sure to see a variety of music being played along with lots of clapping and moving and hands being raised. During the sermon, you will hear a choir of "amens" and even a pause from the pulpit here and there for some clapping when the pastor makes a good point. At the altar call (usually a formal call to prayer to the congregation), you can look around and see many people crying. All of these are great things. They are how church culture works in the south. It is beautiful to experience.
It is not, however, how church looks everywhere else.
When we first came to Colorado, it was a huge culture shock because people weren't clapping and moving and expressing themselves the way we were used to. After some time, we began to realize that it was less of the emotion that we had grown up with, and a lot more reflection. Expressions of worship being more internal than outward. Growing deeper each day, still. It is very beautiful to experience.
I appreciate different cultures, and sub cultures. No one "culture" (church, or secular) will look the same when you cross regional boundaries. At the heart, however, both are maturing, growing, developing.
My point is, we talk and talk about culture. How it should look, how we believe culture thinks, etc. We may understand culture within our own bubbles or areas of influence, but we have to remember that no one culture or sub culture is alike. The way it looks and feels for you, may not be the way it looks and feels for someone across the city, state, or especially the country. Because its not the way you, or your church, or city does it, doesn't make it wrong. Just makes it different. Embrace our differences. Don't point fingers, don't condemn, don't assume you know the "right" way to think, feel, express oneself, or do something. We all are a part of the kingdom of God, all doing life a little differently, but at our core, we are the same. Don't confuse inward reflection for apathy, or outward expression of being too emotional.
Find freedom to worship the way you, as an individual, were created to worship and live.
And remember, culture for you is quite possibly very different from the culture being lived and experienced around the country, and for certain, around the world. We mustn't lose ourselves in our own cultural bubbles.