Friday, April 23, 2010

Navigating the Culture Waters

I'm not talking about "culture" in the Newbigin/Niebhur-ian sense ~ which might be a useful tool to use if you are fluent in North American culture attempting to evaluate Western society. Culture as in the one that clashes between the "motherland" and "wherever you just so happened to be doubled parked." Nowadays, it is common knowledge amongst emerging generations of immigrant families living in North America that "things aren't the same back at the ranch." You've got different traditions/customs, cuisine, languages . . . values that guide the practices/rituals. "Am I black or am I white?" (props to MJ) I'm neither! A completely different issue that arises for me are the black or white guys who show up to multicultural church dialogues (where the "truly" invisible, visible minority brethren gather - Hmong, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, South Asians, Koreans, etc.) ~ sorry black & white boys, you just too political for me.

Often times, especially amongst second-generation, visible minority, "my-parents-are-immigrant" Christians - we have basically two options to take for evangelical spirituality and church growth. The first is "by-the-numbers" - as though the statistics and academics of our parent's dreams were not good enough . . . there are the Ph.D.s and engineers that analyze second-generation ministries. The second, less common, are those who have a deep rooted understanding of the Bible, God's mission and the fallness of humanity. This latter group tends to be less vocal - more pastoral geek and less missiologist or contextual theologian geek. I think of the John Neufeld's (Willingdon Church in Burnaby, BC) or the Tim Keller's (Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC) or even yes, the likes of Erwin McManus (Mosaic in LA). Theologically from different teams (MB, PCA and hybrid SBC), but the one thing they hold is common is a firm grasp on the Bible (I know that McManus pushes everyone the wrong way) . . . less formulas, less tables, less methods, less practice . . . more Scriptural, more theology, more uncertainty. Somehow, these guys resonate more with me . . . more on gospel church and gospel community, less on multicultural church and multicultural community. I think that the whole multicultural church effort may have become just another church growth method. Case and point, people are making lots of money off of it (e.g. conferences, books, speaking deals, etc.) and its results are minimal. Obviously, if you are a numbers guy everything you see and think will be filtered through that lens . . . and just think if you are a gospel guy? I guess to be fair I should toss in the third group that I failed to mention . . . the culturally comfortable despondents. I think of all the American/Canadian Toi-san 30-40 something folks that I know of who continue attending church and doing whatever they need to do to rid themselves of shame and gain points with their parents. These guys prefer the glorified babysitting English Ministries . . . as long as the preacher or speaker has something relevant to their context (e.g. parenting, finance, educational/vocational development, etc.) - which in turn feeds their competency to please their parents. And for a second, cultural relativists unite, by which culture would this type of behavior be interpreted as being "less, weak, incomplete, infantile, underdeveloped . . ."? Hmmmmmm. But then again, what does Scripture say in regards to these practices and types of behavior?

How does one develop a solid biblical theology within the second-generation? Does it require for us to adapt to the North American banter of "taking out the white guy" and "replacing him with a non-white guy"? Are we adopting Western ideology (and become white-ified) in order to achieve success? Do we hold hands with the dominant minority groups (e.g. blacks, hispanics, and the ever present hyper political LGBT) in order to achieve God's will? Does it require for covert operations of "reverse racism" amongst the ranks of our denominations to occur? Does it require for more modern studies and methods to take place? Does it require for more "dialogues" and "conversations" to be perpetuated? (is it only me or have discussions regarding English Ministries hit 40 years in US circulation?) For the record, this is my rant . . . no answers, just rant . . .

If God is sovereign and has called each of us to a particular place and time for His particular purposes, why does He do that and for what reason? And to what extent does it matter to Him that we are a visible minority?

My adopted white Mennonite dad used to always remind me, "it still takes 50 years to grow an oak tree!"

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