It’s the culture. It’s not because they are poor or rich or smart or illiterate. It’s not because of the color of their skin. Most of our interpersonal relationship issues are because our cultures are different.
Culture: the customs, social behaviors (including diet and dress), and values of a particular group of people or nation.
Why are we so uncomfortable when being introduced to someone we’ve never met? It’s because our cultures are different, and we haven’t yet found common ground to begin communicating.
Have you noticed that many of us are afraid when meeting people for the first time? Wired somewhere deep in our brains is the instinct to protect ourselves by distrusting people from other cultures.
Think about it. You really aren’t uneasy about people because of their race or financial status. It is the lifestyle differences, both known and unknown, that trouble you. It’s the culture.
Your family has its culture. Your church has its culture. Your community has its culture. Your college has its culture. Everywhere you go, cultures compete to influence your life.
So, what’s the big deal about culture?
The big deal is that each culture is designed to cultivate specific values and predictable outcomes. To achieve those results, the culture must encourage the behaviors that will produce them.
The reason apostolic churches lose many young people during their middle and high school years? They become more involved in their school culture than they are in the culture of their church. The behaviors and expectations driven by the culture of their schools becomes the dominant and familiar ones – and the results are predicable. When teens are involved in school and school events 30-50 hours per week, yet spend only five hours in church related events, parents must make sure their families’ cultures align with that of the church or their children will become more comfortable with their school environment and it will become their major influence.
In recent years, we’ve been encouraged to tweak our apostolic culture to make it easier for outsiders to join us. I’m all for eliminating unnecessary barriers that make our guests feel uncomfortable, but the only way to completely eliminate the uneasiness for those investigating the apostolic culture for the first time is to completely dissolve it. Some, in their quest to show how friendly and welcoming they are, have done just that.
If you eliminate the uniqueness of the apostolic culture so that outsiders can easily enjoy it, you wind up destroying it because the desired values and outcomes are only produced by the specific behaviors that the culture protects and encourages.
Years ago, I invited a young preacher from a big city to preach to our farming community church. One of the local farmers invited us to join him at a cafe for lunch. As the preacher and I arrived, I received a call from the farmer. One of his tractors needed repaired, so he was driving it to meet us for lunch. Since it wouldn’t go very fast, he was letting me know he would be a few minutes late.
When I relayed the information to the preacher, he went into shock. “Oh, man!” he said. “I’ll die if he shows up here on a tractor.”
The big city preacher was embarrassed by the small town farmer’s culture. He wanted to eliminate it so he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. But if you eliminate the farmer’s culture, you also eliminate the crops that he produces. So, if you enjoy access to lots of high quality food, you must safeguard the farmers’ culture.
If you value the outcomes of the apostolic life, then you must embrace the lifestyle of the apostolic culture.
The apostolic culture. It’s well worth the cost required to preserve it.