EMISSARY^7 (G²)

COMMISIONED by CHRIST 4 SHARING HIS LIFE/KEEPING IT REAL ADMIST THE LIES (II Cor. 5:17-21))

For ALL YOUTH MINISTERS, PLEASE CONSIDER THESE VIDEOS

Posted by Gabriel (G²) on November 16, 2007

For excellent commentary on issues in Youth Ministry, I highly encourage everyone to investigate these videos by Minister G.Craig Lewis:

Of course, some may be wondering what my stance is with Mr.Lewis regarding his beliefs on Holy Hip Hop & what the Bible says on the issue. Personally, as with the majority, there are MANY THINGS which I believe he was right on point with & other things that may be extreme. Go here to find out:

https://emissary7.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/can-hip-hop-be-holy/

  By the way, This one’s an interview with that pastor from an Urban
Churchup north that’s a Holy Hip Hop church.
http://www.vft.ag.org/enrichment/fall04.cfm
), whose PASTORED under a man by the name of Urban D. It Seemed
pretty intriguing/insightful on many points, & I think you’ll all be interested greatly by it:

 Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Here’s a music video of his as well:

 In my opinion, he’s a perfect demonstration of being in the culture but not OF THE CULTURE….and that it CAN BE DONE.

Also….Check out this one as well by Tye Tribbet, which seemed pretty interesting too:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWUUfX3CY6k&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYHyAqzBOgA&mode=related&search=

This was his actual interview on TBN:

                                     &

I’m guessing that alot of the information, especially among some who may say one
thing & yet promote another, may seem a bit crazy to sort through………but if
nothing else, it’ll give something to think about…..& I just thought it’d be
something interesting to consider in growing in learning how to discern “good” from “evil” & check everything one says/does with the way God
see things in His Word,…..even if it seems what someone is saying/doing seems
may be godly on ALOT OF POINTS…..

In case no one goes there, let me spell it out here:

1 Corinthians 11:14-15 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is adisgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

[/quote]

Regarding the issue of HIP HOP and taking/practicing things that the culture around you may do in HOLY HIP HOP, I had some thoughts I’d like to share…(bear with me, though, cause they’e pretty lengthy/detailed)In talking about head coverings and length of hair, Paul was saying that believers should look and behave in ways that are HONORABLE within their own culture. In many cultures long hair on men is considered appropriate and masculine.In Corinth, however, it was thought to be a sign of male prostitution in the pagan temples. And Women with short hair were labeled as prostitutes…..and what Paul was saying was that in the Corinthian Culture, Christian women should keep their hair long, for if short hair on women was a sign of prostitution, then a Christian woman with short hair would find it even more difficult to be a believable witness for Jesus Christ.Paul wasn’t saying that we should adopt ALL the practices of our culture, but that we should avoid the appearances and behavior that DETRACT from our ultimate goal of being believable witnesses for Jesus while demonstrating our Christian Faith.Regarding Hip Hop, their are many things within the culture itself that are not inherently wrong of themselves and that shouldn’t be a problem doing—things, for example, like Rap or Dance, M-Ceeing, and even some of the dress styles as well as languages.However, minus the fact of whether or not the practice is even condoned in Scripture, if the things that Christians are doing are representive of something that those in HIP HOP do that are praised, then it would be best not to do those things. There have been many Holy Hip-Hoppers who would claim that their heart’s intent was to win Souls for Christ—-and though many of them may’ve been sincere, their actions inadvertently lead to making other young Christians more attracted to/acceptable of the Hip Hop Culture than they were to being like Jesus.

When someone like PEDITEE, for example, wears a grill and practically looks like a THUG on His ALBULM COVER……….

Or a group like GRITS uses the same terminology someone in HIP HOP would use to make a point (as they did on the song “Memories” On their “REDEMPTION” Cd when they used the phrase “Shag it ROTTEN” to describe their taking ownership of something because that’s how the culture is…………

Or if someone claims to be a “GANGSTA” or “PIMP’N IT FOR CHRIST”, never mind what the terminology may ORIGINALLY REPRESENT….

Or someone feels they have to grab their crotch whenever they’re doing a song cause they how the rappers do it in REAL HIP HOP, or feels that it’s OK to dress immodestly/have FAR TOO MUCH SKIN showing because that’s what’s going on at BET,

Or when someone at a Youth Group takes the mike, begins to rap, and begins to call the youths to yell “WHAT’S MY NAME???!!!” OR raps more about themselves than they do about the Lord while also trying to speak Scripture to them occasionally……

Or when someone gets on stage and does the EXACT same dance moves they saw on BET OR WOULD SEE IN THE CLUB (as Holy Hip Hopper CANTON JONES did when he went to a church I attended called ELIZABETH BAPTIST CHURCH in Atlanta, Ga, for a Music/Youth Rally had the ENTIRE audience of youths doing the DANCE FROM THE LAFFTY TAFFY SONG, to the point where the youths were literally up on each other/bumping and grinding and you couldn’t tell the difference between the church and the club!!!),….

When you do all those things you can inevitably draw attention to the Movement, as if you’re praising it because you’re mimicking nearly everything the movement of HIP HOP DOES itself does. The kids (as is often the case) will flock to it——that, and the fact that those who are not Christians don’t take Christians seriously because, thought their Words/Terminology may be Christian; they look Almost EXACTLY THE SAME AS THOSE IN THE WORLD DO.

To an unsaved person in Hip Hop, many may not even care to listen to those who are saved Holy-Hip hoppers and may say, “There’s no need for me to come to Christ/ya’lls side, cause ya’ll already look JUST LIKE ME…AND AS A MATTER OF FACT, THERE’S NO NEED TO CHANGE BECUASE YA’LL ARE DOING THE SAME THINGS I’M ALREADY ABOUT. SEEMS LIKE YA”LL WANTS TO BE MORE LIKE ME THAN ANYTHING ELSE…..”

Also, how much of a resemblance do you see often with what appears to be a GREAT majority of Artists within HOLY HIP HOP to what JESUS LOOKED LIKE and how He lived life?

By no means do all HOLY-HIP HOPPERS ACT THE SAME….and there are many who are sincerely seeking to demonstrate what it means to be sold out to Christ. And many of them, contrary to what many may believe, are TRULY MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. A good example would be a Holy Hip Hopper by the name of JOHN THE Baptist OR aka: “Johnny Bapt” (His Cd was “Baptize the Game”. http://cdbaby.com/cd/jtb3 )

He goes to my church and was present when G.Craig came to visit once/spoke on “The Truth Behind HIP HOP”…..Growing up on the streets and in the Hip Hop Culture, He knows what it was like and how to relate to the youths.

Even had a meeting with the G.Craig and dialogued with him on the many things they agreed on (i.e. the need for People to EXALT CHRIST more than HOLY HIP-HOP, the need to stop using Gimmicks/Fun Activities to win young people to Christ when in fact many of them are MORE THAN HUNGRY to grow in Christ but are simply not seeing Youth Ministers challenge them in studying the Word and teaching them the things they need in order to be effective DISCIPLES for Christ.

However, though Craig disagreed with Johnny on some things on Holy Hip Hop, they still respect each other. Johnny is still heavily involved in the church. He’s one of the Children’s Church Ministers and does an EXCELLENT job leading them in memorizing the Word/showing them how it applies to Everyday life, and He works hard at whatever He does.

However, He always CONSTANTLY reminds people TO LOOK first and FOREMOST AT JESUS, not HIM……and He diligently makes sure that in his music he’s simply RAPPING/NOT PROMOTING THE MOVEMENT OF SECULAR HIP HOP above the WORD OF GOD or the POWER OF HIS GRACE. Unlike other Holy Hip Hoppers, He’s the only one who I’ve ever see walk in the Power of God…..and even in conerts where he has to entertain the kids, he’s one of the only ones’ TO ACTUALLY STOP A CONCERT MIDWAY AND CALL PEOPLE or Issues OUT or PREACH THE GOSPEL while giving calls to REPENTANCE……and, as I’ve witnessed and experienced myself, many people were truly impacted, convicted and stirred to become better DISCIPLES OFCHRIST.

As Scripture says, Believers when they are saved are to disengage themselves from all forms of false religion and make a clean break from all sinful habits and old IDOLATAROUS practices (essentially anything glorifying themselves rather than the FATHER):

Quote:

2 Corinthians 6:14-17Do Not Be Yoked With Unbelievers 14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[a]?What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”[b]
17″Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[c]

And that’s exactly what Johnny does. He doesn’t promote the things within the culture of HIP HOP which are Unbiblical and inherently EVIL, nor does He go and join forces with the same foul rappers that are on stage representing it (as some Holy Hip Hoppers have done)

 Also, he stays true to the Scripture that calls us to ensure that we’re DISTINCT FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD RATHER THAN MERELY BLENDING IN WITH IT. Remember that we’re called to be “aliens/strangers” in the world around us…….& if they cannot tell the difference between us, what’s HOLY & what’s COMMON, then there’s an issue:

 Leviticus 10:10
You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean,

Ephesians 5:3-12 

 3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them.

 8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

Hebrews 12:14
[ Warning Against Refusing God ] Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

1 Peter 1:13-16 

Be Holy

 13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[a]

1 Peter 2:10-12 

11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

 Moreover, if one is promoting a worldly mentality, whether externally in the things we do or the places we go or INTERNALLY in our attitudes (i.e. lust, pursuing riches/fame, boastful/prideful, self-exalting, seeking pleasure above seeking God, promoting sin where God’s word has clearly defined it, etc), then that’s an issue as well:

 James 4:4
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

1 John 2:14-17 

 14I write to you, fathers,
      because you have known him who is from the beginning.
   I write to you, young men,
      because you are strong,
      and the word of God lives in you,
      and you have overcome the evil one.

Do Not Love the World

 15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Again, Johhny Bapt is well aware of that & does an excellent job of practicing that effectively.

……but neither does he deny that there are some practices which have legitimate merit and are not inherently wrong by nature (which I think Mr.Lewis is often in error at when he denounces all of the culture of Hip Hop)

Minus the fact that the clothes are Modest/decent, He doesn’t refuse to wear uniforms from clothing lines like “Ecko”, “Paco”, “Fubu” or “South POLE …..Nor does he condemn those who do so simply because someone in Hip Hop was wearing it and therefore the clothing line itself is now contaminated. Falling for that kind of thinking is exactly what the Corinthians were doing.


1 Corinthians 8:11 Corinthians 8Food Sacrificed to Idols 1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge.[a] Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.7But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?

11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

Regarding the CONTEXT of the verse, the Greeks/Romans were polytheistic (worshiping many gods) and polydemonistic (believing in many evil spirits). They believed that evil spirits would try to invade human beings by attaching themselves to food before it was eaten, and that the spirits could be removed only by the food’s being sacrificed to a god. The sacrifice was not meant to only gain favor with the gods, but to cleanse the meat from demonic contamination….and such decontaminated meat was offered to the gods as a sacrifice.

That which was not burned on the altar was served at wicked pagan feasts, and what was left was sold in the market. And the reason Paul dealt with it here was because after conversion, believers RESENTED eating such food bought out of idol markets, because it reminded SENSITIVE Gentile Believers of their previous pagan lives/demonic worship.

Paul and other mature believers knew better than to be bothered by such food offered once to idols and then sold in the marketplace. They knew the deities didn’t exist and that EVIL SPIRITS COULD NOT CONTAMINATE THE FOOD that needed to be eaten.

That being said, the same can be said of things within the HIP HOP culture that are accepted by many Christians. Simply because someone within Hip Hop wears something (like TIMBERLAND shoes, or URBAN CLOTHING of some sort) does not mean that a Christian who does the same is somehow CONTAMINATED because of where that particular HIP Hopper stood or because he believe in something that was wrong……and to say that the Clothes should be forbidden seems RASH at best……Apply the same logic to the things that we wear but make no fuss about like “Fruit of the Loom”, “Tommy Hilfiger”.

Would I dismiss them as well because they came from a SECULAR SOURCE or were possibly made by someone who denied Christ? Apply that Logic to it’s natural extent and you probably wouldn’t be wearing NOR using much of ANYTHING (whether it be cars or jewelry, makeup, equipment, etc) since it at some point it came from, was used by or was made by someone who wasn’t a Christian and by buying it, you’re representing them AUTOMATICALLY. And if you did do so but still wanted to call out those who wore clothing styles (Modest Ones/General Ones, of course) that many with the HIP HOP Culture happen to use as well, you probably are coming off Hypocritical at best.

The issue is one of CHRISTIAN FREEDOM, which Christ died for us to have…And just as Paul encouraged the Corinthians to buy whatever meat was in the market (I Corinthians 10:25-27), so it can also be said that there’s no need to condemn those who wear ANY KIND of URBAN WEAR that may be associated with Hip Hop.

Honestly, when we become too worried about our EVERY ACTION, we become LEGALISTIC and cannot enjoy life. Everything belongs to God (I Corinthians 10:25), and he has given us ALL things to enjoy. And if we know something is a problem, then we can deal with it……but we don’t need to be “nit-picky”/ going out looking for problem

 Again, Christ died for us to HAVE CHRISTIAN FREEDOM.,…… n’ Christian leaders and teachers should carefully teach about the freedom we have in matters not EXPRESSELY FORBIDDEN BY SCRIPTURE

However, that’s not to say that we should use our freedom in Christ at the cost of hurting a Christian brother/sister. We are not to consider ourselves ONLY, but we must be sensitive to others. While some actions may not be wrong, they may not be in the best interests of others.

And While Christians should not make a career of being the weaker person with oversensitive consciences, that doesn’t change the fact that nothing we do should cause another believer to stumble. We do what is best for others.

Remember, in the context of I Corinthians 8, the consciences of some newer converts were still accusing them strongly with regard to eating food without eating spiritually corrupted and guilty. They still imagined that idols were real and evil…..and some believers would be caused to fall back into old sins by getting involved with foods offered unto IDOLS (I Corinthians 8:9-11).

What was Paul’s WARNING? It was that those who cause another to stumble are doing more than simply an offense against that person; THEY ARE OFFENDING THE LORD HIMSELF (I Corinthians 8:9-11). And this is something we must greatly keep in mind when it comes to dealing with the culture of Hip Hop.

I may have the freedom as a Christian to go out and but URBAN STYLE CLOTHING that seems to be generally used by EVERYONE, whether in Hip OR not, and not representing any kind of allegiance to a particular rapper. Bu what happens when I go out and buy a GIANT T-Shirt with a rapper like BIGGIE SMALLS or “SCAREFACE”?

I may see it as no deal……but minus the fact that I KNOW these Men were BLANTALY AGAIST THE LORD, and that THAT IMAGE IS KNOWN TO PORTRAY A PATICULAR IMAGE my wearing of a clothing style with their name in front could make it seem like I’m ADVERTISING THEM and could cause a weaker believer in the Lord to stumble back into accepting them as legitimate …

.and like Paul made clear, my giving no regard to how I may be hurting / offending a weaker brother with one’s freedom will cause the offended person to condemn us (I Corinthians 10:29). Better for me to not buy the shirt than run the risk of harming another because of it.

That’s why as believers we must make sure that in using our Christian Liberty, we again make sure that the good of others is one of our PRIMARY goals.

Though we shouldn’t necessarily be OVER-SENSITIVE/doing nothing for fear that someone may be displeased , or necessarily “YES” people by going along with everything and trying to gain approval from people rather than from God, We cannot be insensitive and doing what we want, no matter who is hurt by it.

Our goal should be to live in ways that would EDIFY ONE ANOTHER (I Corinthians 10:23-24) —–not seeking our own gratification FIRST or ourselves over others—and to conduct our Christian liberty as well as the most common behaviors to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). It’s all about being like Jesus (I Corinthians 11:1), and remembering that to love others believers is the STRONGEST WITNESS WE HAVE (John 13:34-35).

And, moreover, regarding Holy Hip Hop, we have to remember that there will be DIFFERENCES OF OPINION in the church (disputable matters) that we should not quarrel over issues that are a matter of opinion. Differences should not be feared or avoided, but at the same time they must be handled with love….and with the expectation that NOT EVERYONE, EVEN IN THE BEST POSSIBLE CHURCH, WILL AGREE ON THE SUBJECT.

We need to accept, listen to , and RESPECT OTHERS , especially those who may be involved in Holy Hip Hop, knowing that through the sharing of ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches. Again, DIFFERENCES OF OPINION NEED NOT CAUSE DIVISION…..AND can be a source of learning/richness in our relationships (as I’ve experienced as a Youth Worker and working with those like Johnny Bapt or the kids in the youth for Holy Hip Hop)

And above all else, we must recognize that for those involved in Holy Hip Hop but whom we don’t agree with, EACH PERSON IS ACCOUNTABLE TO CHRIST. NOT OTHERS.

While the Church must be uncompromising in it’s stand against activities that are EXPRESSLY forbidden by Scripture (adultery, homosexuality, murder, theft), it should be not create ADDITIONAL RULES AND REGULATIONS AND GIVE THEM EQUAL STANDING WITH GOD’S LAW.

Many times (as is often the case with Holy Hip Hop), Christians will base their moral judgments on opinion, personal dislikes, or cultural bias rather than on the WORD OF GOD….and at the end of the day, that is the ONLY STANDARD WE HAVE TO GO BY THAT’LL LAST.

Quote:

Romans 14The Weak and the Strong 1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother?

Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11It is written:

” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.’ “[a] 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food[b] is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.

17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

ALSO, If interested, here’s something that should aid the discussion. It’s from some music videos from one paticular Holy Hip Hop group named “Grits”….and though they don’t necessarily represent everyone’s mentality or style affiliated with HOLY HIP HOP , based on melody/style, I’d be curious as to what you felt the intent of the music was for:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEklIh4u0Qw

Also, regarding the discussion, here’s a clip from a Holy Hip Hopper named “Da Truth”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0RFYxGdftA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtVAk…elated&search=

What feel did you get from seeing him? Did you feel he had good intent or bad? To praise God or something else? And moreover, even though both were using beats/rhythms you’d hear in Hip Hop, did they both make you feel the same or did they evoke 2 different mentalities/moods in hearing them?

For a EXCELLENT READ ON THE ISSUE,  I encourage everyone to check out this article:

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1343

Introduction

A number of years ago as I sat on the platform waiting to preach, my friend who was doing the morning introductions leaned over and with a sigh whispered in my ear, “I’ve just been in the high school class, and the whole hour they were playing guitars and singing.” After the final hymn, my friend stood to introduce me by saying, “At this church we always study through the Scriptures book by book, chapter by chapter.” These preliminary remarks unnerved me, since on this particular Sunday I had chosen to depart from my normal pattern of systematic exposition! My text was 2 Samuel 6, the account of David dancing before the ark of God, much to the dismay of his wife, Michal. I had purposed to say that in the matter of church music, we are all too often like Michal, too proud to let down our hair and worship with music which is enthusiastic. Perhaps you can understand how uneasy I felt as I began my sermon on that Sunday morning. The people in the audience had conflicting views about church music. Emotions ran high on all sides of the issue. Music is not taken lightly because it plays a significant role in our worship. More than one church has been split over a matter so insignificant as the presence or absence of a piano.

I must honestly confess that I am more uneasy about this particular message than I was about my message on 2 Samuel 6. Then, I spoke only about music and its role in worship, but today, I am addressing music as an example of a broader category—culture. At first glance the subject of culture may seem innocuous, but this is far from the truth. One treads on very thin ice when addressing the subject of the relationship of Christianity to culture. There are several reasons for my apprehension concerning this subject. First, culture is something in which we are immersed and consequently we are rarely conscious of it. It is something akin to asking a fish what it thinks about water, or a bird about the atmosphere. Culture is the atmosphere in which we live without consciously thinking about it. Did you think about why you drove on the right-hand side of the road on the way to church instead of on the left as people of other countries do? Did you think about sitting beside your wife as you entered the auditorium, instead of segregating men and women as practiced in some churches in India? These examples may help you to see that we don’t think a great deal about culture—our own culture at least. We are only aware of our cultural practices when we are confronted with opposing customs of other cultures. Culture is assimilated, almost by osmosis, not by instruction. Since cultural traditions are observed without consideration, we tend to accept them without thinking of them.

Second, culture is often intertwined with strong feelings of right and wrong which we have held as Christian convictions, rather than as personal or societal preferences. The use of alcohol and tobacco, the enjoyment of the theater or of television, and the issue of dancing are just a few issues often included in the list of Christian “don’ts.” A study of the history of the church reveals that these particular prohibitions have not characterized Christian values with any degree of consistency. The reformers, to whom we appeal in matters of soteriology, had no problem with smoking or drinking. It was only some years later that these were considered sins and added to the list of Christian taboos. At times, even coffee and tea were on the list of forbidden items for Christians.

Third, culture is not universal. We know that, of course, at least in principle. We expect people from foreign countries to think, to act and to dress differently. Yet we are not always willing to recognize different cultures, even within our church. One significant contributing factor to the so-called “generation gap” is the difference of culture which exists between these age groups. If you don’t believe me, listen to the music which “turns on” your children, as opposed to what you enjoy. Lawrence Welk is not the name of the game for any but the geriatric generation.

If I am correct in concluding that culture is often unconscious and yet a matter of strong conviction, you can see why I approach this subject with fear and trembling. When a matter is discussed about which people have very strong feelings and yet have not really seriously contemplated, there is bound to be some reaction. In light of this, I ask that you make a sincere effort to withhold judgment until you have considered what I am about to say, and until you have had the time to carefully search the Scriptures on these matters. If you cannot agree with my conclusions, I will not be offended, so long as you have been honest with the Scriptures and with yourself.

Christianity and Culture

On the surface, culture may hardly seem to be an issue in the debate between the apostles and the Judaizers in Acts 15. Indeed, culture is not the issue for the issue faced by the Jerusalem Council was the gospel.15 The implications of the decision of the Council, however, concern culture and its relationship to Christianity. There is a great deal of difference between an issue and its implications. For instance, the issue in the Supreme Court Case of Roe v. Wade was whether or not an unwed mother, pregnant due to rape, had the right to an abortion under the Constitution of the United States. The implications of that decision went much farther, however, giving any woman in the United States the right to have an abortion for virtually any reason.

In our first lesson on Acts 15 we dealt with the issue of the definition of the gospel. Renouncing the “gospel” of the Judaizers, the Jerusalem Council concluded that Gentiles were not subject to the Old Testament law as a condition for salvation. The Gentiles, like the Jews, were saved by faith alone. The law had never been able to save, but only to condemn. The principle of grace excluded law-keeping as a condition for salvation. The salvation of the Gentiles was regarded as consistent with the words of the Old Testament prophets (Acts 15:6-19).

While the Gentile converts were not required to keep the law and to adopt a Jewish lifestyle, Jewish Christians were not prohibited from living according to the law as long as they understood this did not contribute in any way to their salvation. Consequently, the Jewish Christians, including Paul, continued to observe the law, and in so doing, upheld their Jewish culture (cf. Acts 21:24). In no way was this contrary to the gospel or the decision of the Council.

The four prohibitions of verses 20 and 29 are considered a necessary obligation for the Gentiles,16 yet they fail to adequately summarize the mass of New Testament Scriptures pertaining to the godly lifestyle required of Gentile Christians. Such matters were not intended to be taught here and included in the letter sent by the Jerusalem Council, but were rather the subject of the epistles:

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, … But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Eph. 4:17, 20-24).

If the four prohibitions are not conditions for salvation, and they are not the totality of God’s standards for Gentile conduct, what was the purpose of the Council in including them here? The answer to this question is the key to our message. The gospel of Jesus Christ saved both Jews and Gentiles and brought them together in a new and unique way, removing the barriers which had once existed between them (Eph. 2:11-22). Neither Jews nor Gentiles were compelled to forsake their cultures to become Christians. Since both were to worship in harmony and unity, each must make concessions to the cultural sensitivities of the other. The four prohibitions specify the areas of Gentile conduct which would be most offensive to the scruples of their Jewish brethren.

While the cultural element is recognized by many Bible scholars, there is some disagreement as to what is specifically forbidden by these four prohibitions. The first prohibition is literally “the pollution’s of idols” (v. 20), which is called “things offered to idols” in verse 29. Partaking of “things offered to idols” was identified as a matter of Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 8. However in Acts 15, these foods were forbidden to the Gentile Christians because they were an abomination to the Jewish saint and therefore they should be avoided. In later times, after Jerusalem had been sacked by the Roman army, there was less need for concern for the scruples of the Jewish Christians.

The second practice, “fornication,” may refer to various forms of sexual immorality which would therefore be wrong for Gentiles and Jews (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-20). The expression “fornication” could also refer to the Gentile practice of marrying a close relative, which the Old Testament law forbade (cf. Lev. 18). Thirdly, the forbidden “blood” may have been the blood of animals, which the Gentiles sometimes drank, but it might also refer to cruelty, murder and violence (cf. Gen. 9:4-6). Finally, “things strangled” would most likely refer to the eating of animals which were killed by strangling, which was forbidden by the Old Testament law (cf. Lev. 17:10-14; Deut. 12:16, 23, 25).17

The changes required of Peter in order for him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10) were accepted by the Jerusalem church leaders in Acts 11. Now, in Acts 15, the Gentiles are told what they must forsake in order to have unity in fellowship and worship with Jewish believers. Given the scruples of the Jewish Christians, Gentile saints had to be sensitive to them, especially in the areas of worship, eating, and sexual morality. The Gentiles were instructed to be careful to avoid these practices since they were the areas of greatest sensitivity for the conscientious Jew.

The Council’s decision, therefore, established a biblical precedent concerning the relationship between culture and Christianity. The Jewish culture (as prescribed by the Old Testament law) was not essential for salvation. To be saved, one needed only to believe in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, could continue to practice their culture in any way that was not inconsistent with biblical morality. To have fellowship with those of other cultures, each Christian must be willing to refrain from his cultural liberties which prove to be either a cause of stumbling or a hindrance to fellowship.

There is another way in which the gospel is to govern the practice of our culture. Our culture should not become a hindrance to the proclamation of the gospel. Paul’s practice is a model for every Christian:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, though not being myself under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow-partaker of it (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

To Paul, as to all of the apostles, the gospel was primary, and culture was secondary. Gentiles did not have to adopt the Jewish culture to be saved for the gospel did not require it. Neither Jews nor Gentiles were compelled to forsake their culture, as long as the gospel was not compromised by it. Whenever the gospel could be promoted by adapting to the culture of another, the preaching of the gospel required such change. In addition to the implications of the gospel which govern culture, culture is also an important consideration because of its impact on the gospel.

The decision of the Jerusalem Council was the watershed of world evangelization in the Book of Acts. Once it was determined that the Jewish culture was not an essential part of the gospel, the gospel was freed from its cultural bonds and seen to be a universal message of salvation to all men. While this was a change that required a total reorientation on the part of Jewish Christians, it was not a change without considerable precedent, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament gospels.

When God created the nation Israel and brought them out of Egypt, He gave them the Mosaic Law in order to provide them with a standard of righteousness, with a promise of redemption, and with a prescription for a culture which would isolate them from the godless paganism of the heathen nations around them. When Israel was outside of the land, it was not possible to live completely under the law for they were not able to offer sacrifices in the prescribed places, nor were they able to isolate themselves from the cultures of their captors.

The first example of this is found in Joseph. When he realized that he would live out his life and die in Egypt, he chose to adopt much of the culture of the Egyptians. Before Joseph stood in Pharaoh’s presence, he shaved (Gen. 41:14), which was culturally very significant. A beard was highly regarded in Israel (cf. 2 Sam. 10:4-5), but in Egypt it was not. Joseph revealed wisdom by adapting to the culture of his day, yet in a way that did not violate any biblical principle. A beard was really a matter of culture, not of creed. By taking the Egyptian’s language, their dress, and even an Egyptian wife (cf. Gen. 41:45), Joseph identified himself with the Egyptians in a way that made his ministry more acceptable, yet without any sacrifice of biblical principle.

Perhaps Daniel is the most striking example of cultural concession in the Old Testament. In Daniel 1 we find the prophet and his three Hebrew friends taken captive to Babylon. We know these men best in terms of what they refused to do. All four refused to partake of the king’s choice food and wine (Dan. 1:8-16), which seemed to be associated with idolatrous worship. (In this case, it would be consistent with the prohibitions of Acts 15:20, 29.) Daniel refused to cease praying (Dan. 6), and his three friends would not bow down to the golden image (Dan. 3). In focusing our attention on what these four men refused to do we sometimes fail to take note of the cultural concession they were willing make. They were submissive to the king’s requirements by becoming educated in the schools of Babylon for three years, and of serving the king as advisors. These men, even in their youth, had the God-given wisdom to discern between what was culturally acceptable and what was not. They were able to faithfully serve God and to be witnesses to Him, even in a pagan land, because they could discern the elements of that culture which were an offense to God. Perhaps they were aware of the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. And seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jer. 29:4-7).

In the Old Testament, adapting to the pagan cultures of Egypt and Babylon was the exception, not the rule. So long as there was a theocracy, the Old Testament law prescribed the culture of the people of God. Those Gentiles who desired to trust in the God of Israel placed themselves under His law, and thus became Jewish proselytes. With the coming of Christ as recorded in the Gospels, the dramatic changes recognized by the Jerusalem Council were hinted at but not fully comprehended. Our Lord’s teaching about being “salt” and “light” (Matt. 5:13-16) could only apply as the gospel penetrated the various cultures of the Gentiles. When John recorded that our Lord “had to pass through Samaria” (John 4:4), He intended for us to look back and to understand that the Lord Jesus was foreshadowing the evangelization of the Gentiles. Mark 7 centers around the debate between Jesus and the Pharisees over their traditions. These words of Jesus to His disciples were later understood in light of the events of the Book of Acts (Acts 10, 11) and the decision of the Jerusalem Council:

And He said to them, “Are you too so uncomprehending? Do you not see that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:18-19).

More than any other book of the Bible, Acts enables us to see the gradual unveiling of the separation of culture from Christianity. Our Lord’s statements and actions with regard to the Gentiles never registered with the disciples. Consequently, when He had risen from the grave and was about to ascend into heaven, their primary interest was in the coming of His kingdom (Acts 1:6). Our Lord’s response not only put off the question about the coming of His kingdom, but it suggested the universal proclamation of the gospel (Acts 1:8). Undaunted, the disciples hastened to appoint a twelfth apostle, no doubt to fill the vacancy so that they would be able to sit on the twelve promised thrones (cf. Matt. 19:28).

With the filling of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost came the gift of tongues, which was a sign of the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all mankind (Acts 2:17, 21). It was not until the Jerusalem church came under intense persecution that the Christians engaged in missionary activity (Acts 8:1ff.). Peter’s vision and his commission to go to the house of Cornelius, with the resulting testimony of the Holy Spirit to the conversion of these Gentiles (Acts 10), resulted in an inquiry on the part of the leaders of the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:1ff.). Even when all had been persuaded that God had chosen to save the Gentiles (11:18), only a few noble souls from Cyprus and Cyrene preached to the Gentiles, resulting in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:19-30). From this church Barnabas and Paul were sent out as missionaries to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-3), and upon their return, the debate over the necessity of circumcising the Gentiles arose (Acts 15:1-2). When the gospel was defined as distinct from any obligation upon Gentile converts to keep the law, and when the issue of culture was seen as subordinate to the gospel, the evangelization of the Gentile world became predominate as recorded in the remainder of the Book of Acts. The book, which begins with a Jewish church, thus ends with Paul’s explanation of the Jews’ rejection of the gospel and the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 28:24-29).

Christianity and Culture Through the Centuries

The universality of the gospel necessitated a distinction between Christianity and culture. Christianity can exist in any culture, but each culture will have certain beliefs, values, or practices which contradict Christianity and therefore must be laid aside. The Jewish emphasis on external righteousness by outward conformity to rules had to be put aside, for salvation is obtained by faith alone, apart from works. The Gentile practices of idolatry and immorality also had to be rejected as contrary to one’s calling in Christ. Any conformity to culture which hinders the preaching of the gospel should also be forsaken. It all seems quite simple, doesn’t it? However history reveals the difficulty which the saints have had in consistently relating Christianity to culture.

Historically, the church has struggled to identify with contemporary culture without becoming either isolated from it or identical to it. The church has attempted, with varying degrees of success, to relate to contemporary culture without creating a counter-culture and without being consumed by secular culture. Needless to say, the church has not always succeeded in walking the tight rope between these two extremes.

In the early church at Jerusalem, the Jewish culture was strongly opposed to Christianity. The greatest danger was posed by the Judaistic Christians who sought to impose the Jewish culture on the Gentile believers. When Christianity was proclaimed among the Gentiles, we can see the struggle which the churches (like the one in Corinth) had in keeping the world out of the church. As greater opposition from Rome was focused against the Christians, this danger diminished for a time.

When the church pronounces contemporary culture corrupt, it seeks to eradicate that culture from Christianity by creating a counter-culture of its own. True Christians are instructed to adopt this counter-culture in place of their old lifestyles. When the church is powerful enough, it may seek to impose this “Christian culture” on society as a whole. Such was the case in the second century when Roman government was wedded to religion.

With the coming of Constantine, the church entered into a new era. The state which had once persecuted Christianity now professed it and even sought to promote it. The church thus had the opportunity to impose what it considered to be a “Christian culture” upon all Roman citizens. The church sought to return, once more, to a theocracy, like that to which ancient Israel had formerly been subject. This produced at best a feigned obedience to what was conceived to be the law of God. Richard Lovelace describes some of the legalism which ensued:

Hard-line fundamentalists like Tertullian ruled out many intellectual activities: the theater (because of its origins in pagan worship), the dance (because it might inflame ill-controlled sexual passions) and cosmetics (if God meant you to smell like a flower He would have given you a crop of them on your head!).18

The expansion of Roman rule and religion extended to other lands. This introduced the opposite error of the Christian faith. The church adopted the cultural corruptions of the subdued nations:

The missionary expansion of this modified theocracy was a genuine work of God’s grace, and yet it left the worst features of converted cultures intact or assimilated them into Catholicism while covering them over with a surface conformity to Roman ritual, theology and governmental hierarchy.19

The tension between resisting contemporary culture to the point of isolation and accepting it to the point of total identification (including its evils) can be seen throughout the remainder of the church’s history.20 The Reformers reacted to the legislated morality of the Catholic Church. They, along with the Puritans, gratefully imbibed in alcohol and enjoyed tobacco. The temperance movement came later, a reaction to abuses of alcohol related to the Industrial Revolution. The Revivalists of the 1820’s and 1830’s carried temperance even further—to total abstinence. With Revivalist Charles Finney came the addition of coffee and tea to the list of “forbidden fruits.”

The important thing to observe as we consider the way the church has historically sought to relate to culture is that its actions have been the result of its understanding of the gospel. Lovelace observes:

Apparently if the church has not fully appropriated the life and redemptive benefits of Jesus Christ, it will inevitably be subject to two forms of re-enculturation. Either it will suffer destructive enculturation, absorbing elements of its host cultures which it should discern and suppress as unholy, or it will try to re-create once again the Old Testament protective enculturation, fusing itself with certain aspects of Christianized culture until the gospel is thought to be indissolubly wedded to those cultural expressions.21

The decision of the Jerusalem Council should thus be seen in light of its cultural implications. The apostles’ understanding of the gospel compelled them to address the issue of culture. So too we must be very careful that our comprehension of the gospel is correct and that our response to culture is consistent with the gospel.

Christianity, Culture, and the Cults

I believe there is a definite relationship between the cult and the contemporary culture. Most often the cultist utterly rejects the culture of his day, reacting by creating a kind of counter-culture. The Jesus Movement, for example, was based upon a rejection of the culture of middle-class America. In its place this movement provided a religion which substituted a middle-class culture for a counter-culture which rejected materialism and middle-class values. If I am not mistaken you will find that virtually every cult has a very carefully defined culture which it seeks to promote as a cure for the contemporary culture of its day.

This was at least a part of the heresy of the Judaizers in Acts 15. They could not conceive of Christianity in any other cultural expression than that of Judaism. As a result of their fervent devotion to the preservation of this culture, they perverted the gospel.

So it is, I am convinced, with every cult. The cult is either born out of a reaction to a contemporary culture or out of a desire to transplant another culture into the current culture of that day. In order to do so, the gospel is distorted and the convert’s conformity to the new culture becomes the measure of his “faith.” To the extent that the Christian church loses sight of the power of the gospel to save and to sanctify a man or woman in any culture, it will pervert the gospel and will seek to establish another culture. Conformity to this lifestyle becomes the measure of one’s righteousness.

Christianity, Culture, and the Church

I have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely essential for us as Christians to understand the relationship between culture and Christianity. Let me suggest some of the ways culture affects Christianity.

(1) Culture plays a crucial role in foreign missions. Western missions (by this I mean the missionary endeavors of the churches in the United States) have often been greatly hindered by the cultural blunders of the missionaries and their sending agencies. Failing to distinguish between what is cultural and what is Christian, missionaries have often attempted to transplant American Christianity to foreign soil, rather than to take the gospel and allow it to develop within the indigenous culture of the people. Christianity has often been characterized as paternalistic and capitalistic. Churches are built in Western style, with Western monies. Those who are converted dress as Westerners. All too often, native leaders are sent to the United States to receive a Western education. Control of the missionaries and of the newly planted churches stays in Western hands.

The missionary activity of the Apostle Paul was quite different. He was seldom supported by funds from outside churches, but worked with his own hands, demonstrating the proper Christian lifestyle and values (cf. Acts 20:33-35; 2 Thess. 3:6-15). Paul seldom stayed in any one place too long. He encouraged the development of leadership among those converted, and he appointed those who were qualified to serve as elders and deacons (or had one like Timothy do so, cf. 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). The newly planted churches were not dependent upon outside leadership or funds.

I do not wish to pose as an authority on foreign missions, for I am not. I have had opportunity to observe that Western missionary endeavors in India have been dominated by Western leadership and funds for decades and yet have often had little impact on the regions where they were located. In recent years the Indian government has greatly restricted foreign missionary activity, and the Indian church has become very effective in promoting the gospel in that country and elsewhere beyond its borders. A good part of the reason is because Christianity is being freed from the bondage of Western culture and is identifying with the culture (I should say cultures) of that great country. To the degree that we fail to comprehend the difference between our Christianity and our culture, we shackle the gospel.

(2) Culture plays a vital role in evangelism. Paul told the Corinthian saints that he carefully considered the impact of his culture on the preaching of the gospel, changing his culture in any way that was biblical to remove unnecessary barriers to the gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-23). I am convinced that a good part of my failure as a witness is related to my cultural rigidity. Fundamental Christians have sought to protect themselves from the “world” by creating rigid rules which are often the basis for alienating our unsaved neighbors. We have come to think of spiritual purity in terms of physical separation, and so we avoid many of the places where the unsaved may be.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am not advocating that we frequent porno shops, X-rated movies, and massage parlors in the name of evangelism. I am saying that we have become so preoccupied with church activities that we have no time and no interest in those things which are of interest to our neighbors—things like the PTA, the city council, Boy Scouts, and so on. If we are going to win men and women to Christ, we must, like Paul, become much more sensitive to the negative or positive impact of culture on the preaching of the gospel. Those elements of our culture which are expendable, we should gladly give up in order to, by all means, save some. We have become so alienated from the world in which we live that we can hardly relate to the lost in a way which provides an occasion to share our faith in a winsome fashion.

(3) Culture plays a vital role in the worship of the church. Never before has the church in America seen such a dramatic shift in the cultures represented in the congregation. The 1960s brought about a new generation, one which reacted strongly to the values and the lifestyle (the culture) of their parents. The “hippies,” the “Jesus people,” and a host of other reactionary movements came into existence. While the revolutionary aspects have passed, many of the younger generation of Christians have come out of this tradition, or at least have come to adopt a part of this counter-culture. This is most evident in the area of music. Instead of the traditional hymns, accompanied by the traditional instruments, the piano and the organ, there is a new kind of music, often accompanied by guitars. The older generation (of which I am a part) tends to find the new music “irreverent,” while the younger generation finds the older musical forms uninspiring. The unity of the church, especially in its worship, has been endangered. Recognition of these “cultural” differences and responding to them in a biblical way has brought about growth for the church:

At Bear Valley one of our congregations is more of a melting pot than the others. It is made up of middle-class family units, many singles, street people and some antiestablishment thinkers. There are points of tension in this service. For example, the middle-class people like to sing from a hymnal accompanied by a piano. The street people prefer passages of Scripture set to music with guitars or maybe a banjo. … Through trial and error we have found an approach which seems to work. We simply split up. Half the time a middle-class person leads the music and half the time a street person leads. Each group, in time, learns to appreciate the other. It has been good for street people to establish friendships with middle-class people and vice versa. In fact, many in this congregation are attracted to it because of this very quality of diversity. We don’t believe we ought to force people to relate to others in different subcultures. But we feel it is a healthy thing for the whole church when the opportunity to do so exists.22

As discovered in the Book of Acts, it is possible for people of various cultures to be Christians. However, these differences in culture can also threaten the unity of the church. In order to guard against such a breech in fellowship, Christians of each culture must be sensitive to those things which are offensive to Christians of a different culture and must seek to set these things aside, making cultural concessions for the sake of unity and harmony. Our church, like the one described above, must learn to live and to worship together, respecting the cultural differences of others in the body of Christ.

(4) The church is often culture-bound, thus hindering its ministry. I have observed that the church most often seems to be on the lagging edge of culture, rather than on the leading edge. One of the reasons why the church fails to minister creatively, and the parachurch groups do so, is because the church is plagued with cultural paralysis. Tillapaugh in his book, The Church Unleashed, tells how the Baptist and Methodist denominations grew rapidly in the 19th century by responding to the changes in society. As the population moved west, there were not enough trained ministers to plant and pastor the churches which were required. The Baptists responded creatively by supplying “farmer-preachers” while the Methodists had their “circuit riders.”23 The result was the rapid growth of these churches, due to their responsiveness to the changes in their culture.

The church of today is so culture-bound it finds change difficult and agonizing if possible at all. The classic symptom of this cultural rigidity is the defense, “But we’ve always done it that way before.” The church needs to be able to detect changes in the culture about it and to respond creatively, yet biblically to them. Creativity in ministry is, in part, due to a proper understanding of culture and its relationship to the gospel.

(5) Satan’s most effective attacks upon the church may come through culture. Strangely, the Christian seems to look for Satan to attack the church in very direct and frontal ways, rather than through his more subtle (and effective) means. For example, the current “conspiracy” about which the church is being warned is that of “secular humanism.” Our attention has thus been focused on such issues as the teaching of evolution and prayer in schools. In the meantime, Satan is at work undermining our culture. Since our culture is something of which Christians are rarely conscious, Satan’s devices are not even detected.

Let me illustrate what I mean. For a long time the American culture was largely Christian in its values. For example, in the past society did not look favorably upon divorce or homosexuality, and so few practiced these evils, at least in a very open way. Unbelievers considered themselves Christians because they practiced Christian values. Christians prided themselves for practicing Christian values, too. In truth, many unbelievers and Christians were only conforming to the mores of their society—they conformed to a culture which was outwardly, at least, Christian. Satan used the moral culture as a means of deceiving many to consider themselves Christian, when they were only conformists.

Saturated by this atmosphere, Christians did not remain married or heterosexual because of any commitment to Christian principles, but out of conformity to culture’s values. Nonchristian values, however, have changed to conform more closely with their hearts. Divorces have become easy to obtain and society came to tolerates them—even encourage them. The values of non-believers have become evident, and so have the values of the Christians. While the divorce rate among the general population has slowed down, the rate of divorces among Christians is reportedly still climbing (Christians are on the lagging edge of culture again). In retrospect we can see that Christians were not acting out of conviction by staying married to their wives, but only out of cultural conformity. Satan thus can attack Christians in such a subtle way that they are unaware of what has happened. When we equate Christianity (or spirituality) to conformity with a certain prescribed culture (which is what the Judaizers did, and what legalists of every age do), Satan can attack Christians by undermining their culture, an area of which they are only slightly conscious.

Conclusion

I hope that you are beginning to see the vital importance of understanding culture and its need to be consistent with the gospel. It is nearly impossible to understand the Old or the New Testament without first coming to grips with the culture of those days and the way in which Christian faith related to it. It is imperative that we see the relationship between the gospel and culture today, and that we shed those aspects of our culture which are incompatible with the gospel or which hinder the proclamation and practice of the gospel. In order to resist the devil, we must understand how he works through culture. In order to have unity and harmony in the church, we must see how culture affects our worship.

I would encourage you to make the study of culture a priority. You can sharpen your cultural sensitivities by looking for cultural characteristics in the Bible. Try to distinguish, for example, the difference between the culture of the Israelites under the law and that of the Canaanites. Try to understand the life and ministry of our Lord in the gospels in light of the culture of that day. Consider the Gentile churches of the New Testament in light of the distinct culture of those cities.

Make every effort to learn about different lifestyles by seeking to know people from different cultures in our city. International Students Incorporated facilitates interaction between foreign students and church members. Try to get to know your fellow-Christians in this church who have a distinctly different culture. Find out how and why their culture affects their Christian life. If possible seek to travel to other countries, and if this is not possible, read missionary accounts of other cultures and ask visiting missionaries about the differences in the culture of those to whom they minister.

Finally, read books on the subject of culture. Be able to detect those aspects of your life which are influenced by your culture. One of the best books I am aware of is The Gravedigger File, by Os Guinness,24 which shows the way Satan works through culture to undermine Christian faith and witness.

Culture is important because of its relationship to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray that you will take this matter seriously, for the sake of the gospel.”

 

 

 

 

 

Also, here’s some excerpts from other articles that are  worth considering:

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=4262 &

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=2154

 

 

 

 

 

As another wisely said,

The dispute raised by Judaizing teachers.

Some from Judea taught the Gentile converts at Antioch, that they could not be saved, unless they observed the whole ceremonial law as given by Moses; and thus they sought to destroy Christian liberty. There is a strange proneness in us to think that all do wrong who do not just as we do. Their doctrine was very discouraging. Wise and good men desire to avoid contests and disputes as far as they can; yet when false teachers oppose the main truths of the gospel, or bring in hurtful

doctrines, we must not decline to oppose them. (Acts 15:7-21)

The council at Jerusalem.

We see from the words to �purifying their hearts by faith, to � and the address of St. Peter, that justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Ghost, cannot be separated; and that both are the gift of God. We have great cause to bless God that we have heard the gospel. May we have that faith which the great Searcher of hearts approves, and attests by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Then our hearts and consciences will be purified from the guilt of sin, and we shall be freed from

the burdens some try to lay upon the disciples of Christ. Paul and Barnabas showed by plain matters of fact, that God owned the preaching of the pure gospel to the Gentiles without the law of Moses; therefore to press that law upon them, was to undo what God had done. The opinion of James was, that the Gentile converts ought not to be troubled about Jewish rites, but that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, so that they might show their hatred of idolatry. Also, that they should be

cautioned against fornication, which was not abhorred by the Gentiles as it should be, and even formed a part of some of their rites. They were counselled to abstain from things strangled, and from eating blood; this was forbidden by the law of Moses, and also here, from reverence to the blood of the sacrifices, which being then still offered, it would needlessly grieve the Jewish converts, and further prejudice the unconverted Jews. But as the reason has long ceased, we are left free in this,

as in the like matters. Let converts be warned to avoid all appearances of the evils which they formerly practised, or are likely to be tempted to; and caution them to use Christian liberty with moderation and prudence. (Ac 15:22-35)

Being warranted to declare themselves directed by the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost, the apostles and disciples were assured that it seemed good unto God the Holy Spirit, as well as to them, to lay upon the converts no other burden than the things before mentioned, which were necessary, either on their own account, or from present circumstances. It was a comfort to hear that carnal ordinances were no longer imposed on them, which perplexed the conscience, but could not purify

or pacify it; and that those who troubled their minds were silenced, so that the peace of the church was restored, and that which threatened division was removed. All this was consolation for which they blessed God. Many others were at Antioch. Where many labour in the word and doctrine, yet there may be opportunity for us: the zeal and usefulness of others should stir us up, not lay us asleep. (Ac 15:36-41)

Of course, other actions are inappropiate for believers, but the Jews were especially concerned for these four….& this compromise was what helped the church grow unhindered by the CULTURAL DIFFERENCES of Jews & Gentiles. For when we share our message across cultural & economic boundaries, we must make certain that our requirements are GOD’S, not necessarily PEOPLES’. That’s what Paul was about when He brought up I Corinthians, for all that mattered was that HE GLORIFIED GOD & BROUGHT BROUGHT PEOPLE TO CHRIST, even though he proclaimed he had freedom to do anything:


1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

That’s part of why Paul observed the CEREMONIAL LAW in Acts 21:19-26. As respected theologian Matthew Henry said on the subject, ”

James & the elders in Jerusalem asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews, by some compliance with the CEREMONIAL LAW…….the religion that Paul preacheed tended not to destoy the Law, but to fufill it. He Preached Christ, the END OF THE LAW FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS; AND REPENTANCE & FAITH, in which we are to make great use of the LAW.”….& for study material/commentary, http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=4262 & http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=2154

A noteworthy excerpt from the study links to consider:

While there were many new Gentile converts, living in far away places, Jerusalem had thousands of Jewish believers, who were still “zealous for the law.” These saints had been distressed by (false) reports that Paul had been teaching Jewish converts to turn from the law and from all of their Jewish practices and rituals, as though this was not profitable, and perhaps even wrong.

It was apparently of no concern to the elders or to these “zealous for the law” Jewish Jerusalem saints that the Gentiles would not observe the law. After all, this was what the church had decided, some time ago, at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). The only requirement placed on the Gentile believers was that they “abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication” (verse 25). The problem seems to be in what the Jerusalem Council did not say about Jewish practice. The Jerusalem elders probably clarified the fact that Jewish Christians could continue to keep the law, not as a means to salvation, but as an expression of love and obedience. They could delight in the law, not because it gave them any merit or standing before God, but because it had been fulfilled in Christ, and because they were now righteous in God’s sight. The standards of righteousness which the law upheld were now no longer a cause of fear, but the basis for rejoicing and worship. They once were frustrated by their own failure to fulfill the laws demands, but now they rejoiced because Christ had fulfilled the entire law and they were not under the curse. And the kingdom to which the Old Testament saint looked forward was a certainty, which Jewish and Gentile saints would receive together (see Hebrews 11:39-40).

The question which remained was now what the Jewish Christian was free, as a believing Jew, to observe, but how Paul stood on this matter. Did Paul agree with the position taken by the Jerusalem elders, or did he reject this position, teaching Jewish Christians to discard the law and Old Testament Jewish rituals, as thought they were worthless, perhaps even evil, as some rumors had it? Paul could settle this matter once and for all, by publicly worshipping in the Temple, as a Jew, and as the Jerusalem Jewish Christians did. This is what James and the elders proposed, and what Paul did. This is also what got Paul into trouble, so that he was placed under arrest. This is what would eventually take Paul to Rome.

The main question for us is this? Were these elders wrong for asking Paul to do as he did, and was Paul wrong for doing it? I think that the answer must be a categorical “NO!.” The elders were not wrong in asking this of Paul, nor was he wrong in doing so. Paul’s very strong words in the Book of Galatians were addressed to those who would impose the law and law-keeping on Gentile believers, not toward those who were true believers and who wished, as Jewish Christians, to continue to live in accordance with the law and to observe Old Testament rituals. It was one (damnable) thing for Judaisers to insist that Gentile saints must keep the law in order to be saved, and quite another for Jewish Christians to keep the law because they were saved. Even Gentiles were not turned away from the law, but were enabled to fulfill its requirements:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

Paul was not asked by these elders to do something against his doctrinal beliefs or his convictions. In fact, Paul was only encouraged to practice publicly that which he already did. In what seemed at the time to be a most parenthetical and unnecessary comment, Luke said this of Paul: “In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow” (Acts 18:18).

Would they ask Paul to participate in worship with some of his Jewish brethren from Jerusalem, pertaining to a vow? This was something which Paul could gladly do, for he had done so himself as a Christian. Paul elsewhere indicated his desire to continue in some of those practices and rituals which he had observed (ignorantly) as a Jew (see Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8). Paul did not need to do this reluctantly, but he could do so gladly, with conviction and with joy. Paul was only being urged to practice what he (along with these elders) believed, and what he (along with the Jerusalem Jewish saints) practiced.

It was not because this was the wrong thing to do (any more than going to Jerusalem was wrong) that everything seems to have fallen apart when Paul did it. Even when Paul attempted to demonstrate his continued commitment to (true) Judaism, his unbelieving brethren would have no part of him, of his teaching, or of his practice. Note however that it was not the Jerusalem Jewish believers, nor even the unbelieving Jerusalem Jews, who caused this trouble for Paul. It was the “Asian Jews” (verse 27) who created the uproar, and all because of their own hasty and inaccurate conclusion—that Paul had brought a Gentile into the Temple, so as to defile it. Their conclusion was wrong, but it did not take a great deal of evidence to convince these folks, who were predisposed to believe such a thing of Paul, that he was guilty.

Paul took the four men who were “under a vow” and participated with them in temple worship. I am not clear as to the precise ritual, though it at least resembles that described in Numbers 6.479 When the seven days of this ritual were nearly completed, some of the Asian Jews, who were familiar with Paul and with Trophimus, and who recognized them both, falsely concluded that Paul had brought him into the temple. This was a horrifying thought to them, and one which stirred them to act, dragging Paul out of the temple and closing the doors behind him.

On his second day in Jerusalem, Paul and some of his companions met with James and the Jewish leaders (elders) of the church. In considerable detail, he reported to them how God had used his preaching of the gospel to save many Gentiles (21:19). These Jewish brethren rejoiced when they learned that many Gentiles had come to faith in Jesus. But they also wished to convey to Paul a matter of serious concern. Paul was a well-known celebrity in Jerusalem. He had received much of his training from Gamaliel, who apparently lived in or near Jerusalem (Acts 5:34-39; Acts 22:3). Jerusalem seems to have been Paul’s base of operations when, as an unbeliever, he opposed the gospel and persecuted the church (Acts 26:9-11). Thus, Paul was well known to both believing (Acts 9:13-14, Acts 9:26) and unbelieving (Acts 22:17-21; 26:4-5) Jews alike.

The elders in Jerusalem knew that distorted accounts of Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles had already reached their city:

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all ardent observers of the law. 21 They have been informed about you – that you teach all the Jews now living among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (Acts 21:20-21).

Enemies of the gospel were eager to believe the worst about Paul and his ministry. Unsaved Jews gladly believed the reports that Paul had turned against Judaism, the Old Testament Law of Moses, and the temple (see Acts 21:28), something that was far from the truth (see Acts 26:5-8, Acts 26: 22-23). Even believing Jews in Jerusalem were being persuaded that Paul was teaching Jewish believers who lived in Gentile lands that they should not circumcise their children or continue to observe Jewish customs.

James and his colleagues were deeply concerned that these false reports about Paul might do harm to the church, and even hinder Paul’s ministry among them. It seems evident that they had already agreed among themselves concerning their words of counsel. They asked Paul to publicly participate in temple worship, along with four Jewish men who had taken a vow. He was to take these four men and go through a purification ritual with them, paying their expenses to do so. This symbolic action would demonstrate that he continued to worship as a Jew. It would also prove that he had no reservations about encouraging other Jews to do likewise. Without debate or delay, Paul set out to comply with this request.

Before we move on, it would be helpful to pause for a moment to take note of several observations regarding the events described in verses 17-25:

First, note the genuinely warm welcome Paul and his companions are given by the Jerusalem church leaders. I believe that identifying with Paul was not the safest option for the Jerusalem church leaders. Paul was a “lightening rod” for opposition, and yet his Jewish brethren in Jerusalem gladly embraced Paul when he arrived. There is no hint of division or of hostility here, but only warm brotherly love.

Second, there was rejoicing on the part of these Jewish church leaders over the salvation of Gentiles. One need only read Luke 4:23-30 and Acts 22:21-22 to see how strongly opposed unbelieving Jews were to the evangelization of Gentiles. James and his colleagues praised God for the success of Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles.

Third, Paul’s arrival raised some legitimate concerns on the part of the Jerusalem church leaders. While some are inclined to view the counsel of James and the elders of the church as unwise or unbiblical, Luke leaves me with the impression that these concerns were legitimate. There were false reports about Paul’s ministry, and these had negatively impacted the church. The church leaders were right to be concerned.

Fourth, the request of Paul’s Jerusalem brethren was a reasonable one. They did not ask Paul to do something that was contrary to his faith or practice. Indeed, they did not ask Paul to do something he had not already done on his own. We simply need to recall what Luke told us in chapter 18:

Paul, after staying many more days in Corinth, said farewell to the brothers and sailed away to Syria accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because he had made a vow (Acts 18:18).

Later in chapter 20, we read:

For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so as not to spend time in the province of Asia, for he was hurrying to arrive in Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16).

It seems quite evident that Paul continued to worship as a Jew, and that the request of his brethren in Jerusalem was merely a petition to make his practice public enough to dispel any false information circulating about him. This was for the good of all.

Fifth, the Jerusalem church leaders made it very clear to Paul that their request was in no way to be understood as contradictory to their previous decision at the Jerusalem Council:

But regarding the Gentiles who have believed, we have written a letter, having decided that they should avoid meat that has been sacrificed to idols and blood and what has been strangled and sexual immorality” (Acts 21:25).

The relationship between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians needed clarification. The first step had been taken at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). There, essentially the same men as were now gathered had determined that Gentiles do not need to convert to Judaism in order to be saved. That decision is reaffirmed by the Jerusalem church leaders here in our text (Acts 21:25). Now, in the light of charges that Paul taught Jewish Christians (living abroad in Gentile territory) to forsake their Jewish culture and traditions, the Jerusalem church leaders deal with the other side of the equation: Jewish converts do not need to forsake their Jewish heritage because they have become Christians.3 Thus:

Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to be saved.
Jews who are saved do not need to completely forsake their Jewish heritage.

We learn from our text that Christians (Jews and Gentiles) can worship God differently – in a way that is consistent with their culture. Our text illustrates the fact that culture plays a part in our worship. Where Christianity and culture do not conflict, worship can be done within one’s culture. I have been privileged to participate in worship with fellow-believers in various parts of the world. The musical instruments may be very different, as well as the language and style of the songs that are sung. In some places, a Sunday gathering is considerably longer than here in the United States. (I have also experienced worship with a different cultural flavor in the United States, particularly with my African American brothers and sisters – and frankly, I enjoy it.)

We need to be willing to allow others to worship in ways that are more closely tied to their culture. We need to be careful not to impose our cultural tastes or preferences on others. Cultural diversity can also occur on a generational level. The older generation in a church may want to sing only hymns and a few familiar choruses, while the younger generation may prefer worship songs that are unfamiliar (and even annoying) to some of us older folks. The older folks may prefer the piano and organ; the younger generation prefers guitars, drums, and synthesizers. Let’s be careful to be gracious in showing sensitivity and grace with regard to the musical tastes and convictions of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This principle of toleration for cultural differences also needs to be observed on the mission field. In former days, if not today, missionaries not only took the gospel to the heathen, they also took our Western culture. Let us be careful not to alienate folks from their culture where it does not conflict with the gospel. This is the spirit I see in Paul, and I believe that we may need a bit more of it ourselves.

(5) I see in our text a practical example of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 9.

19 For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. 21 To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. 22 To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some. 23 I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

In the larger context (chapters 8-10), Paul is dealing with the issue of foods offered to idols.8 Paul teaches that even if one had the liberty to eat foods offered to idols, it would be a sin for him (or her) to exercise that liberty at the expense of a fellow-believer.9 A “right” is “wrong” when it causes a weaker brother to stumble. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul sets out to illustrate how this works in his life. Even though he has the undisputed right to be supported in his ministry, Paul has chosen to set this right aside in order to advance the gospel. So also while Paul has the freedom to live as a Jew or as a Gentile (culturally – such as in the foods he eats), he gladly foregoes his rights whenever doing so will enhance the gospel.

Is that not what we see illustrated in our text in Acts 21? When Paul was ministering among the Gentiles, I have little doubt but what he lived like a Gentile. Among other things, this means that he would have eaten Gentile food. But now that Paul is back in Jerusalem, he makes a point of worshipping as a Jew, so that his ministry to Jews (saved and unsaved alike) can be enhanced. Paul gladly forsakes his cultural liberties in order to advance the gospel. I wonder how much we give up for the advance of the gospel. What should we give up? These are questions that are surely worthy of our consideration.

To add on to that, this is the reasoning behind Acts 16:1-4, where Paul had Timothy Circumcised. Timothy’s Father was a Greek, & by being both Jew & Gentile, Timothy had access to both cultures—an indispensable asset for MISSIONARY SERVICE. The circumcision was done to aid his acceptance by the Jews & provide full access to the synagouges he would be visiting with Paul & Silas, for the Jews could have assumed that he had renounced his Jewish heritage & had chosen to live as a Gentile………& contrary to what some may think, Paul wasn’t doing this soley to “decieve”/play sides. It was an issue of LOVE.

As I Corinthians 9:19-23 makes clear, Within the Limits of God’s Word & his Christian conscience, Paul was determined to be as culturally and socially Jewish as necessary when witnessing to the Jews (Romans 9:3, Romans 10:1, Romans 11:14). He was not bound to ceremonies & traditions of Judaim….& all legal restraints had been removed, EXCEPT THE CONSTRAINT OF LOVE….Consisdering what would be BEST FOR BRINGING PEOPLE BACK CLOSER TO THE SAVIOR.

Within the bounds of God’s Word, he would not offend the Jew, Gentile, or those weak in understanding. Not changing Scripture or compromising the truth, he would condescend in ways that would lead in Salvation/GROWING IN THE SAVIOR……THE ENTIRE POINT OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM:

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

The Believer’s Freedom

23″Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”[a]

27If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake[b]— 29the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Romans 14

The Weak and the Strong
1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11It is written:
” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.’ “[a] 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food[b] is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

That’s why he had issue with Peter when the Judaizers came to the house of a Gentile & Peter, though he was eating Gentile Foods, backed away from them. The Judaizers already accused Paul of watering down the Gospel to make it easier for Gentiles to accept, while Paul accused the Judaziers fo nullifying the Truth of the Gospel by adding conditions to it. Things came to a climax when Peter, Paul, the Judaizers, and some Gentile Christians all gathered together in Antioch to share a meal. Peter probably thought that by staying away from the Gentiles, as TORAH may’ve required (in my understanding at least), he may’ve been promoting harmony—He did not When they all gathered for a meal…..FOR to eat with the Judaziers, even though Peter had given up all Mosaic ceremony (Acts 10:9-22, Acts 11:1-18), & then decline invitations to eat/fellowship with Gentiles, which he had previously done, meant that Peter was affirming the very dietary restrictions he knew God had abolished (Acts 10:15)…thus STRIKING A BLOW AT THE GOSPEL OF GRACE because he NO LONGER WAS DOING AS HE WAS PREVIOUSLY by MODELING THE IDEAL OF CHRISTIAN LOVE/LIBERTY BETWEEN JEW & GENTILE. …….

Galatians 2:11-21

Paul Opposes Peter
11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15″We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

17″If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[a]”

Hope this aids anyone…….

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18 Responses to “For ALL YOUTH MINISTERS, PLEASE CONSIDER THESE VIDEOS”

  1. Ann Brock said

    The way I see it as another attack on Hip Hop[Young People]Mr Lewis would not even have a platform if it was not for Hip Hop. The only reason the Church embraces him and his message because, they don’t no and refuse to seek after the youth of the world. So, we will start to attack their generation.I will say it again,if my worship is to God who knows my heart and who receive only pure worship from a pure heart who is man to say it is not acceptable to God? What do Mr.Lewis has to offer our young people besides attacks?

    • Morgan said

      I definitely agree. Why do you think we are taught to speak in tongues? To express our feelings and our love to god in our OWN way. There is no RIGHT way to praise the lord.

      There is obviously some form of hatred in their hearts to even take the time to search for these video’s & make themselves feel like they need to take matters into their own hands, or ‘rid’ them from the world.

      What happened to compassion and sensitivity? Why are people so close-minded? I will have to pray that the hate in their hearts die away.

  2. The only issue, however, is ensuring that the style of worship is not out of line with God’s standards for living where things are clear cut. There are many things I disagree with Mr.Lewis on, but on things that young & old alike are promoting contrary to the Word of God, I’m with him.

    If God says in His word, for example, that we should flee from anything promoting sexual immorality & yet people are doing it in the name of Christ…..that’s an issue.

  3. i’m no fan of g. craige lewis because i strongly believe he is a sensationalist. i have been to see him in person when he was in brooklyn, new york. and there were some things that transpired in the ‘service’ that i did not like. besides that, i just don’t get his ‘ministry’. i mean, what is the deal with talking about what sinners do? who gives a flip about what they sing about or how provocatively they dress, and dance or how suggestive their lyrics are? why should saints be caught up in this mess? sinners, sin, period! the focus should not be about what unregenerate sinners do; we already know what they do because we, too, were once walking in darkness. we should focus on preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and sticking to what the Scriptures actually say. we should not be depending on craige’s esoteric, psychological “profile” of why folk are messed up. people are messed up because they’re born in sin and the evil that’s in their hearts, they will do. no devil, or lack of love, or abuse need be necessary.

  4. sigh, tye tribbit was sooo off on so many points. where in the Word of God does it say, imply or infer that spirits are attached to clothes? this is some esoteric hoopla that undiscerning christians have bought into but i’m not buying it. and where does he get off telling folk to touch his clothes ’cause he’s annointed? i’m just so not into this hype.

  5. Yeah bro, Craige G. is about as solid as a water balloon. He is off bro, way off. I would refer no one to him. Melvin on Pulpit Pimps did some research on him after me and Lionel kept on prompting to check into his ministry. Do a search on Melvin’s site and you will see what the verdict is. I would think twice about endorsing him unless you want to endorse some of the other charlatans. Regarding Tye Tribbet, he is just like all the rest unfortunately having no standard of the people he does ministry(that is what they call it) with. I know of slim to none theologically correct black gospel aside from the Crossmovment holy hip hop guys. Nowadays you can’t buy a CD without hearing the Blessing of Abraham of some other misapplication of the scriptures. Be blessed and love you bro!

  6. g

  7. For everyone’s benefit, I decided to post a discussion on the issue that took place at my other “lair” (CARM, http://www.carm.org). It was a discussion dealing with the question of whether or not HIP HOP can be HOLY and whether or not it’s simply a matter of music or culture to be avoided.

    Be warned: THE DISCUSSIONS ARE LONG AND WILL TAKE UP SPACE since they took place over a period of 5 weeks, BUT IF YOU’RE willing to read, then I believe it intriguing for everyone to read. And here we go…..

  8. Easy G we are typically cool and as far as I can tell you are a pretty solid guy. The problem I have is scripture and always will be scripture. I will and you why, completely write off G Craig. His constant misuse of OT and NT scripture, his error of putting experience above scripture and finally his endorsement of slander and gossip are all unacceptable. For some reason you tend to ignore these things in favor of him speaking out against the wickedness in the music industry. There are 100’s if not thousands of men and women standing against the filth in music and none of use the tactics or engage in sin (exegetical fallacies and gossip) to do it.

    I must say I am a bit disappointed in you on this one brother. However, we will have to agree to disagree in love.

  9. That’s not a problem…..but again, in case it was missed, GO TO THE NEW POST I JUST PLACED UP.

    And to clarify for the last time, I DO NOT AGREE 100% with EVERYTHING THE MAN DOES IN HIS MINISTRY. I have already spoken out against it multiple times with others (read it my post on what the Bible says about CULTURE and the articles I placed up). So no one please act again as if that is not the case.

    Regarding the slander and other things, what amazes me is that EVERYONE ACTS AS IF THAT’S WHAT HE DOES 24/7 when the fact of the matter is that it was not the case. Many of the things he made clear about people were things already in the magazines/T.V (Christian ONES as well,). Also, I checked them out as well and everything cleared out with me. But I could be missing something……

    Moreover, the ministry in which he is involved in is still not given a fair presentation. I checked out many of the things he said not simply regarding music but many of the non-biblical behaviors within holy hip hop, and I must agree that he’s dead on WITH MANY THINGS.

    I went to a church, for example, where Canton Jones was doing a music concert prior to G.Craig coming on the scene. The entire yyouth group ended up looking like a hard core club scene, but if anyone even said what the man was doing was wrong, many in defense of Holy Hip Hop would not even adresss it. That’s not to diss EVERYONE WITHIN THE MOVEMENT since there are MANY PEOPLE TRULY holding it down for Christ, but the actions of one doing it in EVERYONE’S name give a certain image…..and in all honesty I have not seen many people within Holy Hip Hop speaking out against foolishness done by other Holy Hip Hoppers in the name of it. That, from the best of my understanding, was all that G.Craig was about.

    Is the music alone the issue? Of course not, and that is one thing where I sharply disagree with G.Craig. You could get rid of a 1000 cds and still have kids sinning if their HEARTS ARE NOT MADE RIGHT WITH GOD, for anything less is simply EXTERNAL MODIFICATION. That will lead to more confusion, and needs to be adressed.

    There of course can always be more said on the issue, but I encourage everyone to go to the NEW POST I brought up and to see about those comments. They had many points that I think are worth consideration.

  10. I believe that this point here should clear up some things as to the intention of this post, as it was said earlier (though it probably got lost in all of the writing from EARLIER):

    “I’m guessing that alot of the information, especially among some who may say one thing & yet promote another, may seem a bit crazy to sort through………but if nothing else, it’ll give something to think about…..& I just thought it’d be something interesting to consider in growing in learning how to discern “good” from “evil” & check everything one says/does with the way God see things in His Word,…..even if it seems what someone is saying/doing seems
    may be godly on ALOT OF POINTS…..”

  11. You said:

    Regarding the slander and other things, what amazes me is that EVERYONE ACTS AS IF THAT’S WHAT HE DOES 24/7 when the fact of the matter is that it was not the case. Many of the things he made clear about people were things already in the magazines/T.V (Christian ONES as well,). Also, I checked them out as well and everything cleared out with me. But I could be missing something……

    Many facts? Okay lets clarify some stuff. G. Craig says that Hip Hop originated in Africa and was an overflow from satanic worship. That is False.

    How about him saying that Duece/Ambassador doesn’t hold to the scripture because of the historic issue of Mark 16? That was misleading. Deuce holds a high view of scripture and that statement is misleading at best and sladerous at worst (I believe he was trying to prove his point about holy hip hopper and he used this as a way to discredit his accusor, that is sin).

    How about him calling the GMA the Gay Music Awards? Is that acceptable? I don’t think so bro.

    How about using Leviticus to talk about earrings or tatoos? Is this not exegetical acrobats or better yet, eisegesis?

    We can go back and forth bro; however, his investigation findings on hip hop are laughable, his misuse of the scriptures are not as funny. The legalism and divisiveness this brother conjours up is in need of an open rebuke.

    As we spoke before, just because someone is okay as it relates to his views on secular music, doesn’t mean his ministry is credible and G. Craigs ministry is not credible. He is theologically and doctrinally unfaithful among other things his expereinces happen to be highly unbiblical. Lastly as it relates to his misuse of scripture to encourage holiness, this is unacceptable and he should be ignored for this also. I believe you have overlooked critical issues in favor of promoting a certain aspect.

    It is like a man is good husband because he works hard. Well what about if he cheats, lies, steals and is abusive. Would you recommend your daughter marrying him? The answer is no, G Craig is a liar (or the worse investigator I have ever seen), a legalist, and a horrible minister of the Gospel. So what he speaks out against secular music, you can find someone much better to recommend then this dude.

  12. f

  13. Before responding (and be warned that it’ll be lenghty, lol), I’d like to post some commentary on the issue of G.Craig Lewis and what others have been saying regarding his ministry. The first is from another who did what I would have to say is a pretty well-balanced view on the issue in many regards (though I sharply disagree with the issue of Christian Artists COLLABORATING with secular artists on issues)….and if people would like more commentary on the issue, go here:

    http://www.trailblazinministries.com/board/index.php?PHPSESSID=49c2d47be9aed91baae6e9b5108ccd83&topic=53.msg171#msg171

    “My Personal Commentary on the three G. Craig Lewis DVD’s by Tre9

    The Heart of the Matter
    Upon watching all three of the DVD’s, I have to say they are very intriguing, informative, and compelling. Craig Lewis provides a large amount of evidence that hip hop is an organized religion. He claims that it is promoting the teachings of the Zulu Nation, five percentism, which teaches that black men are gods and the white man is the devil to name a few. He says the origin of hip hop comes from a man named Africa Bambaataa who started it in order to infiltrate the world with the teachings of the Zulu Nation. (See http://www.allahsnation.net for a study of the teachings of 5 percenters.) Craig Lewis gives various examples from the lyrics of artists such as Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, KRS ONE, John Legend, India.Irie, WuTang Clan, and a host of others which all provide evidence of his claims. There are various topics preached about on these DVD’s ranging from the infiltration of secular artists in the church by way of pastors and Christian artists, to supporting secular artists by purchasing clothes from their clothing lines (ie. Sean John, Roca Wear, etc.). Gospel artists such as Hezekiah Walker & LFT church choir, Kirk Franklin, BB Jay, T Bone, Tonex, Bebe Winans, Cece Winans, and a host of others are ridiculed for their collaborations with secular artists who promote the 5 percenter agenda. Pastor Lewis uses an aggressive approach by screaming at times but balances it out with many sarcastic remarks and funny analogies which keep the congregation laughing and attentive. “50 cent, couldn’t even be a dollar,” was just one wise cracks at the multi platinum hip hop artist Craig sarcastically stated. He also pokes fun of the youth’s style of fashion and makes the comparison of wearing Sean John clothes to being in covenant with the artist. The rest of the DVD messages are gospel artists should not be getting awards from secular award shows, hip hoppers dress like criminals, Pastor Creflo Dollar and TD Jakes are working with secular artists for money, Trinity Broadcasting Network or TBN will put anyone famous on television if they say they are saved because it is financially profitable, gospel rappers look like secular rappers, and buy all the Ex-ministries DVD’s which cost over $20 each so that they can continue their ministry.

    The Plus Side of Pastor Lewis’s message

    I would agree that The Truth Behind Hip Hop DVD’s are important for Christians to watch because Craig Lewis does an excellent job of exposing what the church, has ignored for so long, which is the content of music. American pop culture has elevated rap music to the forefront via mass media and the majority of it is very explicit, anti-Christian and inappropriate for youth. It is very similar to the popular movies and how they are targeting teens with movies such as American Pie, Jackass, and Scary Movie to name a few. The sinful entertainment that is provided by Hollywood is addictive and luring to old and young people alike. I am encouraged that Pastor Lewis has done the research on various rappers and is bringing awareness of the sin that is promoted in rap music. It could cause the body of Christ to pay attention to what Christian rappers have to offer, which would be something that is much needed.

    I also agree with the presentation Lewis makes about the religion of Africa Bambatta, that is five percentism, and how it teaches that the black male is a god and the white man is the devil. It is important that people know about this false doctrine. The majority of Christians are unaware that many of their favorite artists are singing this doctrine in their songs. Craig Lewis specifically points out artists such as Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D’Angelo, and others who he provides lyrics from to show their false teachings. It is equally important that parents know that their children are listening to rap artists that promote violence, fornication, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, murder, rape, vanity, lust and everything else known as sin.

    The Down Side of Pastor Lewis’s message

    While I agree with most of Pastor Lewis’s teachings, and his overall view on hip hop, there are several problems I find with his study. The main problem is his claim that the origin of hip hop began with Africa Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation. Linking the creation of hip hop to Africa Bambaataa is like saying Christopher Columbus discovered America. Although Africa Bambaataa was an integral part of the growth of the hip hop culture, he was not the creator of it. DJ Kool Herc is irrefutably considered the “Godfather of Hip Hop”. Even the Zulu Nation agrees that DJ Kool Herc created hip hop back in the 1970’s. Pastor Craig Lewis attempts to convince people that Africa Bambaata created hip hop with this master plan to infiltrate American culture with the Zulu Nation doctrine. Even if that were the case, Africa Bambaataa would have failed miserably because hip hop is dominated by so much negativity that even the Zulu Nation stands against. Visit the templeofhiphop.org to view what Africa Bambaataa is trying to endorse in hip hop, it is far from the negativity you hear current rappers promoting. Don’t get me twisted though; I firmly stand against the religious beliefs of Africa Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation. Belief that man is god and the Bible is fallible is blasphemy towards God and a false doctrine. My point is, while in high school, Africa Bambaataa did not come up with this great plan to spread a false doctrine through rap and call it hip hop. As a matter of fact, Africa Bamabaataa himself defines hip hop as this:

    “Hip Hop means the whole culture of the movement.. when you talk about rap..Rap is part of the hip hop culture..The emceeing..The djaying is part of the hip hop culture. The dressing, the languages are all part of the hip hop culture.The break dancing the b-boys, b-girls ..how you act, walk, look, talk are all part of hip hop culture.. and the music is colorless.. Hip Hop music is made from Black, brown, yellow, red, white.. whatever music that gives you the grunt.. that funk.. that groove or that beat.. It’s all part of hip hop.” (http://www.daveyd.com/whatisbam.html)

    You must first understand the true definition of hip hop as believed by all the pioneers and most people across the world. Here is a definition that is commonly used in most hip hop literature.

    Hip Hop is an art form that includes deejaying [cuttin’ & scartchin’] emceeing/rappin’, breakdancing and grafitti art. (http://www.daveyd.com/whatishipdav.html)

    Rap music is simply one element to hip hop. Pastor Lewis is centering everything he believes about hip hop on one element, rap. You don’t hear him speak on the other art forms. Rap music came after graffiti art, deejaying, and break-dancing had already been going on. Hip hop even helped curtail gang violence that was running so rampant in the 1950’s through 1970’s because it allowed gang members to channel their anger and aggressions out through these self expressive art forms. DJ battles, b-boy battles, and emcee battles still exist today in which individuals go against one another via their talent and not through violence. I’ve witnessed many of these battles at what are known as “b-boy jamz” and they do not promote violence against one another. The dancers usually show love and respect for one another after the show.

    By no means am I suggesting that the hip hop is 100% positive or Christian, but I am suggesting that it is inaccurate for Craig Lewis to say, “Hip Hop is a culture and lifestyle from Hell”! Craig Lewis’ lessons stem from the belief that hip hop is inherently evil because its origin is evil. Two things here: One, it is not true. Secondly, even it were true, it is irrelevant to this argument. If that is the case then American Culture is evil because of the wicked things our forefathers did upon its creation. Although we slaughtered Indians and enslaved blacks since the beginning or our Christian American culture, should we not call ourselves American now? American culture operates under a democracy, should we eliminate a democracy because slavery and racism existed under a democracy? Of course not! So why should hip hop, which is a sub-culture of American culture, which has negative aspects in its past and present, be labeled as evil? It should not because just like true Christians realized the evils of their American culture and abolished slavery, true Christians that grew up in the hip hop culture have recognized the evils of our culture and are preaching a message of salvation through Jesus Christ to win souls within it.

    Here is another example of something common in churches today, drumming. While the origin of the drum remains unclear, it is speculated that the first to use this drum was the Atumpan tribe, not Christians. They used to believe the trees they made the drums out of were powerful spirits to be honored. So they prayed and made sacrifices to the tree and housed its spirit in the drum once the ritual was completed. Are churches allowing these spirits in their churches every time they play the drums? Come on, do you get my point? Craig Lewis is basing his teachings about hip hop on false pretenses. He should simply stick to the argument that many of the lyrics of rap artists are evil, instead of arguing that the whole hip hop culture was created to be evil and lead people to become five percenters.

    I believe the goal of the believer is to make disciples of all cultures. God has sent men throughout the Bible into wicked and anti-Christian cultures to lead them towards the light. Even the apostle Paul stated, “Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law, that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. I Corinthians 9:13.

    Although Paul knew these groups of people had cultural beliefs that were not in line within his beliefs, he knew how to become what they wanted him to be outwardly, but he never changed inwardly. He states his goal is that they be saved.

    Gospel Artists Collaborating with Secular Artists

    This brings me to my second problem with Mr. Lewis’s teachings. He scrutinizes gospel artists for doing songs with secular artists, but doesn’t point out the fact that these gospel artists are preaching salvation on their songs. Many of these secular albums that have anti-Christian messages are going to be released into the mass market regardless of who is on it. Would Jesus want the message of salvation to go throughout the world into the ears of non-Christians even if it meant being on a song with a “backslider” or “sinner”? This is the question that is debated even amongst Christian rappers. It seems no one has a solid answer, just personal convictions. Regardless of what you believe, Craig Lewis shows no fairness when it comes to these gospel artists being on secular albums. For instance, on the KRS One Spiritually Minded cd featuring T Bone and BB Jay, Mr. Lewis quoted KRS One’s heresy but did not quote what T Bone and BB Jay rapped on their songs with KRS One. T Bone boldly proclaims Christian lyrics on the collaboration, “Well Elijah Mohammad never rose from the dead and Buddha and Hare Krishna couldn’t save you with the blood that they shed… and Confucius is still confused…chronic breathing heathens that were grieving, thieving but now believing that Jesus’s beaten, was for a reason…Jesus Cristo no tarde viene (Jesus won’t arrive late).” T Bone’s chorus on that song is in Spanish but it is clear that Jesus is all up in it. And on the song BB Jay is on, he raps, “Hallelujah everybody praise the Lord, God Bless…nice with mine, all things Christ in mind…” Check out more of what these artists say on the Spiritual Minded cd for yourself, God Is Spirit and The Struggle Continues are the particular songs in question. I recommend Craig Lewis pay attention to the message that these gospel artists are trying to send to these misled people. After all, Jesus said that they are either for me or against me. It is apparent these gospel artists are for Him if they are preaching Him. Didn’t the scribes accuse Jesus of having Beelsebub (Satan)? In Mark 2:22-28, we read that Jesus was dealing with false accusations about his power and answered, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand…..And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.”

    Did Jesus collaborate with sinners? This is a tough one because Jesus had a ministry that did not involve any singing. He preached, taught, healed, cast out demons, performed miracles, and many other Godly things but he did not sing or cut a record. We do know that He ate with sinners in their homes, He sat and talked with sinners, He chose sinners to follow Him in His ministry, and He saved sinners. One thing that interests me most but I have yet to do, is an in-depth study concerning the fact that Judas was Jesus’s betrayer, yet He was also a part of Jesus’ ministry. Was Judas saved? I can’t answer that question confidently. But my point is still that Jesus kept some pretty interesting characters around Him. Consider Peter who sliced a man’s ear off and denied Jesus several times when his life was on the line, would you allow someone like that in your ministry? Would you have put a Judas in your ministry? I would like to think we would not allow these individuals to be that close to us in ministry, but Jesus did. Once again, this issue is a tough one that I think boils down to the individuals’ intentions when doing the songs. Are you doing it for money or for souls? What are the intentions of the secular artists who wants to collab with you, is it for influence in the church or repentance from sins? Will your collaboration hurt or help people? These are a few of the questions one has to know in order to rightly make that decision. I doubt Craig Lewis took the time to ask these questions to the artists. As a matter of fact, I know he didn’t because I have personally spoken to BB Jay and know that he has not been approached to comment about the things Lewis says about him. This is unfair judgment on behalf of Minister Lewis.

    One last thing, Craig Lewis states that Gospel artists confuse kids by having songs with secular artists. While this may be true, Jesus also confused people when he sat in the home of a sinner named Zachariah and had dinner. Jesus didn’t seem to mind that people would accuse him of being associated with sinners.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Supporting Secular Clothing Lines

    My third problem is when it comes to clothing lines; Craig Lewis claims that wearing Sean John or Roca Wear clothes is making a covenant with the artist and their beliefs. However he says he is not concerned with brands like Versace, Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren. I wonder if he knows that Gianni Versace is gay. I guess that wouldn’t matter since he specifies on his DVD that he is not sure if these designers are saved but he knows they are not pushing the anti-Christian message. Well, my question is didn’t Jesus say he that is not with me is against me in Matthew 12:30? I haven’t met too many homosexuals that are in favor of the Christian agenda if you know what I mean.

    Although I would prefer not to invest my dollars into these secular artists clothing lines, the Christian fashion industry does not give hip hoppers much of a variety to choose from. Plus, the Christian hip hop clothing lines that are available are usually limited to the internet as a means of distributing their products because retail chains won’t order it. Heck, when is the last time you saw a hip hop clothing line in your local Christian bookstore? The Christians don’t even support Christian businesses. This is a problem that Craig Lewis provides no solution for.

    Kanye West Alter Call
    Ex-Ministries present a good case against rapper Kanye West’s sinful lyrics, in spite of one song that topped the charts called, “Jesus Walks.” They also point out that a church located in Florida paid Kanye West $30,000 to perform that song before their congregation of youth. The church claimed that 300 youth responded to an alter call by Kanye in which Craig Lewis proclaims that the kids came to the alter call for an autograph not to get saved. How could Craig Lewis know that every single one of those kids was not genuinely getting saved? Did he interview them? Does he have even one account to back his beliefs? If he cannot prove this is true, then he is lying and just as guilty of sin as the rapper he condemns.

    I personally do not think it is wise to allow any secular artist to perform in a church setting, especially when their song uses profanity and has biblical contradictions in it. However, this is the choice a pastor made and if God was able to use Judas to lead people to Jesus than I assume he could use Kanye West. But don’t get me wrong, I would much rather this church give a gospel rapper $500 and call it a day. It is sad that when it comes to honorariums and performance fees, churches will provide a “low-ball” offer to gospel rappers but give secular artists whatever they ask.

    As in this case, Craig Lewis makes the mistake of letting his sarcasm and humor get out of control, and make judgments that are not based on facts. He could have at least given that pastor or those youth the opportunity to comment before blasting the authenticity of their salvation.

    No solution provided by Ex-Ministries
    My biggest problem is Ex-Ministries can state clearly what not to do and why not to embrace any aspect of hip hop, but they do not provide you with what you can do. They do not endorse any gospel rap artists on their DVD’s. They don’t provide any information about the kind of clothes youth can wear. They don’t provide the solution to ministering to the lost hip hop generation to Christ. Well, the pastor does give a response to the question, what can my kids listen to? God! Yep that was his answer, God. He could have at least recommended praise and worship music or something relevant to his culture. But no, his answer to the youth is listening to God. In a day and age where many adult Christians don’t know how to hear from God because the majority of them don’t want to read and study the Bible, he expects the youth to know how to listen to God. Of course they need to listen to God, I agree with that statement. But what if they enjoy music as many of us do? Music is not only encouraged in the Bible, it is a means to praise God. However, Mr. Lewis makes no recommendations of any Christian rap artists on the DVD or what type of clothes to purchase.

    Final Thoughts

    In conclusion, one must admire the courage and dedication of Ex-Ministries and Pastor Lewis. I believe they are sincerely committed to doing what is right, and I support much of what they teach. However, I would like to see them do more research on the origins of hip hop before concluding that it is evil. It should also be a concern for them to provide an avenue for Christian rappers and clothing designers to have their products promoted through Ex-Ministries. They should allow the Christian artists and ministers that they mention on their DVD the opportunity to provide answers as to why they do what they do. A one-sided view that is misunderstood could destroy the ministries of what many artists and preachers have labored hard for. Because you know just how easily congregations take what their pastors say as the absolute truth not realizing how they can be in error too.

    On a brighter note, at least more people are finding out about Christian rap. Maybe this is the controversy needed to boost the support of Christian rap, but only time will tell. Gospel rappers are the authenticity that youth need. Parents can take away the secular music which is the alternative, and give them a gospel rap CD which is the real thing.

  14. Continuing with the last post, here’s another one:

    Alright, I am sure that every emcee, and every lover of Christian hiphop has at one time or another been confronted by a traditionalist who tells them that Christian hiphop is ungodly, and cannot be used by God. In recent years G. Craig Lewis has established an entire ministry, Ex Ministries, which is dedicated to the exposing Christian hiphoppers as sinners, and calling for the eradication of Christian hiphop from inside of the church.

    I find this debate troubling for a few reasons. I have experienced the power of Christian hiphop in my life. I have experienced being reduced to tears on my knees with my face in the floor as The Ambassador’s (Christian Rapper) song “I Love you Jesus” was playing. I stood in the center of Downtown Zagreb, Croatia with two other guys and saw the awesome power that hiphop had to draw people in, and two days later I watched a few of these guys come into the church and give their lives to Christ. And finally, my own salvation, boldness, diligence, creativity, writing gift, and ability to stand boldly in the face of scornful sinners can be directly connected to my time as a Christian rapper.

    On the other hand, I have experienced the following dilemmas. Driving, listening loudly to a Christian rap and wondering if (because the kids on the street couldn’t hear the lyrics) I was furthering a negative stereotype. I have listened to “Christian” rap albums wondering when Christ was going to be introduced on it. On other albums I have wondered whether rapping and a love of hiphop or representing Christ was the artist’s primary intent.

    For the conflicting nature of the aforementioned internal struggles I personally have, my intent is not to make a sweeping exoneration for all persons who call themselves Christian rappers or members of the Christian hiphop community. I am merely opening a discussion (in which you are free to engage in) on why I believe that Christian hiphop is a godly tool given to my generation to reach the generation behind us.

    My final disclaimer is as follows: Often, when I engage in a debate in which I am trying to remove a man-imposed area of bondage people who disagree with my stance make a major error in reading. That is to believe that I am trying to say that there are NO boundaries on the artistic areas of the church. I am in no way suggesting that. If you have read my past works on the arts you will see that I believe artists (using Bezaleal as an example) are to be held to higher moral standard then non-artists because of the level of cultural influence their work carries.

    With that said, here is my defense…

    In a recent message board discussion I received the following scriptures as a godly rebuke to Christian hiphop. This was certainly not the first time I received these scriptures, and I am certain it will not be the last. So here is my official stance on these two scriptures as it relates to hiphop.

    Eph: 5:17-19
    Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the
    Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with
    the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
    singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

    Col. 3:16-17
    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching
    and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual
    songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

    My major problem with using these scriptures is that they do not speak of genre, but instead they speak of content. David wrote his Psalms in the Middle East, and most certainly they were sung to a Middle Eastern style. Therefore, if we were to take this to mean that we are only sing “The Psalms” of David, almost the entire church is in error because there were no pipe organs, Hammonds or Korgs, or bass guitars in David’s day. That is, if we accept these scriptures as referring to style.

    Therefore, I decided to look up a few key words in these passages to see if maybe I had missed where the terms psalms and hymns actually implied a sound or if they simply spoke of subject matter and intent. This is what I found.

    psalm (n)
    1. A sacred song; a hymn.
    2. Psalms (used with a sing. verb) Abbr. Ps. See table at Bible.

    sa•cred (adj)
    1. Dedicated to or set apart for the worship of a deity.
    2. Worthy of religious veneration.
    3. Made or declared holy: sacred bread and wine.
    4. Dedicated or devoted exclusively to a single use, purpose, or person: sacred to the memory of her sister; a private office sacred to the President.
    5. Worthy of respect; venerable.
    6. Of or relating to religious objects, rites, or practices.

    Based on the above definitions of psalm and sacred I see no contradiction of intent on the behalf of Christian Hiphop. These are songs expressly written to worship God, and God only. They definitely relate to religious objects, rites, and practices; the religion of course being Christianity. When you listen to the lyrics, and avoid getting caught up on external factors like dress and background music that you may not personally like, it will be evident that these are young, vibrant men and women who are extremely devoted to God. For groups like the Cross Movement and rappers like KJ 52, Sev Statik, and Propaganda; there is no way a person could listen to their lyrics and question their intent and devotion.

    1. A song of praise or thanksgiving to God or a deity.
    2. A song of praise or joy; a paean.

    Again, as long as Christian rappers are praising God, and giving thanksgiving to Him there is no violation of this scripture. I fail to see why, if the music is loud and full of bass and drum kicks, that sound supersedes the actual words that are being said.

    “All I wanna’ do is just follow that voice inside a choice made with no compromise. All the way live every line focused on service, nouns and verbs hit all for a purpose.”—Sev Statik.

    If my daughter walked up and told me the above I would be proud of her. If she stood before thousands of other kids and proclaimed this kind of devotion to God I would be knocked off of my feet! It makes no difference that Sev Statik says this over a hiphop beat, the message is the same. As a matter of fact, the beat makes it relevant to the generation coming up behind him.

    NT Christianity – God Corrects Cultures Not Abolishes Them

    Paul’s ministry provides a roadmap to changing entire cultures; bringing them to Christ and starting churches. Notice in Paul’s life, when he was confronted by Christ, Jesus didn’t slay the radical Jew killer. No, he fixed the areas of error, and used Paul’s devotion and fervor to establish the Christian church. When Paul went to the Corinthians and the Ephesians, his intent was not to turn them into Romans. His intent was to go to the culture, root out sin from the culture and leave the rest of it in tact.

    Therefore, why are there those in the present-day church trying to turn hiphoppers into choir boys? There are definitely elements in secular hiphop culture that are vile, lewd, disgusting, and extremely detrimental to humanity. But, that does not mean that the church has to treat hiphop culture as Sodom and Gomorrah and destroy the entire lot of them. It is not our job to eradicate hiphop culture from the face of the earth; it is our job to correct it.

    It is our responsibility to treat this culture just as we would treat any other culture. Our job is to go in and do as Paul did with the Ephesians, which is to correct the sinful areas of the culture. Unfortunately there is a Crusade being undertaken by certain segments of the church that seek to murder the culture of the next generation. This, my friends is genocide! The elder church is murdering the church of their youth! Just like earlier generations of the church do not mirror their predecessors, the next generation church will not mirror the present church. There will be similarities, but the next generation church will correct the unrevealed errors of the present generation causing there be distinct differences from one generation to the next.

    Hiphop is a powerful tool that God is using in this generation to reach the next generation. I do not expect the generation ahead of me to understand all of the complexities of Christian hiphop and Christian rap. In the same way I do not understand many expressions of the church of the present day. My generation of the church did not go through the Civil Rights movement; therefore, to many of us a lot of the race-based teachings that took place (and still take place) are not relevant. We do not fully understand why there is a Black Church and a White Church in the United States. These messages and the artistic styles that accompanied them are not relevant to our generation in the same way they were to previous generations.

    The Civil Rights churches tackled both the spiritual and the cultural issues of its time. That is why Martin Luther King preached the overwhelming majority of his powerful speeches from church pulpits. Segregation was a problem for every black person, Christian and unchristian, and the struggle was fought from inside of the church house. Powerful civil rights leaders, those who fought from a biblical perspective, were welcomed into the church and were able to win the fight in the name of Jesus Christ.

    Stokley Carmichael and Malcolm X were also Civil rights leaders. They were also fighting for black people, but not in the name of Jesus Christ. For good reason the church did not say, “Well, the Civil Rights war is being waged by sinners and Muslims; we must reject Civil Rights champions.” No, they kept up a standard, and embraced those who were engaged in the cultural war from a biblical perspective. Well, there is a Civil War being waged in the lives of our youth, and there are Christians and non-Christians engaged in this fight. Secular hiphop is the problem today’s youth face. It is the language, it is the culture, and for most, it is the dominant influence. The church has young warriors engaging in this struggle, seeking to pull our kids out of the clubs, out of each others’ bedrooms, and off of the streets. These warriors know how to speak their language, and they know the culture.

    Unfortunately for these brave individuals, the church is rejecting their efforts. These particular churches are more concerned with how the church looks; and fail to see what they are not doing. They fail to realize that no bouncer is going to let a cape and cloak-wearing pastor into their clubs to reach the lost. They fail to see that there is something impressive to the youth when an attractive, young, and popular peer who could have the fruits of this world lays down his life in devotion to the savior. They have never seen the respect and legitimacy a Christian, hiphop artist receives when he shows sinners that he can rap just as good as them, except he has CHOSEN to use his talent for the kingdom.

    For this reason, the church is killing off its youth groups when they try to cram them into boxes that they were not meant to fit in. We need to embrace the future of the church. Hiphop Christianity is not an abolishment of the choir and praise and worship… it is an extension. It is not a rejection of the earlier churches; it is an adoption of the tools God wants to use to reach a sinful culture. Finally, T-Bone said it best when he said, “You mean God can speak to Balif through a donkey, but God can’t speak through hiphop?” That wraps it all up as far as I am concerned… The phrase, “God Can’t” is an oxymoron in and of itself, so I contend that GOD CAN AND DOES USE HIPHOP.”

    http://www.coreybuckner.com/cblog/index.php?/categories/8-Christian-Hiphop

  15. Continued from the last post:

    Cultural Theology, part 3 – Culture is External, God is InternalThursday, August 16. 2007By Corey Buckner
    http://www.alltogod.org

    I have wondered for a while why church bodies spend so much time focusing on the external facets of culture before, and in some cases instead of, addressing the internal facets of the human condition. These church bodies seem to be more focused on INSTRUCTING people on what to DO instead of TEACHING people how Christ would have them to BE. When we do this we put the cart before the horse in an attempt to get people to look right, talk right, walk right, and relate properly instead of focusing our attention on leading people into right relationship with God. There seems to be a measure of disconnect from the FACT that if you teach a person how to BE, they will DO what is right; but if you only teach a person what to DO, they will always BE just an act.

    Cultural beliefs are similar to a belief in Christ in that they are both external and internal; and like a religious belief, a person can change their cultural appearance (external) without changing their cultural beliefs (internal). What makes the combination of culture and religion tricky is that culture can be an aspect of religion or religion can be an aspect of culture. Of the two, the latter is most often what we find in society.

    Because we have taken to the common practice of making religion a tenant of culture we allow culture to define for us how we relate to the world in which we live. In the church you find African-Americans who refuse to sit under a Caucasian pastor; you will find Caucasians who refuse to sit under an African-American pastor; and all other manners of cultural divisions in the church. In the past I have suggested a one-sided argument regarding how to address these kinds of cultural issues (basically to just get over it); but now I would like to go more in depth on the role that Christians and Christian organizations should play in resolving this issue.

    Scripture Reading: Genesis 3:9 – 12

    9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”–

    What we see in Genesis 3 is that Adam deflected his internal issue and focused on an external situation. The actual internal issue in Genesis 3 was disobedience, yet, Adam never once says, “Father I disobeyed you.” Instead he responds by covering his nakedness and hiding from God (as if God wasn’t omniscient). Adam’s being naked was never an issue, but it was something that Adam could see with his eyes, so he focused on it. Adam was distracted from the real issue at hand by his external situation (nakedness), which in fact was no situation at all.

    What I find interesting in this account is God’s response to Adam’s initial response of covering his nakedness. God asks Adam who told him that he was naked, insinuating that that was something that God had not told him. In all reality, God never acknowledges that Adam’s nakedness was a sin; that was something that Adam came up with outside of what God had instructed him. So who turned Adam’s focus on that irrelevant, external issue? To take a census of the Garden of Eden is not difficult. In fact there was a serpent, God, Adam and Eve. It would appear that Satan was the author of the idea that Adam’s new feelings he was experiencing following eating the fruit were a result of him not wearing clothes.

    Therefore it would not be difficult to realize that the focus of Adam’s attention on everything external could be attributed to his listening to literally everyone in the Garden but God. Eve told Adam that the fruit was good and Satan told Adam to cover himself. Ever since then man has been in a battle with the flesh, and it’s lust for external pleasures while God has been trying to focus our attention away from the lusts of the flesh, and the “natural” desire man has to focus on visible factors.

    This is why Paul reminds us that WE DO NOT WAR AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD, but against principalities… The same Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 12:13 that there are no divisions such as free and slave, Jew and Gentile, etc.; and that as followers of Christ there is only ONE cup that we all must drink from TOGETHER.

    Unfortunately for man, Satan is still deceiving us in the same way today that he deceived Adam. We are trained from birth to visually assess persons and situations, and as a result we have driven all manners of cultural and racial rifts throughout the body of Christ. Like Romeo and Juliette we are killing ourselves of cultural conflicts that do not belong to us, but were handed down to us by the previous generation.

    Where do we learn of cultural and racial divisions? Is it God that tells us that people from other races and cultures are weirder, less intelligent, lazier, or more dangerous than us? Certainly not! This is something that is given to us by other men. Like Eve telling Adam that the fruit was good for consumption we are instructed by media, family, respected authority figures, and even our parents that racial and cultural division is good for consumption. You only need to watch a few hours of standup comedy and you will catch the cultural breakdown of what races and cultures are acceptable for relationship and which ones aren’t. Many of us grew up hearing adults telling racial jokes that form impressionable young minds around the acceptable breakdown of cultures. As a child I learned a ton about racial bias by way of “Black man, White Man, Chinese Man” jokes.

    In relating to people, there is a tendency for many in the church to import this cultural practice of judging people by way of external issues: Style of dress, hair, language, and behavior patterns. These are all issues of culture and should be secondary to the introduction of Christ to groups of people. Convincing a young man to wear a suit to church in no way addresses any issues of sin that may exist in his heart; yet this practice of changing external conditions like this has become almost as common to Christianity as the cross.

    In addition to being a deterrent from addressing sin, external cultural issues have also been used to exclude certain groups from being ministered to. For me, it has been most noticeable in the ways that many churches have excluded the hiphop community from their ministry efforts. I have heard people spending immense amounts of time speaking on the cultural elements of the hiphop community without addressing the heart issues. This is certainly not indigenous to the hiphop community; this mentality extends itself to those who would ignore those involved in government because of their culture, those that would exclude certain races of people because of their culture, and even those that will not minister to children or youth because of their culture.

    Scripture Reading: Jonah 1:1-2
    1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

    Jonah 4:1-3

    1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

    Jonah 4:9
    10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
    Avoiding certain groups of people, and even wishing that God’s judgment and destruction would descend on them is nothing new. Jonah initially refused to minister to those in Nineveh because he wished that evil would come on them. The message that God gave Jonah to take to Nineveh was designed to move them to repentance and a changing of their ways, but Jonah in Chapter 4 reveals that he would have preferred that God’s judgment be poured out on them. Jonah goes as far as to say that he would rather be dead then to see those in Nineveh forgiven.

    God replies in Jonah 4:9 that Jonah should have been more concerned about their survival than he was about their destruction. Because of Jonah’s disdain for that culture he refused to go to and ended up risking the lives of those that resided where he went for refuge (the boat), ended up living in the belly of a fish for three days, and could have been the cause of the eventually repentant people of Nineveh’s destruction.

    How many of us are living in the belly of a fish because we have refused to go to the cultures that God has desired to send us? While running from his cultural assignment, Jonah endangered the lives of the people around him. Those on the boat with him that had nothing to do with Jonah’s situation were dragged through the storm with him. How many of us are dragging those around us through storm after storm because we refuse to go to the cultures that God has prepared us for?

    Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 9:19-24
    19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

    I love this passage of scripture because with a few lines Paul is deconstructing every cultural barrier that we would like to use as a means to discriminate against certain groups in our ministry efforts. I have heard some say that they can’t minister to youth because they are too old. Others have said that they could not or would not minister to those of another race. There are a plethora of cultural reasons that we use as barriers to reaching out to the lost.

    In I Corinthians 9 Paul speaks of BECOMING like different cultures of people. That entails that Paul took the time to know the people he was going to, and was accepting of their cultural practices in an effort to do that which was most important; INTRODUCE THEM TO CHRIST. What Paul didn’t do was use that fact that non-Jews ate pork as an excuse to avoid ministering to them. Neither did Paul go to the Gentiles proclaiming that they need to change their eating behaviors. Instead, Paul rendered their cultural practices irrelevant; to the point that he adopted them in order to reach them.

    I have heard so many sermons preached about people wearing their pants baggy, guys wearing long hair, people using certain dialects and colloquialisms, listening to certain genres of music, etc. In all honesty; is that something we should be addressing with those outside of the body of Christ BEFORE we introduce them to their savior? In my opinion, certainly not! When we do this we are putting the cart before the horse, and attempting to change what unbelievers do instead of who they are. What care does an unbeliever have about sin if they do not even acknowledge the existence of the one who judges their sin? Too often we are trying to change people from the outside in, instead of doing as Paul did and using their cultural practices as a means to connect to them and reach them with the gospel.

    Paul tells us to capitalize and embrace the cultural practices of people to reach them. Recently during the Apostolic Mandate, Pastor Kerrick Woodforck of Solid Rock Church in Aurora, IL stated that he reached a point where he realized that he needed to stop wearing suits to church because the members of his church did not wear suits. This is a prime example of embracing what Paul has instructed us to do in order that some might be saved. We have to be willing to bend in the direction of the people we are going to. We may need to embrace a different genre of music, or maybe we need to embrace a different style of dress, or even dialect.

    Some pastors and ministers of the gospel need to break from the habit of using ONLY the King James Version of the Bible. I have seen this translation defended to the point where you would think that Moses etched the Ten Commandments in King James English and it was then emblazoned right on the page of each publication. As a result, many cultures of people are flat out unable to understand and catch the relevance of what is being read to them from the pulpit because the dialect being used is unnecessarily difficult to understand.

    When it comes to ministering the gospel across cultural lines, it is us, the believers, who carry that responsibility of cultural flexibility. We cannot allow Christianity to be so married to our personal cultures that as people reject our culture they also reject our God. We need to be open and honest and show that we practice culture out of lineage and preference, but that God transcends this and is made available to all regardless of the culture. One of the absolute best ways to accomplish this is to willfully lay down what is normal to us, and embrace that which is normal to someone else; only varying where Christ explicitly instructs us to.

    The next step would be to publicly rightly divide those who claim to be followers of Christ. What effect does it have on culture at large when major Christian media outlets broadcast both T.D. Jakes and Robert Tilton in the same evening? Many would say that Christian networks that sell their time to “Christians” who are well-known for deceiving the poor and vulnerable but also allow legitimate preachers to use their airwaves are still doing a good work. In part four we will examine how this public marriage between preachers, Christian media outlets, and con men has become possibly the largest, modern stumbling block to reaching out to cultures beyond our own with the good news.

    Posted by Corey Buckner in Christian Culture at 06:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) Cultural Theology for 2007 Part 2 – Be GenuineThursday, August 16. 2007By Corey Buckner
    http://www.alltogod.org

    “The earliest settlers of this country [The United States] relocated here for two reasons: God and money. At every advancement of this country were these two institutions (God and Money), and we can see all throughout our history from throwing blankets full of smallpox on Native Americans, to condoning slavery by dehumanizing Africans via legislation, all the way to modern practices like small print meant to deceive consumers, hidden fees and so on; this nation has ALWAYS been willing to, as a matter of Government, subdue our confession of Christ for the advancement of capitalism. It has been a marriage in which Christianity was the bride and Capitalism the groom. So, if I have read Matthew 6:24 properly, the idea that we are a Godly nation is absurd; and the notion that we must pick up the burden of exporting our capitalism-laced brand of Christianity is, in my opinion, ungodly.”
    –Corey Buckner, from “America and the Matthew 6:24 Test

    Those of us who seek to minister globally and cross-culturally MUST resist the urge to see our culture as superior to others. Instead of finding superiority in our cultural we should go to the cultures of the world humbly and with respect for who they are. In a nutshell, no country can claim to be a Godly nation unless they have made that kind of declaration in their national documents, and have made a national declaration for Christ. The United States has not done so, but instead we make it clear that, as a nation, we equally respect all Gods equally. I mention this because as Americans there is a cultural haughtiness that, though not indigenous to us, appears in many ways heightened because of our standing as the world’s lone super power.

    As Christians in such a nation, it is time that we realize that as a country we cannot BOTH love God and money because if we love one, we will hate the other. As Christian-Americans (and any other nationality whose country places God and money on an equal plane) we [Christians] are the reason for God’s favor, not the land or the government. Like the Jews who lived in Rome and Egypt, we may have a place in government, we own land, and we might be part of the national landscape; but we are certainly not the ideal type for citizenship and we are not residing in a Christian nation. Therefore, as missionaries from such a nation we must leave our national culture behind and realize that it is flawed in ways that maybe we cannot see.

    This idea extends itself through every manner of missionary work because whether you are reaching out to people in a different nation or people who live in your community but belong to a different culture; neither culture is superior, nor is either THE ONLY representative culture of Christ. The only thing that transcends ALL culture is the kingdom of God, and that alone is what should be advanced. We should not seek to push forward our national, regional, ideological, and/or ethnic representations of Christ; Just Christ and Christ alone.

    Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 9:19-24
    19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.–

    It is an unmistakable fact that regardless of the measure of tolerance, healing, and reconciliation that happens around the globe; differing cultures will continue to exist. Even if the world’s cultures and races learned to permanently place behind us the past events and xenophobic tendencies that have separated us, there still would be differences in the cultures. I think one of the gravest injustices that a believer can do (or any person for that matter) is to wake up one morning, put their head in the sand, and pretend as though all of humanity had become one amalgamated, monolithic group of people. To minister to people of differing cultures we must resist the urge to fake healing by pretending that cultural differences and cultural conflicts no longer exist. Our goal should be to reconcile these issues by covering them in the blood; not hide them under the rug.

    As many of you know I am an African-American, and my pastor is Caucasian. I know, SO WHAT… BIG DEAL… What is special to me about my relationship with Apostle Howse is that I never felt the urge to pretend as though there are no cultural differences between him and me. Despite that recognition, these differences which are mostly man-made have never once been a cause for offense. We’ve talked about slavery, Don Imus, and to my surprise, HE educated ME about several aspects of the Civil Rights movement. And in these conversations there was never offense, and I never felt the need to hold my tongue about what I thought about the situation, or pretend as though a situation did not concern me.

    So what transpired that allowed an older Caucasian preacher to make a connection to the angrier, Dashiki and Dreadlock-wearing young man who walked through the doors of Cornerstone nearly five years ago? First and foremost, he didn’t seem to notice or care about the previous description though I secretly saw it all as a means to being left alone in the church. More than that though, there were two issues; he understood me, and never sought to change my ethnic/regional culture. I can only assume that there were and probably still are cultural elements of my life that may not be the norm for him but never once did I feel that the culture I was arriving from was a hindrance to our relationship. Nor was it used as a reason to prevent me from using my gifts in the house of God.

    I remember having discussions with Apostle Howse about hiphop culture, granting me an opportunity to talk about something that was close to my heart with someone who by appearance, I thought wouldn’t be interested. Having been scoffed at and rebuked by Kim Burell (an African-American gospel artist) for rapping less than two years earlier, it was such a delight to be in conversation with someone who was genuinely interested in reaching the culture I most closely related with. Simply put, for me it was obvious that Apostle Howse wasn’t on a Christian crusade to convert the world to his culture; he was diligently seeking to bring entire cultures of people into the body of Christ. The most impressive aspect of this truth for me was that when we sat down to the table to talk, he had ALREADY educated himself; and our discussions were NOT just a knee-jerk reaction to some weirdo (me) walking through the doors of the church.

    This genuine interest and commitment to cultural education is a necessity if we are going to minister to cultures outside of our own. In I Corinthians chapter nine Paul says that he became like the culture he was ministering to (paraphrased). This implies that Paul was both concerned and educated about the people he went to for purposes of ministry. He went to the people out of his concern for their salvation and was educated enough about them to be able to become like them. How many of us can say that we share this concern and diligence to understand cultures other than our own? Transversely, how many of us expect that all the people of the world should speak our language and respond to the Romans Row?

    PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS NEXT POINT… By education I am not talking about education by way of textbook or classroom. This is generally the most offensive form of gathering information and is often so general that it trains us to stereotype cultures as a result of “studies” and “observations” that present groups of people as lab rats. Certainly there is a wealth of knowledge that can be gained from books, but not enough to become part of a culture. As an African-American, I have read some of the most racist material ever printed in African-American studies textbooks. I have viewed some of the most racist and culturally detrimental programming on B.E.T. (Black Entertainment Television). Likewise I have been told that for sensible Caucasians that MTV is equally offensive to them. Spending time with people is the ABSOLUTE best way to learn how to do as Paul instructs us in I Corinthians chapter nine.

    Because Christian media often does not distinguish between pastors like T.D. Jakes and Robert Tilton; the world is already cynical about the intents of Christians when we come to them in an evangelistic or missionary manner. They are waiting for us to approach them from an imperialistic format that attacks every cultural element that they hold true in an attempt to make mindless cult-members out of them, or to get their money. Because Christian media outlets will sell their airtime to legitimate preachers and criminal preachers alike; it is already difficult for unbelievers to see anybody who calls themselves Christians as genuine. Therefore, when we are reaching out to cultures other than our own we have an added responsibility of PROVING that we are genuine in our concern for them and not looking for anything in return. This responsibility is even more important when our ministry efforts cross cultural lines because often there is a natural tendency for people to not trust others who exist outside of their culture.

    Therefore we have to step outside of our cultural comfort zones and be diligent in gaining an understanding of the various groups of people around us. Also we have to begin embracing the elements of other culture that are not unbiblical so that when we go to them we are not going in as an outsider seeking to colonize. If we go to these other cultures without a genuine concern that causes us to seek that understanding they will sniff us out and judge us to be fraudulent, and as a result of that judgment, they will shut their hearts and minds to us and the God we are ministering about.

    I am convinced that negating to get an understanding about what is unique about cultures before attempting to minister to them sets up a condition in which churches are planted and pastors appointed that are not compatible to the communities in which they serve. Thus, we have local bodies dying because they are not culturally relevant to the people in the community where they minister, and they are unwilling to let go of their own cultural preferences in order to reach them. I know of several churches that, for this reason, are planted in a community but all of their members live outside of that community. This to me is a major problem, and I whole-heartedly believe that missionaries/ministers from the body of Christ need to work harder at adopting the cultures of the people we are called to minister to, and resist the urge to try and push our cultural expression of serving Christ on the different people groups of the world.

    I believe at the root is our natural tendency to examine people from the outside in. Therefore when a ministry enters a neighborhood without a genuine understanding, love, and compassion for the people who reside there, they cannot adequately serve that community because they do not know them or their ways. Without the ability to BECOME like the people who live around your ministry you are nothing but a foreigner living amongst them. How many churches have been planted in or near Hispanic communities but do not know what Cinco de Mayo is and do nothing to celebrate it? How many ministries seek to go to African-American, inner-city youth and can’t distinguish between Nas, Jay-Z, and Little John? I have said this before and I will repeat it here, “Christ is one size fits all, Christianity isn’t.” We MUST bend on our cultural norms if we are going to see other cultures enter the body of Christ.

    Most importantly, we MUST resist the urge to judge people on the basis of their cultural practices and focus on their hearts. Culture is externally visible; and we have become kings and queens of letting irrelevant, external issues cause us to cast judgment and thus refuse to go to certain groups of people. Many of us are quicker to call down God’s wrath on other cultures than we are to ask God to save them. I’ll give you a few examples.

    Have you once prayed for the salvation of Islamic radicals in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran? I know for a fact that MANY of us have prayed for God’s SWIFT judgment and wrath to rain down on them, essentially asking God to kill them all while they are still in sin, effectively asking that they all be sent to Hell instead of being brought into the body of Christ. How many of us are praying for the well-being of Mexicans who are sneaking into America in order to survive and feed their families? Many of us want to send them back across the border without regard for how they will survive because MAN-MADE laws dictate it.

    In my opinion the church needs to get away from all of the culture-based separation and let the governments of this world handle those types of issues. It is our job to look past all of the rhetoric and concern ourselves with their salvation. Most of us have NO IDEA why so many Muslims want us dead, and thus we are powerless to minister to them. Most of us have NEVER once taken the time to speak with a Mexican person and find out why they come into the United States illegally, and thus we cannot minister to their needs. As a result, our desire to see Muslims killed and to see Mexicans deported, which has been fueled by our cultural elite, burns hotter than our desire to minister to them. Our hatred for other cultures like the rap community causes us to scoff at people like Little John, while never once praying for him. This is evidence that we are allowing the externally visible aspects of culture deter us from gaining an understanding and ministering to other cultures of the world.

    It is time for us as believers to once and for all acknowledge two things about culture as it relates to Jesus Christ:

    1. The people we are called to minister to are culturally JACKED UP and need a savior
    2. Those who are in the body of Christ is culturally JACKED UP and need a savior

    It’s that simple. Let’s get off of our high horses, separate ourselves from intra-cultural propaganda, and get out there and reach people who live beyond the four walls of our individual cultures. We need to learn how to render our culture as irrelevant so that we can become culturally relevant to others. We have to stop judging the world and extend love to it. We need to invite them in and focus on their hearts and not exclude them SOLELY because of their cultural expressions.

    It is time to EMBRACE other cultures as Paul did so that SOME might be won for Christ. Some of us need to learn how to dance because we are called to a culture where dancing is admirable. Some of us need to learn another language because God has called us to cultures that do not speak our native tongue. Some of us need to stop trying to dress like the pastor and be ourselves so that certain cultures will be drawn to us instead of being repelled by our attempts to be someone else.

    As we look ahead to part three of Cultural Theology for 2007, it is apparent to me that Satan has been playing the same game with humanity since he confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He wants us to avoid the internal issues of sin by focusing on external coverings. Just as he convinced Adam that the problem was his clothing (or lack thereof) and not disobedience, he is deceiving us into focusing on peoples clothing, language, eating habits, recreational habits, hairstyles, etc.; in order to take our eyes completely off of the internal issues being faced by the cultures of the world. What a person wears is probably not the sin; but sin probably rests in WHY they dress a certain way if it is inappropriate. Teaching a prostitute to wear long skirts does not deliver her from prostitution, but introducing her to Jesus will.

    Scripture Reading: Genesis 3:9 – 12

    9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”–

    In Part three we will examine how Satan has been deceiving us since the beginning by focusing our attention on irrelevant cultural issues while there are actual issues of sin existing among us going unattended to. Just as Adam was convinced that his nakedness was the issue, we are convincing ourselves that external, cultural issues are THE problem.

    Posted by Corey Buckner in Christian Culture at 06:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
    Cultural Theology for 2007 Part 1Monday, June 11. 2007Cultural Theology for 2007 Part 1
    By Corey Buckner
    http://www.alltogod.org

    “For many Africans and African-Americans our introduction to the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be attributed to a Hebrew (Phillip) ministering to an influential Ethiopian eunuch. Thank God that race relations at that time between blacks and Jews were not as they are now. If they were the eunuch may have uttered a racial slander at Phillip and walked away still ignorant about Jesus the Christ.”—Corey Buckner from Applying Biblical Principles to Race Relations; 2005

    One of the biggest problems that the modern Christian belief faces in my opinion is the inability of believers to take their God-given system of beliefs and wrap it around cultures other than their own. There appears to be a tendency for most believers to merge Christianity with our cultural beliefs and create new forms of “true” Christianity. By virtue of their cultural applications these amalgamated forms of Christianity add undue burdens on other cultures that seek to come to Christ. This happens by taking what we know of the word and ONLY applying it in accordance with our cultural norms; then taking that version/application and seeking to establish it as the universal model of Christianity.

    The Bible is full of universal principles; principles that are to be applied by every person in every culture. These principles remain the same; but the outward expression of adherence to Biblical principles might be dramatically different as they are filtered through varying cultural lenses. This is because God never intended to set up a culturally monolithic church with a singular set of outward expressions to serve and worship Him from. This is evident in His establishment of the twelve distinct tribes of Judah.

    Scripture reading: Numbers 1:47- 53

    47 The families of the tribe of Levi, however, were not counted along with the others. 48 The LORD had said to Moses: 49 “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. 50 Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. 51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who goes near it shall be put to death. 52 The Israelites are to set up their tents by divisions, each man in his own camp under his own standard. 53 The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the Testimony so that wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the Testimony.”–

    Each of the twelve tribes of Israel were called to obedience, service, and worship; but each (culturally) were to do this in a somewhat different manner. The most obvious difference we see in Numbers chapter 1 is the way in which the tribe of Levi’s role was defined. As you move throughout the Old Testament you will notice that decisions were made and land divided upon the basis of the 12 tribes. As a matter of fact, each tribe had land covenants that were fulfilled at different times (as well as the joint covenant). These categorizations were in no way to separate the Tribes of Israel from one another. Instead it made the entire body stronger as their roles were better defined upon these lines.

    For the Tribe of Levi the universal principle of service meant something totally different once it was filtered through their individual culture than it meant for the other tribes. While the other tribes were gearing up men for military service the Tribe of Levi’s young were preparing for temple service. Therefore, culturally speaking, The Tribe of Dan would have been operating in sin had they rejected the cultural norm of military service, and likewise the tribe of Levi would have been operating in sin had they taken up the cultural norm of taking part in military service. Therefore, their distinct cultural practices were BOTH within the will of God and needed to be adhered to.

    As culture is presently defined, there is an umbrella in the Christian faith that covers and allows for these distinctions. The Bible is full of a vast array of cultures and cultural norms found all throughout the Old and New Testaments, and God in his infinite creativity has designed it this way. He has made each one of us individually unique; and born out of that uniqueness are varying groups/cultures of people. And when we remember that despite how uniquely different we are, we are all still sons and daughters of one Father; we can come together in a tapestry of cultural harmony so beautiful that the world will be too intrigued not to desire to join in. Culturally we will blend together, and not imperialize.

    How do we do this? I believe that the problem begins with how some read through the Bible. I think that many Christians would rather pretend as though every place, person, and situation being spoken to in the Bible was one in the same, lacking relevant cultural differences. The first thing we have to do is acknowledge and develop a love for the vast array of cultures that intersect on the pages of the word of God. You will see Jews meeting with gentiles, rabbis conversing with prostitutes, Hebrews marrying Ethiopians. If read in a certain light, you can see that all throughout the Bible great men and women of God are crossing cultural boundaries to reach out to one another, breaking from cultural norms to reach the lost, and in doing so, breaking down man-made barriers that had previously existed.

    When we read the Bible today, what we often unknowingly do is take the universal principles of the Bible and negate to apply any cultural relevance when we seek to understand them. Then in applying them, we filter them through our own cultural norms. After doing this, many believers will attempt to take that ethno culturally-filtered understanding of the scriptures and try to establish that version as a universal principle. When we do this, we take the most appealing words ever written (the Bible) and make it unappealing to cultures other than our own. A wise man once said, “You can’t make man develop a taste for dirt.” Likewise, you can’t make a man acquire a taste for your culture. Therefore we must be always cognizant of what is Biblical and what is cultural when addressing other cultures. We must also always be willing to bend on that which is cultural (I Cor. 9:22-23) for the benefit of those we are ministering to.

    If we are going to extend God’s word beyond our own culture there are a few things we must consider and do:

    1. Understand the universal principle that is being discussed in scripture separate from our cultural applications.

    2. Understand the original cultural context in which a word or command was given so that we don’t try to establish the cultural expression of that principle as the principle itself

    3. Know how that word is applied through your own culture and why.

    4. Understand how these SAME scriptural principles are applied when filtered through other cultures and why.

    If we can do this, we will be able to properly take scripture into other cultures without diluting it with personal preferences. If we do not apply scriptural principles in this way we run the risk of CREATING contradictory applications that do not really exist, and also risk turning other cultures away from the Gospel. As believers we are to stand firm on what the word clearly states; but we must also know that what we are stating is being accurately applied.

    One Biblical example of what I have been discussing is the issue of men wearing long or short hair. If we try to establish a universal principle that men (in all situations and places) should or should not wear long hair based upon the scriptures we are effectively applying our cultural norms to scripture and seeking to establish that mixed doctrine as a principle. Some say that men SHOULD wear long hair because of God’s covenant with Samson while others point to Paul’s words to the church in Corinth to establish a principal that men SHOULD NOT wear long hair.

    What has happened here, did God change his mind on the matter from Old Testament to New? Is this a blatant contradiction of scriptures? Of course not, and in reality hair in both of these passages is nothing more than a byproduct of OTHER CULTURAL issues. In reality, the principles between the two scriptures have little or nothing to do with one another. The issue with Samson’s hair has to do with covenant, and the issue in Corinth has to do with Christian men not taking on the appearance of male prostitutes. Thus, by taking into account the CULTURAL differences between these two situations, we see how culturally flexible God’s word is, and not a principle one way or another regarding how men should wear their hair. Despite the fact that neither situation sought to set a universal principle regarding men’s hair I have seen and heard believers oppress other cultures by using BOTH passages of scripture to establish preferential cultural dominance in the name of God.

    Another example can be taken from the command for believers to be modest in appearance. To the middle class American church the application of this universal principle might mean wearing suits and ties. To a Tanzanian church the cultural application might entail wearing a certain type of dashiki, and to the hiphop community it might mean pulling your jeans up around your waste before entering the house of God. The universal principle here is modesty, the culturally-filtered application is the actual response (what we wear and how we wear it). A misguided teaching that could grow out of this would be any one of these cultures trying to establish its own cultural application as THE ONLY WAY to truly serve God.

    Biblical principles CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be applied universally AFTER they have been filtered through individual cultures. If this is done, cultural preferences might serve to divide where there should be unity. In essence, all of the three aforementioned cultures would agree on the issue of modesty; but if either seeks cultural dominance over the others, the cultural applications could be cause for division.

    The goal of the church should not be to seek cultural dominance. Yes, each individual church will have a culture that is in some way indigenous to it; but it should never be the goal to state or believe that that is THE ONLY cultural expression God desires. God’s word covers all, meaning like a blanket it lays over any and everything. That includes every culture, so we need to be as flexible as God is.

    Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 9:19-24
    19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. –

    We will more closely examine what Paul is saying in I Corinthians in Cultural Theology for 2007 Part 2

  16. If anyone would like to have more commentary on the issue, I encourage folks to go to these paticular links:

    http://www.rwlyons.org/2005/05/g-craig-lewis.html

    http://www.clarkyboy.com/hiphop.htm

    Also, for my NEW PERSONAL FAVORITE (yes, Lionel, I believe you’ll love it too), go here:

    http://www.coreybuckner.com/wordpress/

  17. Morgan said

    This is SICK. Prejudice. I can not believe you would write ALL of that to prove a point, a stereotypical point. You should be ashamed of yourself. Some people express their glory in a different way, the only ways they know, and should be guided if anything at all, not criticized.
    and FYI “pimpin it for jesus” has nothing to do with the American definition. It is basically a sign of respect, the same thing as glorifying his name, but apparently you are to close-minded to realize that. If they were in the wrong, then god will take care of it when it is time, you are NOT his spokesperson, he does NOT need one. He is the Almighty God.

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