By Hasmik Babayan
Hasmik is a member of the SVM2 international facilitation team and currently lives among the unreached.
The Concept of Culture
While talking about culture it is important here to emphasize that each person has his own unique and exceptional culture. But still, in spite of the fact that we are all unique persons, it is obvious that we share common beliefs and values with others as well. In other words as an individual we also interact with the shared culture of a particular society.
Furthermore, it is absolutely necessary for the message bearer to remember that culture isn’t a static phenomenon, but rather dynamic. As time passes it keeps changing. These days, in this noticeably fast century, cultures are changing at a dramatic pace. Our role as a message bearer is to labor towards positive changes.
Usually cultures relate to “ideas, feelings and values” (Hiebert 1985, 30). Culture includes both the invisible (feelings, ideas…) as well as the visible (behavior and material products).
According to Hiebert, culture has three dimensions (Hiebert 1985: 31):
-logic and wisdom
This aspect of culture has to do with the knowledge shared by members of a group or society. Without shared knowledge, communication and community life are impossible (1985: 30).
This one relates to people’s attitudes, likes and dislikes, notions of beauty, tastes in food, houses, furniture, cars, cloths and etc. Expressive culture (art, literature, music, dance, drama) and religion are also included in this dimension: different societies and individual groups worship God differently, although they still may worship the same God. How people express their love and hatred also goes under this subtitle.
The Evaluative Dimension-each culture has values by which it judges human behavior to be right or wrong, human relationship to be moral or immoral, some of human actions to be sin or not sin, particular ways of eating the food to be right or wrong.
For instance, in some cultures to tell a lie is ok, but in some others it is considered bad. In some cultures speaking to face is not encouraged, but speaking to that person through community is ok. In some cultures questioning people in leadership is forbidden, but in some others it is permitted.
People perceive the world differently because they make different assumptions about reality: different people witness the same event but interpret differently.
Definition of Worldview
The basic assumptions about reality which lie behind beliefs and behavior of a culture are sometimes called a world view (1985: 45).
According to Charles Kraft, the human worldview monitors cultural change (Kraft 1979:56). Additionally, it is necessary to remember that BOTH cultures and worldviews are dynamic but not static. True, the pace of cultural change varies from culture to culture, from country to country, but the main point is that all cultures change with time.
The Most Important …To Be Remembered
- First, the message bearer should understand, adapt and adopt the meaning and concept of ‘eternal vision.’
- The message bearer should take into consideration the characteristics of the 21st century seriously and accordingly be prepared.
- Love is the most important aspect of the divine call. When we love we want to go to the other, we want to give and we want to embrace. But this aloe is not enough! The message bearer is also responsible to know HOW to love, HOW to give and HOW to embrace.
- The message bearer should not be in a hurry to deliver the message of the Gospel, but rather he should take his time to LEARN the culture and people.
- Relevance to culture is necessary.
- Relevance to culture doesn’t mean compromise.
- Respect for culture doesn’t mean ‘yes’ to everything or everybody.
- The message bearer should recognize/see the possible positive changes in a particular culture and labor toward it accordingly.
- Before going to the field the message bearer should count the cost (Luke 14:28) and once again remember how much it cost Christ to incarnate and deliver the message.
The message bearer should understand the above mentioned two principles: 1) the Caesar principle-Give God what belongs to God and what belongs to culture give to culture, and 2) The principle of incarnation-the task entrusted by the Father cost Jesus His life…whether directly or indirectly, it is going to cost you yours
“If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it.” – Matthew 10:39