Communicating and Shaping Culture by Drilling and Detonating

In my last post, one of the observations I made was about the arts communicating and shaping culture.

At its core, the gospel is about transformation. Which is why I believe worship, in all its various musical, visual and artistic expressions will play a critical role in the gospel’s penetrating society and bringing change and ultimately redemption.

I’ve been reading Timothy Keller’s Centre Church in which he makes an important point about the need for contextualisation. Imagine, he says, that you need to remove a boulder. The key is to drill a shaft deep into the centre of the boulder, then sink some explosives into the shaft before detonating the explosives. if all you do is drill into the boulder, the boulder will remain. If you just plant explosives outside the boulder, you might shear off some of the surface but the boulder will remain in tact.

And so Keller says this:

To successfully reach people in a culture, we must both enter sympathetically and respectfully (similar to drilling) and then confront the culture where it contradicts biblical truth (similar to blasting)

In the context of worship then, I believe our expression must be culturally cutting edge and undeniably attractive. We can’t continue doing things the way we’ve always done them, hoping that the truth in our message will somehow detonate the prevailing culture. Churches like to take the moral high ground, standing on truth alone and at all costs, even at the risk of alienating itself from culture and inevitably the very people it seeks to reach.

Instead my challenge to the church is to, through its music and artistic expressions, sympathetically and respectfully enter culture, to understand, embrace, welcome and even attract before it seeks to confront. Culturally informed, contextualised and, at the same time, penetrating worship may well be that key.