Kingdom and Culture

Peter Lynas, Director of the Evangelical Alliance of Northern Ireland, looked at how the Kingdom of God impacts the culture around us.  Here is a summary of his seminar brought to you by VOX Editor Ruth Garvey-Williams.

We live in a culture that is driven by story.  What is your story?  So often when we do tell our story, we talk about things that happened 15 years ago.  Narrative is our culture’s currency and he who tells the best story wins.  Whether we like it or not, our culture is discipling people.  We imagine that 30 minutes on Sunday is going to undo the 50 - 60 hours of influence by our culture throughout the week.

So often we communicate our story as if it were all about us.  We read left to right and the bridge of life illustration appears to tell the story of us moving towards God via the cross. We only tell a half story.  The full story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration is simplified to sin and the cross and we have lost cultural influence. 

What is the real story of which my life is part?   It is so much bigger than me.  It is so important to get the big picture of God’s story.  We need a wide angle lens to see the big frame of the story that engages on culture.

When I went off to university, I discovered the predominant story of our culture and wondered how Christianity could respond.  The world's story is pretty unclear on many questions… there are literally hundreds of “isms” - humanism, capitalism, agnosticism, Atheism… People think that we as human beings are going to solve their own problems.  Wow, that’s depressing.  Have you met any human beings?

The Biblical narrative cuts right across this.  There is a Creator and we are created for a reason; not for a random collection of “isms” but with an identity, for a particular set of relationships and with a purpose.

Jesus upset and jarred the authorities of his day.  He lived and spoke in such a way that upset them. When we pray with people, when we see people healed… we upset people!

Our story our God's on-going redemption of the world is more consistent and coherent . Tom Wright said, "The whole point of Christianity is that it offers a story, which is the story of the whole world."  You can’t say that Christianity is a private thing.  If it is true, it is true for everyone.

Looking at the big themes of God's story, we see:

From Chaos to Order

The world was formless and void.  Out of the chaos, God brings out order. There is a difference in the way we choose to form a relationship (sliding or deciding).  Couples slide into these situations.  Bringing order and stability to life as God brought order out of chaos in creation.

From Emptiness to Life

Out of emptiness, God brings life.  We respond in creativity and worship.  We are made in His image, so there are artists, architects, builders, etc.

From Bondage to Freedom

God rescues His people from slavery (literally and spiritually).  We respond with work to combat modern slavery (anti trafficking, CAP..) and we work in areas such as financial planning, banking, therapy, physiotherapy, HR to bring people into physical, emotional and spiritual freedom.)

From Desert to Abundance

God brings His people through the desert and into the promised land.  We are seeking to move people from the spiritual and economic desert into a place of abundance…  We need pastors, dreamers, visionaries and also entrepreneurs, farmers and gardeners.

Too often church promotes public sector not entrepreneurship.  Part of the Irish story is to dream and do things differently.  My dad helped to support 15 different business start-ups.  Let us help release more people from the desert into abundance.

Responding to idolatry and Injustice

We do two-fold damage when we replace God with an idol.  We undermine our own humanity and injustice is the consequence of that.  Having displaced God, we lose our perspective.

From Exile to Flourishing

God restored His people.  Seek the peace and prosperity of the city.  We are involved in investing, growing and praying for our land.   We work as politicians, civil servants, local government, community workers, PTA, etc.

Death to Life

We inhabit a story that says, Jesus rose from the dead and that changes everything.  He is the resurrection and the life.  Today we see stories of healing and miracles.   But we are also involved in healthcare, recycling, renewable energy and other ways of bringing life where there was once death!

Heaven to Earth

The climax of the big story is God making his dwelling place with humanity.  It is not about getting people out of hell and into heaven.  It is about God moving to earth.  The healing of humanity and earth not the abandonment of it.

We are Trusted Rulers.  Society at large was known as being tight with its money and liberal with its bodies.  The early Christians were known for being tight (restrained ) with their bodies and liberal with their money.

Kings and queens, priests and prophets.  We have access to creative solutions that are different to others.  We then have to speak with authority into the issues of our day.  We need to bring new ideas to the table.  We mediate for our cities and communities.

Confront, subvert, recreate.  We need better public leaders.  We offer a different story that cuts across the prevailing narrative and we re-create… Our culture outlines pre-conceived horizons. We need to create new horizons of possibility.

  • Tell stories
  • Gather with others (form a community)
  • Do the bottom up stuff - change your community in small and big ways
  • Do the top down stuff - speak to your politicians