The Demise of the Common Culture and what that means for the Church

With all of the technology available today and all of the various forms of entertainment (or even the choice to not entertain), we have lost our common culture.

From Publishers Weekly
Wired editor Anderson declares the death of "common culture"—and insists that it's for the best. Why don't we all watch the same TV shows, like we used to? Because not long ago, "we had fewer alternatives to compete for our screen attention," he writes. Smash hits have existed largely because of scarcity: with a finite number of bookstore shelves and theaters and Wal-Mart CD racks, "it's only sensible to fill them with the titles that will sell best." Today, Web sites and online retailers offer seemingly infinite inventory, and the result is the "shattering of the mainstream into a zillion different cultural shards." These "countless niches" are market opportunities for those who cast a wide net and de-emphasize the search for blockbusters. It's a provocative analysis and almost certainly on target—though Anderson's assurances that these principles are equally applicable outside the media and entertainment industries are not entirely convincing. The book overuses its examples from Google, Rhapsody, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and eBay, and it doesn't help that most of the charts of "Long Tail" curves look the same. But Anderson manages to explain a murky trend in clear language, giving entrepreneurs and the rest of us plenty to think about. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Then I asked myself, what does this mean for the church? Can the church exist like it is and thrive in a society of various cultures? Should the culture of one's society matter when deciding what activities to do at the Sunday gathering and other activities the church participates in?

I'll take a shot at the last question first. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our Sunday gathering and other church activities are influenced by our culture or the culture of the group that planted the church we attend. Many things from the music style and songs to the style of preaching is purely a choice of culture. Other activities can be cultural too. We don't realize how much culture influences our setting because we have always resided in our culture and the way we do things seems to be the right way to do things.

That is what a common culture provides. Everyone in the culture agrees in the right way to do things. However, once the culutre fragments like our culture has, what used to be the common way to do things is no longer common to everyone.

There are some essential elements to being the church. These should never be strayed from. Sadly, most groups of Christians try to say that what makes them different is an essential when it is actually just a cultural opinion. Then they hold onto that cultural opinion and refuse to change it. It would be a glorious day if Christians could come to an agreement on what are the essentials.

Can the church exist like it is and thrive in a society of various cultures? To answer this question, I think it would be fair to ask, "Can the American church just transplant itself into the heart of Africa and care less about the African culture? Can we just transplant "American" churches around the world without changing for the culture and expect them to be effective?"

All cultural things of the church can change except for where they cross the line into sin or prevent us from being the loving people we are to be (another form of sin that seems to be ignored). We are not servants to or ambassadors of any culture; we are solely servants and priests of the kingdom of God. If our cultural practices must change in order for us to be the servant that God wants us to be, then we should gladly change.

So we like tradition. There is nothing wrong with that unless of love of doing things in a traditional way prevent us from effectively reaching the culture around us.

So we like change. There is nothing wrong with that unless we like change so much that we morph into a church that is foreign to the culture around us.

The future of the church depends upon us being sensitive to what God wants the church to be. We need to not hold on to any sacred cows but the essentials. It is our calling to be priests to the culture around us. And in so doing, the church will change, yet still remain, at its core, the same.

Watch out for the potholes.