Last evening we sat down as a family to watch the first part of a training course that we want our teens to experience this summer. It was very helpful. And it was presented by someone from a different culture than the one we are living in. Some of the differences were striking, but I wonder if the presenter might only have a limited idea if asked what was peculiarly typical of his culture.
One of the benefits of living in a foreign culture is that it gives you eyes to see your own culture of origin more clearly. Our culture is like the water a fish swims in – it is all around us and affects everything, but we tend to be oblivious to it.
As preachers we work to know the world of the Bible and the world of our listeners, and maybe we think about our own world in respect to the inner landscape of our own lives that help us to recognize where we might be inclined to push an issue harder or avoid it altogether. But I suspect a lot of us preachers remain fairly unaware of how our preaching and communication reflects our own culture.
Culture is made up of a series of overlapping categories that shape us and the way we communicate. We are influenced and shaped by our family of origin, our education, our local area of upbringing, subcultures we choose to identify with (political, entertainment, music, special interests, etc.), national culture and even global-regional cultures (i.e. Latin America, or North America, or even Western vs Eastern).
And yet, while we are all individual in the profile of our various sub-cultural influences, still we tend to reflect the broader categories more than we realize. Even with clothing neutralized, vocabulary filtered, physical features blurred and accent removed, I suspect we might still be able to identify a speaker as being typically British or American or Australian or Italian or Polish or South African or Japanese or Brazilian, etc.
Tomorrow I will list five ways in which our culture tends to influence how we speak. The following day I will list a plan for growing in awareness of this and hopefully improving our speaking as a result. In the meantime, feel free to comment with things that come to mind when you think about how people tend to preach in your culture (probably better not to comment critically about other cultures though!)
I just finished my Journey Thru John – one highlight per chapter through John’s Gospel. Here’s the link in case you want to take a look (notice the slightly indirect invitation and that I didn’t make bold assertions about the life-changing truths in these brief videos? Actually, it feels slightly awkward to mention them at all. That’s my culture showing…)