In his book, Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Dr. Charles Kraft makes a very astute statement, “How frequently the impression is given that joining the church signals the end of one’s Christian training rather than the beginning! For many churches there are no more stages beyond church membership for a person to be incorporated into.” I can attest to this from empirical observation; during the past 30+ years, I have lived in 22 different cities, in 8 different states, and in 3 different countries. I have visited dozens of churches, became a member of several of them, and acted in a minor leadership role in a few, and by far, most of these churches have acted in just this manner. The churches that did attempt to provide solid training to its members had relatively little success. For some reason, the majority of church members are content to sit in a pew on Sunday morning and do nothing more.
Dr. Kraft also asserts that one of the reasons for this is that churches too closely resemble the school system, but without the testing. Most pastors don’t hold their “average Joe,” pew-sitting members to any accountability as they do the church leadership. I have often thought that pastors should give weekly assignments from the pulpit, them collect and score the assignments, and post the average score so that the church, as a whole, can see how well it is learning. Perhaps a sense of competition against the church average would motivate people to study the Bible.
Another area written of by Dr. Kraft in this book is one concerning Christian missionaries imposing their cultural beliefs on other cultures, he says that non-Western cultures (any culture) should worship in a style that they are comfortable with. This problem of forcing changes in behavior outside of God’s biblical requirements has driven people away from the gospel instead of toward it. The Bible is the cross-cultural, timeless Word of God, and should be used to preach the gospel, not Americanism.
But what happens when a cultural norm is a biblical sin? For example, a college professor/ex-missionary tells of a tribe in the Philippines that believed that every woman’s first-born child was demon possessed, so it was always killed at birth. When the gospel was brought to this tribe and most of them became believers, this killing stopped because they realized that it is a sin to commit murder. Go changed that tribe culture, not the missionaries. Sin is not dictated by culture, but by God, and since He has one holy standard, sin is universal.