Written by: District President Rev. Dr. Tony Steinbronn
This is the last of a three-part series:
Read the first part here: https://bit.ly/2MUVe8M
Read the second part here: https://bit.ly/2FMagY
According to Paul Hiebert, a cultural frame is a social setting that has its own subculture. In simple tribal societies the number of cultural frames is few and the differences between them minimal. In modern cities, on the other hand, there are many frames, and the differences between them are great. 1
God’s people in the modern and postmodern world, both ordained pastors and consecrated laity, walk in many different cultural frames. Missiologically speaking, how can the body of Christ become engaged in mutually equipping every member of the body of Christ in the missionary method of worldview and culture learning so that they can discern the contours of the cultural context and communicate a Biblical message within its context? In other words, once the context has been understood and evaluated, cultural framing permits a more conscious and intentional communication of the Christian message, by the Christian believer, in that context.
Every theology or philosophy or science has a starting point or touchstone thesis through which it attempts to unify and explain human existence. Axioms are the ruling principles with which any system of thought begins. They are never deduced or inferred from other principles, but are simply presupposed.
The primary ontological axiom for the Christian is the one, living triune God. The primary epistemological axiom is divine revelation. On these basic axioms depend all core beliefs of Biblical theism. Therefore the Christian believer knows assuredly that his or her truth-claims are not conjecturally grounded, but are anchored in the triune God’s self-existence and self-disclosure. Moreover these axioms are fundamental to all thought and being, since they are basic to human noetic structure and grounded ultimately in the Word of God.
The Christian Home as the Center of Worldview and Discipleship Formation
The most important place for instilling a Biblical view of reality, and of life, is the Christian family, where a biblical worldview and meaning system is communicated through the teaching office of the parents and through the loving, forgiving socialization of the Christian faith that takes place in the Christian home (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
In 2 Timothy we have the testimony of the apostle Paul that ever since Timothy was an infant, Lois and Eunice (Timothy’s mother and grandmother) were active in making known the stories of holy Scripture in his life so that he could know of his Savior Jesus and be thoroughly equipped for his life as a disciple (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Just as Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men, so Lois and Eunice, along with other believers in Lystra as the body of Christ in that place, taught and modeled a way of life for young Timothy so that he could grow “in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) and live a life that was pleasing in the presence of God (coram Deo) and a blessing in the presence of others (coram hominibus).
Lois and Eunice understood and lived out the admonition that Moses gave to God’s people during their wilderness journey. As the Israelites journeyed toward the Promised Land (and toward a city not built with human hands – Hebrews 11:13-16), they were to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” and to impress His commands upon their hearts, and upon the hearts of their descendants (Deuteronomy 6:5-6). Wherever the Lord led them, they were to talk about the stories of the sacred Scriptures and impress His view of reality, and His design for living, upon one another as they sat in their homes and walked along the road, when they laid down at night and when they got up in the morning (Deuteronomy 6:7).
The Method of Luther: What Does This Mean?
Dr. Martin Luther understood the great challenge and necessity of translating the mental and heart stuff that we have received through the teaching office of the church and home and, then, applying these reality-defining truth claims to the experiences of daily living in a comprehensive and integrative way.
For Luther, his ministry was one of understanding and application. He was taught of God through the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit as he prayed and mediated upon the Scriptures so that he might grow in his knowledge of God and acquire a view of reality that was in conformity with God’s revealed will. In other words, Luther sought to understand what does this mean as derived from the authoritative and normative truth-claims of Scripture so that he could interpret, explain and communicate what does this mean for meaningful application within every area of human life.
Our “Big” Missiological Challenge
Lesslie Newbigin identified this fundamental challenge for the Church, in its outreach to the nations, for those living in the late 20th and early 21st century when he asked, “What would be involved in a missionary encounter between the Gospel and this whole way of perceiving, thinking, and living that we call ‘modern Western culture?’”2
A proper understanding of a Biblical worldview, along with acquiring an insider’s understanding of another person’s worldview and design for living, would be essential for the Church in its outreach to the peoples of the earth. This way of Christian outreach and Gospel communication is not new; for, throughout the Church’s history, His people have labored to communicate His word of judgment and promise to their particular cultures and neighbors. Yet, if we are to build bridges into the real world, and to communicate His Word into the hearts and minds of people in our day, we must be committed to three things:
(1) a lifetime of studying God’s Word and acquiring a biblical view of reality;
(2) a lifetime of studying the worldviews and ways of living of those people whom we hope to bless with the Gospel; and
(3) a lifetime of being His “incarnational” bridges 3 as we communicate His Word and message of forgiveness and hope in words and ways of living that the hearer can understand (Romans 10:10-17; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Church Leadership in the 21st Century
In summary, church leadership in the 21st century will be predicated upon these aspects of biblical discipleship — that is, a church leader is a disciple of Jesus Christ who:
1 “Worlds which are only minutes apart physically may be light years apart morally or spiritually. A person’s life can therefore come to resemble a non-stop process of commuting between almost completely separate, even segregated, worlds.” (Guinness, The Gravedigger Files, 80).
2 Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 1.
3 Each believer is baptized into Christ and this life in Christ is manifested in many ways as God reaches down into the world, through His servants, for the well-being of humankind; for every Christian is His disciple, witness, ambassador, priest, servant, steward, living letter, salt and light in the world.