Becoming Culture Makers and Blessers
In Part 1, “What Is Your Family’s Cultural Footprint?” Tamara Hill Murphy suggested how families can be intentionally missional about the way they live and move in culture. Now, in Part 2, she shares how we can restore and bless culture through the places we habitually go.
by Tamara Hill Murphy
How do we learn to be restorative culture-making, culture-blessing Christians who bless not only with our ideals and teaching, but also our daily habits? How can we become better seers courageous enough to look deeply into the noisy, turbulent cultural tide washing over us each day? How can we become wise enough to know where to attach and to detach, and strong enough to push back the tide of cultural norms while swimming deeply in its current?
I offer you another list. Before you read it, remember the mantra: Jesus is a redeemer of the time we’ve spent going in other directions. He moves outside of time and space. He returns time and stretches it out in just the right ways so He can save you and your kids (and maybe even your congregations).
Go to Church
We cannot underestimate the value of the regular, intentional gathering of believers. While we are called to worship Father, Son, and Spirit every day and in every place we find ourselves, there is a holy reorienting that happens when we meet together to do the work of worship at Word and Table. The habits of worship we practice within our local church strengthen us to serve the common good of our cities, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and beyond. We collectively make up the body of Christ and we need each other for this beautiful work.
Go Home (Family and Neighborhood)
What simpler protest can we offer against the cultural frenetic norms than the act of staying home? Revisit the cultural footprint exercise and mark the number of days your family was home together for a meal or for unscheduled, recreational time. How many days were you available to stand in your front yard and chat with neighbors?
For all the cosmic wonder of the incarnation, there’s also the earthy reminder that God blesses the ordinary details of our home lives. Throughout Jesus’ entire life he blessed the domestic mundane, and saints ever since have done the same. This must be one of the simplest ways to to follow Christ, but it isn’t always easy to develop the reserves of contentment required to truly rest in our homes.
If it’s helpful, may I commend our family’s strategy of living close to the places we work, go to school, do our shopping, and go to church? The practical benefits for this lifestyle mean more time, money, and energy to use in other ways. The benefits multiply beyond dollars and minutes into a greater sense of being at home within our culture. Rather than belonging to stretches of highway miles and carpool lanes each week, we can be rooted in one neighborhood day in and day out.
Go Local (City, State, and Country)
A life lived faithfully present within culture flourishes in the particular materials of place and time. As Jesus entered the world in Bethlehem during the census, we have entered our own cities at a specific place and time. We interact daily with the people, institutions, and infrastructure of our cities, and these daily routines, empowered by the spirit of the incarnate Christ, become means of grace for us and for all those we encounter. Here are a few questions to help us think with even greater clarity about what it means to focus on the local aspects of our culture:
- In what ways am I creating and cultivating culture in and for my city?
- What public places am I helping to flourish?
- With what broken, decaying parts of my community am I on a first-name basis?
- When was the last time I enjoyed a public place for no other reason than enjoyment?
- How often do I enjoy (and purchase) work from hometown artists?
- What problems in my city am I helping to solve?
- What locally-owned business would miss my family if we moved away?
Go Global (The Nations)
For all of his faithful presence within a particular place and time, Jesus shattered any provincial ideologies with the insistence that his followers would be empowered to go into all the world. By his life and teaching, Jesus embodied God’s ancient covenant with Abraham that all peoples on earth would be blessed through his family. By his death and resurrection—indeed, in the very breaking of his body and shedding of his blood—Jesus gave us a new covenant, inviting us to participate with Abraham’s family in this ancient covenant. In the same way, our bodies become an offering for Christ to extend his work in us and through us to every people and nation. I offer a final list of questions to help assess our posture within a global culture.
- When is the last time I had a conversation with someone from a different ethnic or socio-economic background? What did we talk about?
- What kids do my kids know who look, sound, and think differently than our family?
- What part(s) of the world, outside of the United States, am I serving with time, energy, and money on a regular basis?
- How often do I enjoy (and purchase) work created by an artist in another nation?
- Have I dared to ask God which members of my family He may want to send out to live and work among peoples of other nations?
The list-making and question-asking has no end. In the details, we discover our calling as cultural beings in a specific place and time with a call to love our fellow cultural beings, our neighbors. The process of discovering and fulfilling our calling cannot happen in the abstracts of our ideals or the confines of our church buildings and minivans.
The adventure of the Gospel is this: by the Spirit of the Living Christ we blaze pathways through the deserts of our culture. The cultural footprint we tamp down between church, home, our cities, and our world make a highway fit for our God. We follow the Word made flesh, preparing a way for the restorative work of his kingdom that all may see the glory of the Lord revealed.
We can do this best with a healthy, gospel-oriented discernment rooted in specificity and good humor. We are living in a kingdom that has no end, and we are invited by the one who created culture to reject hyper-vigilance and embrace spacious grace. Of this kingdom, there’ll be no end.
Tamara Hill Murphy lives with her husband Brian, an Anglican priest, in Bridgeport, CT. Her writing has appeared in Think Christian, Art House America, and Englewood Review of Books. Find her at tamarahillmurphy.com or follow her on Facebook at Tamara Hill Murphy-A Sacramental Life.