Here is an excerpt from a fascinating chapel talk given by Dan Siedell at Biola University in California. I imagine my good friend Uche, who teaches at Biola, may have been in attendance, which makes me fairly jealous! You can read the full text of the piece here, but for now join me in reflecting on these challenging words about church and culture:
Israel is to be a light for the Gentiles, we are to be a light for the world. We have heard this time and again in Sunday school, in Bible studies, and from the pulpit. But do we know what it means and the sacrifice it implies? It means that as light and salt, we exist for the other. We are means to an end. Salt exists to preserve food and bring out its flavor; it exists for the benefit of the food. Light exists to illumine objects so we can see them better. The Church does not exist for itself. What does this mean for us, here, today, at one of the premier training grounds for evangelical Christians overlooking a modern day Nineveh? It means that we are not called to craft a successful career out of “Christian engagement with culture.” The Church is not a place where successful careers are built. Many Christian culture makers and entrepreneurs, whether in art, film, design, fashion, music, or ministry operate in a hamster ball. They are in the world of culture, but they are completely sealed off from it. They can see it and think they’re in it, but they can neither touch it nor be touched by it. They can tell stories about it, what it’s like “out there in the culture,” but they have no tangible experience of what it smells like or feels like because of this hermetically sealed hamster ball called “a Christian perspective” or “a Christian worldview” that isolates rather than reconciles. A Christian perspective, whatever that means, should dissolve into enriching those cultural practices that we illumine, that we season in order to bring out their flavor not ours. We need to be salt and light for culture, we need, as Jeremiah writes, to seek the good of our neighbors—for that is from where our blessing will come. If we are salt and light, we should disappear, dissolve into the culture for the good of the culture.