As a “missions-guy”, pastor, and church planting connoisseur, I’m absolutely convinced that if we want to be the most effective tool possible in the hands of our Missionary God, we MUST have a working knowledge of the culture that we are trying to reach with the truth of the Kingdom and then present that truth in a culturally acceptable and understandable form for maximum impact. At the same time, I’ve also learned by experience that there are numerous sub-cultures within each culture that if understood, will equip us a little further for accomplishing the task and just might prepare us for the future. Lebron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat and the two primary reactions it produced are two gold nuggets from the American cultural goldmine that most U.S. church planters work within.
Representing the majority culture’s perspective, was the reaction of Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, many other retired NBA players, myself, and the majority of people over the age of 30. Heads were shaken in disbelief and genuine bewilderment was expressed by raised eyebrows and tightened lips. But, the response of the majority of teenagers and “twentysomethings”, (including my 24 year old daughter and her friends,) was overwhelmingly positive and thus provided an amazing insight into a growing sub-culture within our country. These younger folks by and large think Lebron and Bosh should be commended for joining the Heat, and they believe they’ve been given a pattern that they themselves would follow if they ever had the opportunity to be in that position.
Here’s a very brief summary of a few of the things that might be worth considering:
1. The widely accepted and thus predominant American cultural characteristics of individualism and independence are losing their appeal to those under the age of 30.
2. With few exceptions, those over 30 have an extremely difficult time understanding why these younger people aren’t motivated by the same things they are. To play alongside a few other elite players rather than against them and to do it for less money than you are capable of making and then to be willing to be just one of the reasons your team wins a championship rather than the main reason is well….as the Sicilian from “The Princess Bride” said, “Inconceivable!”
3. Like it or not, because of their experience growing up in a world shaped by individualism and independence, generally speaking, those under 30 are rejecting these two key American cultural traits, either consciously or unconsciously.
4. This provides another opportunity for us old timers to examine ourselves and our ministries to see how much of what we accept as bible-based culture is actually just the acceptance of the culture of our country and upbringing and thus believed to be biblical. We certainly come to Jesus as individuals, but the immediate result of our new birth is the reality that we are now one part of His body and thus an integral part of our spiritual brothers and sisters lives, which is best expressed by the local church. His design for His body is clearly inter-dependence and our true identity is found first and foremost in Him and our identity is found in Him and being a part of His body contributing the uniqueness that He is has placed within us. (1 Cor 12:12-26 etc.)
5. I’m convinced that similar to the other cultures I’ve lived among over the years and especially the refugees I serve on a daily basis here in Phoenix, these young people’s rejection of those two key American cultural traits actually makes them much more open to the “Kingdom of God” culture and life that is presented in the New Testament.