The currents of culture

Not too far from the neighborhood where I grew up, there was a creek.

Every once in awhile, some of the other neighborhood kids and I would jump on our bikes and ride down to the creek to explore and play in the water. One of our favorite activities when we were there was to attempt to stop the flow of the water by building dams.

We would scout out a good location, usually somewhere the water got shallow and the current slowed. We would collect all of the large rocks we could find nearby. And once we had accumulated enough material, we would begin strategically placing them across the creek bed.

I can’t begin to estimate the amount of time we spent trying to build those dams. I can, however, tell you exactly how many times we accomplished our goal of stopping the flow of the current: Zero.

No matter how large the rocks, how many we used or how tightly we stacked them together, the water always found a way through to the other side. The current continued to push its way downstream. We couldn’t stop the current altogether, but we could cause some of the water to redirect, creating an alternate flow.

People often talk about culture in much the same way we talk about a creek or a river. We understand the power and movement that is inherent within culture. The combination of the unceasing flow of time, the continuous flood of new and evolving means of communication and the twisting and turning of societal interactions and expectations, among other influences, creates a veritable force of nature that continues to rush unrelentingly into the future.

Sometimes, this current is productive. Sometimes, it is destructive. But without fail, the currents of culture continue to surge ahead, sweeping men, women and children along with them.

Often, our desire is to stop or at least slow the flow. Sometimes, this is because we have read the flow and force of the proverbial waters and we recognize the potential danger and destruction that lies ahead. We want to protect ourselves and those we love from the hurt and heartache that will result if the current course holds.

At other times, our resistance is rooted in our discomfort with the pace and nature of the changes that are occurring around us. We’re simply searching for a means and moment to allow us and others to catch our breath and regain our bearings.

The same lesson I learned with the water rings true with the culture: The flow cannot be stopped. We have two legitimate options available to us, as I see it. We can stay out of the water or we can do our best to redirect the flow in a productive direction.

Staying out of the water altogether might possibly protect us from what’s going on in the world to some degree, but it also will adversely affect our ability to interface with, impact and influence the culture in which we live in positive ways.

If we want to make a meaningful difference, we have to wade into the water and start doing the difficult work of stacking stones, not in attempts to stop the flow but to redirect it in more productive directions.

I confess I have more questions than answers in how this works in our current cultural climate. After 20 years of ministry, I am finding I am tired from all of the effort expended. I don’t understand the world as I once did. It’s much harder for me to see potential and opportunity in the waters that swirl around me.

But I believe God still has plans for the world in which we live. I believe he’s still in the business of redeeming and redirecting the flow of people’s lives. And I still believe we can each play a meaningful part in the process as we continue to stack stone upon stone of the truth of God’s word on the firm foundation of the “Chief Cornerstone,” Jesus Christ, just as Christ encouraged in Matthew 7:24-25.

We need not be swept away by the currents of culture that rush around us, but we need not stop it, either. Rather, we should seek to redirect it, using its own power and force to move people toward Jesus Christ and the new countercultural life he offers.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].