A couple of weeks ago this “Boomer” (not even old enough to warrant the privilege of being called that) surprised a student because I knew what he meant by an acrostic he had just used. Bring on the quiz. He started listing off different ones common today in his world. He’d call them off and I’d either tell him what they meant or make educated guesses.
He’d say BRB
– I’d respond Be Right Back
– Laugh Out Loud
– I Know, Right?
This went on for a little while until he got to this one…
– My eyes moistened up a little (which surprised me). I paused for a moment and said, “I don’t say that one.”
He got a little surprised and asked, “Why”?
I responded, “In my culture, we’re not supposed to take God’s name lightly or use it flippantly.”
That ended the quiz, but it set me on a thought path that has repeatedly dominated my mind over the last couple of weeks. I’ll be the first to say, “I’m no saint.” I leave a lot to be desired when it comes to being the “ideal” Christian. However, this one, for me, has always been, “I can be mad at God, but don’t you dare mess with him”. It’s kinda like your family. You can be mad at them and put them in their place, but nobody else better mess with them. Taking his name in vain has always been a red line I’m not willing to cross. It makes me sad to see it so flippantly used today, even among youth workers.
For the bulk of us, hopefully this is a no-brainer up to this point.
Here’s what I want to get at with this post, though. It’s an approach I haven’t used before, but I’ll for sure use it again. A lightbulb went off in my head during that conversation. The key word was “Culture”. I didn’t intentionally use it instead of “Christianity” or “Faith” … and I don’t know why I did.
First things first… everybody there knows I am a Christian. I was not hiding this fact, merely taking a different approach. When I say, “In my culture…”, instead of “Because I’m a Christian…”, it reaches into their vernacular. It’s in style to bash or dismiss Christianity. However, it’s very “non-woke” to mess with a person’s culture. It also holds open a door they would usually shut the moment the word “Christian” is introduced into the conversation.
Paul did this when he shared the gospel in Athens (Acts 17). He didn’t start out by introducing his God. He started by saying, “I perceive you are very religious.” He could perceive this because there were idols all over the place there. To say he “perceives” it could have been a funny statement. It would have been impossible to miss. He may have even chuckled as he said it. He then mentioned he noticed they have an “unknown God”, which he introduced as his God, then went on to tell about him.
When we take a different approach in our communication, which normally doesn’t happen by accident like it did with me, we may see the reach of our ministry going further and deeper.
The bottom line of this post is… I guess two bottom lines… are…
1. Please join me in revering the name of God, if you don’t already, and ditch “OMG”.
2. Thinking through our approach can seriously disarm people and open a door for them to catch a glimpse of our heart, and our God, in a way which helps them “get it” in their terms, and in their culture. Like Paul used Athen’s culture, we can use our students’ culture to get the message inside their hearts and minds.