A Church that Relates to Culture: Discovering a Fitting Spirituality
As a young adult I was given the opportunity to manage a small store in a mall next to the largest university in Guadalajara. In my ambition, I wanted to manage the larger store, but my father told me, “Es mejor ser cabeza de ratón que cola de león.” This expression, “It is better to be the head of the mouse than the tail of a lion,” is a Spanish saying that refers to the influence an individual possesses in a small group. In smaller circles it is often more satisfying to be in a job where one’s opinions and actions are appreciated, analyzed, and even executed within the small company or group. My father was right; I was a great manager in my little store.
I have noticed the same is true in church work. I have planted some churches, and now I minister in a small bilingual church. In the process, I have found appreciation and satisfaction while working on my spirituality. It is not about the size of the congregation that I am referring to here, but the actual sense one gets from leading in a ministry that is small.
There is no “one size fits all” mentality. What I mean is that we need to seek to be a church that relates to a culture that is trying to fit their spirituality into their own story and past—what I like to call fitting spirituality. How do we do this? Every church is trying to find a fitting spirituality for new generations, all within today’s changing, globalized world. The hurdle of discovering a suitable spirituality is that it must be both diverse and Christ-centered; it must be flexible enough to love all, and it must also be anchored in the truth of Jesus.
As a manager of a small store I quickly learned that all the ways they dealt with the customers in the bigger store did not work with my smaller store. I was able to relate to our customers in my own way. The small church can do the same with this search for relating to the culture around us.
This journey for our church to relate to the culture and find spirituality that fit led me to use what I have learned from historians who have explored spirituality types. These four types help us think about how we engage our spirituality and our culture:
The first type is the head spirituality or intellectual thinking.
The second type is heart spirituality, in which feeling is emphasized with warmth, freedom, energy, or spontaneity.
The third type is the mystic spirituality, which seeks hearing rather than speaking.
The fourth type is action spirituality, where God is experienced through social action. This type emphasizes witnessing to God’s reign and renewing society with the kingdom of God on earth.
I believe that the combination of these four types will be beneficial in finding the fitting spirituality for a church relating to its culture. As a church we must use these four types to reach the culture around us. Because all four types of spirituality are representative of the culture around us, helping our churches to grow in these four areas will connect them to the culture. It is worth noting here that every one of these types has extremes and dangerous levels, so we must use wisdom as we apply them within our contexts.
In my own research for my dissertation, I have found that a missionary who engages the culture with these four types of spirituality is more vigorous in their ministry, and the churches with whom they minister (big and small alike) are able to relate to the people around them. If a church is small they can implement these principles much more quickly and connect to the culture around them. In so doing, they will be a spiritually relatable church.