Culture Clashed? : An interview with Justin Holcomb of The Resurgence

20 02 2011

You may have just “Like” the Resurgence page on Facebook because your online friends did. But checking the website and reading articles is another thing. For me it’s a blessing. One author that really got me is Justin Holcomb, the director of Resurgence. He emphasizes culture and Christians should respond to it. I had the privilege to get in touch with Pastor Holcomb and ask him questions about culture, Christianity and social media.

ROCK: Hello Ptr Justin. In this post modern world who do you think gains the most influence? Christianity or culture? Do you think it’s good or bad?

Justin Holcomb: Well, I think it’s safe to say that the post-modern (western) world borrows it’s worldview from Christianity. Without the God of the universe ordering things and giving us tools like the laws of logic to understand the world, we wouldn’t have any understanding at all. This is a big statement but I believe Christianity gives us a basis for understanding but much of our culture simply doesn’t understand that. So there’s the over-arching concept of God’s created order and how we understand things. Then there is the issue of where we are in history. To me, it seems as though the church (in the west at least) is in decline. This is discouraging in a sense because we want to see more people come to love Jesus! On the other hand, it’s exciting that there is such an opportunity for us as missionaries.

ROCK: I read some of your articles and I notice how culture has this sort of spiritual side, sometimes culture has its own take on words we use as believers. Why is culture drifting that way? Is it just a fad?

Justin Holcomb: I think maybe what you’re getting at is that there is a sort of acceptable “spiritual talk” that people use that is socially acceptable? If so, I would agree. Our culture is in favor of someone being “spiritual but not religious”. The problem comes in when that “spirituality” isn’t centered on Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. If faith is devoid of that, it is an empty, self serving, false spirituality. Spirituality in America is focused on transformation and becoming a better you. And culture is obsessed with self so that concept of spirituality makes sense to people. But Christianity is saying our purpose in life isn’t to build up our own egos, accomplishments or well-being but to worship Jesus.

ROCK: Some Christians think that engaging with culture equals being worldly. What can you say to these Christians and how can we really have a sort of “balance’ between our faith and culture?

Justin Holcomb: Jesus went head-to-head on this issue with the Pharisees. The Pharisees lifted up a specific version of their Jewish culture by claiming that holiness was defined (in part) by the rituals you observe, the foods you do or do not eat, etc. Jesus said that it wasn’t the foods or lack of ritual that defiled a person but that it was the human heart that was the problem. Maybe from a contemporary perspective, some Christians say that a believer should never drink wine or watch a movie that has strong language. The problem with this outlook is that these “things” (movies, wine) are just “things”. They are not evil in and of themselves and they don’t cause people to sin. The motivation of the heart causes people to pervert these things and put sin into motion. By saying this, I am not advocating that every Christian is free to do whatever they want at any time. Every Christian needs to prayerfully use discernment in these matters and what may be okay for one person is not for another.

ROCK: This decade is define with the word “social networking” specifically Facebook. How does this phenomenon affected Christians on how they communicate to others?

Justin Holcomb: Social networking is a great tool for evangelism to be sure. But it can’t take the place of face to face conversation and evangelism or preaching. Social networking can be really helpful as an information tool but not necessarily as a way to enact transformation.

ROCK: How do we make a connection to this digital culture in terms of sharing the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Justin Holcomb: By making good use of it for the sake of the gospel. We share our faith and good Christian resources with others in a hope that they’ll meet Jesus, repent of sin and get connected to other like-minded believers.

ROCK: Do we really have to keep up with the culture just to make our message relevant and easily understood?

Justin Holcomb: Any good missionary is going to learn the language and customs of a people group so that they can effectively communicate the truths of the gospel. It’s important to understand the culture around us for the same mission-minded reasons. But in being a good student of the culture, we never compromise on the God’s truth, or personal holiness.

ROCK: Some articles you wrote features some giants of the faith like Luther, Calvin, Edwards etc. Are their messages still relevant in this digital age?

Justin Holcomb: Absolutely. A high view of Jesus and the Bible is the great heritage these men have passed down to us. That’s always timeless! Many people aren’t prepared (or not interested) in the depth of much of this scholarship. But the great thing about the technology and social media we have at our disposal is that we’re able to share the core ideas of these great thinkers and for those that are interested in reading more in-depth, the distribution channels for books and materials is literally just a click away.

ROCK: At a personal level, how did culture shape you as a Christian and a pastor?

Justin Holcomb: My aim is not to shape culture. My response to God’s love is to worship him, love my wife and children well, and serve on God’s mission where he has me. We need more pastors doing that and stop trying to change the world.

ROCK: Pastor Justin, you have this great organization, The Resurgence and a wonderful website http://www.theresurgence.org . Please tell us about it and invite those who are reading this.

Justin Holcomb: The Resurgence is a tool that is intended to serve Christian leaders in their ministries. We publish books, provide thousands of free online articles and blogs, we host conferences and events. Our goal is to provide leaders with tools so that they can build their churches and make disciples.

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