A South England Conference Platform


Navigating Cultural Influences without Compromise

Our Faith Calls Us "In The World, But Not Of The World." This Mandate Becomes More Complex As Cultural Intersections Become More Frequent

In a world where diverse cultures and beliefs intersect, the challenge of maintaining our faith while engaging with the surrounding culture is ever-present. As Seventh-day Adventists, we hold distinct beliefs and practices that set us apart. How can we successfully navigate the complex web of cultural influences without compromising our faith? Let’s turn to the lessons found in Acts 17 for guidance.

In Acts 17, the apostle Paul’s engagement with Athenian culture provides a profound model for us to interact respectfully with our surroundings. He begins by observing the city’s culture and taking in the various gods and objects of worship present there. He doesn’t dismiss these beliefs out of hand; instead, he engages thoughtfully with them, recognising the art and imagination behind them. Paul even quotes from their literature and uses it to bridge the gap between their culture and the message he brings about Christ.

Challenges in a Multicultural World:

Our faith calls us “in the world, but not of the world.” This mandate becomes more complex as cultural intersections become more frequent. One significant challenge arises from the tension between our commitment to our Christian beliefs and societal norms. This can lead to conflicts, from work to social interactions.

Media and entertainment often promote values and behaviours that may contradict our beliefs – materialism, casual relationships, and disregard for wholesome living. This presents a dilemma as we strive to uphold our faith while engaging with a media-driven culture.

Guidance for Engaging with Culture:

  1. Education and Open Dialogue: Building a solid foundation for navigating cultural influences requires understanding. Let’s educate ourselves about different cultures, beliefs, and practices. Engaging in open dialogue fosters empathy, dismantles stereotypes and promotes harmony. This approach is essential for our older generations, who might find it challenging to comprehend unfamiliar cultural shifts.
  2. Media Discernment: Embracing media literacy empowers us to make informed choices about the content we consume. Our youth should be encouraged to critically evaluate media messages, recognising their potential impact on their faith and values. Adults and seniors can collaborate with the youth, sharing their life experiences and offering guidance on media discernment.
  3. Cultural Appreciation, Not Assimilation: Engaging with culture doesn’t require compromise. We can appreciate diverse cultural expressions while remaining true to our faith. We can foster understanding without compromising our core beliefs by embracing different cuisines, art forms, and traditions.
  4. Wholesome Entertainment Alternatives: Instead of dismissing entertainment outright, let’s seek media that aligns with our values – family-friendly movies, music, and literature that inspire and uplift. By supporting wholesome alternatives, we encourage the creation of content that resonates with our faith.
  5. Community Support: Establishing a strong support network within our Adventist community is essential. Engaging in regular fellowship, Bible study groups and community service projects provides a sense of belonging and encouragement, making it easier to resist compromising influences.

Embracing Change, Preserving Faith:

Paul’s engagement with the Athenian culture shows us that observing and engaging thoughtfully with our surroundings can lead to a deeper understanding and connection. Similarly, as we navigate cultural influences without compromise, we should observe the world around us, recognising its positive and broken aspects. Our role is not to condemn but to heal and transform, just as Paul’s message changed the Athenians.

In conclusion, the story of Paul’s interaction in Acts 17 teaches us that navigating cultural influences without compromise is an ongoing journey for us all. With a foundation of education, open dialogue, and faith-centred decision-making, we can successfully engage with the world around us while remaining steadfast in Jesus. By practising media discernment, appreciating cultural diversity, and cultivating community support, we can embrace our role as both residents of the world and faithful followers of our beliefs. Through this balanced approach, we can contribute positively to society while upholding the values that define our Christian faith.

Pastor Emanuel Bran is the Executive Secretary of the North England Conference