Friday, January 13, 2012

Why context cannot be ignored

As we continue the transition from modernity to postmodernity, it becomes increasingly clear that context is central to communicating the Gospel.  And while the message is still so unapologetically universal, she is a fool who does not take into account the context in which she lives and ministers.

In a couple weeks, we will celebrate 3 years as pastors in Kingston, MO.  Having never lived in a rural context before, learning the ins and outs of the country life has been a challenge, sometimes fun and joyful and other times frustrating and heart-breaking.  Last night unfortunately falls into the latter category.  My husband agreed to coach the basketball team of our local K-8 school.  Even though he is a football player to the core, he did a wonderful job and the kids without a doubt grew in athletic skill and more important character.  The community has been supportive or at the very least okay with the fact that one of the local preachers has been coaching.  Until last night.  The mother of one of the girls on the team approach Tommy after the game and ripped into him for the way he played certain girls vs. how he player her daughter.  Local politics and family history clearly undergirded her entire argument, most of which we only vaguely understood.  When Tommy didn't answer her to her liking, she laid into a lady from church who has been assisting him and proceeded to tell her how offended she was and couldn't believe that he was a preacher!

Now, it would be extremely tempting for me to turn this post into an extended defense of my husband.  But that really isn't my point.  You see, over the past two weeks, a great number of conflicts have arisen in our little community of 300, people demanding assistance for bills, extreme bullying in the school, well-intentioned (I think) people calling us 5 or 6 times a day to get money for a family in need even after we had already sent the check we promised, and extreme discord in several families.  I could tell you how this has affected me personally, like how the persistent phone caller was extremely rude and pushy to me, the female pastor but charming and sweet to Tommy, the male pastor, but again that's not the point.  The point is I am overwhelmed by the specific brokenness of this community.  The strange, unhealthy loyalty that clouds people's thinking, the sense of entitlement in some and the outright disdain for the poor in others, the disrespect toward those with whom you disagree, a heavy weight of negativity that weighs on everyone.

There is something bubbling right below the surface in this little town.  My first response is to think, man this town has some serious issues, systemic issues that are rooted so deeply in the local soil, I don't know if anything can change it.  But my second, more thoughtful response is, something is happening here.  There is some kind of battle behind the scenes that is keeping this city and these people in bondage.  I'm not one to carelessly through around words like "satan" or "demons" but I cannot deny the powers of darkness at work in my current context, quietly poisoning families and community life.

That being said, I find that I must commit myself anew to understanding and becoming a part of this culture, however foreign it is to me even after three years.  By the power of the Holy Spirit alone will I be able to see past the shenanigans of angry moms, aggressive bullies (both adult and child), and perpetual negativity to see the battle that is truly taking place in this context.

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
                                                                                                                      Eph. 6:12-13

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