The Cultural Divide

Adapting to differences between generations.

We live in a country of ever-increasing cultures and subcultures. We live at a time when we realize that in the past, many confused winning folks for Jesus with winning folks for our culture. Cultural insensitivity has many times held us back from an effective witness to our faith in Christ.

If we are to renew our ministry and our outreach, I would point to a few cultures existent in Canada that need to be continually studied and understood. It probably will surprise you when I tell you what they are.

First, I would like to share some thoughts I have had over the past few years. My father was 30 years older than me. He would have been 96 this year. We shared much in common. Our tastes in music had a significant overlap with at least 80 per cent of our preferred artists and songs being in common. We read a lot of the same books. We attended the same church and even sang in the same choir. We were educated in much the same way. In most things and at most times, we shared a common culture.

My children range in age from their late 20s to their early 40s. While we were able to compromise on a road trip playlist that included soundtracks from Les Miz and Phantom as well as Jim Croce, the Beatles, the Eagles, and Garth Brooks, I share very little of the music they connect with. They read different books and listen to vastly different cultural voices. Their educations are diverse and do not parallel mine.

My grandchildren range from newborn to 21. There are more contrasts between them and their parents than my children and me. And both generations share a radically smaller overlap than my dad and I did.

Welcome to significant generational cultural divides. I wonder if we seek the same sensitivity culturally when we seek to reach out to these generations? Are we really looking to make converts to our own cultural Christianity or are we looking to build Christ’s Kingdom?

Remember this: Strip mall operators have discovered they can keep teenagers from loitering by playing classical and operatic music day and night. They can actually use a cultural divide in musical preference to drive kids away.

To me that seems pretty far away from the Great Commission. We are called to go into all the world. That includes our own generational cultures. How sensitive are we? How respectful are we? How willing are we to change to reach the next generations for Christ?

Published in The Presbyterian Record on March 1, 2015.