If you want to change culture, you have to be immersed in culture. If you want to change the city and reach people in the city, you have to be in the city.
One of my desires as a follower of Jesus is to see the gospel take root in the communities around me. I want to see street after street, block after block radically changed by the power of God. At the same time, my heart breaks when I see the city go the opposite direction of the Bible or when the city promotes something that is sinful. “Someone needs to do something,” I often say to myself. “I cannot believe the city and culture is doing this or that. How shameful!”
What I do not realize is that I am called to be the light in that community. If I want to see the city changed, I have to go to and be in the city.
What is The City?
When I say “the city,” I do not just exclusively mean Louisville or Shepherdsville where I live and work. When we look at the Bible, oftentimes we see “the city” as a metaphor for our present culture, or of sin in the midst of the world. Babel was a city built soon after the flood where they defied God’s multiple commands. Nineveh was a wicked city, the capital of the enemies of God at that time, in which Jonah was called to go to. Babylon is the metaphorical/symbolic city of the end times which represents the wickedness of culture attacking Christianity. Jesus weeps for the city of Jerusalem and it’s fallenness in the gospels.
Do cities always equal sinfulness in the Bible? No! Heaven is described as a city (New Jerusalem). But, you get the point though: city = culture. So in our present time here on earth, if you want to see what the culture is about, you go to the city. If you want to know what culture practices, you go to the city. If you want to stay up on current events, you read about the city. Within the city you find hubs of music, art, education, work, and larger populations of people. So you don’t go out into rural American villages, or wander around a soybean farm looking for answers about pop culture. No, you go to the populated and informed city.
How Do We Reach the City Then?
At the risk of sounding like a smart-alec, we reach the city (and culture) with the gospel by being in the city. We do this first by not fleeing the city when things are going sideways, but instead holding firm to biblical truths and values in the midst of hard times. We do not want to flee like Jonah did with Nineveh, but rather be like Jesus who said, “I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). Jesus had His eyes set on the city of Jerusalem, the hub of Jewish culture, fully knowing the culture and the consequences.
We have to remain in the city, remain where the people are. Buy houses in the city. Have children in the city. Raise them up in godliness in the city. Preach the gospel to your neighbors who are in the city. Have churches in the city. Change the city from the inside out!
So this brings us to the second point. In order to reach the people within the city who are immersed in modern culture, we have to go where the people are! Christianity is not about taking a remnant of believers and living out in a commune away from civilization. It is about us getting into the culture, into the rhythms of the people. Bullitt County goes wild for high school and college sports. So in order to reach the people, I need to attend those sporting games. What is the local restaurant that people in my city go to? That’s where I need to eat.
Where do they shop, get coffee, and what are they watching on TV? I need to be informed about the people around me! And then, after that, I have to share Jesus with them! Here’s the main point I am trying to get us to see. A Christian’s response to culture should not be to just be angry and then do nothing. A biblical, gospel-centered response should be to critique culture (from a biblical worldview) and then get inside the city and inside culture to change it from the inside out!
We stand far off and look at the city and say “it’s so sinful over there! Things sure are departing from God’s Word.” But then we don’t do anything about it! We can say those words, sure, but we better follow it up by action. Friends, if we want to see the city changed, if I want Shepherdsville, Hillview, Crestwood, and Louisville changed by the power of the gospel, then I must be in the city issuing that change. I must be sharing the gospel inside the city.
The Great Commission is not “come and see,” it is “go and tell.” Go into the city, into culture. Tell people about Jesus. We need to be active in our communities, present at events, and let our lights shine in the darkness!