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The apostles in the early Church had some massive cultural integration issues on their hands. With Jews and Gentiles clashing over how to do church, we expect them to react in a stern and divisive way. That’s what we would naturally do – right? Jews in this building, Gentiles down the road: divide and conquer. But that is exactly not what the apostles did.

In this sermon Conrad Mbewe looks to the example set by Paul in Romans 14-15 and applies it to our own cultural challenges in the African Church. It’s certainly no less explosive and politically charged.

Church Today vs. The Biblical Norm

“I want to deal with the challenge of African culture with respect to the Church’s worship and with respect to the Church’s discipline. And it’s really to do with the Church’s inner life: in other words how we relate to one another within the context of the Church.

The Church in Africa is by and large far removed from the biblical norm.

It is no secret that if there is one area in which we really ought to be concerned, it is precisely that. That we are fast reaching a situation where the Church in Africa is by and large far removed – and even getting further removed – from the biblical norm: the Church as it is described and painted in the New Testament.”

The Pros & Cons Of The African Church Style

In the first half of this sermon Conrad Mbewe walks us through several areas where African culture influences how we do church. And although there are clearly positive aspects, there are negative implications as well. He looks at singing, respectfulness and communal living in this way.

We cannot divorce our practice of the worship of God from our culture.

“We cannot divorce our practice of the worship of God from our culture. Remember what I said, culture is simply your view of life as a community and how you live it out. It speaks about your value system, your attitudes, that express themselves through your actions.

So there’s no way that as a people you can leave that at home locked away in your closet and then come to church and be something completely different.”

Learning From The Apostles

So what is the solution? Pastor Mbewe urges us to look to the example of the apostles in the early Church who also faced these problems. They addressed it in two ways.

1. Maintaining An Informed God-Centredness

The first thing the apostles did was to ensure that an informed God-centredness was developed in the Church.

“You see, the Christian faith is not about what I want, or what you want. For the Church is not ours. It’s God’s! It’s his household. And he has made it plain as to how he wants his Church to be in order that he may be glorified in it! So obviously, it’s not an issue of tossing a coin, it’s not an issue of voting so the majority finally win the rest of the day, it is a question of what does God think.

The Church is not ours. It’s God’s!

The Church is not about you, your comfort, what you like. And therefore, because that other person’s doing what you don’t like you’d better get out. No. It’s about God and how he sees the situation. Is he in a relationship with that brother who rubs you the wrong way in worship? Well if the Lord has accepted him, I’ve got bad news for you, you’d better accept him too.”

2. Insisting On Cultural Integration In The Church

The second step is to respond to this challenge by insisting on cultural integration in the Church, because of it’s maturing effect.

The apostles didn’t say: Jews over there, Gentiles over there. They insisted on the two co-existing for mutual benefit.

“They called for the two parties to avoid the extremes of cultural paternalism and hyper-criticism. It is this gracious disposition towards one-another as Christians, that will address the extremity that an unbridled and exploited African culture has brought into the Church.”

It’s About God, Not Us

“Of course this is not easy. But as Christ came to meet us where we were and accepted us, we need to do the same for our brothers and sisters in the faith: staying God focused, and deliberately striving to integrate with each other – no matter our up bringing or personal preferences – to the glory of God.”

African Culture Sermon Series

Conrad Mbewe looks at the challenge African culture poses to the Church in Africa in these three sermons:

1. African Culture & The Challenge of Genuine Evangelism

2. African Culture & The Challenge of How To Do Church

3. African Culture & The Challenge of Community Impact (Forthcoming)

 

Text: Romans 14:1 – Romans 15:7

Date preached: 5 January 2009

Location: Grace Ministers Conference, Johannesburg, South Africa

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