Two extremes we want to escape from in building the local church in the surrounding culture are: the ‘Mirror’ Church that engages so thoroughly with culture that it compromises in the name of being relevant and simply reflects society back to itself, and the ‘Bomb Shelter’ church that fails to engage with culture at all, content to create an isolated community, relieved that all those wicked people out there can’t get in.

Paul in Athens (Acts 17) is a superb model where he examines their culture to gain understanding of how they think; then he uses their culture to point to Christ. This is the approach of Good News Church – relevant without compromise. We always assume the presence of non-church people who have their stories and belief systems hidden behind literature, music, theatre, and other arts expressing the existing culture’s hopes, dreams, heroic narratives, and fears.

How do we equip people in the church to be relevant to culture without compromise so they can be of benefit to the great city where they live?

• Retell the culture’s stories to show a Greater Story, with a hero (Jesus), mission (salvation), beauty to fight for (us/church).
• Show sympathy to their stories.
• Give theological education to believers to “think Christianly” about everything and to work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know three things: (a) which cultural practices manifest common grace and are to be embraced, (b) which practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, and (c) which practices can be adapted/revised.

Alongside the ministry of the church, renewing and transformation of the culture will come through the work of laypeople with distinctively Christian vocations in their working places, schools, universities and daily life, engaging the culture around them. This must be lifted up as real kingdom work and ministry, along with the traditional ministry of the Word.