Shortly after the 1912 presidential election, Woodrow Wilson visited his aged aunt whom he hadn’t seen for a long time. “What are you doing these days, Woodrow?” she asked. “I’ve just been elected president,” replied Wilson. “Oh, yes? President of what?” inquired the aunt. “Of the United States.” “Don’t be silly!” she snorted impatiently.
While few people are this ignorant today, staying in touch with our culture is a constant battle. Our world is constantly changing. There are selfies, hashtags, and social media avenues older people might not even know exist. Whether you’re 10 or 90, it’s important to keep in touch with what’s happening in our world since the very people we are trying to reach are engulfed in it.
This does not mean we should go to bars and clubs so we can know how these people act and try to reach them there. Doing so would not only be counterproductive, but miss the point entirely. The trick is to find the middle ground between being completely out of touch and being sucked in. We must never allow ourselves to be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). When we start talking, acting, and dressing by the world’s standards, or lack thereof, then we automatically start distancing ourselves from the Lord. The goal is to know about our culture so we can reach them, but to do so without conforming and participating in unrighteousness.
Paul found this balance. He became like a Jew to win Jews. He became like a Gentile to win Gentiles. He became weak to win the weak. He became all things to all men so that he might win some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). At first glance, this might seem like a contradiction. How is it possible for Paul to be like both Jews and Gentiles, two polar opposite peoples and beliefs? He did this by knowing about them and their beliefs. Even though he did not conform to their beliefs and lives, he kept himself in touch with them so he could bring them to the Lord. He knew what many different groups of people thought, believed, felt, and how they acted.
It’s possible to do all of these things without engaging in the very sins of our world. Let’s make sure we stay in touch with our culture so we can bring more to the Lord. But let’s also be extra cautious that we do not conform to the world.