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Culture, Quotes

James Emery White on Preaching and Culture

From the March-April issue of Preaching

In an interview with James Emery White, he talks about the relationship of preaching and culture: “I think it helps to define culture. The simplest definition I know of is, ‘Culture is the world into which you were born, and the world that was born in you.’ It is our matrix. It is the air we breathe. It is television, music, drama, what’s on AOL — everything that is swimming around us, and it is largely self-created. It is that which we have made.

“Now when you consider culture is essentially our context, then you realize preaching should always be addressing culture. So I don’t think it’s a unique sermon series. I don’t think there should ever be a talk — there can’t be a talk that’s effective — that’s going to ignore the context of the listener, the world of that listener. So, you can start isolating certain aspects of culture — a popular song, a book Oprah produces or highlights, a hot film, a Supreme Court, a newly elected candidate … You can talk about aspects and focus in on them, but in many ways that could force you to miss the larger currents that are present in the lives of the people you’re talking to, regardless of your topic.

“So, I think there are two dynamics here for a communicator. One, you need to be in tune with the large currents of our culture that are present in everybody’s life and thinking. There are certain things I know are present in the people to whom I talk. They don’t believe in truth. They’re pretty dubious about Scripture. Tolerance is the ultimate virtue. Science reigns supreme for factual truth; and everything I just said is true of Christians, too. This first set of things I have to be mindful of no matter what I’m talking about. It’s just our playing field.”

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