The Gospel in Christ Culture: how resemblance and stereotypes endanger 100% Christian community

This web site discusses the concept of Christ Culture and how to establish it and/or re-invigorate, within our Christian communities today, the Four Gospel Culture of the first century church combined with the Holy Spirit driven Presence of Truth in Community.

Jesus Followers can claim the untapped or underused Presence of the Holy Spirit, allowing the Holy Spirit to energize us and lead us - in whatever organization and/or group we're currently members of - working evangelically and missionally across congregational lines. The goal is to re-establish a first century-like Christ Culture, based on a Gospel that wraps around all Christian sub cultures, which touch all that Jesus Christ touched, taught and lived, including (but not limited to) the unnecessary distinctions between empire and province; nation and state; religious and secular; politico and consumer; healed and unhealed; persecutor and martyr, 99% and 1%; ruler and laity; homeless poor and coping middleclass; families and singles; married and divorced; adolescent and child.

If we as Christians are active in any one of these sub-cultures, and we want to be part of truthful positive changes by modeling Christ's behavior, we need solid program design, hard work, and the Holy Spirit's guidance. Because all sub-cultures are connected to each other, a change in one pushes and pulls the others. A good example is the Season of Service here in Portland Oregon (led by the Luis Palau Association).

How do we start? By understanding the Gospel rollout in the first century; reading the Parable of the Messiah Scrolls and seeing how Christ Culture influenced the inter-connected sub-cultures of its day. Our models are very clear: each of the four Gospels addressed all sub-cultures, yet each exhibits its own special Christology, as suggested here:

(1) Understand the meaning (hermeneutic) of the Gospel words our Lord spoke, which were then inspirationally scribed by four of His Apostles and canonized in the first century to become the Gospel Culture of Jesus Christ (e.g.,Christ Culture), containing truthful evidence of:
(a) Jesus the Messiah fulfilling the promise to Israel as a basis for forming the Christ Culture (Matthew),
(b) Christ Culture to emphasize Jesus Follower missional activism and prediction of apocalypse (Mark),
(c) Christ Culture to include Jesus Follower discipling praxis, including Jesus' governance of the Christ Culture formed by Paul's evangelical/missional journeys (Luke and Acts), and
(d) Christ Culture to include Jesus Follower Holy Spirit Presence (John) including the factual reality of eternal life for Jesus Followers within the Kingdom of God (Matthew - Sermon on the Mount)).

(2) Use this New Testament and its centerpiece the Gospel, these words, verses and parables of Jesus in the following truthful realities:
(a) to understand and be transformed by a Holy Spirit led, born again disciple-ready life, and
(b) to confront Satan and his evils, missionally, in each of our daily lives, as well as in the implementation of justice within world life events.

These truthful Gospel realities help inform and regenerate souls and infuse spirits, giving renewed life to the ancients in the first century and giving renewed life to us moderns in twenty-first century.

The Parable of the Messiah Scrolls web-book, in a literary sense, illustrates both the writing of the New Testament, and the way the first century Jesus Followers lived the Word; infusing God's Mission within the Christ Culture, which demanded faithfulness from the fledgling church in the secular Roman world. If the first believers could do that, so can we with each other. But there are deeper issues.

As present-day believers, we are too often distracted by resemblance e.g., a similarity to some past idea or bias in our memory banks (David Hume's first principle in understanding the Association of Ideas). Even when we try to be "rational", too often our "intuitive" resemblances have already led to our associating judgment of a fellow Christian based on selfishly framed stereotypes of their particular ministry or work, or even formed out of insular and selfishly framed conversations that may have led us to either associate reverence or abhorence to these other Christians. Our selfishly driven, intuitive resemblances associated with some previous bias, governs our rationality and hinders our truthful living, working and worshipping in a unified (but not uniform sub-cultural) Christ Culture. To counter such thinking, Christ Culture demands born again discipleship mentoring to yoke the selfish intuitions of new Jesus Followers with the Gospel. Without such discipleship they may be born again but will not recognize spirit led, missional faculties for outreach and maturing in the faith.

Jonathan Dodson takes these notions even further, arguing that Truth and its resemblances (which he calls mindsets) within and for each person are neither popular nor obligatory - in fact, mostly selfish - within Christian community:

In general, we don’t speak truthfully with one another because we perceive no obligation to our community. We don’t live with a mindset that says: 'I should look out for others.' ... We tend to live with a mindset that says: 'I should look out for myself.' ... The deeper reason is that we fear the community" ... is that "we really are afraid of what the community thinks of us, particularly if we discuss, correct, exhort or encourage them in the truth. We are fearful of losing their approval ... This is a massive idolatry we sorely need to repent of. Why repent? Because only God is worthy of our fear. He is worthy because he is great enough to worship, but our community, they’re not worthy of worship ... fear keeps us bound from blessing one another with the truth, from sharing the gospel with others, exhorting people to live a holy life, and encouraging one another with words of Scripture. We value comfort over truth. We fear the loss of social comfort. And before we pass off our reluctance to speak truthfully as love, we do well to remember 1 Corinthians 13, where we find that love rejoices in the truth because the truth sets us free. It always serves our good."
Excerpted from Jonathan Dodson, "Fearing Community and Telling the Truth", November 30th, 2012 To the extent Dodson's sage observations remain true for an extended period of time, so much for the idea of a Christ Culture driven Church Community.

Nonetheless, we move forward; and given our resemblances to selfism, theatrical martyrdom, limitless comfort and approval, we need to channel the first Christians (read the Messiah Scrolls) and live within a Christ Culture firmly based in the Word and Service of God. Instead, we find ourselves intuitively sucked into sub-cultures such as: discipleship culture, worship culture, missional culture, salvation culture, attractional culture, incarnational culture, persecution and martyr culture, success culture, new ethnic cultures, gospel culture or post-Christian culture (to list just a few of the many cultural fractures in our time). Christ Culture must encompass and include the "wounded healers" (to use Rick McKinley's term) in all sub-cultures, however offensive to our "resemblances" that may be.

Christ Culture is God's Word infused into the burning bush in Moses of the Exodus, into the incarnate human Jesus of the Resurrection, into the victorious Lamb of the Second Coming, and into the Four Apostles of the Gospel. Jesus Followers must tell, re-tell and teach these evangelical and missional stories, in order to shape the gestalt of the wrap-around Christ Culture, from now until we are all united in New Heaven and New Earth.

Christ said to the Father, “Sanctify them (Followers) in Truth; Thy Word is Truth.” (John 17:17) While Follower leading by the Holy Spirit will never be as definite as the original inspiration given to the first disciple scribes, let us as workmen and workwomen, “rightly divide this [God-breathed] Word of Truth” ... being then “complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:15, 3:17) “Therefore we (e.g., and our intuitive resemblances) must pay close attention to what we have heard (and have absorbed rationally), lest we drift away (veer off mission) from it.” (Hebrews 2:1).

In our present world of social media and attention deficits, can we support and tastefully project the Gospel on-line, and help shape the evangelical and missional substance of social media (using the hashtag #ChristCulture)? Can we have just as strong a media presence as the Dark Knight evils and what they portend for the Columbines, Oslos, Auroras and Newtowns to come? Can we do this? Land based, evangelical and missional initiatives are already being supported online. But can all of us working for Christ Culture in cyberspace collaborate to bring Christ's message to the 21st century world? The Messiah Scrolls on-line web-book is one example dramatizing how both love and truth, evangelism and mission were conducted in the first Christian community, and I have asked my readers to contribute their thoughts and annotate the Scrolls dialogue as they read.

Above, I referred to Portland's Season of Service (1st of six cities) where local churches (representing every stripe of Jesus Follower) work on projects and collaborate with public agencies to "love" and "justice" the city in every sub-cultural area, even presenting the city with a check for $100,000, to be applied in service to the goals of the collaboration. Another example is the 38-year history of OPCC: the largest integrated social service agency of its kind in West Los Angeles County, OPCC and its ten missional projects serve 8,000 individuals each year. I am sure there are many other projects and stories that could be told here.

With the plethora of Christian sub-cultures and 10s of thousands of various denominations, I have used the wrap around term Christ Culture as presented in this positional essay, as an ethos to unify all Christian sub-cultures, churches, non-profits and missional project groups desiring to bring the whole Gospel to the whole world. As Season of Service ( and OPCCLA ( have demonstrated, let the Christ Culture unify us - on what we care about.

In summary: When we lock onto a selfish resemblance to a cultural stereotype, we are led to predict dire outcomes, and shut off any opportunity for authentic incarnational connection and/or revolutionary missional collaboration. Can we pray that the Holy Spirit Presence within us, will infuse these sub-cultural resemblances with His Word and His Justice, uplift and transform our predictions, and nourish a unified #ChristCulture? If we can't do this - even though the Gospel may animate us individually - Christian community will remain shredded and divided. Please join the discussion: Read the Messiah Scrolls and give feedback via #ChristCulture on Twitter.

Within authentic Christ Culture, evangelical concerns about discipling witnesses and eternal life (John 17:1-3) and social justice concerns about "world's colliding" (Michael Frost) and eternal/earthly mission (Micah 6:8, Galatians 2:20) may just be alternate beats of the Christian heart. Regardless of current debates, both beats are critical, not only for the heart of the Christ Culture to function, but for our personal and collective mission in carrying forward both the proclaimed Word/discipling and social justice/peacemaking.

Let us not let selfism (Doug Webster's term), holy huddles, internecine warfare, consumer culture, contextual scholarship or amassed wealth define our worth, de-activate our faith, or dictate our service. Pray that Lord God, the absolute truthful owner of all, will inspire and direct us through His Christ Culture, in making the next ten years a Jubilee decade of born again discipleship, Holy Spirit transformation, Christian church plants and social justice initiatives. Amen.

Don Chatelain
The Messiah Scrolls Project
August 2014