The secular world holds many opinions about the culture of the Christian church, many of which are negative, but there are a number of things that the secular world acknowledges that the Christian church does very well. Among these strengths are community building, organization and diversity. Not all of these things may initially seem like strengths of the church to members of secular society, but a closer inspection of Christian culture reveals that they are present and highly developed.
Firstly, it is undeniable to mainstream culture that the church has a long history of establishing strong community. As far as organizations go, the Christian church is a model for getting people together in one place to connect with one another. They establish and cater to every level of human connection and relationship, offering groups for married couples, singles, teenagers and children. They bring all of these groups together for sermons or parts of sermons, as well as for gatherings like potlucks. It is for this reason that the church is known to effectively come together to ease grief, end addiction and problem solve together.
Secondly, as a byproduct of strong faith communities, mainstream culture acknowledges that the Christian church can be a very effective institution for organizing and executing plans. The church can show for itself a reputation of being an active organization. The church is responsible for some incredibly effective organizations, such as the Salvation Army and Alcoholics Anonymous. Church organizations themselves, as well as the organizations that came from Christian culture, are incredibly effective at executing their goals.
And lastly, some of mainstream culture recognizes that, despite the Christian church’s unpopular views on gay marriage and abortion, diversity does exist within the church and Christians deserve respect as individuals instead of as a stereotype. Any group of people that contains hundreds of millions of members is bound to have diversity within it. Christians are free to identify themselves as Christians and be liberal or conservative, gay or straight, from any ethnicity and from any social class.
The Christian church does not operate in the same way as secular society in many ways, giving it a decidedly unique culture. Unfortunately, many aspects of Christian culture serve as a source of resentment for the secular world. Christianity is not a popular culture in the current climate of the Western World because it is so strongly tied to the unethical parts of its history and present. Some dislike of Christian culture is blatantly discriminatory, but many criticisms are fair and worthy of attention from members of Christian society.
One major complaint of the secular world about the Christian world is its pattern of hypocrisy. The claim is that Christians preach love, forgiveness and selflessness, but engage in hateful attitudes toward certain groups, judge and retaliate against those who wrong them and put themselves before others when it comes to security and comfort. Sadly, these negative practices do exist within Christian culture. Approximately 75-percent of people living in the United States identify themselves as Christian. Any culture with that many millions of people belonging to it is going to have an incredible range of diversity within it. Just like any other widespread culture, Christianity contains ethical members, who love, forgive and put others first, and unethical members, who hate, punish and put themselves before other.
Another dislike of mainstream culture about Christian culture is how it has been historically tied to imperialism and colonialism. Ever since the dawn of the Christian church, the practice of Christianity and the presence of Christian culture has largely been found in white, Anglo-Saxon regions. These regions also became world powers in the same time, and fought for global take over, as world powers have done throughout human history. The birth of Christianity has always been connected to global take over.
First time church goers will observe a conduct and a format within the church that they have probably not seen anywhere else. Church has a traditional format of worship time, prayer, sermon and then fellowship, which lifelong church goers are very familiar with. But to an outsider, this weekly practice may seem strange and unfamiliar. There are, however, very particular reasons and traditions behind these practices that inform how they are carried out today.
Worship time in church is created by music. Music is very important to Christians. There are many verses in scripture that discuss music as a universal way of praising God. Scripture often refers to angels and other celestial bodies praising God through worship. Many people who have had near death experiences claim to have experienced music along with heaven’s presence. Christians spend time worshiping God with music in church because it is a very fitting way of expressing emotion over God. God moves Christians, and arguably every person, in a way that nothing else does. Music can express this joyful feeling in a way that words alone cannot.
The congregation will come together in prayer several times during the service. This is another integral part of the Christian church. Christians pray as a congregation together to collectively connect with God. Scripture says that when believers gather together to praise and commune with God, his presence will be there among them. Christians address God as if he were in the room because the bible informs them that he is, in fact, in the room. The strength of his presence also depends on how openly he is being invited in. It is not unusual to hear Christians pray in tongues, which is a language spoken from the heart when the holy spirit moves within someone, rather than a learned language. It is also common for Christians to place their hands on one another when they are praying for someone. This is familiar to most Christians, but most are also aware and respectful of the fact that this does not appeal to many people.
The sermon is delivered by the pastor of the church. Sermons are informed interpretations of scripture, meant to inspire the congregation toward a more Godly existence and to help them to understand how God operates.
The importance of prayer to Christians cannot be overstated. Prayer is integral to Christianity. Prayer represents the most important connection that people have to God: addressing him personally and invoking his presence in their lives. Church culture can seem strange to non-Christians because of how prayer-centered it is. A great deal of time is devoted to prayer, both within a church service and within Christian culture at large. Christians pray before meals, important events, big decisions, in times of need and on a number of other occasions. They pray together collectively and alone privately. Prayer is important to Christians because it is affirming, relationship building and revealing.
The importance of speaking prayers is strongly embraced within the church. Christians believe that words are alive and are a type of energy that affect life circumstances. The belief is that God gives people a certain level of spiritual authority over circumstances, and the words we speak are the affirmation of that authority. If we speak negatively, we inspire negative circumstances. If we speak positively, we inspire positive circumstances. When we apply this to prayer, we realize that we can help or hurt a situation with the direction of our words and whether or not they bring glory to God.
Prayer is a person’s primary way of connecting with God and forming a relationship with him. This is a sacred tradition to Christians. Their belief is that they can come before God, in humility, honesty, need or in any other state, to address him and communicate with him. But the practice does not end there. Christians believe that God activey communicates back to those who speak to him. It is obviously not in the same vocal way we communicate to him, but when we are open to receiving whatever form of communication he sends to us in his timing instead of ours, we can be blessed with clear, profound communication from God.
Through prayer, we discover things about our own nature and things about God’s nature. The ongoing practice of prayer reveals God and his purpose for our lives to us. This is why one cannot afford to miss out on prayer.
It may seem odd to speak about the “language” within the Christian church. Obviously, in the United States and Canada, the language spoken within the church is English. However, there are usages of the language that are particular to Christian culture. Some of the things that are said within the Christian community are really not said in any other worldly arena. They are very unique to Christian culture and Christian experiences. Most of them are based on biblical text but some may be considered a type of slang. Several examples of these language choices are described below:
“I’ll pray for you.” Prayer is one of the most common expressions of faith within the Christian church. Prayer is so important to Christians that it is its own life force. The term “prayer life” literally refers to how healthy and regular their praying is. Prayer is important because it is direct communication to God. The privilege and fulfillment of engaging in prayer, of engaging in conversation and communion with God, is of utmost importance to Christians.
“Blessings.” The concept of blessings is frequently discussed within Christian communities. It is very common to hear someone in the church talk about blessings on themselves or on others. “I’ve been very blessed.” “I hope you are blessed.” “I pray for blessings.” Christians use this term to mean the good things that befall a person or a household or a group. A blessing is not so much an advantage as it is something that the soul thirsts for.
“Equally yoked.” This phrase is taken directly from the bible and refers to a romantic relationship between two believers. The passage is used to illustrate a marriage by comparing it to two oxen pulling a plow. If one of the oxen is yoked to pull more of the weight, they are unequally yoked, which is similar to the burden on a believer if they are married to a non-believer.
“The red letters.” In most prints of the bible, the words that Jesus spoke are printed in red. This is to distinguish the words of Christ from the rest of the text. The words in red letters in the bible are the most important text to Christians.
Even those who are critics of the church and of organized religion have remarked on how tightly knit a community the church fosters. Every denomination of Christian church in North America values community and fellowship very highly. This is an old tradition within the Christian church. Since the time of Jesus, togetherness among believers was integral to the church’s foundation. Supporting, loving and caring for one another are a key set of values within the Christian church. No matter what one’s feelings are on the Christian church, it is undeniable that their sense of community is worthy of being modeled.
Christians are very big on having time together in fellowship. This may be in the form of sermon congregations, social events, small group studies or a number of other groups and activities. Simply being able to count on time together is very important to the Christian community. The standard for quality of relationships is high, and the tendency to give a high amount of time and energy to relationships within the church is universal. These values began with the example that Jesus set and have been passed down through the church’s history.
There is a genuine interest and concern for church member’s personal situations within the church. Jesus taught his followers to love one another and to love God. This value system is very strong within the church. Members demonstrate their care for one another by keeping an interest in each other’s lives, praying for one another, spending time together outside of church events and by providing for and serving those who are in need.
Serving one another is a very important part of the Christian social system. Christ exemplified the spirit of service and called his followers to be servants as well. In other words, Christians were assigned the role of filling needs and doing good works for the world. Where there is suffering, Christians are to bring love and provision. Where there is illness, Christians are to provide care. Where there is pain, Christians are to provide comfort. Therefore, when a member of the congregation is in need, the other members reach out to support them in whatever way they can.