The public culture is only as healthy as its overall spiritual condition allows. The culture is fed by its dominant beliefs, values and ethics.
Our public institutions are the most visible manifestations of the culture. They are often dazzling and give the illusion of permanence, but are in fact quite brittle and change with the weather.
The church’s primary public responsibility is to exalt Christ; to clearly, lovingly and boldly represent Christ in word and deed; and to make and grow disciples of Christ.
- When healthy, the church nourishes the culture by faithfully performing this mission. When unhealthy, the church merely reflects the dominant culture, providing limited nourishment.
- When unfocused, the church gets caught up in trying to recolor the leaves, rather than addressing the underlying spiritual condition by remaining faithful to our Lord and concentrating on our primary mission.
UPDATE: Please also visit Petra's observations on this post over at TGS as she also wrestles with this issue. Let me just add by way of clarification: I don't believe the church's chief mission is to change the public culture. The point of the above is that much of the church gets carried away with chasing this idea ("coloring the leaves"). Still, I do believe that the culture may be changed for the good as a natural by-product of the church carrying out its primary purpose, as stated above: to exalt, faithfully represent & make/grow disciples of Christ. After all, when there is more salt, and that salt has not lost its saltiness, it cannot fail to flavor the earth (Matthew 5:13).