Mission to the City - Week 2 - What is Culture? Secularism? Orlando?

Mission to the City - Week 2


What is Culture?

Culture is worship externalized.

“The most powerful aspect of culture is that which we do not think or reason about.” – Justin Holcomb

Indulge me in a brief parable:

There were two fish swimming along and the older fish said to the younger fish, “the water is fine,” and the younger fish replied to the older fish, “what is water?”

My main point in talking about culture is that the forces, elements, and ingredients that cause cultural change are very complicated and cannot be boiled down to just a few bullet points, people, tribes, or institutions.

Some aspects of culture are conscious but most of the elements of culture are unconscious or subconscious.

               Cultural Components

  1. Artifacts – iPhone, Cowboy, Bald Eagle, or Coca-Cola
  2. Language – pop/soda/coke, y’all/you all, freeway/highway, pronunciation…
  3. Beliefs
  4. Ideas
  5. Symbols
  6. Deep Structures (Social Forces)

Individualism – the autonomy and self-reliance of the individual in society

The Therapeutic - the centrality of personal happiness of the goal of the individual (Oprah, Dr. Phil… etc.)

Consumerism – the commodification of just about everything (cars, food, apps, sex… )

Pluralism – a political philosophy that allows for the peaceful coexistence of different interests, worldviews, and convictions


Democritization of knowledge – consensus is king and if the consensus doesn’t agree with you. The court of public opinion is swift. This means the death of expertise – (Your friend “Martha” on Facebook has equal weight on medical opinions as your PCP). This also relates to “cancel culture” – where people aren’t going to listen/watch/follow certain things/people (Michael Jackson, R. Kelly… etc.) because of their actions, opinions or viewpoints.

Post-Modern-Pragmatism – if it works for you, then it is right for you.

Globalism/Mobility – this also relates closely to the rapid rise of urbanization, the velocity of ideas, the fluidity with which people change geographic location, and the role of the worldwide marketplace and supply chain

Expressive Individualism – a worldview that combines many of the things above were all truths are localized to the individual and where truth is only found externally – (“you do you”… etc.)


  1. Institutions - politics, education, economic, spiritual, media… etc.
  2. Practices or Rituals - conscious (places of worship) or unconscious (shopping, sports stadiums, cineplex, concert venue, theme park) liturgies of a culture
  3. Elites – these are the expert voices that attempt to explain our world to us and they usually have influential roles inside of our institutions (see #7 above)
  4. The Marketplace – money votes what the heart wants and is therefore an extremely powerful invisible hand of culture

Potential Relationships Between the Church and the World:

“Because the city has potential for both human flourishing and human idolatry, we minister with balance, using the gospel to both appreciate and challenge the culture to be in accord with God’s truth.”

Center Church - Christ and Culture.JPG

How do you change culture? (and is this even our job?)

  1. Faithful presence
  2. Institution building
    1. The Church
    2. The Parachurch
  3. Culture Making
    1. Consistency of ethics
    2. Neighboring
    3. Excellence in vocation
    4. Faithfulness in marriage
    5. Faithfulness in parenting
    6. Intentionality in all relationships


What is secularism?

Radical individualism + hedonism.

  • Secular salvation paradigm
    • Creation/Eden Inner Child
    • Fall Binding commitments/traditions/externally given


Sin = low self-esteem + unhappiness + stuff I don’t want to think about

  • Redemption Rediscovering your inner self

Discovery of your identity


Holiness is autonomy from commitments and externally given identities

Discipleship is achievement culture + image + identity curation

  • Consummation Pleasure/Happiness
  • Secularism comes packaged for us both from the secular left and the secular right in our current political environment.
    • Left-wing secularism (Progressivism)
      • Deconstruction of sexuality, language, and institutions
      • Seek the kingdom of God without the king (Christless utopianism)
        • Post-Communism progressive narrative is: “utopia = globalization + (a certain kind of) capitalism + social progressivism”
      • Information colonialism – colonize other cultures through films, news, journalism, music, art… etc.
    • Right-wing secularism (Populism/Fascism)
      • Mutant or digital capitalism –puts profit first and oftentimes people last
      • Greed – tyranny of the shareholder
      • Populism is the revolt against elites by a discernible group of people organized by class, ethnic, or national lines (see: Trump, Brexit, Iceland, Sweden, Hungary, Brazil, Iraq, 20th century Argentina, Mexico, France’s Le Pen… etc.)
      • Japan and South Korea have no progressive vision yet there are huge problems
    • Significant portions of both the left and right wings of secularism are the same
      • “Why Liberalism Failed” – Patrick Deenan
        • The left/right are 80% the same in how they understand the world and human nature
        • Society is hemorrhaging due to a faulty anthropology and radical individualism
      • Both the secular left and secular right are:
        • Anti-authoritarian and regulatory - (left – tear down institutions and deregulation of traditions/norms/conventions; right – deregulate institutions)
        • Highly individualistic and hyper-autonomous – everything is extremely curated (music, streaming tv, who you friend/follow or block/mute online… etc.)
        • Heavily focused on the present tense
        • No binding commitments (left -no externally give identities; right – gig economy)
        • Common rhythms
          • Sexual practices
          • Time habits
          • Consumption habits
          • Spending habits
        • Tinder is the ultimate example of the left/right version of secularism in one place
          • Mutant capitalism + progressive view of sexuality


What is Orlando?

  • 7 County area is 4.3 million people and will be 5.2 million by 2030
  • 1500-1700 people move here every week
  • Over 50% of new residents were born outside the USA
  • If we were our own country we would be the 47th largest economy in the world
  • According to city officials the biggest issues we will be facing are:
    • Affordable housing - only 13% of housing inventory is considered “affordable” - this is particularly challenging for our large service industry
    • Educators - we will need 29,000 new teachers between now and 2030
    • Infrastructure - I-4 Ultimate Phases I and II will need to be matched with updates to our water, sewer, electrical, fire, and police infrastructure
    • Mercy and Justice Issues - racial reconciliation/justice, foster care, homelessness, human/sex trafficking, poverty… etc.
    • Poverty - 615,000 currently live below the poverty line (16%)
  • Spiritual climate
    • 94% at one point churched in their lifetime but only 49% today (684,000 dechurched)
    • Only 6% of our city is actively churched in a Gospel preaching church (similar to Seattle or Manhattan)
    • Orlando is the 6th fastest dechurching city in the USA
    • Actively churched Christians are overwhelmingly female in Orlando (60/40) – in other words, there are 50% more churched women in Orlando than men
    • The most likely person to be actively churched is a married female with children under age 18
    • The least dechurched ethnicity by far are black persons (equal practicing Christians and unchurched) whereas Hispanics (2.67x unchurched vs practicing) and whites (3x unchurched vs practicing) were overwhelmingly unchurched relative to practicing Christians
    • The only religious segment growing among young people (relative to older people) are charismatics
    • Relative to the national averages, millennials in Orlando are more likely to be actively churched and baby boomers are less likely to be actively churched
  • To maintain 6% actively churched by 2030 – we will have to add 70-100k people to current and new churches
  • To grow to 10% actively churched by 2030 - we will have to add 250-300k people to current and new churches
    • If we want to see this, we will need to do several things asap:
      • Prayer – we will need to see desperate individual and cooperative prayer
      • Contextual understanding – a greater understanding of the culture, practices, idols, and emotions of our city, communities, and people in our lives
      • Personal renewal – a renewed commitment to the Lordship of Jesus in all of life
      • Corporate renewal - a renewed commitment to the Lordship of Jesus in how we function as a community of believers both as a single local church and how we work together as the larger body of Christ
      • Collaborative church planting – we will need to work together with other churches to help more churches be planted through sharing resources, training, coaching, manpower, and money



Questions for further reflection:

  1. What is good in our culture that we can promote, protect, or celebrate? (In other words, what is true, good, or beautiful that despite the fall is still a part of our culture?)



  1. What is missing in our culture that we can creatively contribute?



  1. What is evil in our culture that we can stop?



  1. What is broken in our culture that we can restore?