Preaching & Culture

Pastor Rudy Diamsay

Pastor Rudy Diamsay

I don’t want to make a eulogy of this post to my late grandfather, Rudy Diamsay, or Ingkong, as my cousins and I called him.  It’s somber enough that whenever he’s mentioned in a conversation, tones become serious and reverent as if his ghost was there with us.  My family loved and respected Ingkong so much that it’s dangerously easy for us to liken him to a saint.  “The biggest lie of human memory is that it feels true,” said Jonah Lehrer.  As memories of Ingkong fade and our image of him becomes more and more warped and idealized, we forget that it isn’t the pastor we should worship, but the God he worshipped with every ounce of his life.

I spent a good decade and a half listening to my Ingkong’s sermons.  Taking what I have learned about Christianity and culture through this project, I now see how he incorporated culture into his preaching.   In Culture Matters: How Three Effective Preachers Engage Culture in the Preaching Event, Rochelle L. Cathcart says, “Preaching, as an action performed by and among people, cannot be accomplished apart from culture.”  The culture that surrounded Ingkong here in the several churches he founded in Southern California was a lower middle class, mostly Filipino congregation.  He had to accommodate the cultural norms of the audience he preached to.

Father Michael Pfleger

A preacher from Cathcart’s study, Father Michael Pfleger, was a white man who led a largely African American congregation.  Like Inkong’s occasional use of Tagalog in his sermons, Pfleger often uses African American slang to convey meanings to listeners that may not be understandable in conventional english.   Preachers use “language and grammatical forms that are fitting for their audience,” as Cathcart observed, to “be representative of the culture, social status, and educational level of their congregation.

Pfleger’s adaptation to Black culture seems acceptable to the Black community, seeing as he has even been featured on  Preaching with culture connects a pastor to his congregation on an ordinary, human level.  Many times when a pastor is so revered that he resembles a diety, there is a disconnect because the pastor seems too high and holy to associate with.  Engaging culture helps pastors avoid this.

Romans 12 tells us not to conform to this world.  This world includes human culture.  Is preaching with culture conforming to it?  Cathcart says, “we must be cautious when listening to culture so that it does not become the agent of contextualization and drive our understanding.”  In other words, culture can’t be the source of understanding when studying the word of God.  Instead we should have a spiritual discernment that is strong enough to both absorb and withstand cultural trends.


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