Synergy Initiative kicks off with a discourse on culture

By Avonlea Brown

Approximately 120 students sat in BTS 104, friendly conversations and anticipation buzzed around the room as they wondered how the night would go. A table full of fruits and beverages in the back of the room had several visitors, but most of the attention was on the front of the room. 

At 6:30 p.m. on September 12th, Associate Professor of Theology Dr. Jeremy Kimble faced the crowd of students and began the first Synergy Initiative event of the 2023 Fall Semester. 

Kimble led the panel, reviewing what the Synergy Initiative stands for and how the topic of culture is important to it. 

“The Synergy Initiative is about mobilizing trained disciples to multiply healthy churches together,” Kimble began. “And tonight we will be addressing Christ and culture. We will be thinking through as Christians how to engage with culture, not hide from it, but think through how to penetrate lostness in the context we live in and make the gospel known in that place.”

Professors of Philosophy and Theology Dr. Joshua Kira and Dr. J.R. Gilhooly joined Kimble in a discussion about how Christians should be mindful of and interact with culture. They addressed the obstacle that culture can be to sharing the gospel and the importance of correctly understanding culture. 

As the professors bounced from idea to idea, exchanging jokes and sharing stories, one truth emerged: It’s not gonna be easy, but learning how to interact with culture is the only way to successfully reach people and share the gospel.  

“Culture is a script,” Gilhooly said. “Most of the time, people believe the set instructions of that script, not because they have thought about it, but because it was given to them. So you have to give people a different script, a different set of expectations about what’s possible.”

“It’s not gonna be easy,” Kira said. “Everybody will do things that are easy, but to have the determination to study hard or put in the work [to share the gospel], why do we do that? Because it matters.” 

The conversations held the attention of students, who remained silent and alert except for a few bursts of laughter. Junior Biology major Grace Zadnik began attending the Synergy Initiative events since it’s soft launch in April. She hopes to make outreach a part of her life, whether that is international or domestic. 

Zadnik enjoyed the relaxed way that the professors discussed the issues around culture, but also found it to be an important reminder to students about the reality of church-planting. 

“It was very practical,” Zadnik said. “If you are going to live in a palace without a lot of healthy churches, you’re gonna be interacting with people who are of a culture very different to Christianity, and I thought it was interesting how they instructed us to be accessible to culture but not be influenced by culture.”

The discourse on culture ended with Kimble reading from Acts 19:17-20. 

17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. 

The students did not appear to want to leave as many of them stayed behind to engage Kimble, Kira and Gilhooly in discussions. The room that had earlier been buzzing with relaxed conversation now ruminated with excited inquiry. It seemed an hour was not long enough to satisfy the curiosity of students eager to share the gospel with their cultures. 

The next Synergy Initiative event will take place on October 10th at 6:30 p.m., where Kimble and Assistant Professor of Missions and Theology Dr. Josh Bowman will be addressing how to share the gospel practically.

Avonlea Brown is a junior Broadcasting, Digital Media, and Journalism major from a small town in Maine. She is the co-editor of Campus News for Cedars Student News and currently working towards going abroad to study international journalism. She likes reading, travel, and learning new things. 

Photos by Logan Howard

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