Several years ago, my husband and I hosted two exchange students. One boy was Muslim and from Indonesia. The other boy was Catholic and from Brazil. While they lived with us, they experienced culture shock. Culture shock is the phenomenon of people experiencing difficulty when adjusting to a new way of life in a culture different from one's own. They had left home and moved to a new country and culture for a year. Decisions were made independently from parental oversight, financial resources were directed toward education and cost of living and recreation, and relationships were complicated – trying to find where they wanted to fit into a new community.
I think we, as people of faith, also experience a bit of culture shock when Jesus finally starts to settle into the self. This is how I observe "Christian culture shock":
Honeymoon phase – "During this period the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light, wonderful and new" (Wikipedia). As we begin a faith walk, everything IS wonderful and delightful and new. Children joyfully sing together in choirs, we are excited to bring gifts forward in worship, and we begin to form friendships with others who share our hunger for the Holy Spirit in our life. Life and love and all things Jesus look amazing in our sight.
Negotiation phase – Anxiety can develop after a while; questioning why this culture of faith is different than the rest of the world. According to Wikipedia, "that sense of excitement (from the Honeymoon phase) will eventually give way to new and unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as you continue to have unfavorable encounters that strike you as strange, offensive, and unacceptable". In the church and society, we often get frustrated with the "church-speak" that varies from the worldly language. And when we are convicted of our sins – when we recognize that we are not being the people God created us to be, we try to excuse our behavior. Often we are tempted to simply walk away from the thing we do not understand. Church traditions become apparent and stir more questions about why we "do it" the way we do.
Adjustment phase – If one can endure the educational process (and sometimes painful learning curve) of the negotiation phase, worship can become more enriched. Understanding the historical, biblical, and relational meanings behind "the way we do it" enhances the relationships formed in the Body of Christ. God's grace is humbling as our means of salvation. Differences in theology and doctrine may surface within our faith family but are less likely to cause division as we recognize that Jesus alone saves.
Mastery phase – is when one becomes a sponge for Jesus… when one takes on the challenges that Jesus places in front of us; not claiming to know all the answers but rather to know that we don't know the answers. This phase might also be considered one of Christ-like discipleship: when giving of self and deepening one's faith is more consistent and less an emotional roller-coaster. Mastery phase occurs in the everyday lives of ordinary people who offer extraordinary things back to the community… simply by being the people God created them to be.
I pray you experience a little "Christian culture shock" in your life, that Jesus becomes part of your daily faith walk. Be Bold! Dust off your Bible, and read Romans 15:1-13 for some words of encouragement. Here is a glimpse that scripture: "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." (Romans 15:5-7)