By Luke LaRocque
I started as the Director of Ministry at Muskoka Bible Centre in the fall of 2021. As someone new to the MBC team, I was very curious to understand the spiritual culture. I felt like – and perhaps still feel like – a complete outsider to the history, culture and way of thinking that underlies the ministry that MBC has hosted on the shores of Mary Lake since 1931.
Have you ever attended a new church in a new town, or maybe a church with a different theological perspective than you have held? If so, you know that there are unwritten rules that everyone follows. Maybe it’s that the last row of seats is always reserved for families with young kids… but there’s no sign explaining that. Or maybe it’s that you’re not allowed to take communion without expressed permission (this happened to me once… but that’s another story). Unwritten rules are a challenge precisely because no one writes them down or explains them. You have to find them out on your own, or perhaps someone will recognize your confused demeanour and come to your rescue.
My friend Jack Schott calls this the “hidden curriculum” of a place – the ideas and expectations that make being somewhere a bit smoother and easier. If you know the hidden curriculum, life is simpler. If you don’t, it can feel like you’re on the outside. When it comes to the modern day culture that surrounds the church, it feels like we’re all operating within a hidden curriculum, doesn’t it? There are a lot of unwritten cultural rules that we need to recognize and understand. Even if you don’t agree with someone, you have to understand their point of view and be ready to give a reasonable (or unreasonable) argument on the issue at hand.
Last summer, we wanted to help address some of the helplessness that we all feel when it comes to the culture that surrounds the Church. Our mission at MBC is to help grow resilient, biblically rooted families, and the best way to be biblically rooted is to spend time studying and learning God’s Word! We added a Monday evening talk, and called it “Transforming Culture.” Our goal was to help ourselves, as Christians, catch up on what the world around us believes. Instead of being ten years behind, we dug into some of the culture issues that are impacting our families right now. It’s a scary thing to be on the cutting edge of a topic, because there is a risk that we won’t get it right. However, our confidence lies in the Lord, and His Word, which is living and active, and gives us insight even to these “new” cultural issues.
We asked our summer Bible teachers to speak on a topic that was of particular interest to them, and they delivered! Over the course of the nine sessions, we had over 1,600 people attend, including a large group of young adults who attended regularly. Whether we were wrestling with the abortion debate, faith deconstruction, unity within the church, LGBTQ+ inclusion or even how to use social media in our divided world, the sessions and subsequent Q&As were engaging, thoughtful and definitely challenging. I was thrilled to see so many folks (of all ages and stages of life) carefully think through how we can love each other authentically and biblically.
We’re bringing back the “Transforming Culture” sessions this summer, and I can’t wait to see what topics our summer Bible teachers will choose. Plan to be with us on Monday evenings in the Chapel as we wrestle with how we can transform the culture around us as salt and light in the world!
Luke LaRocque is MBC’s Director of Ministry.