Finding God’s ‘shells of grace’ in our western culture

January 19, 2021
The 2016 Disney Pixar film “Finding Dory” details the life of a blue tang fish named Dory who deals with short-term memory loss. The animated movie explores complex issues such as mental health, the power of community, and the interplay between humans and wildlife. 
 
One theme the film explores is the loss of home as the story depicts Dory’s attempt to find her way home. The movie culminates when Dory discovers that her parents had been leaving a trail of shells for her so that if she got lost (which she did), she would be able to find her way back home.
 
“Finding Dory” is a reminder of a missionary principle that has been witnessed across cultures for centuries: That the God of heaven and earth has left traces of Himself in every culture so that the missionary task is to discover those traces to help love and lead people to the truth.
 
Biblically speaking, the principle is most clearly seen in Acts 17 when Paul discovers the traces God left in ancient Athens and utilizes them in conversations with the philosophers about the “unknown god.”
 
History is replete with these examples. They can be found in Scripture, modern missionary encounters and everyday life. God has left “shells” leading people to their true home — which is with Him.
 
But discovering these proverbial shells is not as easy as you might think. You have to become a curious student of people in particular, and a culture in general. Seeking to understand hopes, fears, longings, disappointments, motivation and worldview takes time, conversation, observation, and most importantly, prayer. 

The God of heaven and earth has left traces of Himself in every culture.

So in a year in which many things got turned upside down due to a global pandemic, we can ask the question, “What are these traces in western culture?” 
 
As we explore this question, we discover that there are several shells in our culture that perhaps God has left in a trail leading to Himself, should we choose to consider them. Shells like identity and purpose, authenticity and vulnerability, sacrificial service and love, limits and boundaries, and more. 
 
We should explore these “God traces” to become more conversant with culture regarding the things of Christ. For as Paul writes in Colossians 1:16-17, “all things were created through him and for him…. and in him all things hold together.” 
 
The goal is to grow in our knowledge and understanding of our Lord — who He is and what He has come to do — so that we can better understand where our culture is coming from, and better communicate the hope and truth of the gospel in such a way that hits people at these deeper levels. 
 
None of this is possible without the Spirit, so pray —  that these “God traces” would not go unnoticed, unheeded nor unattended. 
 
And if you feel as if you are the one like Dory who is looking for the shells that lead back home, follow them all the way to Jesus. He alone is the one who can carry us to our true home. 


by Josh Reed  
Adult Evangelism and Discipleship  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

Fisher retires after 36 years at Caldwell Association

Dale Fisher received quite the surprise on his 70th birthday. Not only did ministry colleagues serenade him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” during the N.C. Associational Missions Conference in early April, they also recognized Fisher for his long tenure of service in leading...

The power of a name: God’s faithfulness in mental health

If I have learned one lesson this year, it’s that there is power in a name. When we give our struggle a name, we are able to better distinguish truth from lie and work toward healing. Naming opens the door to freedom and sheds light on truth that can feel uncomfortable, exposing...

Scholarship to cover tuition for new Fruitland students

New students now have an opportunity to attend Fruitland Baptist Bible College tuition-free this fall. Fruitland recently announced a new scholarship that will cover tuition costs for new, full-time students attending the Hendersonville campus during the fall 2022 quarter. The...

Un pastor de Charlotte planta una segunda iglesia después de pasar meses en el hospital

El otoño pasado Oscar Muñoz por fin regresó al hogar después de pasar ocho meses en un hospital y también en un centro de rehabilitación donde recuperó sus fuerzas luego de batallar con complicaciones por causa del COVID-19.Unas semanas más tarde, alrededor del Día de Acción de...

Ongoing prayers for the end of Roe

Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide through its decision in a case known as Roe v. Wade. Since that time, millions of Christians have been praying for the reversal of that decision, and now there are strong indications the high court is closer...

6 common questions about foster care

May is National Foster Care Month. Throughout the month, advocates raise awareness about the realities and needs of foster care, including answers to these six common questions. Here’s what you should know. Who are the children?Foster children can be any child in North Carolina,...

One year in: Remembering what God has done

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since I started as your executive director-treasurer. At the same time, as I look back on all that God has done, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a year. He indeed can do far more than we ask or imagine.  A year ago, I presented a...

Top 5 resources for May 2022

Every few months, we spotlight five helpful resources for you as you seek to walk closely with the Lord and make disciples. Many of these resources are created by N.C. Baptist staff to help meet the ministry needs of leaders across the state.Check out this month’s roundup, which...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!