The irony of a “pop-culture church” in a culture where Christianity is not popular

It should be fairly obvious to any halfway observant Christian that over the last generation Christianity has gone from a religion that America endorsed, to a religion America ignored, to now being a religion that America is antagonistic toward.

From the news articles about Christian schools losing their accreditation, to the ones concerning the potential forcing of all Christian ministers to perform marriage ceremonies they fundamentally disagree with, to the removing of Christian campus ministries because of their attempt to require its members or leaders to sign a code of conduct, it has become evident that culture no longer believes Christianity is acceptable in the public sphere.

Another observation that is fully obvious over the last generation has been the trend in the church toward popular culture – or in other words, the trend in the church toward “popular Christianity.” From music labels, to book deals, to TV stations, to celebrity pastors, and on we go… It is now apparent, like never before, that while the culture is moving away from Christianity, the American Christian church is still trying to move toward the culture.

The most obvious arrival of pop-culture into the church has been thru the occurrence of what has been coined “the worship wars.” With mostly contemporary worship winning out, we have seen the embrace of secular music culture within the church. Lights, cameras, smoke, lead guitars and drum solos, “worship music” being sold for profit, and so on.

None of the creative aspects of secular music being brought into the church are necessarily sinful in and of themselves, but they do make the potential for sin (pride, greed, etc.) more accessible by elevating certain aspects of production in the church. And, let’s not forget the obvious downfalls to the celebrity pastor status and followership that has become common in popular Christianity as well.

All of that is true.

But what is most interesting about all of this is not the discussions about what has actually happened, but rather the discussion about why it has happened and continues to happen.

Then, Why?

Why does the church continue to bring pop-culture in when Christianity is clearly being rejected within pop-culture?

Why does the church look more and more secular when secular society continues to distance itself (and in some cases attack) Christianity?

The answer may surprise you.

Jesus.

Now I know what many of you may be thinking, “It sounded like this article was headed toward calling the church away from this trajectory. I thought you were about to crush the church for trying to be like a culture that hates it…”

And you would have been right – if you were expecting me to be like most American Christians who are for some reason scared of the reality that Christianity seems to be “losing ground” in our society.

But I am not like those Christians. I see our situation a little differently. I like to think I see it a little more like Jesus…

How’s that?

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ first act in the plan of salvation he was called to fulfill was the act of incarnation. And yet the last thing the church ever seems to talk about is what it means for us to be incarnate in our society.

If the first step for Jesus was to become like those who he was looking to save, then why is it that Christians are so surprised when he expects the same of us?!

In fact, I have started to believe that unless the church becomes more incarnate in the world and begins to actually function completely outside the walls it has created by going right into where those who need us most are living, then the trend of antagonism toward Christians will only continue.

What I am not saying is that we should act like the world – Jesus did not. What I am not saying is that we should compromise our integrity for the world – Jesus never did. But what I am saying is what Paul said:
“When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ… When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ… When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”

So what?

None of this removes the fact that there is an intense irony in a reality where we continue to pursue a culture and a people who continue to push us away. But by doing this we act like our very Savior who did the same for us.

In fact, we should strive to be incarnate just like Jesus – where we do not expect others to somehow get to us but rather where we do whatever it takes to get to them. We must stop trying to invite the world in, and start going to where the world is…

Are people seemingly “too busy” to come to a church event? Then go to where they are busy. Has the culture begun to value sports, and concerts, and bars, and other events more than the events of the church? Then get involved in those events and take Christ with you!

Our call is to be the church, not simply build a church.

So if the church we build looks like the culture and even goes to where the culture is (exciting events, etc.), as long as we are still being the church that God calls us to be (light, salt, etc.) then we are fulfilling exactly the call God has placed on our lives: to live like Jesus. And remember Jesus lived incarnate.

Book Review | Our Last Great Hope

Summary

I’ve been reading Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission by Ronnie Floyd. The author was given the task of leading the task force for the Southern Baptist Convention to revitalize and re-imagine the evangelistic efforts of the Convention. The book chronicles Floyd’s own journey of discovery as he thought deeply and more intentionally on the last thing that Jesus left for the church to do.  As Dr. Floyd led the Great Commission Resurgence movement within the Southern Baptist Convention he discovered that he, nor his denomination, had thought deeply enough about the Great Commission even though they were known for their evangelism efforts.

The book is a wonderful reminder that our passion and desire to be a part of God’s work can never be too much. Our love of Jesus and his love for us should provide us who follow him with only motivation we could ever need.

My Thoughts

The book has many ideas that are not new. But, from the outset the way that Floyd framed the motivation that we should all have for evangelism and the Great Commission in particular was thought provoking. The author said that there are three tough questions that we all should be asking ourselves.

  1. Do I know Jesus Intimately?
  2. Do I love Jesus Passionately?
  3. Do I share Jesus Constantly?

Each one of these questions caused me to think more intentionally about my own faith journey. It is not enough to just show up and think that that will be enough. We have to realize that what God is calling us to is far more than many of us is really ready to give. The last word of each question is where the “rubber meets the road.” It’s not just do I know, love and share Jesus. It HOW do I do these things? What Jesus is asking of us is total obedience and surrender.

I found this book to be both enlightening and simple to follow. I found myself agreeing with Floyd’s insistence that the great commission must be the center of our understanding of life and faith. If you are looking for another perspective, another way of looking at what it means to live out the great commission.

Growing Pains, Pt. 6 | “Evangelism”

Give What Has Been Given

If there is one characteristic that embodies the essence of Christianity it is selflessness. Another word for this humility. Rick Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Life that humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. I could stop right there, but that would only be part of the picture. If we are going to be the people that God would have us to be, then we must be willing and able to share the Good News of Jesus to all who are around us. There is a phrase that has stuck in my mind over the last several years. It is borrowed, but it says, “God will not send a blessing to you, if He knows He can’t get it through you.” God’s hand and activity in your life is not about you, and it surely is not only for you.

Christianity is a religion of return. No one comes to faith in isolation. Faith requires a body of faith to give it to others. If you had never seen a church, a Christian or a bible you never would have known about Jesus. You may have thought about God, for Paul said that the world testifies of God, but what we need can only come through revelation and that gift and responsibility has been given to the Church of Jesus. If there has been any benefit or change in our lives, then we are charged with a great responsibility, to give what has been given to us.

Many Ways To Share

Far too many Christians have been turned off to evangelism because they think that to spread the word is to get on a soapbox or hand out tracks or to be able to quote scripture to someone who is not a Christian. Evangelism is more than what you know or do not know about the church, the bible or the doctrines of scripture. What has Jesus done for you today? If you can think of one thing, then share that. It should not be that complicated.

Bible thumping is not the best or only way to do what Jesus did. Can you take a warm meal to a family in mourning? This is evangelism. Can you tell someone of a prayer that God has answered? Can you show grace where once there would have been anger? Can you look past the sin and love the sinner? This is evangelism. There are some that may feel comfortable with the confrontational method. There are some that need this kind of straight forward talk, but there are others that could use a gentle hug of comfort or a kind word of hope. The Gospel is supposed to be a balm, a medicine that we apply to the pains and hurts of someone’s life. If this is true, then it should not feel like alcohol on an open wound.

Like A Vitamin

Sharing your faith with someone else is like taking a vitamin. The more and the longer you share your faith the better you feel and the stronger your faith will become. I share my faith by showing that it is possible to have fun, to have a full and vibrant life and not compromise your values and convictions. There was a time when men and women knew that they needed God in their lives. There are so many distractions and diversions today, God has been relegated to an “as needed” remedy.

So many people feel that with a good job and good pay they can get everything that they need. The form of evangelism must change, not its substance. Try to find some way to share what you believe. Remember; you may not change anyone, but you will change the way they look at you. And that is evangelism at its heart.