the culture with the message
I am convinced that some of the
approaches for reaching today’s culture with the gospel have gone too
far. I know we need to reach the people who are immersed in today’s
quirky culture. There are ministers who effectively train Christians to do
this. I have even taught a section in seminary on postmodernism. Still, I
think some have oversimplified the concept so much that some churches have
been robbed of much that makes for genuine and vital Christianity.
There is a difference between adjusting
your message to work within a given cultural milieu and downright selling
out to the culture.
In the 13th century, when the laity
had no Bibles, William Durand wrote, “Pictures and ornaments in churches
are the lessons and Scripture of the laity.” Are we, by giving in to
the perceived demands of an eccentric society, returning to the days before
the Reformation, when laymen only knew the Scriptures from broad, superficial
symbolism? The solid exposition of the Word is, sadly, waning.
Vibrant Christianity has always
reached people by meeting the culture, but it has never confused the culture
with the message. The lowering of standards and the many ways that some Christians
have come to look like the world indicate that we are in danger of that today.
This does a disservice
to the church and to the people we need to reach. Christianity
is vibrant not because it is in tune with the times, but because
it is the truth.
It has always been a challenge
to “become all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV) and,
at the same time, to “come out from them and be separate” (2 Corinthians
6:17). But it is not impossible. We accomplish both mandates by understanding
the culture and holding to a high standard of holiness.
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