The Church and culture

I pray that this isn’t true of any ministry I ever serve. I pray that we love because Christ first loved.

“I think when Christians talk about reaching the culture, we sometimes don’t want to reach it for the sake of God as much as for ourselves. We want to win for winning’s sake. We want acceptance because we’re tired of looking foolish. We want success as the world defines it. We want a loser-free church that is hip and sophisticated.

But none of this squares with what Jesus told us about his kingdom. He didn’t tell us to aim for numbers or adoring crowds or cultural acceptance. He told us just to love him, love each other, and love the world by telling them about him.”

Josh Harris, Dug Down Deep pg. 214

Maroon 5 and College Ministry

Maybe at first thought it doesn’t seem like Maroon 5 and college ministry should go together in the same sentence. But sometimes God uses the strangest situations and experiences to leave us with a greater understanding of our purpose and His heart, even  though maybe it’s the last thing we would have predicted or anticipated learning in that particular moment.

Friday night I went to the Maroon 5 concert held at George Washington University. I went to have fun and enjoy live music, but I have to admit that I spent more time people watching than I did looking at, or paying attention to Adam Levine or the rest of the band. Anyone watching me was probably baffled. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the concert (we had great seats!), but it’s rare that I’m around such a large number of college students all at once and I took advantage of the chance to soak it all in.

My first reaction, well second actually (my first was that all the girls were dressed as though it were July instead of November in DC), was to be shocked by how lost my generation is. And then I was immediately ashamed and dismayed that I had to be reminded of that fact.

I talk about college ministry all the time and I spend quite a large amount of time pouring my life into it. It’s where I find so much fulfillment, purpose, and joy. But Friday night I realized that part of the reason I tend to forget how lost the collegiate generation is, is because I spend most of my time with the found and rescued. I get to listen to stories of rescue (see related posts) on a regular basis. I get to watch students who are completely sold out to Christ serve in the inner city, serve their campus, and serve their community of believers. I love that time – I love it that I have the opportunity to pour into, mentor, and love the students at The Gathering and in my small group. I frequently wish that I had more time to give and that life and other obligations didn’t get in the way of what I really love so much.

Yet, in spite of that love, I find that another love is growing stronger (and maybe fiercer than ever before)… a love for the lost and yet-to-be-rescued of this generation. I want to use my time with The Gathering to not only to help strengthen and mature the faith of the students, but to constantly be serving to enlarge the community and draw the campus in. I don’t want to ever forget the purpose of why The Gathering exists or why I have chosen to serve with this ministry – “to impact the collegiate generation with the message of Jesus Christ.”

I’m passionate about The Gathering and about college ministry in general because the majority is lost. If I remember the statistics correctly, only 3% of the Millennial Generation (80 million strong) is expected to come to know Christ (if trends continue and no dramatic change is made). That frightens me. I blog a lot about church and culture – those things as we currently know them and even the dreams we dream about them, may cease to exist within a generation if we don’t focus on evangelism and make it our top priority.

Todd’s message at Frontline tonight was about evangelism and sharing the Gospel. Several thoughts definitely stuck with me – “One of the greatest indicators of a life that has moved from dating the church to a life totally surrendered to God is one thing – actively sharing the Gospel.  Evangelism is what marks a believer’s understanding of the Gospel.”

I’ve fallen in love with the local church, its purpose, and its people. The last thing I want to do is just date it  perpetually without making a commitment, or showing signs of such a commitment in the way I live my life. I want my life to be marked not only by service to the church, but also by reaching out to the lost as though it’s the most critical thing I do. Now, on to thinking and praying about how best to go about that…

Bringing People to Jesus

“Should the church even try to change culture? The great commission says to make disciples, not to change culture. And I think there might be a difference.

I think that changing culture puts the focus on morality instead of on the cross. Even a culture of Christians is going to be full of sin, because we’re sinful people. Now that’s not an excuse to tolerate sin, but I think we need to be sure we keep the main thing the main thing.

So I say the church should be like Andrew the disciple: bring people to Jesus.”]

___________________________________________________________________

Josh is completely right – and I’m afraid I failed to communicate my thoughts clearly and effectively in my last post.

I think that the proper role of the church is to be out winning the world to Christ and making disciples – that, and that alone, is what will eventually change culture. The goal, in and of itself, is not to change culture – it’s not even a means to an end. No amount of changing culture will change people. The main idea is that people change culture… the cultural change is merely a byproduct of the church fulfilling the Great Commission.

There is definitely a difference between reaching people and changing culture. I didn’t mean to imply that changing culture should come first or that Christians should pursue a vigorous “culture change agenda.” The focus should and must be the cross – always the cross and the resurrection – because that is what creates life change.

Thanks, Josh!

The Church and Cultural Redemption (Part II of Culture: The Driver of Politics)

Recap from Part I:

As William Wichterman states, “culture is upstream from politics,” and as such, the Church must move to change CULTURE… no amount of political change will ever change the hearts and minds of the people around us. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Until we redirect and redouble our efforts to influence, impact, and imprint our culture for Jesus, our efforts will be effectively wasted. The job of the Church? Cultural redemption.

What would cultural redemption look like?

I think that I would love for it to look something like the cultural changes that happened in Wales during the 1904 Welsh Revival:

[“People were changed in so many ways. The crime rate dropped, drunkards were reformed, pubs reported losses in trade. Bad language disappeared and never returned to the lips of many – it was reported that the pit ponies failed to understand their born again colliers who seemed to speak the new language of Zion – without curse and blasphemy – even football and rugby became uninteresting in the light of new joy and direction received by the Converts.” http://www.welshrevival.com/]

But I don’t want a one time change or revival that lasts a few years (the Welsh Revival was fading by 1906, though the waves of influence rippled through society longer)… I want to see the landscape of the Church change. And I’m super curious about how other people think that can and should happen. I think it means we shift our focus to being salt and light as individuals… that we move our focus from the political to the spiritual and that we begin to fulfill the role that Christ Himself gave His body in Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

What does it mean for us to be salt and light? I find myself turning back to one of my favorite passages in Scripture:

Isaiah 58:6-10

  6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

  7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

  8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up speedily;

your righteousness shall go before you;

the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

  9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

  10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.”

 

Wow! Verse 10 – what a promise! But we have to fulfill our part – pouring ourselves out for the hungry, the afflicted, and those in darkness. I read Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love this summer and am still struck by Chan’s characterization of Christians and the “sleeping church.” Chan says, “taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered. That’s for ‘radicals’ who are ‘unbalanced’ and who go ‘overboard'” (Chan, 68). 

I think that the Church, both local and universal, is being called to be radical and unbalanced in the way that we love the world around us… and to go overboard in service, effort, and commitment. No more should we sit on the fence and worry about being “overcommitted.” It’s time for us to really become obsessed with Jesus and the people He loves – “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress” (Chan, 133). 

This is by no means a finished post or topic for me. I’m sure I’ll be mulling it over for days and weeks and years. It’s my favorite topic to discuss right now – if you find yourself around me for any length of time these days, I’m likely to engage you in a conversation on the Church – and all that I dream about and all I think God has called us to do. I long to see the body of Christ become the catalyst for radical cultural change and I want to throw my whole life into making it happen.

Culture: The Driver of Politics

I’ve had a lot of people asking questions about the link between politics and culture recently… and I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time, but I just haven’t had a chance. So, today I’m taking the chance to put into words something that I’ve been in the process of realizing for the last year or so.

A close friend called me on Sunday morning with a question – she wanted to know why so many people she knows were upset that there had been a Muslim prayer gathering on the National Mall. I emphasized the importance of that freedom and that opportunity and reminded her that if the Muslims didn’t have the right to express their devotion to Allah on the National Mall, we wouldn’t be able to host gatherings such as The Call, National Day of Prayer ceremonies, worship sessions, etc. on the National Mall either. Our country was founded in part because the Pilgrims felt the need to worship freely and that freedom is still something we hold dear today – to deprive another religious group of that right would be to deny them something that we ourselves hold as being supremely important.

I came to DC with such huge aspirations. I believed that politics would be the perfect way to change our nation. I’ve been working on the Hill for over two years now and have realized since day one how wrong I was. Don’t get me wrong – we still need more Christians than ever in the political sphere, but not for the reasons we have long thought.

I think that we as the American church have an incorrect view of the value of the political sphere, and it’s becoming more and more dangerous.  We tend to think that donating money to campaigns, knocking on doors, putting political signs in our yards, and voting are the ways to take back our culture and transform America. We also tend to believe that if we could just get a Christian in the White House or if we had a majority of believers in the U.S. Congress, that everything would change.

 The fundamental problem with this belief is that the nature of our political system is such that every four years there is an election for the office of President, and every two years we’re replacing or reelecting the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. As a country we embrace political change. And additionally, the system allows presidents and congresses to change and revoke the policies of their predecessors. In short, as in war, nothing in politics is ever final… no war is ever forever won.

[“Much of the moral and social breakdown in America is being fueled by cultural influences. The great challenge for this generation is both to think more seriously about culture and to develop initiatives and reform movements for positive change. Contrary to the common belief that major problems in our culture – moral license, sexual promiscuity, divorce, the loss of shame, shock, and manners – can be corrected through political action, the remedy […] is to promote cultural renewal through cultural means – to replace bad culture with good culture.”]

As William Wichterman states, “culture is upstream from politics,” and as such, the Church must move to change CULTURE… no amount of political change will ever change the hearts and minds of the people around us. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Until we redirect and redouble our efforts to influence, impact, and imprint our culture for Jesus, our efforts will be effectively wasted.

The job of the Church? Cultural redemption.

and look for Part II soon 🙂

Dream vacation

I’m not sure if anyone is really even reading this or paying attention… but I’ve been asking myself this question all day and decided to see what sort of responses it might elicit from the world at large.

If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go? Why would you go there and what would you do while there?

I’m asking because I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time on my hands this week and stopped long enough to ask myself what I really wanted to do with it. I don’t have the money or enough time to take some of the incredible trips I dreamed up, but it was an interesting thought process. I’ll share a bit later on this evening… I’m still thinking 🙂