Archive for April, 2009

Church and Culture

Posted: April 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

It is because many evangelicals believe in the innocence of modern culture and for that reason exploit it and are exploited by it that they our unable to believe in all the truth that once characterized this Protestant orthodoxy. — David Wells, No Place for Truth, p. 11.

This quote has stuck with many for many years. It seems all to true to me that there are values embedded in our culture that are rarely accounted for when trying to communicate the gospel to our world. It has been my privilege this past year to spend time with three Evangelical brothers trying to articulate the latent values in our contemporary culture, their significance for the church, and what steps we can take to take them captive to the truths of the Gospel.

The result of our discussions is a manuscript we’ve titled: Putting God in His Place:
How Culture Recasts Your Church in Its Image and What To Do About It
. In the introduction we explain the title this way:

Even though Christians continually and rightly affirm their desire to glorify God, the cultural values we actually express in church assert just the opposite through their elevation of ourselves. We believe it is critical for the health of the church to identify these shaping aspects of our culture and examine the ways they’ve reached into our Sunday services, our youth programs, our conferences, our governance, our approach to God Himself. We hope that the following observations and suggestions help church leaders to become aware of and think critically about those realities. We have, at times, unwittingly wandered into a brand of inconsistency that places God in a secondary position. God does not belong at the periphery; His place is at the center. This is what we mean by putting God in His place.

In our manuscript we examine four realities of our current culture, technology, democracy, the marketplace, and the entertainment media with an eye for how they may subvert the purpose and message of the Church. We then go on to offer four constructive proposals for how churches can counter the danger posed by the implicit values in our culture. These proposals are: let the Gospel speak, interpret actively and faithfully, embrace substance, and strive for simplicity. Each proposal is meant to help the church emulate John the Baptist who said that Christ must increase and that he must decrease and includes a list of specific practices that churches may adopt.

Although all four of us worked through the document paragraph by paragraph my area of responsibility was for the technology and simplicity chapter. I hope to lay out more specifics of my argument here in future posts.

No matter what happens in the future this exercise has been very rewarding for me and I’ve had to articulate no only my complaints but also what I think the church could do to try and communicate the Gospel more faithfully in the future. We are currently attempting to find a publisher for the manuscript and we are planning on giving a session on it at the upcoming EFCA national conference. It will be interesting to see how this develops.


Happy Easter

Posted: April 13, 2009 in Bible
Tags: ,

Easter is my favorite holiday and I enjoyed it again this year. I love that Easter is still (for me at least) primarily a religious holiday.

On Good Friday our pastor talked about Joseph of Arimathea. in John 19:38 we are told that Joseph was a secret disciple before asking for Jesus body. As pastor put it, the crucifixion outed Joseph. This struck me as odd. It is one thing to identify with the wonder working, living Jesus who raised Lazarus and rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I could understand wanting to be part of that. It would also make sense to wait until after the Resurrection and then identify as a follow of the man who had defeated death. But strange to identify with Jesus the loser, the condemned, the corpse.

Yet we are often asked to identify with a savior whose presence can be hard to detect. He is not wooing the crowds with spectacular miracles, nor visibly exalted as the glorified Lord of all. Like Joseph are choice to identify with this cause, at this time, may seem inappropriate or foolish. In Joseph then it seems we have a role model as a people of faith but unlike Joseph we know (even if we don’t always experience the reality) that Easter Sunday follows Good Friday.

by chrisjohnbeckett

by chrisjohnbeckett

I’ve been thinking about this all week-end and maybe Joseph’s timing isn’t so odd. It may have been hard to commit openly to the living Christ. Who knew how the story would end? Joseph would be risking a lot. Also the living Christ can make (uncomfortable) demands upon us. Reverencing a corpse may seem safe. I’ve written previously about the difficulty in asking for help (and it is very difficult for me). The cause of Christ may seem like it needs us to tend it less it perish but the reality is Joseph needed a Christ far more than Jesus needed a Joseph. Perhaps that was Joseph’s real secret – a secret brought painfully to light by the crucifixion.

The need for a savior is not only my secret but thanks to the events of the first Easter my hope. I pray it is yours as well.

Trip to Europe

Posted: April 8, 2009 in Culture

We are back from our vacation in England and Scotland. During our time there Unity and I were able to visit several historical sites including Hadrian’s Wall, a group of old monasteries, three medieval castles, and a couple of Cathedrals. We also were able to spend some time in Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Chester. It was a good trip.

One of the surprising things to me was how many Roman ruins we encountered. I knew about Hadrian’s wall but on either side of the wall there were Roman forts and other remnants of the ancient empire. It easy to see how the specter of Rome loomed over the middle ages and how it was difficult for the moderns to break free from the ancients.
Hadrian's Wall

It was also impressive to see the remains of the Scottish “Border Abbeys.” A group of four monasteries began in the 12th Century by the Scottish king David I. It is impossible not to wonder what we will leave behind for future generations as you climb about these churches and wander through the old cemeteries. Even as the buildings decay there remains a mark of dignity and grace about them. Do we build anything that will age as well? Do us our society, so caught up in the moment, care about the legacy we will leave for those 800 years from now?
Jedburgh Abby
Melrose Abby

Sitting in Chicago it is hard to take that question seriously but when you can visit stone circles that are perhaps 3,000 years old (or older) 800 years doesn’t seem so long ago. But ultimately it is not the historical perspective of the Abbeys that speaks most powerfully to me. It is the willingness of the men who occupied them to live lives that were literally set apart for the Lord – and transform the continent in the process.

Ultimately my time indulging my inner history geek left me eager to get back to my much younger city and embrace the chance we all have to not just appreciate history but contribute to our chapter to this grand story.

Castlerigg Stone Circle