In this post, Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and author of the book, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, gives some great insights to church and our post-Christian American culture.
Too many pastors are getting A+ in Biblical exegesis and D+ in cultural exegesis. We know Scripture, but we’re out of touch with the times. The end result is a gap between theology and reality called irrelevance. We’re out of touch with the very people we’re trying to reach—the unchurched and dechurched. We’ve got to exegete our culture so we can close the gap. That’s what incarnation is all about.
A very direct and to the point comment about our ability in the church to reach out to our culture. If we don’t understand and love them where they are and speak there language, doesn’t that go against what Christ taught us? He aptly summarized our four options when it comes to engaging our culture.
- Ignore It
We simply cannot do this. The more we ignore the culture the more it will ignore the church and the more irrelevant we become. When we ignore the culture, we loose our voice.
- Imitate It
We can either shape the culture or it will shape us. Conforming to culture results in the sacrifice or originality.
- Condemn It
Mark calls this simply spiritual laziness because it is easier to point the finger than to offer better alternatives. Condemning the culture will only result in the culture condemning the church.
- Create It
This is the only really valid option if we are serious about the Great Commission. Criticizing by creating is far more effective in redeeming the culture than condemnation.
Mark also makes the following point:
It is difficult to demand attention if we don’t pay attention. If we talk without listening, what we have to say is viewed as a diatribe. And we’ll keep answering questions no one is asking!
This is really the danger we face by ignoring the culture. No one will listen or pay attention to our message. If that happens, it is more a reflection on us than it is the culture. The culture will continue to change and evolve – so much the church. As Mark says, “the message is sacred. But methods are not.” Here is an interesting insight,
The sixty percent of Americans who don’t attend church get their theology from movies and music. For better or for worse, musicians and movie makers are the chief theologians in our culture.
What does this mean to us in our outreach and methods of engagement of the culture? I believe we need to learn not only to observe and understand the messages being communicated in the culture but we need to learn to also learn how to speak our message in this language. What is more important, keeping the already convinced happy or reaching the lost? Yes, we need to continue to build each other up equip the saints for the work of the Gospel, but the point of that is to reach the lost.
The work of sharing the love of Christ with each generation will always demand learning new methods and using new tools to reach them. I pray that more of us in the church will worry less about offending those in the “Holy Huddle” and worry more about those needing know that Jesus loves them and died for them. May we have patience with each other as we grow and learn these new methods of sharing a timeless message.