Monday, March 18, 2013

Has the Culture Captured the Church?

Who sits in the pews on Sunday in the United States? Americans or Christians?

Don’t answer too quickly. I did, and I answered it wrong.

The deeper I get into reading David Platt’s Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live, the greater my discomfort is growing. Not with the book; not at all. My discomfort arises from the growing certainty at how much American culture has captured the Church in the United States.

How much? A lot.

Two major strands of cultural influence have fused in the church today – American individualism and American consumerism. If we’re not toting around our focus on self and trying to discern “God’s plan for my life,” we’re telling ourselves that we’re not “into church” but we are “into Jesus,” and we go shopping for the right church to meet our needs (Platt and others refer to this as “dating the church”). Or we choose to abandon church altogether and stay at home on Sunday’s with our bibles and internet worship services.

It’s not about determining God’s plan for your life, Platt says. It’s about living each day expectantly, knowing that God is going to do something with you, and likely something surprising, and being open and available. A friend of mine (a young pastor) once scandalized older pastors and elders alike when he said that 90 percent of missions was simply showing up.

“So we go to him,” Platt says. “We spend time with him. We sincerely listen to his Word as we walk in obedience to it. As we do these things, God leads us and guides us according to his will, and suddenly we realize that the will of God is not a road map just waiting to be unearthed somewhere. Instead, it’s a relationship that God wants us to experience every day (emphasis added).”

And if you’re truly “into Jesus,” you’ll know that church is not optional. It’s designed by God, and we are all parts. It’s how the work gets done. God’s work. Not by people sitting at home by themselves, but by people in community, who come together with all their hopes and joys and aggravations and dreams and irritations and failures, and somehow God creates something beautiful out of all it.

Church is not about meeting our needs. We’re looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. It’s not about us. It’s about what God wants us to do in the world.

The church is supposed to be countercultural – that what has given it its strength for than two thousand years. It runs into trouble when it embraces the culture, whether that’s culture left or culture right.

We’ve been embracing the culture for a long time. Too long. We need to stop, and be the church we’re meant to be.

We’re discussing Follow Me over at The HighCalling. Visit the site to see what today’s post is about and what’s happening in the comments.


Fatha Frank said...

Great post, Glynn! I have this book on my reading list, but the more I read from you and over at the High Calling, the higher it moves in priority. I really appreciate your thoughts on it.

Laura said...

I really appreciate Platt's thoughts on being part of a faith community (love that "dating the church" phrase.) Their comes a time when we have to see the big picture. As you say in your comment over at THC, there's just a little too much "me" in my faith sometimes.

Good thoughts, Glynn.

Anonymous said...

I have read another of David Platt's books and it really put to words things I had felt. Sounds like this one would do the same. As a pastor of a small church, it's hard to break through these mindsets, but I'm not giving up. There is certainly more of Him than American culture can give us. Thanks Glynn.

Anonymous said...

One be part of a church, and abandon the church at the same time.

One can stop going to a church, and still be part of the church.

The world's culture comes into congregations through the hearts of the people.

There are many of us that are very comfortable with the many things of the world and we think that it is truly okay. That someone else is always worse than we are at this and we are doing okay at it.

Most believe that they are not the ones, but, i know that i am. I am influenced a lot by the devil's ways through the way of culture... in my heart, and i know that i am not doing it right.

These ways lead us, and so others, away from this Love relationship and walking together in the Spirit.

And, indeed, it is about our Love relationship of God and with God...which includes Love, hearing, listening, and doing. One can aspire to be aware of this, listen with one's heart, in all things, in each moment.

It is the best way to relate with believers as well as non-believers in everything. As you say, we must relate, not sit at home to ourselves. We must show-up in relationship with other words, walking in-step with the Holy Spirit.

Luke H. Davis said...

I wonder how much American mobility plays into this. We are so much more unsettled now than ever before and we spent less time rooted in the same area and the same communities. When the only common thread in these shifting experiences becomes oneself, then we can tend to navel-gaze on our needs even more. I'm not saying it's THE tipping point here. The church has largely aped the culture more than it has been countercultural, and this has brought about the present issue of much of worship being entertainment-driven and therapeutic-driven rather than Christ-centered.

In truth, NOTHING good comes from the church cozying up to culture. When that happens, it wilts on the vine.

Michael Dodaro said...
Here's a clue.