Saturday, February 18, 2006
Today's Christianity seems to work on the basis of not wanting to disrupt a person's lifestyle. The evangelical church seems to take the approach that everything has to be"comfortable" and "appealing" to the "seeker". We apply Paul's axiom of "all things to all people" so enthusiastically that it clouds the banner call to "hold fast to the faithful Word".
Today's evangelical church seems to want to be accomodating to the culture around it. We want to have "appealing" programs, which means we want to run our worship services with the same coolness as the world does when it puts on a program. Heavy duty sound systems, incredible stage lighting -- I mean, let's put on a show... right. Pandering to personal convenience takes precedence over a truly biblical lifestyle. We don't want to push people away by preaching too hard on sin. Did God intend for the church to be a center for self-indulgent activity? Don't think so, but my personal sense is that it's happening more than we want to admit.
In the 60s and 70s, the youth culture overran society - it was the coming of age of the baby boomers. I was there - I know. Anti-war emotions were rampant, but that led to an even more pervasive anti-establishment, libertarian mentality that was allowed to indulge itself in every self-centered inclination that came to mind. Rock music exploded with the Beetles, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin. Drugs and sex became a normal part of life for this generation. It was scary to see how determined this youth culture was to have its own way. You may recall that the "me" generation followed close on its heels.
This era was just as major a turning point for the evangelical church as for society in general. The church was rightly burdened for the desperately needy flower children wandering the streets of their neighborhoods. Many dynamic youth ministries, such as Campus Crusade, came to the fore and were reaching these youth for Christ. But something amazing happened -- as these youth came to Christ and began attending church, the church decided it didn't want to "make them uncomfortable". We don't want their sandals and long hair to keep them from being able to worship with us.
And that's true, we certainly needed to welcome them as they were. But here's the rub: the church started hesitating at being distinct. We shouldn't use hymnals because they haven't used one before. And the words of these hymns are so deep and convicting - maybe we need shorter songs with lighter lyrics. Maybe we shouldn't dress in our "Sunday best" because it makes them uncomfortable. And let's start accompanying our music with the same style they are used to with the music they're listening to on the radio. The idea that accepting Christ should have a dramatic impact on your lifestyle, even on music tastes and clothe styles, was pushed aside for the sake of not wanting to make them uncomfortable. Let's not preach too hard on specific sinful habits because that might put them on the spot.
Today, three decades later, the Church is, to put it mildly, different. It's really difficult to nail down what exactly the difference is, but it is different. And I'm not really sure this is good news. Bottom line: the church made the decision to let the youth of the 60s and 70s define the new evangelical church experience - we swallowed it all, never hesitated. Never mind the fact that these were new, immature believers, saved out of some really bad stuff. Let's just go with what they like.
It just seems that the mainstream of genuine, Bible-believing churches in America and perhaps around the world are seriously distracted. Let me quickly acknowledge that I know I have a limited perspective, I haven't attended but just a few of the thousands of wonderful Christian fellowships we have in our country. I know there are some absolutely marvelous churches that have high quality ministries and services and true depth in biblical teaching.
But if we could take the pulse of all these churches, where would the meter go for passion for biblical Christlikeness and depth in God's Word? Does today's church have genuine spiritual passion? Not sure. Of course for me to get away with saying that, we would have to agree on what "genuine spiritual passion" means, and that's likely not going to happen. Suffice to say that what comes to my mind does not include waving hands, clapping, jumping up & down, getting my ears blown out by heavy contemporary music, or singing a worship song with 15 words in it and repeating it eight times. But I think in a lot of places, those things have come to equate spiritual passion.
John MacArthur says it right, our culture tends to dull our sharpness. "Our culture obscures legitimate goals and would rob our faith of its fiery power if given the chance. Indeed, some Christians are a cold bath for the fiery heart. "