The signs are there. You’ve probably seen it yourself. Today’s Christian church is buckling under the pressure of the culture. In a sobering sign of our times, the Christian church is shaping its theology into the mold of the culture. We’ve become so comfortable with our culture that we’ve allowed it to change our approach, our worldview, our message, and our very creed.

The Shift into Oblivion

The slide into a culture-created worldview is apparent in many areas. In order to avoid being too militant, too belligerent, or too odious, we’ve backpedaled on some theological points, lest it sound too “harsh” or “angry.” Instead of holding to the Bible as the source of truth and doctrine, we’ve elevated the sophisticated thinking of the cultural elite. In an effort to focus on “relationship,” we’ve jettisoned hardcore truth. In pursuing “compassion,” we’ve lost the kernel of Christianity. By bending to the winds of “tolerance,” we’ve lost the distinctive identity of Christ-followers. We’ve been riding a slide — down, down, down into oblivion, to a point where we have no doctrine, no truth, and nothing of substance to offer.

What’s a Christian, Anyway?

What does it mean to be a Christian? Well, it depends on what “Christian” group you’re in. You can choose the megachurch group, and raise your hands to the music like the rest of them. You may enter the ranks of the fundamentalists with Pharisaical insistence upon standards and boundaries. Perhaps you can choose to be a “moderate” Christian, and live life in nominal Christian anonymity. Our Christianity is so scandalously bereft of its true biblical distinctives that we have ceased, perhaps, to possess authentic Christianity.

Many Christians dress like the culture, talk like the culture, swear like the culture, make music like the culture, eat like the culture, work like the culture, shop like the culture, divorce like the culture, entertain ourselves like the culture, yet hold on to the hope that maybe we’re still Christian enough to get by. Sure, we do good works. We give to charity. We attend church. We say Christian vows when we get married. But is this real Christianity?

Dismantling Culture

It’s virtually impossible to completely separate culture and Christianity. Christianity must adapt to its culture, just as the early church did in the first century. But how much culture should the church imbibe?

What would your church look like in rural Uganda? What would your church look like without the “extras?” What if you take away the lights? The stage design? The trendy sermon series? What if you strip away the “relevance?” What’s left? What would your church look like in North Korea? What would persecution do to your faith? How would 3am secret church gatherings affect your church attendance? What about the possibility of imprisonment and torture for publicly professing Christ?

Theology Unaltered

The world needs something different, because what it has is nothing. The world needs Jesus, but instead we’re dishing up a warmed-over version of their very own culture.

It’s time to let relevance go. It’s time to cling to Christ alone. It’s time to do more than bumper-sticker Christianity and Sunday-morning charades. It’s time to face our culture with Spirit-inspired boldness and Christ-exalting love, and proclaim the truth of Jesus, crucified and risen again.

Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

You must ask yourself, “Am I willing?” Are you willing to lose something, to sacrifice something? Are you willing to ditch relevance for the sake of reality? Are you willing to preach truth instead of modern platitudes? Can you stand up to the onslaught of the world — the laughter, the scorn, the appeal, the applause — and live like Jesus?

Before worrying if your shoes match your shirt, or your stage props maximize your sermon theme, or your video intro is edgy enough, think about something different — it’s all about Jesus, it’s all about God’s Word, it’s all about his kingdom. Proclaim the unadulterated truth, and let come what may.

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16 Responses

  1. Sherryl Sneed

    Great article. I agree that we are allowing the culture to shape Christianity instead of Christianity shaping the culture.

  2. D Larson

    Wow!! Right on! Unfortunately, this is a new phenomenon. We have been viewing the Bible through the prism of culture TOO long instead of viewing culture through the prism of the Bible. That’s become very problematical for the real disciple of Jesus.

  3. Rose

    Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Most apropo! The church is morphing into an unrecognizable and unstable institution.

  4. Pastor Carl Edmondson

    Though I’m Wesleyan I always liked the Salvation Army creed. A simple faith and strive to serve!
    The reason we are taken up by culture is because we seek relevance outside of the Kingdom. Scripture tells us to seek Kingdom relevance and shine so that the world can see Christ in us.
    Its not about what we oppose but the simple presentation of the Gospel served up with a generous serving of Christs love, much prayer and tons of patience.The lost are transformed by conviction of sin and realization of the power of the cross and the resurrection.Everything else pales in comparison.Keep it simple sincere and consistent.

  5. jim

    I think you’ve touched on something extremely important.
    This is the age of “Apostasy” the Bible says they will not endure sound doctrine, that means they won’t hear the truth. As a pastor I feel the pressure to hold back or trim the truth a little. Do your history, revivals didn’t take place without truthful preaching about sin. Don’t condemn your pastor until you ask God to help you to understand the pressure he’s under to comprimise the truth. Then pray he would have the courage to stand up to this Godless age. It’s easy for you that sit in the pew to criticize when your not feeling the scorn your pastor faces. Pastors lets be courageous!! Don’t preach everyone into heaven at the funeral, don’t be afraid to talk about hell, we better tell our people they won’t go to heaven fornicating or drunk ……..

  6. Mark

    I see what you are trying to say but I hate when people group all churches together like this.

    Some things you said that I sort of disagree with:

    “It’s virtually impossible to completely separate culture and Christianity”. Did Jesus try to separate the two or use current culture to point people to God? Wasn’t the Pharisees main objective to put a wall up between culture and God? And they got in trouble for that!

    “It’s time to let relevance go” Not sure what that means. I think you can have relevance in the midst of Truth. My church does.

    “Are you willing to ditch relevance for the sake of reality?” I know we can have both.

    Again, I see what you are saying – some churches are trying so hard to be hip that Jesus is left out in the parking lot.

    But when you say things like:

    “You can choose the megachurch group, and raise your hands to the music like the rest of them”…

    …I sense a little bit of church bashing – and I get ticked off at that. This is Christ’s Bride you are talking about! #becareful

    Just my humble opinion…

    • Ben

      Hey Mark,

      You are right in saying that it’s wrong to put all churches in a box. I don’t think that is what is being done in this article at all.

      Your 1st point about the statement of the separation of church and culture is misunderstood. The article makes the stance that even though merging the two can be dangerous, it’s in the end impossible to completely separate the two. The article does agree that it’s hard to achieve.

      Did you note that after the Mega church comment, the writer also alluded to Fundamentalists and right after that to “moderate” group? That basically covers all. From the extreme to the conservative to those on the fence.

      In the end Mark, this article is there for reminding us that we need to keep our focus on Jesus. Sometimes we hear things we don’t like because it’s the truth.

      Look at a site called Church Stage Design: http://www.churchstagedesignideas.com/. See the pics of churches and then contrast that to churches in Uganda and elsewhere. Something is seriously off.

      It’s not about judging or condemning anyone. It’s about asking the question “Is our focus on God and God alone?” And that question should be asked all the time, by every believer or church body.

      Blessings brother!!

  7. marsha n

    After reading this I just have to praise God for the church He has me in. We are a small church with a Big Big God. We dont get caught up in programs and preliminaries. Our Pastor is not afraid to stand up for Gods Word. Finally when he and our mission team went to Africa in August he delivered the message as be does each Sunday.

  8. Hugh

    Your article is too general – need more specifics in order to articulate exactly what you are referring to. I wonder if the article itself underscores the issue – are we too timid to identify what we are really mean?
    The phrase – live like Jesus – is just one of them. Who does – really. It is very costly to be a true disciple of Jesus – but we hear the jargon all the time. Just another example in my mind of empty platitudes.

  9. Mike

    This article is exactly why I can’t call myself an evangelical anymore. It is simplistic, abusive and arrogant—and I might add shaped more by 20th century fundamentalist culture than by Scripture.

  10. Ibes Palileo

    Yes, i totally agree with the article, It must be Theology over the culture and not culture over theology, We must not be pressured by changing times, modernity and cultures. Firm grip to the biblical Christianity.

  11. Cherryl

    Love it. Sure do agree. The Lord has been dealing with me for almost a year now, on how the church has blended way too much with pagan holidays, even Christmas and Easter. You won’t find feast celebrations for these in the Bible. The one for Easter is Passover. Can we deal with it??? I’m working on it. How do others feel?

  12. Cherryl

    Love it. Agree with you all the way. The Lord has been dealing with me for about a year now, about the church involvement in pagan holidays such as Christmas and Easter. It’s become the “norm.” There is not a feast celebration in God’s word for Christ’s birth, unless maybe it could be Sukot. Easter would be Passover. I’m dropping out of the pagan ones and looking in the Word of God for the right way. Do you realize Merry Christmas is actually Merry Christ’s Death??? I just learned that this year. Let’s get the “world’s” culture out of the church and get Jesus back in. Anybody else into this?

  13. Billy K.

    I disagree strongly. Adapting to a culture is a Christian’s best defense against the enemy. It’s like fighting fire with fire. I’m willing to do anything, short of sinning, to bring the lost to Christ. Wake up bible thumpers. Your tiny congregations won’t save the world, maybe just yourselves. Is that what Christianity is all about?

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