Redefining Christianity on the World's Turf
By: Jonathan Harris
Sometimes I have to wonder, “What’s the church’s problem?” No I don’t mean your church or my church specifically – I mean the universal church. What are we doing wrong? And how do we fix whatever it is? According to my observation I believe the church has consistently mimicked, joins forces with, or accepted the standards of the world. We’ve been catering to the wrong crowd for so long, we’ve forgotten who we are, and who wants to join a group which lacks an identity? Let me give you a couple examples which have lead me to this conclusion.
The Christian music industry formed in the early 70s as the result of the “Jesus Movement.” It was supposed to be a way for Christians to impact the world by attracting younger audiences to their message by means of, ironically, mimicking the world. I don’t see a Scriptural prohibition against Christians who want to play rock music as a means to evangelize, but why does it have to be in a “special” genre? It seems like the whole “In the world but not of the world” has been flipped around to mean “Of the world but not in the world.” The only “Christian” songs that even make it to secular markets are the ones which aren’t exactly Christian. Turn on any Christian Contemporary Music station and you’re liable to hear a watered down feminine version of Christianity constantly redefining itself to copy-cat whatever happens to be popular in the world at the time. I’m not advocating a total recall on every “Christian” artist or song – but I am trying to point out that there’s a bad trend out there we should be aware of. I've been to multiple concerts featuring at least eight leading "CCM" bands and have not heard the Gospel proclaimed even once. Christian television has pretty much gone the same way. What use to be on “secular” stations has now ghettoized itself into TBN and the like, changed its message to be more in line with the world’s way of thinking (think emergent, prosperity gospel, and positivism), and lost its potency. Art, according to Francis Schaeffer, is a reflection of society. What will the history books say (if they say anything) in a hundred years about Western Christianity based on our artwork from the current period? Most likely it will be something like this: “A dying religion adjusts and redefines itself to become more acceptable in the eyes of a greater audience, and in so doing loses its true identity which subsequently leads to its demise as a formidable faith in the Western world.”
Evangelistic efforts have changed as well. I’ve noticed from personal observation that the default method of evangelism (if Christians decide to do it at all) is what’s commonly referred to as “lifestyle evangelism.” People who advocate it are fond of saying things like “Share Jesus through the way you live” and “Meet people where they’re at.” Indeed, I suppose I can consider myself a convert to this way of thinking through my early to mid teens. Again, just like within Christian music, there’s nothing inherently wrong with living a good life and trying to get people curious about Christ through personal interaction, but this should not be confused with evangelism. Evangelism is actively making disciples of Jesus Christ. Sharing the Gospel with friends and actively discipling them is great. Sharing the Gospel with complete strangers is also great. Yes, even open-air preaching is great. Jesus and the Apostles did all of these things, but they never just went about their daily business thinking that somehow they were fulfilling the great commission through living an honest life. An honest life can lead to opportunities, but it is not the opportunity in and of itself. The tragedy is most people just use “lifestyle evangelism” as an excuse to keep their mouth shut about their faith under the guise of sharing their faith through their life. This, I can safely say, is wrong.
As a young “political junkie” I have to question, “Surely, there must be a political trend which corresponds to these sociological changes?” and in fact there is. A growing number of evangelicals support same-sex marriage or don’t think it important in contrast with issues like the economy. While most young evangelicals are pro-life, they don’t place a high priority on it, and are willing to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate. Obama himself received a third of the young evangelical vote, while John Kerry only received 16%. Popular Christian leaders like Rick Warren who focus more on global poverty than abortion and same-sex marriage are having their affect. Issues of basic morality on all levels are seen to be “divisive” and therefore “not important” as an essential element of conviction. Jesus did not preach the supreme virtue of tolerance, so why live as if he did?
Based on these three observations alone I think I can safely say it’s no wonder that younger evangelicals aren’t having much of an affect on campuses. I mean, why should they? They’ve been force-fed a pathetic weakened faith their entire life. Their version of Christianity is more consistent with emergent youth leaders and lukewarm singers than it is with the puritans, reformers, and apostles. When over half of all pastors are viewing pornography, and a third of all "born again" Christians think sexual explicit material in entertainment is somehow "Ok," there's an underlying problem. The observational surface trends are merely the results of a secret pandemic. Most "Christians" aren't Christians, and the ones that are are missing a backbone. Still there is hope out there. It’s time’s like these that something big happens. Either Christians wake up and purge their churches of mediocrity by preaching the offensive truth like in China, or the church dies from within as was the case in Nazi Germany and Marxist Russia. Only God’s Spirit can ultimately better the situation, we can help by siding with Him and not our culture.