“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Conformed or Transformed?

Recently I have been reading through my Church history books again, including Foxe's Book of Martyrs, in preparation for some upcoming messages. Although I have read these books before, it has been a while, and I have been moved to tears by the incredible stories of those who preceded us in the faith.

I think of Felicitatis and her seven sons who were killed for their faith, or Rowland Taylor, or the many others. The methods of torture were beyond imagining; I don't even want to go into them on this page, needless to say; they were horrific!

While I am in no way an expert on church history (nor many other things for that matter), it has been on my heart and mind recently to post something about this. I must say that I was spurred by some recent discussions on Pyromaniac's Web Page.

In short: How far do we go to conform to the world in order that we might 'reach' them? If you read through Foxe's Book of Martyrs, some of those tortured and killed were simply asked to make a few concessions to the pagan culture of their time. Wouldn't it have been easier, and wiser, according to some of the modern gurus of CGM, to make these concessions and thereby show the world our 'tolerance' and potentially 'reach' them with the gospel?

Instead we find that, by their faith, these martyrs actually affected the civil authorities around them to such a degree that many were won to Christ!

To be countercultural as the early Christians is anathema to those in today's 'successful' churches. We have more megachurches in the US than ever before, and we find pastors getting their pictures on Newsweek and Time, yet, truth be told, the church is tepid, and lacking in power. Just as large cathedrals and civil recognition did not validate the Roman Church in ages past, so it is true today that these things do not mark CHRISTIAN success. The Church is a mile wide and an inch deep!

Here is an example of today's 'Christian success'; a woman reads portions of a popular Christian book to an escaped criminal, WHILE (it was recently brought to light), she offered him drugs! He eventually turns himself in, and the Christian community cheers about the 'success' of this book. I would assume that we should overlook her offering the criminal drugs, and cheer the 'power' of the book?

Yes, there are big Christian bookstores and megachurches out there, but are they affecting true change in our society or are they slowly, or not so slowly, conforming to the society around them? I recently unsubscribed to a 'supposed' preaching magazine. The articles in this magazine centered around 'being creative' and held up as its examples of successful preachers, men who had sold their birthright for a bowl of the world's pottage! We, as pastors, are no longer to preach the Word, but ENTERTAIN the people.

Do many of these popular, and successful, preachers realize the price that was paid to get the Bible into their hands? Have they read of Tyndale and Wycliffe? Have they studied the lives of people such as Johann Hus? And if so, how can they be so cavalier to relegate the Bible to a reference book that is used only to prove the correctness of their latest book? How can they preach a gospel that is so devoid of power as to be rendered ANOTHER philosophy in the world of philosophies?

Why do we feel that we need to look like, and act like, the world? Why do we need Bibles that are called Revolve and Refuel, that contain beauty and dating tips alongside the Words of Christ? Because those within the very church leadership are not convinced of the power of the gospel. How many could, with Paul, say -- "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."

I was not raised in the church, nor did I even care about church! I was a bass player in metal and death metal bands, but what intrigued me about Christ was the woman who is now my wife. She was SO DIFFERENT from those around me. She truly followed Peter's instruction -- ...Do not let your adorning be external -- the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing -- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

It was her very demeanor of being DIFFERENT from the world that caused me pause. The rest is history! So, why do we feel that we must conform to the world in order to win it? I worked with youth for fifteen years, many of them troubled youth, i.e. cutters, junkies. I never tried to be 'cool' with them, they were not looking for that; they were looking for truth and honesty and genuine compassion. They were also looking for someone to be an ADULT!

As a matter of fact, most of the folks in the death metal and goth world find the 'Christian' types to be posers and jokes for the most part (there are always exceptions). Most of the so-called 'cool' people in the Christian goth and metal movements do not understand the underlying culture, and simply affect a superficial layer of the culture. What the people in this world need to see is a light, not just another group vying for a place in the world. We are not simply offering up an alternative, but are presenting truth, transforming truth. We should never water that down to be cool!


DJP said...

Excellent thoughts.

There are, no doubt, legitimate issues of contextualization and translation. But I also have no doubt that you're right: the root problem is a lack of faith in the power of the pure, unadorned Gospel; and behind that, the modern "evangelical" pandemic of lack of confidence in sufficiency and power of the Word itself.

We're just always too eager to "help" God, aren't we?

Ray said...

I like R. Kent Hughes' statement in his book 'Set Apart'.

"We [the church] are not called to save culture, but to rescue the perishing."

A sobering thought for today's church to think about.

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