Category Archives: Culture

Christianity’s Enmeshment with the World, Fuzzy Identity and Our Corresponding Decline

Do you know your story?

If you don’t know your story then you are susceptible to someone else giving you one. This is what makes the difference between the child who accepts the playground label that everyone else puts on them and the one who doesn’t. The person who knows who they are knows other’s deceitful descriptions of themselves from the start because they already have a story to fill the gap. It makes incompatible stories and labels far less easy to stick.

Do you know who you are?

If you don’t, other people will inform you. Once you hear it enough you will believe it, identify with it and live like what they told you because you have nothing else to go on.

This works on a micro/individual level. It also works on a macro/corporate level. Not only do Christians need to know their story in order to know their true identity, churches do as well.

One of the biggest issues with Christianity and a leading cause of our malaise and lack of growth is that we got our story so mixed in with the story the world is telling that we no longer know who we are in a pure Gospel infused way. Christianity has gotten in bed with culture for so long that our stories have intertwined and enmeshed so thoroughly that many Christian no longer realize why they are different. Paul warned us of this when it came to Christians soliciting prostitutes in Corinth but it is also true sociologically/religiously as well. If you get in bed with the world you will become one with her. Then your identity is so confused that you no longer know who you are. When churches compromise their story by buying into competing narratives their salt becomes less salty and they lose their purpose in the world rendering them ineffective.

This is one of the main reasons churches are in decline. We have taught doctrine over identity. Both are necessary and the first can buttress the second but if all you know is a checklist of right beliefs you still don’t know who you are and if all you know of who you are has been that you are the church that finally got it right, that won’t cut it either. That narrative lacks the essential elements of the scriptural Gospel narrative.

The narrative of the world says that differences are to be ignored and that tolerance is not only expected but that diversity in all things is to be celebrated. In some areas that needled did need to be moved but it can move too far. The world hates intolerance because recognizing differences is discriminatory by nature…noticing that some people are different than others…some values are different and that some are right where others are wrong. Of course I am not saying we are to be mean spirited people but there are some things we are not called to be tolerant of and we let scripture define that for us.

The story the world identifies with runs counter to the Christian story because the world’s story is a world with no personal accountability. In order to pull that off you have to level the playing field where everything is the same so that no one is the subject of judgment much less shame. Tolerance is not enough…where this ultimately goes is the demand to celebrate what any given person decides to do.

You cannot embrace all that entails and embrace the Christian faith.

Unfortunately Christians have bought into that because Christians often don’t really know their own story. If our story is that we believe in Jesus so we don’t go to hell then we don’t know our story. If we don’t know the difference between what it means to be in Christ and what it means to be lost then we don’t know our story. It is time we learn our story. It is time we go back to scripture and continuously ask ourselves who we are and begin listening for God to define that for us. What you will find is a story unlike any other. What you will find is that God defined all of that in the man Jesus, the Christ. It is not a story where anything goes and it is not a story solely about personal accountability (although that second one is in there). It is a story about a Creator God who is trying to right a world full of wrongs through His Son Jesus, the Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit. Accepting the very nature of this story is to accept that not all the world says or does is right and not even all that we personally say or do is right but that we are all in need of deliverance in order to embrace the hope of a world made right. When you know that story and live that story you will know when competing stories are being told and will know which parts of them can and cannot be embraced.

How does one who is so enmeshed in the world call anyone out of the world into something that is little different than what we are calling people out of?

But What Is Your Perspective?

Post-modernism has given us the blessing and the curse of considering things from a multiplicity of perspectives. It is a true blessing to be able to step out of one’s own shoes and attempt to understand things from a different position. That is something we should attempt to do and often the result is aContinue Reading

Being Direct

Every eldership I have ever worked with I have told up front that I will trust them and that I expect for them to tell me anything I would need to know including any criticism that they are directing toward me. This is a very important thing to establish in any important relationship. Often weContinue Reading

Regaining Our Certainty in Churches of Christ

We used to be a certain bunch. We were certain about pretty much everything. We were certain about our doctrine. We were certain about our identity. We had things locked down tight to a fault. Part of this had to do with a backwards hermeneutic that was self-perpetuating of our pre-determined conclusions that always guaranteedContinue Reading

Postmodernism and Historical Continuity

I saw a poll on TV the other day that asked respondents the question: “Is today the most divided period in American history?” My first thought? Ever heard of the Civil War? Postmodernism is self-absorbed. Modernism was too. No matter what your worldview is we will find a way to be self absorbed. Modernism wasContinue Reading

Making the Foreign, Native: Connecting with Culture on Three Levels

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Swimming Upstream: The Shift from Modernism to Postmodernism and Legalism to Grace

The culture we live in is like the old fish who asked the two younger fish “how is the water.” The two young fish looked at each other and one asked, “What is water?” Culture is inescapable and it influences the way we think, behave, etc. When the predominant culture of the Western world wasContinue Reading

Openness and Honesty are Not Ends unto Themselves

There is an idea that has been floating around out there for a while that says as long as you are honest about your mistakes then everything is good. There has been a premium placed on authenticity and transparency over the last few years that is very healthy in one respect. However, it can veryContinue Reading

From Thanksgiving to Black Friday…What a Difference a Day Makes

It only took a day for the Hebrews to go from being trapped by the sea to walking through it…a day for God to make all the animals and a day for people to turn from seemingly harmless, loving, thankful, and generous people to ravenous wolves roaming the aisles. What a difference a day makes.Continue Reading

Creating Real, Lasting Change Requires More Than New Practices

When I have taught on 20s & 30s ministry the main thing people want to know is what can they go home and do to fix it. The idea is, if we do the right things the right results will follow. The problem with that is, if the underlying core values, structures, leadership, worldview, orContinue Reading

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