Saturday, February 05, 2011
As devout Catholics and faithful Mormons step forward boldly, evangelical Protestants appear in cultural disarray. The most popular of the new generation of evangelical pastors—Rick Warren and Joel Osteen—stay out of the cultural fray. Evangelical youth may have orthodox opinions on marriage or life, but they're increasingly reluctant to voice those opinions, lest they appear "divisive" or "intolerant." In fact, at times it appears as if much of the evangelical world has retreated into a defensive crouch, eager to promote its universally-loved work for the poor while abjectly apologizing for the cultural battles of years past.As I read this stuff, one overwhelming thought ran through my mind - selfishness. Let me lay this out for you a bit.
Simply put, we evangelicals are blown and tossed by the cultural winds. Right now, the winds are blowing against us, and our young people are reluctant to engage. But God is sovereign, and the fate of the nation is in His hands, not ours. And if we fail, there are others—some from an ancient tradition, some from a new one—who may very well carry out His work with more faith and courage than we ever could.
On a spiritual level Evangelicalism has sought, more than anything else, to grow. That can be reinterpreted to me, culturally conform, for marketing teaches us that it is in such conformation that growth lies. It could even be argued that we have come to measure our success as Evangelicals by our growth, not be any of the other measures that the gospel presents us with.
We live in an incredibly narcissistic age. Therefore, the question that many come to church with is "What's in it for me?" We, desiring to grow, try to give them that. We give them Starbucks coffee. We give them all sorts of self-help advise. We certainly do not straddle them with denominational baggage that they might have to learn or that might somehow hold the church accountable. We also certainly stay away from controversy for controversy is uncomfortable and that's not "for me."
What more, we design our churches so that it is all done for us. We design our "service opportunities" to be minimal invasive - not too much time or effort, just enough to say "I contributed." "Mission trips" are vacations with a little light construction and a few rounds of golf or a visit to a tropical beach - just enough effort to say "I did mission."
Leadership, be it cultural or political, is about service. If we do not teach people how to do service in church, how can we teach them how to led culturally or politically? After all, what is in cultural or political leadership for them?
But what truly and deeply bothers me is this is what we are teaching, actually not teaching, people when we are trying to get them to worship a Lord whose service extended unto death, and whose example we are called upon to follow. How can we say this picture fits with the scriptural mandate to:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.I do not think we can! Our political and cultural lives are not separate from our spiritual ones. The are instead deeply intertwined. But that interweaving consists not of some proper stance on issues or correct choice in movies, but in the depth and humility of our character - in our willingness to serve.
If we believe, and we sure seem to, that we have the "true gospel." If our theology is really better than that of the Catholics or Mormons, then it should produce better results. If these pieces are to be believed, it is not producing results at all - at least not the ones scripture intends.
Makes me wonder.