emerging on Amazon

I saw a link to a discussion on Amazon a couple of weeks ago about the emerging church. Discussions over there are often filled with people talking past each other. But this one was really good. I joined in, and added my thoughts. The discussion slowed a bit, but it has continued. This morning there was a post that, I think, is really hitting on something worth discussing more.

N. Burcham wrote:

My pastor said something a few months ago that really resonated with this same issue that I had been struggling myself: “The church should not be following culture and creating ‘Christian shadows’ of everything the world does; Christians should LEAD the culture and let the secular culture shadow the church.”

I have been pondering what this means for a few months and I have a few thoughts.

At one time the church did LEAD culture, but it wasn’t anything like the church of today. The Catholic church during the middle ages is a perfect example. Music, art, books, etc.–almost everything stemmed from the church’s influence on society. Now, I do not agree with how it was exercised, but as you can see, it is not impossible for the church to lead the culture.

Today’s Christianity seems to mirror, or shadow, the methods of expression of the secular world. Looking at music is a prime example: Coldplay style worship bands are a dime a dozen. Is this wrong? No. Is it optimal? Probably not. Coffee bars in church foyers is another example–not wrong, but just a reflection of where the secular culture has already been.

To me these two examples show a half-hearted effort to “gimmick” people into coming into our churches. Instead of changing what needs to changed, saying what needs to be said, and doing what needs to be done, we are changing what is easiest to change–the exterior. I have been working out for a little over a month and I have fairly drastically changed my exterior–however my interior is still the same. It takes a lot longer than a month to stop being the idiot that I am that always sticks my foot in my mouth. It is the same with our churches: it is easy to change the worship style, put some coffee in the foyer, change the lingo, and change the service time to a more culturally-convenient time (none of these are wrong in and of themselves) than it is to change the way we live our lives as Christians to BE the church instead of just HAVING church.

Expressing our worship to God is always going to be cultural. For example, African evangelical worship is going to look a lot different than evangelicals in Massachusetts–simple facts of localized culture.

Now to my original premise: how can we make our Christianity LEAD the secular culture? Not so simple is it? We must first evaluate where the culture is located at the moment and where God would like to have it.

This goes to issues a lot deeper than worship style. American culture puts self before anything else: byproduct in the church would most noticeably be Prosperity Gospel influenced Theology. Materialistic churches with amazing buildings full of people that do nothing for each other, the poor, their neighbors, or society are another byproduct of selfish American Christianity.

Maybe “Leading” culture starts by leading Biblical lives. Then creative expression of our worship to God ensues. Then creative methods to reach people ensue. Then other creative elements can be discussed.

Join in with the Spirit, and the Spirit opens up new creativity. But we have to let go and first wait and pray and trust that it is the Spirit who is the most wonderful artist and most passionate missionary and most all around creative expression of life.

Read the whole discussion over there. And maybe even join in.

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