Friday, December 15, 2006

Church and Culture

I left my last post up an extra day intentionally due to all the feedback it generated. My inbox has been inundated the last two days with reactions to the Richland Hills decision and your reaction in the aftermath. Thanks to all of you who emailed me encouraging words in response to my blog on Wednesday. I love and appreciate so much all the Barnabas's God has placed in my path.

It has been interesting the last couple of days to watch the results of the polls on the Christian Chronicle website in back of the Richland Hills decision. The polls posted to the Chronicle website have generated five times the normal response. To the question, "Do you agree with the Richland Hills elders' decision to add Saturday night instrumental worship?" currently 77% say, "No." To the question, "Will the Richland Hills decision influence other congregations to do the same?" 69% say, "Yes."

Interestingly, some of the feedback I received was equally as stung by the decision to add the assembly on Saturday night. One would think that validating instrumental music in the corporate worship would legitimate its inclusion on the Lord's Day, but that is not the route Richland Hills has chosen to go. Why?

Personally, I struggle to understand the motivation behind adding the Saturday evening assembly, complete with communion. Is the church to be missional? Absolutely. But does our missional mandate from Jesus allow us free reign to tamper with the central tenets of our heritage? Are we free to dismiss centuries of tradition, based on Scripture and withstanding the test of time, for the sake of marketing the message in a postmodern culture?

Paul makes clear in his letter to the Galatian churches the fatal flaw of legalism: the belief that adherence to right rules earns one's favor in the eyes of God. Salvation is by grace through faith. But grace is not to be presumed upon, giving us liberty to reinvent the rules to suit our own tastes and wishes.

In the conversion process, is it church that is supposed to convert culture, or do we allow the whims of culture to convert how we do church? In my mind, that is the central question that always must be at the forefront of our thinking. To me, it is clear from the New Testament writings, especially the words of Jesus and Paul, that those who've aligned themselves with Christ as his disciples are the ones who are supposed to impact culture.


Scott Freeman preaches in Waco, Texas and is an alumnus of the same high school I attended. Earlier this week, he posted to his blog the following paragraph that has stayed with me throughout this entire week:

Do we merely believe in Jesus or do we believe what Jesus believed? This question, posed by Clarence Baumer, has shaken me this past week. I’m good at professing a faith in Christ. But have I moved enough in my discipleship where I hold the same beliefs that Jesus did: that the meek will inherit the earth, that loving your enemies is the right way to treat them, that turning the other cheek is more effective than retaliation? I think if we are honest then we will find that there are truths that Jesus held dear that we don’t necessarily share. It’s a sobering thought, but Jesus didn’t operate according to logic, reason or earthly practicality. For us to adopt that belief system means more than merely imitation. It necessitates transformation.