Three Ways the Church Will Never Make Peace With Our Culture — And How We Miss Our Mission Trying

By Tom Gilson Published on August 4, 2018

Here are three things the Church is never going to do:

We’re never going to make peace with today’s progressives.

We’re never going to be “tolerant” enough for our culture.

We’re never going to be popular again as we used to be, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future. 

And then there’s a fourth: If we make it our mission to do those things, we’re never going to fulfill the work God called actually us to.

So why do we keep on trying?

Talking About Conservative Christianity Here

I’m not talking about churches that have apostatized all the way — that’s another topic altogether. Many of these churches have all but died already through trying to accomplish these things.

I’m also not talking about those Christians who make an entirely opposite mistake: who take up such a needlessly offensive, aggressive posture, that no one could possibly want to listen to them.

It’s as though their mission was to find a way to make peace with it all.

No, I’m talking about would-be conservative, evangelistic, Christ-sharing Christianity — Southern Baptists, for one example, according to one of their own, Dr. Gerald Harris. That’s just one example, though, for I’m talking about a lot of us in the conservative Christian camp. So many ministries are flailing desperately, chasing after every hot issue from LGBTQ activism to #MeToo, from the social justice movement to New Atheism and New Age, along with postmodernism, feminism, relativism, politics, the economy — you name it, it’s on their agenda, and on their missions calendars, too. It’s as though they’d made it their mission to find a way to make peace with it all. 

An Example: Revoice

I’m not saying we should ignore these cultural issues. I’ve written on almost all of them myself. The problem is the place they occupy in our minds. Let me explain what I mean by comparing two conversations. One actually happened very recently. The other is one I wish had happened instead.

The first one was at the recent Revoice conference. The purpose for this gathering, says its website, was “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”

The other conversation — the one that didn’t happen, at least not publicly — would have been “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can live holy lives of service to Christ the King and flourish in His Church while living out His calling on their lives.”

There’s overlap between the two, no doubt, but do you see the difference? One could easily be taken as how to be gay, lesbian, bi or trans without giving up being Christian. That’s fine as far as it goes — but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The other focuses primarily on Christ as King, and secondarily on how LGBT people can best follow Him in obedience, which is the proper order of primacy for us all.

To “flourish while observing … Christian doctrine” just isn’t the same as living holy lives, dedicated in service to the King who rules in love and power.

I wasn’t at this gathering, so I don’t want to say more than I’m qualified to say. I do know some of the speakers there, and I hold them in high regard as Christian leaders. I’m in no position to cast stones at brothers and sisters — in fact I have great respect and gratitude for them — who are holding fast to Christian doctrine while contrary messages press in on them from every angle.

Still I can’t help noticing what’s missing from the conference’s public purpose statement. To “flourish” as persons (whether gay or straight) “while observing … Christian doctrine” is fine on one level, but severely lacking on another. It omits the crucial discipleship aspect of living holy lives, dedicated in service to the King who rules in love and power.

Why Try If No One Will Follow?

This isn’t merely about LGBT issues. Too many churches have drifted off their main mission in many other ways, chasing after today’s hot issues. They react, they try to sort out how to fit things together, they do almost anything other than boldly proclaiming the truth, grace, and Kingdom rule of Jesus Christ.

Maybe their reasoning is, “Why try? No one will follow. So the best we can do is figure out how to make peace with them.” But we’re never going to make peace with today’s progressives, and we’re never going to be tolerant enough for our culture, either.

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I’m not recommending we ignore hot-button issues. They matter, and we have to talk about them. The prophets certainly dealt with the issues of their day. We can’t tell the whole truth of Christ unless we explain the truth at those very contemporary points of contact. Individual struggles matter, too. I’d be judging myself if I judged those who spend time focusing on them.

But the question is, What are we most focused on? We’ve got to keep Christ at the center. Whether the world follows or not, whether the world even likes it or not. Because we won’t fulfill His mission for us any other way.

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  • Rick

    Not to be picky, and I do understand what you’re getting at, but a statement on a website is not a conversation.

    • True enough. It’s a topic for conversation, I think.

      • Rick

        That it is.

        Also, if I may make one more comment.

        So many ministries are flailing badly BECAUSE they are chasing after every hot issue instead of lifting up Jesus, and allowing Him to draw and change them. (Not discounting at all that God uses his Church to minister to those in need. Whatever the need.)

        • Chip Crawford

          True; the social gospel is not the Gospel Jesus commissioned.

  • Patmos

    Jesus said he did not come to bring peace, but rather a sword, dividing even family members from one another.

    • swordfish

      That’s not a good thing. Formerly close family relationships divided by religious belief is a sad and depressing state of affairs.

      • Patmos

        Except Christ says to love even your enemy, so the only real division occurs in the lack of compromising your beliefs.

        If this was your attempt to speak down about “religion” then you have failed miserably.

        Have you ever considered making an attempt to understand something before speaking about it?

        • swordfish

          I was speaking about families. I don’t need to “speak down” about religion because its divisive effects are obvious.

      • Ray

        But when God divides, it is a good thing. He knows what he is doing.

      • Ken Abbott

        “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”

  • James Blazsik

    G.K. Chesterton said that a generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it the most. We tell the truth – but we must do it with love. We must love but never without the truth.
    We are seeing the struggle with the progressive and lgbt agenda in the Catholic Church. We are hoping (the conservative Catholics) that the Father will lift up saints that will contradict this generation.
    Thoughtful article.

  • Kevin Quillen

    we are to be a peculiar people and in the world but not of it.

  • Pastor Z

    In all the discussion we must remember that the mission of the Church is to call men and women out of the darkness of their wicked and perverse generation and into the glorious light of Christ’s kingdom. We also must remember that God loves the sinner, yet He expects them to repent, turn away from their sin. If we preach the whole counsel of God, “In love”, then God the Holy Spirit will do His work in their hearts. I think that pleases God whether it pleases men or not.

  • Ray

    Yes, we have to keep Christ and the gospel first.
    Is there hope when things are the darkest? As long as we shine the light of the gospel we should have hope. (see John 8:28)

  • Trilemma

    We’re never going to make peace with today’s progressives.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matt 5:9 NIV

    If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Rom 12:18 NIV

    Maybe you won’t succeed in making peace with today’s progressives, but it sounds like God wants you to try.

    We’re never going to be “tolerant” enough for our culture.

    If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Luke 6:9 NIV

    Jesus taught that the Jews needed to tolerate the Romans. Is our culture harder to tolerate than first century Rome?

    We’re never going to be popular again as we used to be, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future.

    Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 NIV

    The first century church enjoyed popularity. What was it they did right?

    • Did you read Romans 12:13, too? Or Acts 8?

      What they did right, among other things, was to refuse to endorse sin. Read Peter’s first sermon in that same chapter, Acts 2.

      There were other differences, some of which we must learn from, others of which will never be repeated. Many of these thousands of early converts would have been people who had loved (or at least followed) Jesus’ teaching, and who were just now learning of his resurrection.

      Cherry-pick your verses, ignore most of the relevant history, and you can make any passage teach anything.

      In my last comment to you on another thread, I noted how desperately wrong you are in so many comments in so many ways. In that thread you were sharply, harshly, judgmental. In this one you softened your tone.

      But because of the character you revealed in that other one, I’m going to point out that softly worded distortions are still distortions, and if anything more deadly for their deceptively irenic tone. When you use the Bible to teach unbiblical opinions you are treading on very dangerous ground. Be careful. Turn around! Learn what the Bible actually says, and let it be your guide, rather than letting it be your false rationale for false thinking!

      • Trilemma

        Jesus did appear to live at peace with the Romans. He made the religious leaders angry by his verbal rebukes and popularity. He made those who wanted to revolt against Rome angry by teaching tolerance. It’s true that you will simply not be able to live at peace with everyone.

        Your idea of not endorsing sin is undoubtedly different than mine. A baker that refuses to make a cake because of his deeply held religious beliefs is not being tolerant. A baker who goes ahead and makes the cake in spite of his religious beliefs is being tolerant but is not endorsing sin.

        What sharply, harshly judgmental character did I reveal in another recent thread?

        I used to believe that the Bible says what you believe it does because that’s what I was taught. When I started studying for myself to learn what the Bible actually says, I realized that what I had been taught was wrong.

        • Jesus taught “tolerance”?! Where?! Tolerance of what?

          You talk about the baker’s tolerance or intolerance. Do you know that these aren’t biblical terms, at least as they’re used in contemporary usage?

          So your answer needs to be in the actual language Jesus used, and it had better not be out of context.

          Study the Bible again, my friend. Study it again.

          • Trilemma

            Jesus taught the Jews to be tolerant of their mistreatment by the Romans. Here are some of the verses where Jesus teaches the Jews to tolerate mistreatment but these can apply to other situations.

            “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. – Luke 6:27-30 NIV

            But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. – Matthew 5:39-41 NIV

            Jesus also taught the Jews to pay their taxes to Rome even though it probably went against some of their firmly held religious beliefs, Luke 20:22-25.

        • Would it be OK if I converted a few of your comments on this thread into a stand-alone article for publication on my website?

          There is no fee, I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for Writer Beat and liked what you wrote. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. You can learn more about the site by checking out my profile (my email and the websitte address are there…Disqus won’t allow that info in comment threads) or just reply “sure” and I’ll handle the rest.

    • I agree with the Romans 12:18 instruction, “as far as it depends on you.”

      I am perfectly at peace making friends with LGBT people — whom I mention because I’ve had the experience. Yet gay activists call Christians haters and bigots. Just how far should I go to make peace with them?

      We both disagree with each other on the issues at hand. Only one side calls the other side “haters.” I can’t make them make peace with me while they think of me that way. It’s their responsibility, not mine, to drop the hate language.

      • Trilemma

        Gay activists are wrong to call Christians in general haters and bigots. I think most people in the LGBT community want equality and tolerance. The activists on the other hand apparently want total affirmation. I don’t think you should have to go all the way to affirmation. They need to show some tolerance as well. Only you can answer the question of how far you should go to make peace with them. My understanding of the Bible is that it says you shouldn’t give up trying.

  • ncsugrant

    It seems many churches today miss the obvious. WE are charged to bring the good news to the world. Far too much of our time is spent debating (and compromising) with the agenda of the world. What evidence do we see that the church is causing the world to think about and respond to the truth?

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