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