Kingdom Culture

The music may have changed over the years, but the same gospel message applies in our churches. (Unsplash)

First, they told us our language was too churchified and we would need to jettison such terms as justification, sanctification and washed in the blood.

I remember Arthur Blessit. The hippie-looking, jive-talking, cross-carrying brother in Christ took the young churches by storm. We stayed most of the night with Arthur at the local youth hangout witnessing for Christ, trying to look and sound cooler than the teens, picking up the drug culture's language in an attempt to bring the gospel into a foreign land. Heaven alone knows whether we did good.

Then, they came at our music. Away with organs and pianos, and in with drum sets and keyboards and guitars. Amplification on steroids and heavy metal, ear-assaulting, nerve-rattling instrumentations were not far behind.

No one is insisting that pipe organs and upright pianos are scriptural. But when ushers have to hand out ear plugs at the door, something is bad wrong.

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Next, we had to get rid of the hymnals and go to screens, forget the hymns and bring in the latest choruses.

Some of those choruses are great. But so were many of the hymns. Why did the church feel it had to turn its back on what had served it well for hundreds of years in order to be contemporary?

Then, the church people had to get rid of suits and ties and the preachers were to start wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirts. I'm personally giving Rick Warren credit for much of this with his Hawaiian shirts. You have to wonder, did pastors actually think if they started wearing those gaudy things would they soon be running ten thousand in worship?

When I point out that the commentators and broadcasters of televised sporting events all wear suits—three piece, even, and with neckties!—and that airline pilots wear uniforms for a reason (to inspire confidence), those defending their sloppy Sunday appearance get ballistic and accuse me of all sorts of unchristian behavior.

All of this was supposed to bring the world into the church to hear the gospel.

How's that working out?

How. Is. That. Working. Out.

When you enrolled in that physics course in high school, did they tell you that since you would not understand such terms as the laws of motion, electromagnetism, and relativity, they would simplify them in order to make this easier for you?

Did the math teachers throw out terms like "the value of the integral" and "sines, cosines, and algorithms" to make math more accessible?

Yeah, right.

When medical students begin classes, are they offended that the language of medicine is arcane and sometimes difficult and unknown to the laity?

Only in the Church

Only in the church have we been so afraid of offending the outsider that we jettison two-thirds of the things we were doing in order to make him feel welcome.

Lest someone accuse me of callousness, I do want the outsider to come. I do want us to reach the lost with the gospel. The question is not whether we want that but how we accomplish it.

And he's still not coming. Yet, we keep doing those silly things.

A long, long time ago I read of a fellow named Mark Sabre. He stood outside the church–in Australia or New Zealand, it seems like–and noticed what the church was doing. It was giving dances and parties and remaking itself in the image of the community around it. "They call it making religion a living thing of the people," Mark observed. So people could join the church without having to give up anything.

And then Mark Sabre made an observation that has remained with me for at least half a century....

A man wouldn't care what he had to give up, if he knew he was making for something inestimably more precious.

Let us never forget the old adage: He who marries the culture today will be a widower tomorrow.

The gospel is unchanging. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus, is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). "I am the Lord; I change not" (Malachi 3:6).

Should the church be flexible and willing to adapt its methodologies to the culture, to the language, to the peculiarities of a tribe? That seems to be the message of the new wineskins.

New wine must be put into new wineskins (Mark 2:22). The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is, without doubt, that new wine from Heaven which the old forms would no longer hold and which burst out of their confines before our eyes in the New Testament. That gospel has been bursting through all attempts to corral it ever since. The Lord's message is "the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes" (Romans 1:16). There is nothing else like it on the planet. It's the best news ever.

The one thing the gospel does not need is you and me reshaping it into a crude imitation of the world around us. The glitter of the world and its shallowness will all pass away. But the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ will reign forever.

Let us stand firm and be who He made us. For Jesus' sake.

A man wouldn't care what he had to give up, if he knew he was making for something inestimably more precious.

Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing, and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

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