Dorothy delivers the famous line to her dog in The Wizard Of Oz. "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." She was right! They had been swept away by a powerful tornado to the magical land of Oz.
For many of us today, we feel like we have been swept away by powerful forces in our culture and society. Post-modernism is in full force. The end of the modern age was the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and many of us can remember that cold January day. There was great sadness but did we realize that it marked the change in our world.
Post-modernism is a topic well discussed and written on in our world today. My purpose is to show the actual effect on the church today. Think about our culture. In the 70s and 80s, the church still influenced culture and society. Today, the traditional church is counter-cultural. Yes, the world looks at us as outside of everyday culture. This change is because we believe in the truth of the Bible and worship the one true and living God according to His Word.
Rev. James McManus, the pastor of the Bethel ARP Church, wrote an article recently speaking about his experience growing up in the skater culture of the 1990s. This lifestyle was the counter-cultural movement of the time. They had long hair, wore baggy clothes, and rode skateboards. James is now a pastor in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and says he has the same feeling of being counter-cultural as a Reformed pastor.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily! For too long, we have walked alongside culture. This traveling together has been problematic for the church. Because too often we have followed, instead of led. Churches chose to embrace the culture rather than stand on the Word of God. Other churches have ignored culture and are still doing ministry the same way they have for decades. The result is that one group of churches have gone off to the world, and the other group churches are struggling to reach those under 50.
We can not let the culture lead us, but we should seek to understand it. We need to think of ourselves more as cross-cultural missionaries. Is this not who we are in the world today?
What can we change to be faithful and engage the culture?
- We can stop expecting people to get Christianity right away. I find that younger generations are lacking the basic building blocks of Christianity. This fact is true even within the church. We need to develop classes and programs that help people learn the basics of the faith, even how to think like a Christian. We need to get back to the biblical idea of older men training younger men and older women training younger women.
- We can be patient. The work before us will require a commitment to teaching the Word of God.
- We can exchange our pragmatism for solid Biblical ministry. There is a temptation to jump on board the newest trend. We must remember that the church grows not by marketing but by the power and blessing of the Lord.
- We can exchange our dead traditionalism for a living faith in Christ. We need to be asking questions about everything we do. Is this biblical? Does this glorify Christ? Are we building disciples through this ministry? Are we only doing this because we have always done it? The answers can be challenging, but we must be asking these questions.
- We can present an authentic, vibrant, and powerful Christianity to our culture. The world needs to see the power of the gospel in us. It will be helpful for us to understand and engage our culture for the gospel for this to happen.
Yes, I have said to my dog, "Winston, I've got a feeling we're not in South Carolina anymore!" It is like I have landed in a familiar but yet strange place. But, this culture is the time and place that the Lord has placed us. Here is where we are to engage. Here is where we must build disciples. To do this, we need to understand where here is now.