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Some Churches Die For Culture

Church in Vladimir, Russia
Church in Vladimir, Russia

I had a visit this evening from a pair of polite, well-intentioned young men.  They were members of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, and they were in the process of visiting homes in the area to share the Gospel.  I offered them a glass of water, and attempted to chat with them a little bit about the content of their tract.  I almost wish I hadn’t.
The conversation was brief, the topic was the King James Version, and the response was about as much as could be expected in an impromptu meeting.  I wasn’t looking for a conversation on the KJV, it just happened to be the core content in the “Gospel tract” they were passing out.  The thrust of the church’s claims, as you can guess, was that God preserved His Word, and that He did so in the King James Bible.  The church website says about as much, with the statement: “We believe that the King James Bible is the word of God without error.”  (Emphasis theirs.)

Since this was the topic on hand, I tried to quickly discuss through some risks inherent in the KJV (you should really read this article by Daniel Wallace for some helpful insights), and then I tried to encourage them to study it for themselves.  Anna started to offer a comment, but they quickly cut her off and said they had to leave.

Bolton Priory
Bolton Priory

I wish I could stop thinking about this visit and this church, but it sat on my mind for the rest of the evening, and I finally decided I needed to write the pastor.  I’m still waiting for his response, but in the meantime, I just want to throw out this comment:  When a church decides to preserve a culture rather than pursue the Kingdom of God, that church is going to die.

I don’t mean this only with regards to the churches that seek to preserve a KJV-only, men-in-pants-and-women-in-dresses culture.  I mean this just as much for a “contemporvant” church, or a church like Mayer Community Church.  If the members of the church I serve decide to put their cultural values before the Kingdom of God, then MCC will die as soon as the last members of the preserved culture pass away.

Even as I say this, I happily admit that I have been blessed by the flexibility and adaptability of the members of MCC.  They have been very willing to question and weigh every commitment in exploring ways to reach Mayer.  I think that as long as this is the practice, MCC will continue to be effective at making disciples and glorifying God.  How is this done?  By asking questions such as the following:

  • Does this ministry practice exist because it satisfies the preferences of the church members, or because it is effective at transforming lives and transmitting the Gospel?
  • Does this ministry practice create a communication barrier between generations?  Between the congregation and the community?  Between men and women?
  • Has this (long-standing) ministry practice continued to play a part in changing lives, or is it simply familiar?  (You never want to dump a practice just because it’s old.)
  • Does this (new) ministry practice enable the communication of the Gospel in a way that makes sense to the people in this community, or does it simply carry the “appeal of freshness.”  (You never want to introduce a practice just because it’s new.)
  • Do we as a congregation care most about God’s glory or about our glory?  Are our ministry practices giving evidence of that?

This is nothing formal, but if a church wants to pursue God’s Kingdom, the above list is a rough approximation of a small part of that constant decision making process.  As I said a moment ago, I’ve been happily surprised and encouraged by MCC’s willingness to ask questions like these on a regular basis, and I suspect that it will result in increasingly effective ministry.

Feel free to suggest questions or comments that might help in this battle to put our commitment to the Kingdom of God before our commitment to a specific culture.

Grace & Peace,
Dan J.

“Bolton Priory” Image: Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Published inBlog

5 Comments

  1. Dad

    Excellent article!

  2. Julie

    The video was amazing! This is probably keeping one of my friends awake tonight, or so she said…! Keep asking us questions, Dan! Love ya!

  3. Store this somewhere for 25-years and it will look even more foolish.

    I remember attempts at relevance from my youth and realized how foolish it would look now. We study God’s word because it is true and offers the only way out of our sinful condition.

  4. Dan

    @Bruce: Agreed!

    Interesting recent article in the WSJ: The Perils of Hipster Christianity

    I think the article in the WSJ still focuses too much on culture, and my exposure to Driscoll’s stuff has been quite the opposite of the way this author presents it; Driscoll focuses on and teaches the core of Christian doctrine. Otherwise, it’s good to remember that relevance is a constantly shifting thing.

    My hope is that churches get beyond just thinking about “relevance,” and begin thinking about “How do we present the Gospel clearly in terms that the folks who live next to us will understand?” It sounds a bit like relevance, but “relevance” as a term carries a lot of cultural baggage and inclines those who desire it to focus on the form rather than the message.

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