All things to all men or not of the world?

Error message

There is a church in my town which has gone through a succession of metamorphoses, all in the name of relevance and witnessing to "real" people.

The church's initial location was a video arcade in an enclosed shopping center. It later began a skate park. Earlier this year it started a tattoo parlor, and now most of its fundraising focuses on its "ink" ministry.

Occasionally I must stop and remind myself when I find myself overly disdainful of this church that it is not, in fact, all that different from many of the more stately "high liturgy" churches of the area or, for that matter, the modern Evangelical churches which have adopted seeker-sensitive styles of worship.

The link between these seemingly disparate churches is not a shared culture: they range from low street to high classic, meandering through every waystation inbetween. No, the link between these churches is shared reliance on human culture to win the lost.

All culture is not created equal: the culture of a church which programs recitals on its magnificent pipe organ on Sunday afternoons is higher than that of the church with a tattoo parlor. (Further, there may be sin inherent in tattooing that isn't present in the recital--but then, there may be sin at the recital which isn't present at the skate park.)

But is there a fundamental difference between a church which relies on mindless drama, positive practical sermons and a thumping band to bring the Gospel to the lost and a church which relies on tattoos and skate parks, or a church which puts on Ibsen and Mozart in the park?

In the end, they're all relying on culture to advance the Gospel. And though one culture is certainly higher and more beautiful than another, though Mozart beats tattoos and Ibsen beats Debbie-the-skit-woman, reliance on Mozart and Ibsen to advance the Gospel is ultimately no more glorifying to God than reliance on a skate park or tattoo parlor.

My fear is that in reacting against churches which focus on variants of lowbrow culture, Reformed Evangelicals are in danger of sanctifying and enshrining middle-class culture rather than Christ.

There is nothing more inherently God-pleasing about Ibsen than skateboarding, nothing inherently superior about a classical recital or Shakespeare play as instruments of the Gospel than a Stryper concert.

We aren't likely to win the battle for high culture in American churches, but even if we did, we wouldn't thereby advance the Kingdom of Christ. The call of the Gospel is a call not into but away from human culture, highbrow and lowbrow alike:

"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."

May God grant our churches less culture and more of the Spiritual power that propels us as countercultural agents against all worldly pretension by sanctifying us in truth.

The path of true evangelism is a path of Spiritual power, not a cultural path. It is the path of faith, not of sight. Less culture all told, fewer concerts, fewer videos and dramas combined with more time with our unsaved neighbors, more good deeds from our homes, more prayer meetings in our churches: this is the route to evangelical power.