Influencing the Culture or Preaching the Gospel

Michael Spencer discusses the danger of making the message of the gospel so acceptable to the world that they are able to appropriate and even affirm it while entirely missing the point.

I particularly like the proposed new verse of “I Can Only Imagine”. :-)

While Michael limits his discussion pretty much to corrupt contemporary Christian music, I think it’s relevant to many of our attempts at influencing the culture or our notions of what it means to be salt and light.

For instance, some people kind of treat the Bible as a self-help book. The Bible contains lots of good instruction on how to manage your finances, handle conflict resolution, how to have a healthy marriage, how to raise your kids or get along with your parents, and so on. You can teach about the importance of guarding your tongue, controlling your tempter, and being self-disciplined. And this is one approach to spreading the gospel. Give people real practical sermons that meet their needs, then they will see that Christianity “works” and be open to the gospel.

At least, that’s the theory. But as you extract the topical sermons from the Biblical text, you can easily miss the theological and spiritual foundations. Christian teaching on marriage is explicitly and inseperably tied to Christ’s sacrificial, atoning death on the cross and to good ecclesiology. It can’t be fully understood aside from that, and Paul presents it in just such terms. Peter doesn’t just tell husbands to honor their wives, but to honor them “as heirs together of the grace of life”.

If you remove the theological underpinnings – or even if you don’t – the principles can be applied to an unbeliever’s life without a corresponding change of heart. Just like the lost can sing and love “I Can Only Imagine”. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.

The gospel cannot be parceled up into bite-sized tasty bits to make it easier for people to digest. The goal of the gospel is not to produce good music, good books, good philosophy, happy people, good finances, strong marriages, or healthy interpersonal relationships, and we must not communicate it that way. The message of the gospel is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. The pressing need to be met is resolving a spiritual enmity against God and the prospect of eternal damnation. Let’s meet that need; it’s the only one worth our time and energy and worthy of our call.

Any approach to evangelism or influencing the culture that is anything other than bringing people to repentance and faith in Christ is going to miss the mark.

(Link via Karl Thienes.)

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4 Responses to Influencing the Culture or Preaching the Gospel

  1. Discoshaman says:

    This is a theme we’ve been batting around at Le Sabot lately. We also talked about the chuckleheadedness of removing “offensive” things like blood, Hell, sin and the Cross from Sunday preaching in order to make it more “sensitive” for Seekers. Pagan-centered preaching.

    It seems to me that a good portion of Evangelicals are making the same mistakes regarding postmodernism that the Church made when confronted by the challenges of modernism — being overeager to be “relevant”, and thus preemptively surrendering to the World. The casualty list from the last time is sobering — what we call liberal, mainline denominations is what was then called the Church — Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, etc.

    In 50 years will we be talking about the AOG, the Baptists and Calvary Chapel in the same way?

    Unless the church stands firmly on not only the inerrancy, but also the SUFFICIENCY of the Word for faith and practice, we’ll be swept off into the morass of postmodernism just as surely as we were by modernism.

  2. I’ve been reading some of AW Tozer’s works. He regularly lambastes the church for imitating the world. And that was 40+ years ago! I wonder what he’d do if he could see where some of us are today. I was just reading the other day about a church that gave away door prizes – namely, a brand new car and a brand new motorcycle! – at their Christmas service.

    But hey, I bet they drew a crowd, and that’s what it’s all about, right? Go where the people are, do what they do. Be all things to all people. I’m pretty sure this is NOT what Paul meant.

    The thing that gets me with some of these approaches is just how _blunt_ we are about it. Do some marketing research, figure out what Seeker Sam likes, and give it to him. There’s not even a _pretense_ of letting the gospel (and its effect in our lives) do the drawing.

  3. mark white says:

    Have been deceived by the purpose driven church stuff and why has the HOLY SPIRIT been left out of the church and rick warren taken over. thanks.

  4. mark white says:

    Have been deceived by the purpose driven church stuff and why has the HOLY SPIRIT been left out of the church and rick warren taken over. thanks.

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