Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that Christian individuals and churches face is how to deal with culture. We are called to preach the gospel to everyone, and that means by going out in the culture and interacting with people who believe differently than we do. But how we are to do that?
Some have taken to the idea that perhaps if we try and make certain parts of Christianity less offensive, or incorporate certain elements of culture that aren’t necessarily bad, that we can kinda find some common ground and go from there. I’m also pretty sure nobody is immune to this sort of thinking because Paul had to rebuke Peter in Galatians 2 for doing something similar. Besides, it sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? Let’s bring in a band or get some video game systems for our youth group, that way we already have things that hold people’s attention, then once we can get them to church, we can preach the gospel. Well, let’s actually not preach the whole counsel of God, because we don’t want to offend people. We want them to stay and to keep coming back.
I think this is preaching to the choir if you’re already reading this blog, but it’s just as easy of a slip for those of us who would consider ourselves gospel-centered (or whatever other term you want to use). Because we like the idea of relational evangelism (which, to quote matt chandler, there’s nothing wrong with it, provided it leads to real evangelism) so that we don’t have to have awkward conversations. We believe that if we just be their friend and show them the love of Christ (which I have no idea what that means in this context usually) that eventually they will open up and start asking questions of us. Or perhaps we take the more extreme approach and we want to “live a life that demands explanation”, whatever that means. Or maybe we want our pastors to do the heavy lifting for us. We go to a solid church and we just want to get people to church somehow and then they’ll hear the real gospel (which is good). But you see the circle begins again with how to get them there etc.
I realized this issue not too long ago when I thought about how I had never shared the gospel with the friend I had known the longest. It’s incredibly awkward when you’ve known someone for over a decade and haven’t bothered to clearly share something that they are well aware you find important. I’d like to tell you that it went very smoothly and he went from being an atheist to a Christian and things are great, but unfortunately, that is not the case. He responded how I assumed he would, for he is not a rude person, and simply said “oh, ok.” and that was it. Does that mean that he’s lost forever? No, but it brings up a very important point about the gospel. It has power.
I think the reason we don’t share the gospel very often and why we as individuals and collectively as churches try to capitulate to culture is that we have lost our trust in the power of the Holy Spirit and of the proclamation of the gospel. In a way, the gospel is dangerous, because there is a 0% chance that it will do nothing. The gospel will either soften someone’s heart or it will harden it. Practically speaking, you might not see that effect straight away, but God is always working. When we realize this, we no longer worry about what to do to make church more appealing or acceptable or how we can word sharing the gospel with people, because it’s not about any of that. Rest assured, if your church does not have the gospel, it is not truly Christian. Culture will always be opposed to the gospel, and so you can’t draw them in with secularism and then assume they will just absorb Christianity via osmosis.
We are not to escape from culture, but to engage it. And it is tempting to capitulate to it because we are living in it 24/7. We like culture, because it was designed for us as people (trusim, I know). However, we are called to be in the world, not of it. We are to be salt and light. We need to remember the power of the gospel, and trust that God will act as He promises that He will. He will draw His people to Himself. It’s very freeing really, and helpful. I’m not good at sharing the gospel, so I’m right there with you in the worrying etc. God is strong where we are weak.