Monday, December 15, 2008

Christ or Culture

I continue my consideration of the "demands of Jesus," which are drawn from John Piper's book, What Jesus Demands from the World.

We Christians seem perfectly willing to tell other people all about our church, but we seldom talk to people about Jesus. We do not invite people to Jesus. We invite them to church.

But Jesus said, "come to me." This is one of the "demands" to which John Piper dedicates a chapter in What Jesus Demands from the World. "Come to me," he says, "all you who are heavy-burdened, for my burden is light."

But I wonder.

I happen to think Jesus is an awful lot more attractive than the church. I mean, I love the church now, but I can't say I did when I first became a Christian. The church didn't seem all that attractive to me then, as a matter of fact, and even today my love for the church is hedged about with many qualifiers. I think it was Augustine who said, "The church is a whore, but she's my mother." How's that for shocking?

So when we talk to people about our wonderful church, and all that it does for the community, and all the great fellowship, etc., I wonder if we are really inviting people to an unburdened walk, or just loading more baggage on their backs.

What I mean is, instead of Pharisaical legalism, we're loading them with lifestyle choices. In effect, we've replaced Jesus Christ with our particular flavor of Christian culture, with its host of preferences and choices. We offer "Christianity" instead of Christ.

There is only one Jesus Christ, but there are many Christianities. Christ, when we come to him, always lifts our burden, but Christianities always add more. And I think it's sometimes very hard for us to understand the difference. What are some of the lifestyle "burdens" we allow and even encourage? I thought about it for all of 5 or 10 seconds and came up with the following list. We sometimes allow and encourage people to believe that when they come to Jesus they are at the same time coming to:
  1. the espousal of typically Republican political views.
  2. the love of cheesy "Christian" products (posters, t-shirts, etc.).
  3. the necessity of going to church every week (or feeling like a schmuck if you miss a week).
  4. the enraptured admiration for Mel Gibson's "The Passion" (never admitting to the slightest reservation).
  5. the belief that "America is (or was) a Christian nation" (never conceding that those words are in the least bit historically inaccurate or theologically un-Biblical). 
  6. deep interest in all things "prophetic" (this if your "flavor" is charismatic/pentecostal).
  7. Veggie Tales as the primary tool for child-rearing.
  8. CCM.
Well, that's my short list.  I bet you can come up with more.  

I used to know a pastor who'd say, "Invite people to church, and who knows, maybe they'll bump into Jesus!"

Sounds simple, but the trouble is, nowadays, maybe they won't. I've gone to church many times and not bumped into Jesus. The contemporary Christian church and Jesus aren't always as closely allied as we think. Once I pointed out to a couple of people that a worship set of six songs that we'd all just heard had not contained a single reference to Jesus. The thing is, no one had noticed!

So, getting back to the "Jesus or Christianity" thing, what's the solution?  My off-hand suggestion is, let's talk with people about Jesus more, and church less. A lot less.

Maybe we should invite people to Jesus, and who knows, they just might bump into His Bride.


Milton Stanley said...


Peter P said...

You mean Veggietales shouldn't be the primary tool for child rearing?

oooo... should it be Dr Dobson's Focus on the Family books like 'How to bring up boys'?

J. Wendell said...

Good thoughts.

Bob said...

I'm not familiar with the Dobson stuff. But Dobson might have been another bullet point on my little list.