Thought Question: The Church Between Gospel and Culture

The Church Between Gospel and Culture (Gospel & Our Culture)This is a quotation from The Church Between Gospel and Culture by Hunsberger and Gelder —

Our current movements to convert and make a difference generally do not arise from such a way of life. They are too much marked by a failure to recognize as intrinsic to our faith a fundamental departure (over against comfortable accommodations to the culture) and a sacrificial immersion (over against sectarian withdrawals from the society). As Donald Posterski has put it, we have ironically done what is seemingly impossible. We have inverted the dictum of Jesus: we are of the world but not in it. We have become “both captured and intimidated by the culture.” In our minds and hearts we have not sufficiently departed to the loyalties of the gospel, and with our hands and feet we have not become deeply enough immersed on behalf of the gospel.

What do you think?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to Thought Question: The Church Between Gospel and Culture

  1. Alan says:

    If you immerse a sponge in a bowl of vinegar, it doesn’t soak up fresh water. As American Christians we are immersed in our culture and we have become saturated with it, to the core. We cannot even recognize how deeply influenced we are by the values of the world around us.

    To a lesser degree, some of us are withdrawn from the world. In my experience, these are the ones who are less affected by worldly values. Not that any of them are free from that.

    In other words we are in the world to different degrees, and of the world to different degrees. Those who are most “in the world” are also most “of the world.” And vice-versa.

    If we want to influence the world, to change the world, we first have to be different from the world. We have to get the world’s values and behavior out of our lives. Then we have to have enough strength of character and conviction to be the one causing change around us, and not the ones being changed by what is around us. We are generally deficient on both counts.

  2. John says:

    There are certain struggles that will never become easier. Knowing exactly where the lines are drawn so as not to be of the world is one of those struggles. Conservative Christianity has always claimed to know where those lines are, only to fight cultural and religious changes that were of no harm, then be carried along by changes it never dreamed of when it became tired.

    Churches are filled with those who claim right and wrong never change, who day dream of the “good ol’ days”, when, in their way of looking back, life was more innocent. Yet, these same individuals listen to music and watch movies their grandparents would have called obscene, while forgetting that the past, on many fronts, was not so innocent. Boasting and denial rule the day in many church circles.

    No doubt, when Jesus spoke of “not being of the world” one thing he certainly had in mind was personal conduct. But I truly believe that as Christ looks upon the American Bible-belt church the humility that is necessary to change people is not there. When the gospel has shriveled into simply not using alcohol, fighting the high school dance, and fearing anything or anyone that threatens big business, the military or capital punishment, then the Jesus of the Bible has been cast aside for the American Jesus.

    The authorities accused Jesus of eating and drinking with sinners. This was more than simply willing to have a soda and hot dog in a crowd at a ball game. The authorities accused him of breaking the sabbath. But his concern for human need erased any religious lines.

    Jesus was one whose oneness with the Father actually fueled his oneness with those around him. That is why they listened to him…that is why they saw him as different, unlike anyone else…as one not of the world.

  3. konastephen says:

    To the Posterski quote above: here, here!

  4. As Donald Posterski has put it, we have ironically done what is seemingly impossible. We have inverted the dictum of Jesus: we are of the world but not in it.

    I think what he means by this is that we are not in the world to engage it with the gospel. Rather, we have become “of the world” by being too much influenced by the culture around us. We have failed to be a “strange people” in the sense of 1 Peter 4:4 where the heathen “think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation.”

    As long as the behavior of the church is only marginally better morally than the behavior of the world, the church will not be the city set on the hill of which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16).

    If the church is not the light of the world, it has become salt without taste – and is fit for nothing but to be cast out and used as pavement to be walked on by men.

    Is that where we are today? In many congregations, it may be so. Ephesus was certainly near that condition when Jesus warned them that if they did not repent, He would come and remove their candlestick. (Revelation 2:5)

  5. abasnar says:

    There are only four ways to respond to the pressure of the culture around us:

    Assimilation – No, we are to be distinct and holy
    Isolation – No, Christ did not take us out if this world
    Integration – No, we should live in a way that the worls will hate us, not respect us
    Evangelism – YES, that’s our mission!

    (for scripture reference: John 17)


  6. Zach says:

    when you live in a country with this separation of church and state which has sort of become a sort of unofficially defaulted to state supported atheism plus a repressive wall of political correctness, how can an individual citizen practice a life of christian culture much less an organized group like the church without first changing the political paradigm?

    I truly believe if we can fully live up to our christian culture then others would follow suit and the rest becomes unnecessary. i dunno…

    maybe it helped that I lived at a church for four years in my own little church world heh.

  7. Kirk says:

    We Christians are far too immersed in our comfortable, entertained, American lives but we don’t like to admit it. And I’m unbelievably guilty of being overwhelmed with involvement in earthly things rather than Heavenly things. It’s much more comfortable and easy to not spread the gospel. After all, spreading the gospel could make people mad at you and require you to give up certain luxuries.

    Also, who has time for it? Between work, school, the gym, getting little Johnny to baseball, karate, and Boy Scouts, and getting little Jane to ballet, piano, and Girl Scouts I just don’t have time you know! And when I do get a free chance, I’d much rather take my sweet wife out on the town as we have hardly seen each other. Isn’t my job, my health, my children’s well-rounded-ness, and my marriage important?? And at the end of the long, hard day, I’d rather let my mind relax in front of the TV instead of engaging it in intense Bible study. It’s been engaged all day long and it’s tired!

    I always have an excuse of why I’m not out sharing the gospel, but continue to I wonder why our nation/world is falling apart. But, there again, it’s much easier for me to post anti-big-government comments on Facebook and to vote against immorality rather than to hit the streets with the Word. Going to the voting booth in an attempt to legislate righteousness is much easier and less time consuming than teaching righteousness to my neighbors and community.

    God willing I’ll wake up one day and make the proper changes. For now, my heart is struggling to do so.

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