Recently I wrote a post titled Industrial Christianity. My intention was to get all of us to ask why we do what we do, specifically asking how much our industrialized worldview impacts our church practices. The response I got for this post was wonderful. I really appreciate everyone’s feedback. I found it helpful and encouraging. I got one email in response to this post that I felt dealt with a lot of the questions/issues I have been thinking about, and I’m sure others have been as well. For this reason I thought it may be advantageous to share my responses in a series of posts dealing with each of the three points that my friend addressed in his email.
Second Installment: Being True to God and Culture
In different cultures around the world the gospel is preached in different ways…
What my friend said here is completely true and the broader point he makes: that this practice is acceptable seems to be congruent with Scriptural examples. Paul definitely shared the gospel differently with the Greek sophists than he did with the Jews, same message, just a different approach. People in different cultures have different customs and worldviews and understand God differently. A first century Jew and a Twenty-first century American are going to have to have things explained to them in very different ways. The Jews expected a Messiah, they just needed to see that Jesus was that guy. Americans need to be confronted with their need for redemption (I am speaking in generalities). Paul says he will be all things to all men to win some. I see nothing wrong with approaching people differently based on where they are at.
…yet all conform to the pattern set by Christ and the apostles.
This is the remainder of the quote. I would say that insofar as the message preached reflects the real gospel than they do conform to the mandate of Christ. I don’t think we can really say they are in the same pattern, in that we use approaches unknown and irrelevant to first century believers since our world and the worldview of the people in it are very different, but like I said, as far as we share the true Gospel we are conforming to the mandate of Christ. Since this email was in response to my post, Industrial Christianity I will assume that my friend is saying that fitting the gospel into an industrial system, packaging and marketing it nicely, is simply a cultural difference and does not change the message of the gospel.
I think that is possible, but I think we have to be careful because a huge part of our industrialized culture is the mindset of consumerism. We have to make sure we are not sharing a consumerist gospel. That is where we would stray from the true Gospel message. Christianity is not a product that you can buy and put in your home and make your life better. Following Christ means an absolute surrender of yourself and your life to Him, it is not a commodity that we can control and have as a “part” of our life. The Gospel calls for everything or nothing. It asks the rich young ruler to walk away from all his possessions, it asks us to “hate” our families in comparison to our love for Him, it asks us to be living sacrifices entirely giving ourselves over to Him. That is very counter-intuitive to a consumer. God is not there for us, we are here for Him. The Gospel is the message of God accepting man, not man accepting God.
I do not mean to say that consumerism is entirely and always the message we send to people about God: that he is there for us and we simply need to accept him. I do believe that we should think VERY seriously the next time we ask someone if they want to “accept Jesus” or “ask him into their hearts.” Are we selling Jesus as an industrial commodity or are we asking people to surrender themselves and their consumerist mindsets to follow Christ?