Steve Nicholson, whom I look up to as Jedi Knights look up to Master Yoda began his much anticipated series this last Sunday at the Evanston Vineyard on Jesus & Culture. This is good stuff, so I figured it is worth sharing and discussing.
If I could completely sum up Steve's message, I'd say "the place of faith in our culture is changing...and that is okay."
So what if there aren't nativities in town squares (except there was one at the Daily Center!), prayer in school, or Ten Commandments posted in Courthouses? Those aren't the things that make a difference.
Christendom, the time period in the West since Christianity was made a state religion in Rome, might have been a comfortable time for the church but a lot of baggage has come with it. The kind of baggage that turns honest faith seeking people away.
I'm talking about the crusades, slavery, ect. And, in general people confusing statements like "I'm an American," and "I'm a Christian."
In fact for hundreds of years in the Western world, being a Christian actually meant nothing. Everyone was considered a Christian, and then everyone acted however they wanted.
The majority of people no longer call themselves Christians. And, institutions within our culture no longer assume their members or audiences are Christians--because they are not.
I think about it as, getting real.
But, for those still identifying themselves as Christians this is a new and peculiar place to be in.
It is not unlike when the Jews were carried off to Babylon (597 B.C.) and had to adjust to what it meant to be Jews without the presence of the Temple. Interestingly enough, the people of God still have a visible presence in our world today yet their captures are no longer an identifiable people group.
Here are some common responses of Christians to this change:
- Fight to Go back to the era of Christendom. These are culture wars people, constantly looking back and seeing greener grass. Let's get back to the good ol days!
- Accommodate to fit the culture. Blend in, Christians are no different from your average good person, times are changing. Hang out with us, we're no different.
- Isolate and insulate from society and culture. The Amish are the most clear example, but among Evangelicals there is a certain strain that thinks that this is the answer to raising children in today's culture.
I loved Steve's comment on that. He said that the problem with raising your children this way is that eventually they will wonder why this faith isn't strong enough to handle being out in the world. Why is it so weak that it has to stay in a green house to survive? And, then they will conclude that if it is that flimsy its not worth holding on to.
But, what if this change in culture is ultimately from God?
In the bible it says, "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands."*
A response that God prefers:
- Embrace the reality of life as resident aliens.
- Seek and pray for the peace of the current culture.
- Give faithful witness to God's alternative culture.
As the bible says to those in exile, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”**
I love that. I want to seek the peace and prosperity of Chicago. I love the Chicago that spends more than half of the Sunday mornings of the year eating brunch outside or watching bears games. This is where we live.
Questions to Ponder:
- What do you think?
- Have you seen people trying to fight to old on to the past of Christendom?
- What about sheltering their children from the outside culture?
- What is your natural response to this changing culture?
- Are there ways in which you feel like you are supposed to be different?
This is the first blog article of a once a week series on Jesus & Culture. Each article will articulate the message of Steve Nicholson as he is preaching this series at the Vineyard Christian Church of Evanston and interact with his content. To get more to listen to the podcast and submit questions which will be addressed in a special question and answer message near the end of the series in February.
* Acts 17:26
** Jeremiah 29: 5-7