Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Maintaining a Gospel Centered Counterculture

"My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Before I was saved in the early 70’s I saw the world through rose colored glasses.  In my quest to find a more meaningful existence than what society had to offer, I submitted myself to a na├»ve worldview consisting of peace, love, and hedonism.      

But after becoming a Christian, the thing that struck me most about the church as a people group was the love that Christians had for one another despite their very different backgrounds.    The church we attended was comprised of rednecks and hippies, young and old, educated and not so much.  It was awe inspiring to observe how the Gospel of Jesus Christ broke the barriers of ethnic diversity and socioeconic strata  and brought people together in joyful harmony.     

The Gospel accomplished what the counterculture I was previously involved with could not deliver.    The Church proved to be genuinely countercultural.
The fellowship at our home Bible study was sweet and personal evangelism was spontaneous and frequent.     New believers were being added to the church weekly through the testimony of other new believers.   Missions conferences were exciting and the highlight of the year.     Being the only church experience we had ever known,  we assumed that this was normal and that the church had always been this way.   
Since then we've talked with many people our age who were saved in the 70’s and all agree that God was definitely doing something unique during that time when many people came to Christ.   We all agree that it seemed to go away by the 1980’s and the church lost its enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel.  Fewer people were coming to Christ.    

Something changed 
I noticed things beginning to change in the church in the late 70’s when we were in Bible College preparing for ministry.    A new emphasis began to emerge in several areas, and this was before the Internet.   
The family:  In 1977 Focus on the Family was founded.  I’m not criticizing the good work this group has done, but am simply making an observation that I think is worth noting.   Whereas before Bible studies and prayer meetings were always the focus, now seminars and messages began to focus on things pertaining to the family.    Single people in the church began to feel more out of place.   

Politics.    In 1979 the Moral Majority was founded creating an uneasy political alliance with prominent Evangelicals, Catholic, Mormon, and Jewish leaders.  Christians began looking for political solutions to society's problems rather than the life changing power of the Gospel. 

Psychology.    Bible studies were being replaced by support groups to address specific problems.  Practices once called sinful were now being viewed as sicknesses.  The church started turning inward and becoming self-absorbed.    

Ecumenism.    Parachurch organizations sprang up uniting churches that had previously been separated for good reason.    International Bible study orgainizations united people across denominational lines, while purposefully avoiding discussions pertaining to their doctrinal distinctions.  

Pragmatism.   In a feeble attempt to correct the lack of church growth, it adopted worldly methods to try to bring people back into the church.    Instead of taking the Gospel out to the lost, and feeding the sheep at church,  the new seeker-sensitive church aimed to bring the “unchurched Charlie” into the fold by making the church as much like the world as possible.  

Something changed again 
In the late 80’s my husband and I became reformed in our theology.   To our delight over the next two decades the “New Calvinism” immerged and a large segment of the  evangelical church returned to its historic Biblical roots.
 Once again, the church which had seemed to have lost its savor for a time,  returned to its first love,  only this time with deeper doctrinal aquity.   The church had become genuinely countercultural again bringing the Gospel message that man is evil, God is Holy, and the five solas of the reformation hold our only hope of  redemption.
 These various digressions and progressions in the Evangelical church over the past century were noted in an interesting way in Time Magazine’s 2009 article The New Calvinism,
“If you really want to follow the development of conservative Christianity, track its musical hits. In the early 1900s you might have heard "The Old Rugged Cross," a celebration of the atonement. By the 1980s you could have shared the Jesus-is-my-buddy intimacy of "Shine, Jesus, Shine." And today, more and more top songs feature a God who is very big, while we are...well, hark the David Crowder Band: "I am full of earth/ You are heaven's worth/ I am stained with dirt/ Prone to depravity."
But wait, things are changing again 
It seems the winds of change are upon us again as various issues have risen within the church.   Playing on our perpetual propensity for adding something new to the Old Message, Uncle Screwtape’s wickedly wise counsel is rearing its ugly head again, 
“What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And’... Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.” 
One such issue is  the quest for "social justice” in regards to race relations.   I confess I haven’t followed this one closely, but John MacArthur,  who has always stood at the gate keeping watch over harmful trends in the church, began a new series on this emerging problem.   You can find that here: Social Injustice and the Gospel.  I'll stay tuned in on this one folks. 
Christ's kingdom is not of this world and He desires His people to be intentionally countercultural.   And yet, we always have a tendency to gravitate towards the world’s solutions to problems that can only be solved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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