Christianity and Pop Culture

Dear Reader,

I have encountered a couple of things recently on Christianity and pop culture. The first was a sermon we heard while on vacation. It was very good. The gist of it was that the church cannot follow the world’s models for how to operate. It needs to follow God’s models. Too often the church follows the world. When we don’t see the growth we want, we repackage. We borrow techniques from the world of advertising or of business (new improved sermons! more relevant to your life! more racy! etc).

A second place I ran across this idea is in this article from the Wall Street Journal. Again the main idea is that the church has tried a myriad of different ways to keep young people in particular from fleeing. And it doesn’t seem to be working.

The solution proposed in both places is pretty simple–return to the gospel. The appeal of Christianity should not be that it is hip. What “hip” is changes anyway. Whatever model we pick now will have to be altered again in 5 years (or less).  But the gospel message is timeless. God and His Word do not change. So why are we trying to change so much? The apostle Paul addressed the beliefs and practices of his audience (Acts 17:22-24). He said he became all things to all people (1 Cor. 9:22). But I don’t think that what we are doing is what he meant. Paul started with the polytheistic beliefs of his audience. But then he went on to show them their own need by using their beliefs. He used what they already knew to point them to the “unknown God.” The center of Paul’s preaching was always Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Ultimately, he did not care if his message was perceived as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:25). He knew that his task was to preach the truth of God’s Word. The rest is up to His Spirit.

As the pastor at the church we visited said in his sermon, when we fail to do this, when we try to repackage and reshape the gospel message so it will be received, we are actually showing our lack of faith. We no longer believe the power fo God’s Word which He has told us is a two-edged sword which can pierce men’s hearts. We no longer believe that it is God’s Spirit which works in men’s hearts. We do not trust His methods and rely instead on our own understanding.

I wonder how long we have been basing our church decisions on models drawn from advertising? Is this  new thing? Is it an American thing? We seem to believe that if we package anything correctly and come up with the right slogan, people will buy it. And certainly, when it comes to marketing actual products, there seems to be a fair degree of success. But it is all so deceptive. It is designed to work on people’s subconscious. If they smell chocolate chip cookies, they will stay in the store. If the color of the walls is this color and not that, they will be comfortable and linger and buy more.  I find it hard to believe that a God so insistent on truth would approve of methods like this for bringing people into His body. And really our goals are not the same. The store has success when you buy something. But isn’t the church looking for something more than a one time purchase? The goal should not be a momentary decision on our side which may later be regretted. The goal is people with renewed hearts and minds. We need to get inside people and that just can’t be done through deceptive gimmicks. And ultimately, the real point is that it can’t be done by us at all. The Holy Spirit has to do it. We only put the message out there but only He can make it sink in and have effect. When we clutter everything up with hip modern music and techniques, we are only muddying the waters. We are saying by our actions that our ways and ideas are more effective than His. Should we be surprised then that He chooses not to work very often in our midst? 



One response to this post.

  1. […] faith for us to fall into these days. Too often Christianity is marketed (and it is marketed; see this post on how we try and advertise the gospel) as a solution for our problems. And not our sin problem […]


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