There are many things the church can learn from culture. Many Sunday morning worship services have elements that originated outside the church walls and they add value to the worship service. At the same time, there are some lessons the church has learned that should be forgotten and thrown out faster than the diapers from last Sunday’s nursery.
There is a commercial airing right now that begins with the question, “When did it become courageous to leave on time?” That question has stuck in my mind because as I apply it to the church I ask, “When did it become spiritual to be so busy with church I don’t have time for my family?”
Being active in church takes time, energy, and effort. There are seasons where that is right and good. Peter spent much time away from his wife and family to walk with Jesus. But there is also a sense in the church that we have to be busy all the time in order to be more like Christ.
Christ does not command us to be busy. More times than not, His model behavior is stillness and solitude with God. Consider the story of Martha and Mary. One chose to be busy doing good things. One chose to sit at the feet of Christ. Both can be done in their proper seasons without taking away from the other. But Christians must beware the idea that busyness equals spiritual maturity.
If you have watched TV for more than 15 minutes, you have experienced an appeal to your emotions. It typically involves images of hungry children or animals. These commercials are not filmed in a way to create long-lasting life change. They are strategically designed to make your emotions move you into making a decision.
Similarly, many churches across America make emotional appeals for salvation every Sunday. It typically happens during the 12th singing of “Just As I Am.” I love that song, but by that time my legs are getting tired and I am ready for lunch.
The church has the most life-changing truth available to man. We are all wretched sinners whose most righteous acts are like filthy rags before the holiness of God. We are broken, and if we take an honest look at ourselves, we know it. But we are also highly cherished and valued above all creation. We are so valued because Christ sacrificed Himself to pay our sin debt. That provides us with the hope, redemption, and value we all yearn for. That is not an emotional appeal. It is a statement of a fact, and that fact, when understood and embraced, is more life-changing than any 30-second commercial featuring a song by Sarah McLachlan could ever hope to be.
It is understandable why many in the church believe we have to compete with pursuits outside the church. After all, there is so much to do on Sunday instead of sitting in a pew. We sleep in, eat brunch, play golf, binge watch a show, recover from binge watching a show Saturday night, etc.
But in truth, the church is not competing with those things, nor should she. The mission of the church is not competition; it is showing a dark world the beauty of the light of the gospel. That can be accomplished without smoke and lights or a 15-second intro package.
I am not saying those elements are bad or sinful. If a church has people within the congregation with gifts to do those things well, and they want to use their gifts to edify the church, by all means allow them to use their gifts. But the purpose in those times should not be to compete, but to bring people into an attitude of worship, adding to the service, not trying to copy everything outside the church walls.
America loves the idea of the underdog. We love when someone rises out of the ashes of defeat and achieves victory over a superior force. It gives us all goosebumps when a movie’s protagonist stands against his personal demons and conquers them. These heroes pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make themselves better by sheer willpower.
We in the church have shown by our actions and attitudes that we believe we can make ourselves better. When we struggle to consistently spend time alone with God, we assume we just need more diligence or discipline. When we struggle with an addiction, we believe that we will overcome it next time because we can make ourselves stronger.
The first step toward God must be admitting that we have no power to save ourselves. Christ Himself said no man can come to the Father unless He calls him. When we come into the presence of a holy God, our response should be that of Paul. He was faced with a trial and asked three times for God to remove it (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Each time, God made it clear He had a purpose for Paul’s weakness, and by extension ours. God’s strength is infinite. It cannot be diminished by our weakness or added to by our supposed strengths.
There is much the church can learn from culture, but there are many aspects of culture that do not belong in a body of believers. What do you think churches have allowed into our worship services that we need to reconsider? Let us know in the comments.