Tuesday, January 1, 2008

christ and culture

So I spent some of my time off this past week reading for my upcoming Doctor of Ministry program. I start classes tomorrow! I just finished reading "Christ and Culture" by H. Richard Niebuhr.

Here is a bit of wisdom I gleaned. Niebuhr was influenced by the development of the Social Gospel movement which took place in the early 1900's. Right after the Civil War the Industrial Revolution took place in America. This meant the rise of cities and all the social problems dense populations bring. Poverty, racial inequality, fare wages.....these were among some of the issues of the time. The church stepped up to speak for those who had no voice applying biblical teachings to the social problems of the day. During this period the church and faith became relevant to the average person.

Eventually Labor Unions and ultimately the adoption of President Roosevelt's New Deal meant that the government rather than churches began to address the social issues of this time. When the government began to do what the church was doing....this mean that the church and faith failed to have relevancy. This gave rise to the "program" church.....teenage bowling groups, adult bridge groups, trips, movies, fellowship dinners.

The typical program church of the 50's and 60's was void of relevance other than providing worship and fellowship activities.

We now find the church struggling for an identity. Some churches present themselves as one more commodity to be bought and enjoyed. Other churches just give up.

How can the church become relevant again?

It seems all we do now is gather for an "enjoyable" worship service, throw some money towards help programs and gather for an occasional fellowship meal. Shouldn't there be more to church?

1 comment:

MY OWN WOMAN... said...

A long time ago, I heard a sermon on the "Church inside the Church." That sermon has not left me to this day.

The church is a mere building where people go to fellowship or hear the Word of God in a formal setting. The Church inside of the "church building" is where the true value of the church is realized. The Church inside of the church is comprised of the people who are filled with the spirit of God and are eager to do His will. It is "that" Church that our spirit yearns for and the real reason we make an attempt to meet with others and fellowship. "That" church helps refill our spirit. It is similar to filling your glass up with water when you are thirsty, you drink it and are satisfied for a while, but the glass must be refilled. An empty glass does not fulfill our thirst; nor does an empty spirit produce fruit.

The Word of God says, "where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." So, as you can see, the church is not the building, but God's people who fill it.

You speak of the church and faith having relevance to the average person when the church was the one to step up and speak for those that were downtrodden. Even today, the truly downtrodden do not have a voice; it is merely the politically correct or fundamentally sound that the church will lend it's voice to. It is a rare church that will go against the grain to preach that God loves EVERYONE, not just those who try to live sinless. The church should not be "organized" but "be realized" that God is alive and ready and eager to work in our lives. He had to be made real.

I believe that the church and faith have relevance today, if I didn't then I'd have to believe that Christ's victory on the cross is not relevant for today. The problem arises when the church building controls the church instead of the church inside of the church controlling the building.

I know, it all sounds so confusing but in reality it is really very simple. Don't allow the church to stifle God. Set God's Spirit free and allow it to fill the "church" so that change can begin. When change begins, you will see that the church and faith are relevant even today.