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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Identity Crisis

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

-George Orwell

Last sentence from his book, Animal Farm

I have always found the quote above to be an interesting one. I think it would be safe to say that it is my favorite quote from any piece of literature outside of the Bible. As it stares back at me from the wall where it hangs in my work space, I ponder the question: Is this what the 21st Century Church looks like before the watching world? Are we as the "called out ones" properly representing the truth claims of the gospel?

No one taking an earnest assesment could overlook the fact that the church is having a serious problem finding relevance in the postmodern world. This is definitely understandable. After all, the mission of the church is to proclaim the objective truths of the gospel up and against a society that says that there are no such claims. In the postmodern worldview, truth is subjective. So, as we can see, this does present us with a dilemma and sets us up for ridicule by worldly standards. However, it is how you respond to the adversity that shows what you are made of. Unfortunately, in many cases, the modern day church has opted to go for "If you can't be 'em, join 'em" strategy. We feel that the way to be relevant is to be accepted. Instead of being true to ourselves we try to become someone else. We trade the "foolishness of God"(1 Cor. 1:25) for the folly of the world. "How?", you might ask. We turn worship into entertainment. We're always seeking a better medium for the message, failing to realize that the message is the medium. While we should be about the business of saving souls, we have turned saving souls into a business. What should be the Church of Christ has become the Church of Christ, Inc. We have traded in the Law of God, which should lead us to the Cross of Christ and repentance unto life, for a softer "law" of behavior modification and political activism. In short, we have settled for being a mere sub-culture oddity rather than being the counter-cultural entity of times past that has radically changed the world by changing hearts and minds through faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Sadly, we are forgetting our first love. The more that we seek relevance with the world, we become more and more irrelevant. We are to be in the world, not of it; to redeem the culture through faithful witness, not give in to the pressures of the society. Ours is surely going in the way of Orwell's model. When the world looks at the church standing alongside the rest of the culture of the west it is becoming increasingly harder to see a real difference. The question then is: If no difference can be seen, then really, what difference does it make?

If we truly seek to reverse this problem, we as the body of Christ need to return to the paths of old and reclaim the gospel as it is taught to us by Jesus and the Apostles. Granted, God can and does still use the church for his good purpose, even as we struggle. But, this does not relieve us as the church of making our election and calling sure and of working out our faith with fear and trembling. My prayer is that the church will be convicted of its sin and neglect and will once again return to the Word of God which is the only way for her to keep her light and doctrine pure. We must once again realize that salvation is from God, not by the work of our own hands. The only way we can make a difference is to be different.

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
-James 4:3-4 (ESV)

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
-1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. "
-1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."
-Revelation 2:4,5 (ESV)

Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon White

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