There was a time in my life where I thought the evangelical Christian subculture was just about as close to heaven as one could get before actually arriving. The Christian t-shirts, concerts, radio, movies…it’s all there. However, I am growing weary of it. In fact, I want to be less “Christian”. Instead, I want to be more like Jesus. How would that look? Here are three ideas on which I am attempting to grow.
1. Engage the Culture
Jesus didn’t fear culture, he engaged it. The apostle Paul was very much the same. In fact, in the book of Acts, chapter 17, Paul was in three different cities with responses ranging from vengeful rioters, to careful studiers, to scoffers and mockers. However, the engagement with one of those cities, Athens, is a place to examine more deeply how insightful Paul was in reading and engaging the culture.
We see that Paul looked around town (Acts 17:22-23). Paul was observant. He picked up on the details of what was happening around him. Rather than condemning the people of Athens for their idols and many altars, Paul used these to start his discussion with them. He in fact, complimented them, that they were very religious (Acts 17:22).
A few centuries after Paul, Augustine said it well of the human craving for God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” People are still craving something of the Divine. We still have that stirring that there is Something/Someone out there and we really want to connect with that. We want to feel secure and not lost simply wandering this planet to pay bills, be entertained and try to get ahead.
So, Paul says, “I want to talk about this with you. You are spiritually minded people. You, even covered all your bases by having an altar to ‘an unknown God’. I want to discuss who this unknown God is and tell you about Him” Acts 17:22-23 (my paraphrase).
Paul models engaging the culture. Jesus was often chatting with “sinners” of various sorts. When we think of a sinful place like Corinth or a lazy place like Crete, this is where Paul helped churches be planted. It seems in the midst of awful, the beauty of the Gospel was shining. The word missional, really is simply calling us back to being engaged with our world. What would it look like to engage your particular cultural spot?
2. Seek Transformation
The Christian subculture sometimes puts forth a picture of completeness, rather than the ongoing messiness of transformation. You enter a conference and go to booths and it’s about reaching “those people”. Evangelism is vital, however so is discipleship. If we were honest and pressed into the ongoing hard work of our own need for transformation, our evangelism would become easier and more genuine.
In fact, people can be drawn to our Savior through our lives. Titus 2:10, shares how these individuals can “adorn or make attractive” the teaching of God our Savior, by their actions. There are a lot of planks in our own eye, we need to inspect them before running out to get specks out of others’ eye (Matthew 7:3-5). (At least I know there’s a lumberyard of planks in my eye!)
It is hard to seek transformation. Just like our fear of culture, where it’s easier to condemn it than to engage it; so it is with personal transformation. It is hard to admit our weaknesses; to expose ourselves to counselors and Christian friends and Scripture and most of all to God, that we don’t have it all together. It is hard to admit that we really do need Jesus. Maybe hardest of all for those of us that start to know more about Jesus, to fall back to that spot and admit our deep need for Him.
3. Know your goal
Jesus had one goal; that was to do the will of God the Father (John 6:38). What if that was our goal? Sometimes, I see Christians simply wanting to impress other Christians. “Look at this concert we are hosting. Look at how many people go to our church. Look at how beautiful our new building is….” What if we had the goal of Jesus, to simply do God’s will?
Sometimes, we even get trickier and more nuanced in our deceptive games with each other. We read a lot of Christian books and can quote from them and we start to play the game of the Pharisees. We start to look down our noses at others, even using Scripture as a weapon of pride in the endeavor to be the best Christian in the bunch. Interestingly, when the question of being the best came up with Jesus’ first followers, he answered, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
I used to love the Christian subculture. There is an important and necessary place for Christians to gather in worship, prayer and study of the Bible. However, I am feeling much more useful to the Kingdom of God and having more fun being on a mission of engagement rather than cloistering. While it’s a balance to be “in the world and not of the world” (John 17:15-16) sometimes we gotta be sure we are still in it. Then, when we live real, authentic lives that are messy, but are seeking to love God and neighbor, there might be a chance we get someone to listen and start to follow Jesus as well. That’s at least what I am finding. How about you?