Critiquing the Culture: Gospel or Preferences?

In Dr. Bruce Ashford’s excellent book, The Theology of Mission, he writes, “We must remember that the gospel stands in judgment of all cultures, calling them to conform themselves to the image of Christ.” He goes on to say that, “The gospel does not condemn all of a culture, but is always and at the same time both affirming and rejoicing.” If this is true of the gospel’s interaction with culture, and I believe it is, then it stands to reason that this should also be the individual believer’s interaction with culture, as well. As I have thought through these words I have thought about how I critique the culture myself. Further, I have considered how I have witnessed believers in my context critique the culture. I am afraid that, by and large, believers critique the culture based on their own preferences much more often than allowing the gospel to offer the critique.

Conversing with the Culture: “We Can’t Stop,” by Miley Cyrus

Excerpt of Lyrics: To my homegirls here with the big butt Shaking it like we at a strip club Remember only God can judge us Forget the haters cause somebody loves ya What happened to Miley Cyrus? I’ve heard enough people ask this question over the past couple of weeks. She used to be so young, so innocent, and now she is twerkin half-naked in front of millions of people on an awards show. “She used to be so pure,” I hear them say. The truth, however, is that she never was innocent and pure. That is the truth for all of us, by the way. The outward change in the way she expresses herself in her career, however, results from the fact that she just desires to be ‘grown up’ and be recognized as such. The sad reality is that what she is trying so hard to become is exactly how the world defines ‘grown up’ these days. Her

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Gospel Transformation: Genuine Friendship

*This current series of posts seeks to answer the question, “What should gospel transformation actually look like in our fallen culture?” Because of the internal transformation of the Spirit that takes place in the life of the believer, Christians should be the very best friends anyone in the world could possibly have. This thought is pretty simply, really. One of the terrible side-effects of sin is that it naturally divides. Sin is a relationship breaker. Our sinful hearts cause us to be self-centered and focus on our own happiness, even to the exclusion of others. Sin causes us to look at others as useful to that end. When they are making us happy, they are welcome to remain in our lives. When they serve as a hindrance to our happiness, we seek to remove them. Sin causes us to survey others as either useful or a threat to that happiness. We judge ourselves according to each other and often treat

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Called to be ‘Positive & Encouraging’ or ‘Salt & Light’?

Let me start by giving a disclaimer. I listen to K-Love from time to time. I love much of the music on K-Love. I love a lot of Christian music. I do have some critique towards some of Christian music (for example, see my last post!), but by-and-large, when I listen to music I listen mostly to Christian music. Also, I am using “K-Love” when really these issues deal with other Christian radio outlets I have encountered, too; but, as K-Love continues to spread its influence all across the country, I believe it best represents that to which I am speaking. Now that that has been cleared up, let me get to the heart of the issue here. I believe that the picture of Christianity that K-Love paints for the listening world is one that is less than biblical and potentially dangerous. I take issue with it because it is not real. It is not true…at least not for most

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Mindshifts in Evangelism (5)

5. We must replace cultural pessimism with gospel confidence. I am a baseball player. At least I used to be. I grew up playing the sport and still miss playing the game. Because of this, one old adage that has always rung true with me goes, “Don’t take your eye off the ball.” A good hitter must maintain insane focus while batting. This is especially true as he faces harder and more effective pitching. The hitter must be able to process a lot of information in a very short amount of time. What type of pitch is it? Where will the pitch settle as it passes by? Should I swing or should I hold? Should I swing with power, or should I swing with more finesse and ‘go with the pitch?’ You will notice that all of these questions center upon the ball. When a batter takes his eyes off the ball, he swings aimlessly, and ultimately, with poor result

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Mindshifts in Evangelism (4)

4. Understand how the gospel speaks to every area of our life. Simply put, we must practice what we preach. Our culture recognizes hypocrisy like no other. I am certain that today’s believer must attain a more robust understanding of the gospel when it comes to life. The gospel has something to say about every single area of our life. The gospel is not to be compartmentalized to the ‘religious’ portions of our lives, whatever we deem those to be. The gospel, when truly implanted into our lives, radically transforms the way we approach our work, our interactions with our families, the way we handle our finances, the way we steward our time and resources, the way we handle difficult news, the way we treat others, the way we approach our hobbies, etc. One of the greatest ways we can show the world how the gospel has relevancy to their lives is to simply display how it is relevant to

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Mindshifts in Evangelism (3)

3. Put evangelistic outlines & presentations in their rightful place. Please don’t get me wrong…I love evangelistic outlines. I actually think they are getting better with time. One that has been offered recently, The Story, is the best one ever written, in my opinion, and I have used it in large group and one-on-one settings. As a matter of fact, you will find a link to it when you click on “What is the Gospel” at the top of this page! I have memorized several evangelistic outlines and I would urge anyone to do the same. My primary reason for this is that evangelistic outlines help me to be able to articulate well the central aspects of the gospel message. Here is my disclaimer with that, though. The ability to walk someone through a complete evangelistic outline has become a quite difficult and rare occasion in our postmodern culture. What I continue to find is that most people want to

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What does it mean that God ‘forgives?’

*I began to write this post several days ago, planning to post it sometime in the near future. However, after reading this article this morning about the decision by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to reject the hymn “In Christ Alone,” I had to go ahead and get it out. If you haven’t read this short article yet, please do so before you read what I have written below. What does it mean that God ‘forgives?’ As believers we must be able to articulate this very important aspect of the Gospel. We must also understand it for ourselves if we are to experience gospel growth in our own lives.

Mind Shifts in Evangelism (1 & 2)

As we think about discipleship differently in light of a redeemed self-discovery and self-expression, a necessary mind shift must take place in the way we think about evangelism. Much of this change deals with the way we approach it to begin with. Over the next week or so I will offer some of these mind shifts. I will offer both #1 and #2 here, as they go hand in hand. 1. Evangelism must not be presented (and viewed) as an add-on to anyone’s life. I think many people do not even consider participating in ‘evangelism’ because they view it as an add-on to their already overflowing schedule. They fear what they would have to give up in order to find time to “go visiting” or “share the gospel” with people. They feel as if they just simply do not have any more time to spare in order to be a part of such things. This is partly a result, I

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Discipleship & Identity (Part 1)

I admit I just do not get Lady Gaga or the fascination so many have with her. But whether I ‘get’ her or not, she has become more than a singer or performer. She has become a movement. Arguably her most adored hit, “Born This Way,” has evolved from lyrics sung to a full fledged foundation. On its website, the foundation states its purpose as “building a kinder braver world that celebrates individuality and empowers young people.” I have been amazed at the response of our younger generation to this mission. Watching this movement unfold has awakened a reality within me concerning the way we approach discipleship with young people. Today’s young people are passionate about two areas: self-identity and self-expression.