7 Big Questions, Ordinarily

Todd Hiestand has poised an interesting question. Some big names in evangelicalism were asked 7 question. Todd wants to know not just what the big shots think, but what ordinary folks think. That is an excellent question. Sometimes the big wigs can get disconnected, pastors of small churches who don’t suffer from celebrity can probably more easily connect with the people. After all, ‘culture’ isn’t a thing on its own; it is made up of people.

No, I’m not a pastor; I’m just an over-educated IT nerd, amateur theologian, ordinary, marginally obedient Christian, but I’ll take a shot.

What trends in church and worship styles do you see? Are they positive or negative? Well, I think the worship wars are over and contemporary methods largely won. This is not good. There are churches who think ‘hymn’ is an archaic spelling for the first person, singular masculine pronoun. What is missing then, is any idea of our history and the rich theology beautifully spoken that is present in so many of those hymns. Negative.

At the same time, there is present in some musicians a desire to return to the hymns. Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace are devoted to it. Cademon’s Call did a hymn CD. Amy Grant did too. There are others. Sovereign Grace is launching a sort of modern hymn movement with some of their music. The problem is that I’m not sure it is making it into the churches so much. Not yet anyway.

Another thing I worry about in modern worship is the prevalence of technology. Technology should be there to support what is going on, but sometimes it winds up taking the lead. We use PowerPoint not support a point, but because we use PowerPoint. Video isn’t used to illustrate or tell a supporting story, but because we need video. Light shows? Please. That just adds to the feeling that church is a spectator sport, another entertainment venue.

How should Christians be involved in the political system? I have to admit that my thinking on this has been shaped by Carl F. H. Henry, Francis Schaffer and Derek Webb. I once told a co-worker that I’m part of the Evangelical Free Church of America. She said, “Evangelical? But not all that weird political stuff, right?” It is tragic that ‘evangelical’ has become so tied to ‘Republican’ that they’re thought of as almost the same thing.

I think Derek Webb said it very well. Christians, he said, should be ‘moving targets’ when it comes to politics. Not that we keep shifting our position, but that we stand for truth and what is right and so sometimes we side with the Republicans and sometime the Democrats and sometimes we stand alone. Those groups will at times line up with what is right and at other times they will oppose it so we shouldn’t be able to be pinned to any one of those groups.

How should Christians be involved? We’re ambassadors from a King and his kingdom. But for the Western Church, we live in democracies. We have to remember that democracy, for all its benefits, isn’t the political system that we’re going to live under when Christ returns. He won’t be elected as the ruler of the world. In the mean time, we should work and live here as aliens. Our hope is not in democracy or a political party but in Christ. We should vote according to our Biblically informed conscience as disciples of Jesus Christ. 1Interesting side note here. ‘Christ’ is the Anglicized version of the Greek word for ‘Anointed’ which is used in the New Testament for the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’. The Messiah is a king. It is what David called Saul. So by confessing Jesus as Christ you are admitting your allegiance to a kingdom rather than a republic.

How can a Christian fulfill a passion for social justice as a middle-class American? Wow. Not that is a great question! This is something I’m wrestling with myself. One of the things I think of in this area is the concept of plundering the Egyptians. There are a lot of resources pooled in suburbia: time, people, money, stuff. I we could mobilize these resources to aid the poor and the victimized I think we’d be making great strides. I’m just not sure how to do that.

My point is that we need not always look for social justice issues in our neighborhoods in order to deal with them. If you’re aware of domestic violence in your cul du sac, then you should be dealing with it. But you don’t necessarily have to wait till is shows up on your door step to deal with it.

I am not currently doing this and my heart is heavy with disappointment. I need to get rolling on this, it is an important part of discipleship.

Where and how do you feel Christians can have the most impact on culture? Yet another important question. As I said above, culture is not an entity in and of itself. It is the product of people. You cannot impact culture without reaching people. Period. So if we want to impact culture, we need to be reaching people, not just the people who live in culture but those who shape and project it as well. I think Tim Keller is really on to something by working in New York. I wish we had someone who had a similar vision and equal success in Los Angeles.

But how and where can an ordinary Christian affect culture? It would be a horrible mistake for people who are not talented artists or musicians or poets or writers, etc. to try to engage in those activities simply because they need a Christian voice in them. All we’d do is look stupid for putting out crappy art. I think we need to just be us. Jesus will call and save artists if that is who he wants in his kingdom.  What we regular people need to do is not be afraid of culture. That doesn’t mean we can watch anything and everything on TV and at the movies. We still have to be disciples in the midst of it all. But I don’t think the avoidance of any form of culture we inherited from our Fundamentalist roots is the answer either.

So I don’t think it is right to say that we’re going to either focus on culture nor to ignore it.

1 Interesting side note here. ‘Christ’ is the Anglicized version of the Greek word for ‘Anointed’ which is used in the New Testament for the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’. The Messiah is a king. It is what David called Saul. So by confessing Jesus as Christ you are admitting your allegiance to a kingdom rather than a republic.
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