Friday, February 6, 2015

A lesson for the church: Avoid 'culturalization'

One of the assignments for any true church is to make certain it resembles the called-out community of God more than the world out of which it has been called.

I addressed this issue during last Sunday’s sermon in my preaching series through the book of Judges. It came during a review of where we were in Israel’s history as we looked at Judges 11. The four-part cycle – God’s people commit evil; God disciplines His people; God’s people cry out to Him; God delivers His people – described in the book does not leave Israel at the same place spiritually after several repetitions. Instead, by Chapter 11, God’s people are in a “plunge,” as Old Testament scholar Dale Ralph Davis calls it. Another writer, Daniel Block, says what we are observing in this book is the “Canaanization of Israel.” In other words, God’s people look more and more like the pagan culture in which they live.

As I said Sunday, it is a lesson for the church in any age. If we, as the church, look and live like the spirit of the age we have been delivered out of, what good are we? We are no longer a distinctive people. We are just baptized idolaters.

It’s like the German churches in the 1930s and ’40s that could sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” while bowing to a Nazi madman and his nationalistic fervor that liquidated six million Jews.

It’s like the churches of the American South in the 1950s and ’60s that could sing “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” and “When We All Get to Heaven” while embracing a legal system that enforced the idea that fellow image bearers of God were inferior and unequal because they had a different skin color.

It’s like our church in this day singing “You Are My King” and “The Power of the Cross” while endorsing lifestyles and unions that violate God’s created order or while welcoming to the Lord’s Supper table open fornicators and adulterers.

The fact is the church in any country can easily be prone to “culturalization” in various ways.

For instance, American “culturalization” of the body of Christ could include adopting practices in corporate worship that mirror our popular, celebrity-enthralled society rather than the picture offered in the New Testament – practices that seem to focus on performance and performers on stage rather than to incorporate the entire body of believers as they participate in the worship of God.

May we not be infected with American “culturalization” as a church. Instead, may we look to the Word and the Spirit for the shaping of a community and culture that reflect Christ and glorify God.

* -- Photo attribution.