The church has a difficult job to be both relevant to culture while staying counter-culture in many of our ways. I find the balance especially difficult in my own life – thinking about what music I enjoy and allow in my life, what clothing I choose to wear to present myself to those around me, what words I use when I express my opinions on this thing we call life.
More often than not, I feel the need to be challenge the church to be culturally relevant. This comes from where I am in my life. I go to a traditional church out in the country. I work at a Christian college. While many of the believers I know are engaging culture, I’m constantly surrounded by Christians who enjoy their little bubble and don’t want to do anything to endanger it. That’s just my world and I react to it.
However, this weekend I was walking around a mall in Raleigh with my wife and it changed a bit of the way I see things. Our first five minutes in the mall, we walked behind a girl with a see-through shirt on (if you can call that “on” or a “shirt”). We stepped away from visible-bra girl into a store with club music thumping in the air. My wife used to shop at the store (before she married me and became poor). They had some nice clothes, but as I was looking around I honestly became sick to my stomach.
The overwhelming sense of people lost in culture hit me in the gut. I saw an older old woman walking around in tight pants and a purple top with sequined words on it, trying her best to be 16 instead of 60. I saw young girls looking for something to show off everything in order to attract someone who would treat them like nothing.
Culture was smacking me in the face. I wanted no part of it, but I wonder how many of those I saw were believers. Could I find see-through-shirt-girl at church on Sunday raising her hands at the latest Chris Tomlin praise chorus? Would I see desperate-to-be-young-woman teaching Sunday School?
I will never be the one to preach isolationism for the church. We must be in culture and we must be engaging culture for Christ. But we also must stay counter-culture in that we do not become just another fish swimming with the popular current.
The world needs to see something different. There’s two parts to that – they must see something and it must be different.
The unchurched will not see anything if we stay holed up in our little Christian sub-culture, using methods that only appeal to those already there. However, what they see must be different. If it’s more of the same, they’ve already got that. Why make a change?
Do non-Christians see anything different in you? Or are you hiding your light under a basket? Or does your light look just like the neon sign at the bar down the street? Doing either will hamper what we have been called to do.