God in the Wild: A Response to the Problem of Cultural Christianity


How do you like your Jesus?

Do you prefer Him in a church setting with your favorite worship songs and the typical liturgy you would find in any given church on any given Sunday? Is He easier to encounter in an "Americanized" setting with all the trappings of our culture's religious tradition? Perhaps we feel most comfortable with Jesus when He makes an appearance in our coffee shops wearing skinny-jeans and TOMS. Regardless of how your culture encounters God or worships Him, nearly every Christian culture feels as though they have the edge on what Biblical Christianity is supposed to look like, the style of preaching that pleases God, and even the worship music that God prefers.

Lines are being drawn and people are taking sides.

As leaders, (and by leaders I mean anyone who has spiritual influence in the life of another), we must understand that we are living in a time where absolutely everything about God, our faith, and the Church is being questioned. This time, however, the questions aren't coming from an unbelieving world, but by God's very own people. Questions are being asked about whether or not a style of church service is pleasing to God. Everything is being called out; from calling synthesized worship music "demonic" to calling acoustic worship hymns "antiquated." We have pastors calling out pastors and churches calling out churches...

...but we would be foolish to think this hasn't happened before.

This battle has been fought within the body of Christ for years. In fact, it's as old as the very beginnings of the Church itself. I wonder if the Church "monday-morning-quarterbacked" Paul when he took the cultural/relational stance with reaching people and said that he "becomes all things to all people so that he may win them to Christ."
That had to be a little messy.

So what do we do? Pick our favorite side? Draw our own line in the sand? Build our ministries into monuments of our personal conviction as opposed to a reflection of Jesus? I hope not. In fact, I don't believe the answer is in being the loudest in this argument or even proving who is right and who is wrong. The answer is found in what our walk with God looks like when we aren't in the pulpit, blogging behind a keyboard, or leading a small group. It's who we are when it's just us meeting with God in the wild.

Now before you dismiss my question as an attempt to call people to some bohemian-style of Christianity, please allow me to paint a picture of what I mean. Say you were born on a desert island, away from world and "Christian culture." You don't have the latest fashion trends to say that you're relevant. There is no weekly service to "plug into." There isn't even a style of music you can listen to to make you "feel closer to God."

You are, in essence, a cultureless Christian.

Then suddenly, one day, Jesus reveals Himself to you in person, hands you a Bible, and says, "Follow me." How, then, would you go about worshiping Him, or praying to Him, or even singing songs of praise to Him? Furthermore, what steps would you take to ensure that your relationship with Him grew on a daily basis? There would be no precedent set that tells you how to pursue God, no liturgy, and no culture based on Christian tradition.

How would you know God in the wild?

For many of us, this is a scary thought. It's scary because the majority of Christians are more in love with a Christian culture as opposed to the Christ of their culture. If many Believers were on that desert island left only with the Word of God and the clothes on their back, they wouldn't know how to encounter their Creator without a preacher or a Christian radio station telling them how to do so.

I'm not saying that you need to leave your churches, sew together fig leaves for your clothes, and live in the woods behind your house. Not at all. On the contrary, I'm challenging us as followers of Jesus Christ to get to know our God on a relational level before we get to know Him on a religious level. Allow that relationship to determine the culture of your life and not what the latest article of RELEVANT magazine says it should be.  If this can occur personally, then I believe we would corporately see our churches transformed into a hospital for sinners as opposed to a nursing home for the egos of its saints. This would, in turn, cause Christianity in our community to become contagious and not commonplace.

This may seem radical, and even risky, for many of us, but as Judah Smith puts it,  "A man with a Savior does not play it safe."

Feel free to share your thoughts below on how culture has helped or hurt your walk with God and the progression of the Church.