Our "thought of the day," is not mine, sadly, but hails instead from Ken Myers' most recent Mars Hill periodical abstract. He summarizes well how the steamroller of popular culture has so overwhelmed the belief-affirming and intergenerational glue of "traditional" culture:"From a theological perspective, we were created for community, for membership, for mutual trinity-imitating belonging. Cultures are not simply adaptive mechanisms that facilitate survival, they are the necessary extensions of our image-bearing being."
This is a great statement, and a caution against the tendency to shrink away from understanding, engaging, and changing culture, but yet we must avoid being overeager to embrac the latest offerings of "contemporary" culture as Ken continues..."That's why social, political, and economic institutions that encourage us to move in a direction that is post-cultural, or anti-cultural, or auto-cultural are finally dehumanizing. In the past few decades, many Christian churches have adopted techniques of ministry that fit nicely into this post-, anti-, or auto-cultural regime. These techniques are sometimes labeled "contemporary," and they are often consciously pitted against "traditional" forms of ministry. The leaders of the various movements that have championed these retoolings seem to be largely oblivious to the problems I have briefly outlined above. In their writings to explain the necessity of their approaches, one reads a great deal about how traditions need to be dismantled in order to reach more people. But there is no evidence that they have wrestled with the question of whether or not traditions are necessary to keep a people together (at many levels) over time. The Gospel itself is then another commodity individually appropriated, not the foundation of a community, not the announcement of a new people committed to a shared way of life forward into many generations. Such re-invented churches are successful in reaching many individuals, which is absolutely no surprise. It would be shocking if they didn't. But if they are to become communities rather than strategies, they will have to take more seriously the necessity of traditions as vehicles of committed memory."
Hence the struggle, my friends! The Gospel must be The Gospel
, and not a commodity that is packaged in ever-changing disguises with ever-new flavors highlighted for changing cultural palates. No, it must be what it is, the pungent and yet blissful truth from the pages of the Bible. Still, it is hard to know how we should live and how we should act and how we should think (etc, etc ad infinitum!) in the face of a world that is so confused, culturally diseased, and soul destroying. At the very least, we cling to the truth of the Gospel which has been preserved, by God's grace and the work of all the cultural stewards of Christianity, throughout history. Indeed, that
is the culture to which we cling, the community life of all those who, in God's power, follow Christ.