Saturday, December 29, 2007

Media perceptions and the people of God

Back in November, I was commenting on the blog of someone in cyberworld about the radical nature of the gospel. Perhaps this is a good way to kick off some thought in the new year.

Jesus Doesn't Care

I think you are on the right track in identifying the difference between some evangelicals and those from the mostly liberal mainline churches. My sense is that in all the hype about “red-letter Christians” and the discovery of “them” and “their progressive theology” that a big piece is overlooked.

Fundamentalist, as popularly defined in the media and on the left has never been as big a camp as was imagined. Evangelicals, well before the emergent church emerged were already quietly doing much that the media never reported. The TV evangelist’s can have all the hype and media attention. Most evangelical’s realize that God won’t share His glory with anyone. “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30) has always been a better motto for true Christians that the health, wealth and prosperity nonsense that is the popular media driven picture of who we are.

For 16 years, our motto has been “Living passionately for and like Jesus.” And that is why we have quietly started a health clinic, a clothing pantry, a food pantry, housing counseling, job training, ESL classes. And yet, we believe the Bible and see it as the only sure guide for the direction of our lives.

Yes, to some in the fundamentalist camp, we would be accused of being liberal for the emphasis on so-called social issues in many of our ministries. But in our town, there are only 4-5 churches that would fall into the Fundamentalist church camp. Overall, there are 40 churches in my town. So 4-5 out of 40 is a pretty small number.

At the same time, some of my liberal friends or just non-Christian friends in town think that our church is way too conservative theologically. Jesus doesn’t care either way. He isn’t liberal, progressive, or conservative. He is our Lord and Master and He doesn’t want to be attached to any political agenda, right or left. If the NT makes anything clear it is that attaching Jesus to your already formed worldview is going to distort what he said and who he is. He wants to radically overturn everything that we thought about life, God, political power structures, right and wrong, men and women. That is as true for those who describe themselves as conservative as it is for those who describe themselves as liberal.

Jesus wants to open the eyes of both to radically new and different unseen vistas of knowledge and insight. That’s why Christians call him LORD. He tells us what to care about not some politician or special interest group. Jesus sets the agenda for Christians.


Trevor Holloway said...

Wow! As always, you nailed it in a convicting and thoughtful way. I pray that you and Newsong have a great 2008. Thanks Marty!

Grant said...

Yes, I agree Marty. Interesting thoughts.

I feel pretty comfortable being at a church that is accused of being liberal by the conservative camp and conservative by the liberal camp. Sounds like God is helping us to be on the right track for his Kingdom. :)

And Lord, direct us on a different path if we're not.

Dan Leman said...

"If the NT makes anything clear it is that attaching Jesus to your already formed worldview is going to distort what he said and who he is."

This sounds a lot like what I learned in one of my classes this semester. The Bible is an integrated story, but we try to break it up into little pieces that we can fit into our preferred Western story without disturbing our already formed worldview. Instead, we need to let the story of the Bible be a controlling story that completely reforms how we understand and live in this world.

ChosenRebel said...

Yes, not only do we have inherited western blinders, we have our own counter-cultural rebellious blinders layered on top of our personality blinders and our favorite teacher blinders, etc. It is important to bathe our whole process of thinking in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to saturate our thoughts, purify our motives and scrape clean all our pretensions.

We never graduate from the gospel. We can never leave the life of Christ behind. We must continually immerse our spirits in the images and values of the story of the NT. To not do so is to find ourselves following fads or aimlessly drifting into wasted lives.

Llama Momma said...

Great post and true, and a good reminder to all of us.

clc said...

i think these are good thoughts for the new year and for election time. thanks pastor mary.

this is part of what impressed me about mars hill in grand rapids. they were not concerned with sounding or looking liberal or conservative, they just wanted to look like jesus.

as far as media perceptions...i'm not sure they are too far off. i think our church is unique in what it does, if it weren't so, you wouldn't mention it. but this is not the typical route of the conservative evangelical church. although the american church is getting better at backing up their words with action, this seems to be a newer trend. it was all tracks, books, and reason for a long time. but i don't mind being challenged by the media or otherwise, it keeps us humble.