Ken Myers is a former reporter for National Public Radio who publishes a bimonthly audiozine called Mars Hill Audio Journal. It consists of a series of interviews with thought leaders in a variety of disciplines. Myers is a perceptive observer of the interplay between religion and culture. He asks good questions that elicit thoughtful answers.
A few months ago someone turned the microphone around and interviewed Myers about the challenges and opportunities facing today’s churches. Myers responded that the most significant challenges are not posed by our culture, but by the culture of the church.
“We have reduced the Gospel to an abstract message of salvation that can be believed without having any necessary consequences for how we live,” said Myers. “Redemption,” added the Charlottesvillian, is more than restoring “our status before God through the life and work of Jesus Christ.” It is “about God’s restoring our whole life, not just one invisible aspect of our being (the soul), but our life as lived out in the world.”
Christians, he said, have allowed themselves to be influenced by culture. We’ve let technology cause us to assume we can fix anything, conveniences to erode the virtue of patience, and entertainment to teach us that anything of value should be entertaining.
In short, we are not Christian as much as we are “Christianish.” We are converts but not disciples.
Myers’ brief interview is long on diagnosis and short on cures. But he invites us to ponder the costs of relevance, institutional incarnation and practicing faith in a postmodern world. Are we the salt and light Jesus asked us to be, or are we mirrors that reflect everything within sight?
One of Myers’ challenges is for pastors to lead their churches to deeper levels of Christian maturity. In our amended Constitution we added the words “Spiritual Formation” to “Board of Christian Education” for this very purpose—to remind us that we not only need to be educated about the facts of our faith, but to be shaped and molded into the likeness of Jesus.
Is the culture your growing edge, or is Christ?
Originally published in the Fall Explorer