For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Is “Fashionable” the Goal of the Church?

Timing is everything. I just finished reading an excellent book by Tullian Tchividjian called Unfashionable. He addresses the issue of how the church should interact with culture, specifically critiquing our fascination with “fitting in,” on in his terms, being “fashionable.” He does a remarkable job of showing how the church is supposed to be different from the world; not completely isolated from it, but different. Some good thoughtful stuff here.

Then on Sunday, the Springfield paper had a feature article called “Christian Ink.” It was highlighting a particular church in town that not only welcomes those who have tattoos, but actually has a wall in the church highlighting members who have been “inked.” A wall of fame, with pictures of their tats, welcomes all those who enter.

Now, I don’t want to turn this into an article strictly against tattoos, though I certainly think we can make some strong arguments against it. As a church, however, we ought to welcome anyone and everyone who comes, tats or not. So though I would strongly discourage getting them, we would certainly want to welcome folks who might have them. This isn’t really about that aspect of it.

The article tells how the pastor of this church preached a sermon while getting a tattoo, and offering “temporary tats” to everyone at the same time. I’m thinking, what’s the point here? Is this really what the preaching of this Gospel is supposed to be about? Isn’t this the very “fashionable” approach Tchividjian is talking about? Just trying to look like the world, to be hip, to fit in and so on.

Furthermore, the article highlights one man who owns or co-owns two tattoo parlors in the area with “sanctified” sounding names like Eternal Tattoo and Sacred Art. I don’t know this man. I don’t know his business ventures. But I am greatly disturbed by this comment from the article:

“(the owner) sees his art as a way to earn a living and a way to share his faith. ‘I thought if someone out there needed to hear what the Bible says, maybe I was that guy to reach them,’ he says. But his own faith does not get in the way of business. The artists in the shops will talk to a customer who requests an offensive tattoo, but they will not refuse one based on beliefs. ‘I do lots of Wiccan tattoos,’ says…a tattoo artist at Eternal.” (emphasis mine)

Does anyone else see the problem here? Don’t let you faith get in the way of business? Go ahead a put a permanent Wiccan mark on someone’s body, it’s ok? That’s like me saying to someone, “I don’t recommend Satanic books, but if you really want one, here let me give you one.” Hel-lo!

Furthermore, one of the featured “converts” in this article who came to the church I mentioned above because of it’s openness on the issue, posed for photos to accompany the article. On his forearm is a skull and crossbones and a scantily clad woman. One shot has his inked arms crossed, with a cross in his hand hanging right next to the tattoo.

Now, please hear me again. The church ought to be reaching out to folks like this. They need the Gospel just like the rest of us sinners. And I don’t want to disparaged what God may be doing in his life. But do we not see the problem with “accepting” artwork that is in opposition to Biblical standards; in fact, not just accepting but showing them off like some kind of badge of honor, when it is an offense to the holiness our God calls us to? Are we so enamored by the world, that we can’t even see the worldliness of stuff like this?

Again, I understand the man got the tats prior to “conversion” (at least that’s the assumption I make), and that’s something he’ll have to live with. But instead of encouraging him to maybe have the more offensive tats removed or at least covered, we’re going to show them off on the wall at church, along with the rest of our members’ “art”? We’re going to brag about permanently marking people’s bodies with Satanic symbols, and we don’t have a problem with that because we don’t want our faith to affect our business?

I may have read the book wrong, but this is precisely the kind of thing Tchividjian was talking about. Our failure to let our faith affect every area of our lives so that we live differently from the world around us. Not haughtily. Not judgmentally. Not in isolation from the world. But different. We are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone, the new has come. We must be in the world, but not of it. As Tchividjian says, “against the world, for the world.” Opposing the world system for the benefit of the world, seeking its redemption.

We will never have the influence we are meant to have in this world until we learn to live “unfashionably.” Until we learn to see that worldliness makes us enemies of God. Until we are willing to let our faith affect our business, and our families, and our lifestyle, and so on.

But as long as the church works so hard to look just like the world, the world isn’t going to see anything in the church worth having. Let’s remember that we are citizens of a different Kingdom, messengers of a better way and a better King to serve. And let’s faithfully engage those around us with the Gospel without cheapening it through worldly imitations of what’s hip and cool.

(Note: Thanks to Phil Johnson of the Spurgeon Archive and the Pyromaniacs site for the images. If you appreciate the satire, there are lots more where those came from HERE.)


Gregg Metcalf said...

I am so tired of hearing about "culture." I can't remember anywhere in the bible where we are told to engage culture. I think the so called evangelical church has been sold (and bought) a bill of goods and are so deceived.

Paul did not engage culture. He engaged the lost, wicked, and sinful with the truth of the gospel. When he said he became all things to all men, he did not mean that he cussed with those who cussed, "tatted" with those who "tat", rocked with those rocked, sinned with those who sinned; he took on the condition of those who were free to share the gospel, he took on the conditon of those were bound under the law - not as a means of grace - but to be heard. Paul circumcised Timothy for the Jews, observed some ceremonial laws to gain a hearing by the Jews, but he did not imply we have to throw away the cross, tear out the pulpits, take out the pews and install recliners, throw out hymns for Slayer, burn decent modest appropriate clothing for dirty jeans with holes in them. Did he?

No! the church will never be fashionable. The world hates the church. It hates it and us becasue it hates God. Why are we accomodating God haters?

Wait a minute, I didn't say, no to love them, be burdened for them, broken hearted for them, weep for them and share the gospel with them. Share the truth!

Why are worried about why they won't come to church or how to make the church over so that they will come?

The church is not for the lost. they will never want to come - unless you appeal to their ego-centric nature and offer them something that they want - which is not Christ, holiness, redemption.

We lost the fact that we are to go. We go to them. Yes, in their territory but not in their lifestyle.

I think the so called evangelical church no longer belives in:

1) The sufficiency of Scripture
2) The sovereignty of the Savior
3) The power of the gospel

By time one makes a church fashionable and comfortable enough for the lost then I can no longer go and find God.

Scott said...

Gregg, thanks for the comment. Sorry if I got your blood pressure up!

You're right about our being deceived by so much of this. If you haven't, I'd encourage you to read Tchividjian's book. While he agrees with us for the most part, he did make me think a little about the "engaging culture" aspect. He doesn't condone this stuff we're talking about, but he does remind us that we are looking to redeem not only individuals, but the world at large as we look forward to that day when all things will be made right. He talks about the Christian's role in music, art, technology, etc.

Wish he had developed that line of thought more, but it did give me some things to think about. Overall, he agrees in condemning this fascination the church has with accommodating the world.

Thanks again for the comment.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Thanks for your comment, my blood pressure really didn't go up, I just tired of mantra's.

I think for the most part the reason the so called "culture engaging" is so appealing is that a good majority of evangelical churches are simply led by and full of non believers. Peopel who have "peddled" a cheap, easy believism, non repentance gospel have just "christianized a social club."

But you did open my eyes to something. I see a difference here I had no considered before.

You said," but he does remind us that we are looking to redeem not only individuals, but the world at large as we look forward to that day when all things will be made right."

This is one of the reasons I am not a covenant theologian or reformed. I hold to the doctrines of grace, not because they are reformed doctrines but becasue they are biblical doctrines.

I am not out to redeem the world, I preach the gospel to every creature in believing God will redeem some. I don't think the is redeemable nor will God redeem it. He will destroy the current earth and re-create it.

I am looking for the kingdom of God on earth when Christ returns with his saints to rule for 1000 years, but at the end He will recreate the heavens and the earth.

Maybe that is why I don't have a thing for the culture, I know that as God saves individuals he changes them into his image.

I think this world is going to grow worse and worse and worse.

That comment was very helpful to me. This is one reason I am really almost apolitical and not interested in legislating legalism or righteousness. Iam not saying you or anyone else is believe me.

But I am not as much interested in shutting down abortion clinics through the courts as I am am seeing Doctors and women saved by Christ. Abortion won't cease because we legislate it or outlaw it or overturn Roe v Wade - it will end when Christ returns to this earth and rules on it.

No, I am not advocating we do nothing now, we preach the gospel, praying God will change hearts and remove people from the industry and change the minds of women who seek abortions.

I am not a crusader to overturn MA or similar same sex marraige laws. God will destroy that abomination. Until then I want to preach the gospel to homosexuals as well as adulterers, forncators, etc.

So, I see something I hadn't considered before. I love much of the reformation, the reformers, the dead guys, Calvin, Luther, etc - not becasue they were biblical, but because much of what they beleived and taught was biblical.

I still distinquish true Israel from the church and hold to the doctrines of grace.

This was very enlightening for me, thank you. We will not redeem the world or culture, there will be no Geneva.

Scott said...

Gregg, you should read the book, because I don't think I represented the point very well. I don't think he was going for a postmillennial utopia kind of argument, that things will get better and we're the agents of that. I don't know his views on that, and wouldn't dare to speak for him. (Personlly I'm historic premil). Again, read the book.

I think the point was just that the cultural mandate given in the garden, subdue the earth, has ramifications now. It wasn't ended with the fall, just made more difficult.

Our job is not to redeem culture in the sense of making in perfect for the Kingdom. But we do have cultural responsibilities as salt and light, in addition to the proclamation of the gospel to the individual. The salvation of God's people is certainly the priority, but I think the point is that once we are redeemed, it will have a dramatic effect on how we live, and that new creation living will have an impact on our culture.

In fact, he even made the same arguments that you made about getting too caught up with trying to change the world through politics, etc. I think you may agree more than you think. I'm just not stating things very well.

Thanks again for the comments. I enjoy and learn from the dialogue.

Frances Clements said...

I have had this book on my list of books to read for a while. I really enjoyed your post. It kind of goes with the contemprovant video that you posted a while ago.

Lori said...

If our job is not to redeem the culture, what good is it to be salt and light? Is it just to grab as many as we can on our way to heaven? Our Lord's prayer beings and ends with the KINGDOM... coming here on earth. Our job is to do just that. Any other theology is defeatist. He WILL bring Righteousness on the earth and will do it through His people. May we not loose sight of that.

Contrary to popular belief, we will not all be raptured up so He can clean up the mess.

I see comments about loving Luther and Calvin and the Biblical teaching they held. What if they had the attitude of some of those making comments here??? Nothing can be "FIXED" ...just preach and hope Jesus returns?? You know, that is EXACTLY the problem we face today. Most DO Have that kind of eschatology. There is no hope of victory. Bring THAT message to the masses and His Kingdom WILL come, and we will see peace on this earth.

scott said...

Thanks for the comment. What I said was that it is not our job in the sense that we can make this perfect on our own. Only God can, and will eventually redeem this world. But we do have a role to play, and we should be playing it by being that salt and light, not conforming to this world.

We do have the mandate to "subdue the earth" and we should be hard at it. My point was that until sin in removed permanently, that will never be done perfectly. Doesn't mean we shouldn't work toward it.

Didn't mean to start an eschatalogical debate. Just trying to encourage the saints to live like saints and not like world; our goal regardless of millennial views.

Again, thanks for the comment. Dialogue is good.