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Monday, January 28, 2008

Church as Countercultural?

Churches are working hard to keep up with the times. High tech presentations, advertising and web sites with streaming video, new building projects and renovations to create classy settings to pray, worship, and fellowship in. We have taken on the attitude of secular marketing as a way of promoting our churches. We must provide people with the products and services that they want, or they will not support our church business.

But what ever happened to “in the world – not of the world?” What we have to share is better than anything the world has to offer. The promise of eternal life with our loving creator and the joy and peace in this life that comes from our relationship with God the Father lived in community with others. Though we receive no promise of it being an easy life, it is one of true fulfillment. When this is lived out, others who are invited to come along on the adventure will often find it attractive. All over the world, we see people searching – trying to find something that will give them that joy and peace that can only be found in Christ. They turn to money, sex, power, bigger homes, fancier cars, designer clothes… and yet it only perpetuates the desire for more. Their attempts may give some momentary happiness or pleasure, but they quickly find themselves unsatisfied once again.

The Gospel message is one that goes against this materialistic and egotistic search for fulfillment. Jesus has the answer, but it is not the way of the world. He tells us that those who try to save their lives will loose them and the ones who loose their lives will find them. He tells us that the meek and poor in spirit are the ones who are blessed – not the rich and the powerful. It is completely countercultural. We are told that God’s way is foolishness to the world and that they will reject us because they rejected him. Yet, this is where we will find our true selves – the people that God created us to be. The reckless, intense, never-ending love that the Father has for us is realized and lived out in our love for one another, as God has instructed us to do. It is this kind of faith community that our churches ought to be – a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope, an example of how we were meant to live.

However, in large part, our churches are no different than the rest of the world. We find ourselves sucked into the same materialism that is seen all around us and we hear the gospel watered down to some phony health and wealth version. We avoid the parts of scripture that are too much to ask of people because we don’t want to see the attendance drop. We need to give it to people straight. It may be hard – but it is TRUE! And it is GOOD! Here is our creator telling us how he designed us, where we will find true happiness. Shouldn’t that be something that we are eager to tell people?

Lord God, give us the courage to draw our strength from you and let your love shine through us, that others may see that there is another way – a different way than the world offers – a life of love and peace and true fulfillment!

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