The Hazards of Blending In

The church cannot afford to lose itself while trying to find others. 

The secret of a chameleon’s survival lies in its ability to mimic its surroundings.    

That works for a lizard.  

It doesn’t work so well for the church.  

Though a progressive drift has been occurring in certain mainstream denominations for decades, watchdog ministries are now pointing out the same trend among young evangelical churches planted in urban areas.   After a relatively short period of existence, some of these groups have become at-risk populations.  They’ve ended up looking like the fallen cities they occupy, rather than the cities looking like them.  

That means syncretization of values and beliefs have taken place, and it seems to be occurring at disturbing rates.  Whether it is church leaders making misguided attempts to win the hearts and minds of sinners, or church members who passively absorb cultural trends, we seem less prone than ever to hold a consistent biblical worldview.

Consider the words of the psalmist:

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
    they have defiled your holy temple;
    they have laid Jerusalem in ruins” (Ps. 79:1).

Jesus told us to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19), but in this verse from Psalms, it looks as though the nations did some “discipling” of their own among the people of God.  They entered, they defiled, and they laid waste.  And now, like the trashed holy land of ancient times, many a congregation (and entire denominations) have been schooled in sex, gender, family, and race to the extent that they become clones of their secular surroundings.    

The gurus of political correctness have left plenty of spiritual casualties in their wake:  

“They have given the bodies of your servants
    to the birds of the heavens for food,
    the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth” (Ps. 79:2).

As surely as Christians “go” into all the world, so do the servants of darkness.  Remember that Jesus lambasted the Pharisees, telling them “you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Mt. 23:15) .  Truly, these folks “teach” as vigorously as servants of the Lord, not only getting the finer points of theology wrong, but advocating grossly unnatural  things (c.f. 1 Tim. 4:1-3).  They even feign moral outrage over a great many causes, giving the impression of superior sensitivity and righteousness– “…Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

I’m afraid our response to these things has actually helped facilitate the problem.  There’s a term missiologists love (and I love it, too) called “incarnational.”  It refers to the principle of God becoming human in Christ, reaching people in time and culture in ways that made Him receivable, approachable (see my post “Hang Out with Sinners, But Still be a Saint”.

The Apostle Paul had a corresponding thought when he wrote “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).  This is most commendable when making adjustments to amoral things like food, etc. But the apostle would have recoiled in horror to see the lengths to which we have gone in becoming whatever today’s culture deems as just and reasonable. At any rate, “incarnational” should not include loss of spiritual identity.       

The only viable long range strategy to resist the “discipleship” efforts of the world is to fight back from the heart.  I’m going to use the “r” word now—revival—but not the kind that finds its way onto the cover of Christian magazines.  Looking at the elements lost in Psalm 79:1, this kind of revival would involve a reappearing love of holiness, an adoration of God’s glory, a respect for His legacy of truth (His inheritance), a passion for His eternal purpose (the temple).   

These are things that look quite unlike the world.  

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