Culture is changing. Church is changing. Should we Christians be digging in our heels and fighting to regain lost ground, or should we be embracing change with arms wide open?
This is a question I’ve had rattling around in my head recently thanks to a recent project I’ve been working on with Q Ideas (their annual gathering in Denver in April will tackle these questions and issues much more in-depth than I ever could: http://qideas.org/splash/denver/).
My gut reaction is that fighting is not the way to go. Although the church as a (much generalized) whole seems to be good at resisting change, change inevitably comes, sweeping everyone along. The church might dig in and fight, only to eventually progress - bringing up the rear of whatever change agent has entered the public sphere.
This seems problematic to me for two reasons.
1). Shouldn’t the church be on the forefront of cultural change? I’m not saying that the church has to take their cues from the culture and immediately get on board, necessarily. But shouldn’t the crux of the church’s mission to spread good news take us to the outer reaches of what’s considered acceptable by society? Shouldn’t we be the ones to start the envelope-pushing? … Not the ones that are grumpily bringing up the rear, years - or decades - later.
2). Shouldn’t the church be the first to respond to the needs of the culture? Even if what I proposed above sounds too much like “baptizing the culture,” at the very least - once the needs of the culture are made clear - shouldn’t the church be one the front lines of that issue? Again, I’m not proposing that we necessarily clamor to accept culture’s prevailing opinion about each issue, but that we figure out how to address these things as they arise.
A multitude of prescient issues come to mind that are perfect examples for application: women in leadership (yes, we’re still fighting that one); inclusion of LGBTQ; humanitarian concerns (gun control, terrorism, refugee crisis to name a few). I so often see the church either a). completely turn a blind eye, or b). have a reaction to white-knuckle the “traditional” way of doing things that anything else is out of the realm of consideration.
But the thing is, “traditional” is only “traditional” to us; my Christianity looks different from my parents’ Christianity, which looks different from their parents’ Christianity. And should she head in that direction, I’m sure Junia’s Christianity will look different from mine. My great-grandparents might not be able to recognize the brand of Christianity that she eventually ascribes to if she does, in fact, make such a choice.
I venture to say this is how it should be. We contend that our faith is active; that our scriptures are capable of bringing about transformation; that the God we serve is alive. Wouldn’t it be troubling if our way of being Christian DIDN’T change?
Yes, to be done well this requires a great amount of discernment and humility. But what I believe it DOESN’T require is a blind allegiance to components of our faith that no longer serve the world we are called to love and care for.