The Gospel and Church Culture
David Eagle writes
I had lunch today with a Mennonite fellow from Abbotsford who asked me how the church will need to change in order to more significantly reach into the liberally minded, religiously suspicious Canadian. His question was far from theoretical, as he has a daughter who has disengaged from the church. Her disengagement was not out of anger or a spiritual crisis, but simply because the church didn’t seem necessary. I immediately noticed that he did not use the word relevant (that’s to imply a marketing framework), but necessary (which implies the mission of the organisation).
In think that those in power in conservative centres such as Abbotsford must wake up and realize that we are not dealing with a marketing problem, but rather a problem of core identity. Conservative churches have long occupied themselves trying to package the gospel and the whole “evangelical/pietistic” experience just right so as to attract different types of folks. I think what were finding increasingly is that the problem isn’t with the packaging, the problem is with the fundamental message and worldview that is contained within the packaging. Or, better put, the problem is with the way in which evangelical assumptions affect religious packaging so as to make it distasteful.
I hope that pastors paid attention to the latest election. I hope they realized that in order to get a Conservative government in Canada, you have to silence the relgious voices (particularly the conservative ones) and present a more socially progressive agenda. Evangelicalism, and many of its core assumptions and lifestyle constraints is simply distasteful to many (particularly urban) Canadians.
The dominant Canadian culture and the evangelical subculture have grown so distant from each other it is somewhat like the Jew/Gentile controversy in the early church. We have evangelicals saying the heathen must be assimilated in to church subculture before they follow Christ. In the same way the Judiazers said gentiles had to become Jewish before they could become Christians.
I think your average Conservative evangelical would say: “You want us to water down the gospel to make it more palatable to this generation. The gospel should be offensive. If we make Christianity less offensive we empty the cross of its power.”
I think this argument has a point but it assumes that all that we have in our subculture is the gospel. The gospel should offend, but we do not need to add to someone’s potential offense by requiring people assimilate in to the evangelical church subculture.
In this election a great many Christians became upset at Paul Martin and the Liberals for staking their claim on “Canadian values.” The Liberals implied that pro-life Christians who wish to impose their morals on the rest of the country are unCanadian. The rhetoric was somewhat disingenuous because there were pro-life Liberal’s in the caucus, but it does have an element of truth. Trudeau and his charter, more than anything else, have defined Canadian values. Democracy, individual rights, pluralism, liberal social economics, multiculturalism can at times be at odds with evangelical values.