So, before you begin reading this particular blog, take a moment and look at the graph above. It won’t make any sense at first, but hopefully it will by the time you finish reading. That particular graph comes from page Center Church by Tim Keller. That particular section deals with how different types or groups of Christians connect with culture. Keller describes four main models: The Relevants, The Transformationalists, The Counterculturalists, and the Two Kingdoms. Each model has pros and cons. Keller deals with each model at length and discusses these pros and cons. His insights are layered with the thoughts of Richard Neibohr, Abraham Kuyper, James Hunter, Jamie Smith, Michael Goheen, Geerhardus Vos, D.A. Carson and Miroslav Volf to name a few.
So now check out that graph again. Is it engrained in your long term memory? Okay, so here are some important definitions all from Tim Keller’s book Center Church that describes what each model is:
The Relevants: Extreme Advocate: Robert Schuller. Middle Advocate: Brian McLaren. Mild Advocates: Rick Warren and Bill Hybels “The Relevants are especially inspired by the coming shalom and restoration of all things. They emphasize the importance of a church that exists for others, doing sacrificial service for the common good. If the Christian faith is to have any impact on culture, the time must come when it is widely known that secularism tends to make people selfish, while general religion and traditional morality make people tribal (concerned mainly for their own), but the Christian gospel turns people away from both their selfishness and their self-righteousness to serve others in the way that Jesus gave himself for his enemies. Just as Israel was told to ‘seek the peace and prosperity’ of the great pagan city of Babylon (Jer 29:7), so Christians should be well-known as people who seek to serve people- whether they embrace Christianity or not.” pg.235
The Transformationalist Model. Advocates: Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson, Tim Keller, “The Transformationalists have a keen sense of the effects of the fall of human culture; their main focus is on thinking and living in all areas of life in a distinctively Christian manner. Most of our churches’ discipleship models operate by drawing laypeople out of the world and into the life of the church- which can be unhelpful…. Few churches actively support people to follow Christ in both their private and public lives, but the Transformationalists are filling this gap.” pg. 235
The Counterculturalists Model. Advocates: Extreme Advocates: Old Order Mennonite, Amish, Hutterites. Moderate Advocates: Shane Claiborne, Stanley Hauerwas, William Willimon “The Counterculturalists point to God’s redemptive strategy of calling out a distinct people for himself; their lead theme calls the church to be a contrast community and sign of the future kingdom, if we are to have any witness to the world. Those who advocate this model rightly argue that Christians who work as individuals dispersed within cultural institutions cannon give the world a Christian vision of human flourishing in the same way that a community can. The church can provide the best setting for shaping a Christian’s worldview for work in the world.” pg.235
Two Kingdoms View: Advocates: Michael Horton, T. David Gordon, Kevin DeYoung “Those holding the Two Kingdoms view revel in the goodness of creation; their basic idea centres on the dignity of secular vocation and the importance of doing this work in a way marked by an excellence that all can see. The distinctiveness of Christian work will have little impact, directly or indirectly, unless it is accompanied by excellence… The very act of honest work, even in its simplest forms, even when it is difficult to do [out oa?] discernibly Christian worldview, is a wondrous good in and of itself. And therefore farming, police work and other vocations in which we serve the common good are vehicles for God’s love and care to the degree that they are done very well- with utmost skill and honesty.” pg. 235
Did you get all that? The point Keller tries to make is that we should try to be ‘centered’ on our approach to engaging culture. He writes: “The centre of the diagram, near the meeting of the axes, represents a place where there is greater reliance on the whole cloth of biblical themes- marked by an effort to hold together the realities of creation and fall, natural revelation, and special revelation, curse and common grace, the ‘already but not yet,’ continuity and discontinuity, sin, and grace. The closer you are to the center of the grid, the more you hold your theme in balance with the other themes.” pg.236
Why do I share all this?
I wonder about our culture and the extent of it’s brokenness. I wonder what parts can be redeemed, and which parts cannot. I wonder about whether or not the culture is growing in hostility towards Christianity, or if there is more of a ‘I don’t really care’ attitude towards faith. This last week, nations are wrestling with what to do with Syria and at the same time, the word ‘twerk’ has gone viral. I have been taught and I still believe that we are redeemers of culture. I also believe we need to be relevant to where people are at to hear the Gospel similar to what Jesus did with the Samaritan women at Jacob’s Well. At the same time, I deeply respect the Mennonites I grew up with who sever themselves from much of the comfortable things our Culture of Comfort gives us.
As the church, our calling is to continue to proclaim the Gospel, to make disciples, to administer the sacraments, and to practice discipline. These responsibilities are far from ‘cool’ cultural activities. When you are competing against Vegas, it’s tough for the church to offer a compelling alternative that will reach the desires of our hearts. Still, this is the responsibility of the church in a weird day.
This morning I got to hang out with some guys who struggle with drug addiction. We got to talk about life, faith, and even the theology of baptism. It was really cool. Afterwards, I hung out with the director of this program, and he told me something that struck me: If we are supposed to help the needy, the sick, if we’re supposed to step across racial barriers and be a part of the healing process in our culture, it all starts with knowing someone in that situation. It is simply about reaching out, taking time, sharing, becoming vulnerable with the other person. It is not necessarily about fixing our culture- although there are spiritual heavyweights with that type of ability. For most of us, it’s about connecting ‘one-on-one’ with another person who needs to hear the Gospel. You can do that in a variety of ways as Keller describes. Making those one-on-one relational connections is where it will start, and that is something we can all do.