“One of them is a sense of biblical illiteracy and people growing up in churches that are more in tune with the culture than they are with the principles of engagement that God has laid out in His Word,” says George Durance of Teach Beyond.
Change in the Church, No Change in Society
“It seems to me that maybe twenty, thirty years ago, we made a decision as evangelicals that we needed to become more relevant and more in touch with our culture as we saw our ideas and our subculture being moved to the margins and basically no longer respected.”
Durance points out evangelical churches began to get rid of pipe organs and became more relaxed in their dress codes. Music has since become more upbeat and sermons have felt more conversational.
Patheos released an article about the Church’s and ministries’ efforts to “engage the culture” by moving toward secularism in order to bring more people in.
“There was a real effort right across the evangelical Church to make some really clear statements to our culture that we still felt like we had something that we had to say and wanted to be loving our neighbor and in touch with our neighbor and this seemed to be the way to go.”
However, Durance says that a serious problem remains in the Church and it’s one of disrespect and marginalization. The Patheos article says this advancement of engaging the culture has failed because Christianity has been a sign of low status.
Further, despite the Church’s efforts to become more culturally progressive, movies, media, society, etc. continue to see and portray the Church in a negative light. Durance shares he recently watched a show that portrayed followers of Christ as unintelligent and unloving.
“Christians watch this and they’re horrified and their reaction is I really need to set the record straight. I need to dress better. I need to look cooler. And there’s a whole series of things that result when they see something like that,” Durance says.
And, he says, miracles have been purged from society. Retellings of miraculous historical events no longer include Christ.
“Anything that has to do with Christianity or faith is being carefully removed from the story, from the narrative, and again, after all the efforts that the evangelical Church has made, there’s still this marginalization. And so, is it because our attempt to engage has failed or is it because there is something else going on in the wider world?”
Durance says as an organization, he thinks Teach Beyond needs to be more careful, prayerful, and strategic in what they need to do and where they need to do it.
Four Elements to be Emphasized
Looking at individuals and in local schools, he says there are four elements that need to be emphasized.
“The first one is that I think our learners need to be introduced or have fostered in them, a sense of destiny, a sense of being called by God that He has a plan for them and that in that plan is going to be a way in which they uniquely contribute to this Great Commission… in the world that we live in.”
The second idea to be emphasized is encouraging reflective thinking, healthy doubt, and skepticism about worldly beliefs. The third is nurturing a love for God’s Word and His world.
“The fourth thing has to do with a realism about what it means to be a follower of Christ. There’s going to be a time when we are ostracized. Somebody has said that 70 percent of the world, Christians around the world are in a form of persecution, and that’s the normal Christian experience all through the generations. And for us to think that we’re always going to be privileged, respected, appreciated is pretty naïve,” Durance says.
“We’re called to be faithful, but we’re not called to be respected as much as lies within us… Our need is to be walking faithfully before the Lord.”
Durance isn’t discouraged by the statistics Barna Research has released. Instead, he says there has never been a time before when the Church has seen youths with clear ideas and godly passion.
Pray students and young people in the Church will be aware where the line between culture and the Church is. Pray also that the Church would stand out from society, not blend into it.