5 Ways the Church Conforms to the World

imageBy Amber

The surrounding culture seeping into the minds of God’s people is a problem as old as Israel. The call for the church to be set apart,a light in the midst of darkness, requires daily intention. But we all have blindspots that go unnoticed, especially when they’re shared by so many surrounding us. Here are five to consider:

NARCISSISM

Though Narcissistic Personality Disorder is rare, narcissistic tendencies have been a growing epidemic beginning with Generation X (1960s-early 1980s) and continuing today with no end in sight (buy this book ). Not only do narcissistic tendencies relate to an inflated sense of pride, but they’re also responsible for materialism, so I’m including materialism in this point. Consumerism, desiring a high standard of living, name brands, best-of-the-best tools, off-the-wall hipster commodities, vacation homes, and excess runs rampant in the church, as it does in the average middle-class American life.
Concern with self also leads to “church-shopping” due to dissatisfaction with churches meeting our wants.
Prone to boasting? Overreacting to criticism? Inability to be transparent? Blind to our own sins? Seeing others as inferior? No tolerance for the weaknesses of others? Thank you, narcissism. We all might see traces of narcissism in ourselves. Best label it now so we can begin contradicting those thoughts.

INDIVIDUALISM

True, narcissists are also individualistic, devaluing deep friendships, but many of us are individualistic in an unintentional way. Traditional cultures are communal in nature, thinking in terms of groups and their responsibilities towards the collective. Could our draw towards individuality and personal fulfillment be one of the reasons we’re falling behind in personal holiness and spiritual and emotional strength? God gave us each other for a reason: we need each other. We sharpen each other, we fill up the lack in each others’ lives. We challenge each other to learn and grow . We bear burdens, encourage, confess. The church is the people, a family, a body. I’m afraid we’ve been sold but a shadow of what doing life together as Christians could really be.

ENTERTAINMENT

If we’re talking about ways in which it’s difficult to tell apart the world from the church, we have to talk about entertainment. Not just what we’re watching but how much we’re watching. The average American watches 5 hours a day, the average 50+ year old watches 50 hours a week. And they say 5 hours a day is actually an improvement from former years. Millennials watch considerably less TV but all in all, in 2015 Americans spent about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day “consuming media – watching TV, surfing the web, using an app, listening to the radio.”
Though we could afford to cut some out entirely, it’s clear that since media in some form is a part of our lives, we must be smart and rule over it, not be ruled by it. Regarding the media we ingest: is it building us up, serving us in worthy pursuits…is it an addiction, is it Junk Food destroying our appetite for Real Food? Does our faith influence our media consumption? Questions worth considering.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

Don’t misunderstand: we should order our lives by God-granted wisdom. Yet Christianity is paradoxical at heart, built upon weighty contradictions to common wisdom. Therefore, can we not conclude that at some points, the right decision may be to abandon all conventional and good wisdom due to faith? College, career, giving/financial decisions, living preferences, family planning, personal safety; if we do not see that it may not only be acceptable but wise in godly wisdom to contradict any and all of these societal expectations, we may be natural persons, unable to accept the things of the Spirit of God, ‘for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.‘ Conventional wisdom offers general rules for living well, and when we can abide by it without corroding our integrity (assuming that the common sense in question is true common sense, not Current Western Sense), we ought. But for those redeemed by Christ, our purpose is not to have a safe, successful life (or raise our children to do the same). It’s to glorify God and reveal the glory of God to others…perhaps by doing that which requires grand amounts of faith, not just common sense.

POSTMODERNISM

This is the name for our current Western thought. As with each era, the ideals are often born of an opposition to the period before.

So: that disbelief in absolute truth, the hesitance to call anything right or wrong, skepticism of previously assumed truths, disagreement with the concept of human nature or people being born any which way but rather believing that we are blank slates influenced by society and what is taught to us since infancy, a concern for injustice and suspicion of the wealthy and the nuanced ways in which those in leadership affect the direction of a society, falls under post-modernism.

And those beliefs are the pulsating heart behind what is taught through public education, television, current books, plot lines, journalism, and truthfully it’s what you can see behind movements even within Christianity today.

Perhaps each movement is composed of some truth entangled in misunderstandings. Maybe the greatest importance is not debating which era is the best, but familiarizing ourselves with what is the prevailing philosophy so that we can contemplate our natural biases.

Above all we need to be strong in Biblical familiarity, to the point that the character and will of God is OUR pulsating heart behind what we believe and how we approach doctrine and the Bible. Isn’t that our strongest strategy in dismantling all of these cultural blindspots in our lives anyway?

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