How Should Christians Respond to Today’s Culture?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

One of the hottest topics of discussion several months ago was the Grammy Awards. News headlines were saturated with stories about the weddings that took place, the revealing outfits worn, and a performance that had many people claiming she was promoting witchcraft, demons, magic, and Satanism. While I did not watch the Grammy’s, I believe that what went on merely reflects the mindset of a worldly culture; the declaration of independence from the God of the Bible.

This desire for independence began back in the Garden of Eden. Once Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to doubt God, he was able to plant the idea that they no longer needed to look to God to determine what was good and evil (Genesis 3:1-4). In other words, they no longer needed to live under God’s authority: Man can be free from God. This notion of living your life “free” from the God of the Bible is the very spirit that now permeates our culture.

So how do Christians respond to this? Some Christians embrace this culture, ignoring or downplaying any conflicts while being entertained by movies, television shows, and popular musicians openly endorsing and living anti-biblical lifestyles. As one Christian friend said to me, “It is just entertainment and nothing more.”

Other Christians disengage completely from the culture. They stand back awaiting the day when God will finally judge this world and destroy those whom they feel, in their own mind, are not as worthy as they to receive God’s grace and mercy. You will find these people being more preoccupied with endorsing their own political views than with spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Both of the above approaches fail to provide a biblical response to our culture. Instead of embracing our secular culture, or completely disengaging from it, we need to follow the example of Christ. What this means is that we do not conform our lives to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2) but live our lives in such a way that shows our culture how true, personal freedom is found only in the person of Jesus Christ. Remember, if we live by the standards of our culture, we really no longer have a unique message to bring to our culture.

The Grammy’s should be a reminder to all of us that this world desperately needs to hear the news that Jesus Christ has come to set the captives free. Let us live out this message in both word and action.

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:5, 6).

“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:12).

“If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Peter 3:15, 16).

Consequences of Compromise

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Instead of transforming our culture, the church is being transformed by the culture.

Sermons being promoted with sexual images, worship being infiltrated by secular songs, the preaching platform shared with Star Wars characters – yes, these are just samples of the efforts taken by many churches to make Christianity “relevant” to our modern culture. Church growth experts tell us these “adjustments” are necessary if we want Christianity to survive the tides of cultural change.

However, when we approach Christianity in the above manner, three drastic results follow.

First, Christianity becomes a man-centered system of beliefs. Like a person picking and choosing different foods at a buffet, each of us can pick and choose what we want to include in our own version of Christianity: If church is “cool” and “fun,” then we can be cool and still have fun enjoying the things of this world – a far cry from Jesus’ call of self-denial:

If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24, 25).

Second, Christianity loses its power. The focus of bringing people to Christ begins to center around the latest trends and church growth methods. These are supposedly the key to unlocking the hearts of the “un-churched.” As our culture changes, these will also change so that we can maintain a message that is appealing to our audience. Definitely a different evangelistic approach than the Apostle Paul:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Third, Christianity loses its uniqueness. When the Gospel is presented with all of the regalia of cultural relevance and excitement, it loses its distinction. Instead of being a channel of transformation in our culture, it becomes transformed by the culture (see Romans 12:2). Thus, the Christian faith becomes merely another system of thought that blends into the cultural landscape. What a sad result when, in contrast, we have the opportunity to share with others the unique message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:16, 17).

So while we may adapt our method of presenting the Gospel we must never change, water down, distort or cheapen the message. We must not be so “open minded” that we accept virtually any practice, phenomenon or teaching. Instead, be “Bereans” who wisely question, evaluate and discern. Any methodology that alters the Gospel message itself or compromises the way we live out our faith must be rejected. The Lord Jesus will be the final judge of all methods, techniques and teachings, as well as those who propagate them (1 Corinthians 4:5).