I've been reading this book called Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons for a class I'm in here at school. The title might be deceiving; it's a book about how the rest of the world views Christianity and how Christians turn unbelievers away from Christ. It focuses on the cultural divide and how this generation is pushing Christianity away more rapidly than any other generation. In Chapter 6 of Unchristian, Kinnaman describes how Christians are perceived as living in their own bubble, aloof and unconnected to the world. He points out that Christianity was involved in shaping culture for centuries, but now has become very isolated from it. This is a huge problem in conversion and reaching unbelievers; Christians are seen as sheltered and out of touch with culture and the real world. Old-fashioned and living-out of style, Christians seem to hold to a strict religion of rules and standards that don't allow them to take part in popular culture and relevant issues. Kinnaman goes on to describe how we must be involved and a light in our culture, influencing others without compromising our morals and falling into the sins of the world.
I found this chapter to be speaking so much truth. Not only are Christians perceived as living in our own bubble, but this is truly our reality. One of my friends told me a story about how she had a barbecue at her house a couple years ago; the point was to bring an unbelieving friend and discuss the Bible in a chill, fun, party setting. She was shocked that her youth group leader and his family came to the barbecue without bringing guests, and when questioned why, he said he didn't have any unbelieving friends. This is a terrifying, sad reality that a leader of the church had no connections outside of it. A pastor dedicated to teaching God's word had no one to teach it to besides those who already understood it to some degree. Not only do Christians come off as unaware of what is around them, but they enjoy being inside their bubble and never coming out. Yes, Christian community is a wonderful gift from God. Jesus intended us to gather together to worship his name, support and uplift our brothers and sisters, and be as a family united by Christ. However, that command to love one another inside the church does not overrule the Great Commission. We are called to serve others, especially those who need desperately our service.
We also come off as hypersensitive and judgmental towards those who don't believe in the same things or act the same way that we do. This is not how we are supposed to love the “outsiders”! We as Christians need to embrace the culture for what it is, understand it and live in it to fully understand those who are sucked in by it. One of my biggest issues with Christians living inside the bubble is routine – they feel like they've had their whole life planned out for them. I'm talking about those who grow up either homeschooled or in a Christian private school, and then go on to attend a sheltered Christian college(a lot of times getting a degree in ministry) and after that a seminary degree. None of these things are wrong! It's the way these people go about their lives that really destroys me. My dad teaches at the seminary in town, so I was surrounded by many people who were enrolled in either Boyce, the Christian college, or the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary that is connected to the college. They are all absolutely wonderful, God-glorifying people. However, they all live inside the reality that they can't serve God and be a Christian without majoring in ministry and becoming a pastor or a missionary, a youth group leader or a seminary professor. I argue that there are many ways to glorify Christ and live for Him, no matter your occupation. I understand that many are actually called to the ministry and I respect them immensely, but I am talking about those who pursue this lifestyle only because it's all they've ever known; those who assume that all Christians need to go into ministry. If we have lived and grown up in Christian settings our entire lives, chances are we probably haven't even encountered unbelievers! How can we be missionaries when we have never shared the gospel with anyone except practicing with a youth leader or professor?
I listen to a lot of popular music. The lyrics may not be entirely appropriate or God-glorifying, but I like to keep up with the current music and artists and tours; this is a way for me to connect to the rest of the culture who listens to this music. If I sit in my room listening to Chris Tomlin on repeat(as multiple people that I know do), how will I ever be able to carry a conversation with a fellow music major here at school? I also watch a lot of current movies, which are often filled with profanity. I do like a lot of things in the current culture, but can enjoy them without getting sucked into their mindset. If we don't understand or know about anything happening in modern culture, we will seem even more sheltered than we already are. So many Christian friends and acquaintances I've had didn't know most of the songs I would hum, and hadn't heard of the movies I would talk about. Many of them even judged me for listening to Katy Perry and Jay-Z, but honestly, we can't just live in a rules-and-regulations world. That is what outsiders fear most about Christianity – being restricted by an unrealistic view of culture. Our mission is to influence the culture and those who live in it by being able to relate to and take part in it, while guarding our hearts and not compromising morals for their way of life.
Honestly, I didn't want to come to a Christian college because of all the reasons I've given. I felt like it would limit my impact on others around me and keep me within the bubble I've tried so desperately to break out of. However, I felt God calling me to this place and I followed that. It's a very wonderful environment that's going to nourish me and help me grow in my own faith; and not everyone here is Christian, which gives me an opportunity to meet and become friends with people unlike me. I feel like it will prepare me for opportunities after school, not with my ministry degree, but with my culture-based Commercial music degree as I hope to succeed in the rotting, spoiled and profanity-entangled music business. My entire life I've learned the dangers of the Christian bubble and have gone out of my comfort zone to avoid the world in which Harry Potter is witchcraft but Narnia is basically God's word, Disney is a conspiracy to turn good Christian children into rebellious teenagers, jean skirts are the only acceptable fashion, and Katy Perry is the devil. This is maybe taking it to the extreme and I'm not saying everyone is like this in any way, but this is the point I'm trying to get across: don't think that the Christian world is all there is. Branch out, adventure, and find God in things you never thought you could. Then if you prefer your Christian community, that's fine, but don't be afraid to try new things because culture is “dangerous”. God is with you and you are strong enough to not compromise your morals if that's what your heart really wants.
Get out of your comfort zone and reach out to people who live in a completely different world than you; just please don't live in the same sheltered world your whole life, because there's so much more out there. The call to ministry is not only within the Christian community, but outside of it. Jesus spent all of his time not only with his followers and disciples, but with the unbelieving pharisees, the tax-collectors, the weak and sick, and the Gentiles. Why can't you do the same?
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20, ESV