“In leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear we may have fallen in.”
~William Willimon, 1997
Willimon’s article from the Winter 1997 issue of Leadership should be required reading for every preacher and elder, and probably for every church member. I try to read it at least once or twice a month to remind me of what’s important and to shape my approach to Scripture and to preaching. I hear so often, daily it seems, that we need to reach the culture, we need to speak to the culture, we need to adapt what we do and how we do it to the culture. I find that a lot of the decisions we make regarding “church” are made in reaction to or in an effort to reach out to or even reflect our culture.
Willimon says, “the Bible doesn’t want to speak to the modern world; the Bible wants to convert the modern world.” Most of the time, I think, we treat our culture as if it were a fact, a reality to which we’re obligated to adjust, instead of merely one way of looking at things or doing things with which we might argue.
Again, Willimon: “Christianity is a distinct culture with its own vocabulary, grammar, and practices. Too often, when we try to speak to our culture, we merely adopt the culture of the moment rather than present the gospel to the culture.”
“The point is not to speak to the culture, “Willimon continues, “the point is to change it. And God’s appointed means of producing change is called ‘church.'”
And I think the apostle Paul would agree.
“Since you died with Christ to the basic principals of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?” ~Colossians 2:20
May we see our culture for what it is, a set of systems and values that are opposed to Christ and his Church. And may we strive together to change the culture for him and the Kingdom, not adapt to it.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram yesterday led off the front of the Sports section with a question: are these ’07 Rangers the worst team in the history of DFW professional sports? They compared the team to Jimmy Johnson’s first Cowboys squad that went 1-15 in 1989. (Troy Aikman was the second leading rusher on that team with 300 yards. Yikes!) And they also brought up the Mavericks ’92-93 team that went 11-71 under the leadership of Richie Adubato AND Gar Heard. The Rangers are 26-44, 18 games back, and it’s not even July. Everything Jon Daniels has touched has blown up in his face. And Hicks just gave him the dreaded two-year contract extension / vote of confidence. I don’t think they’re the worst team ever in DFW. Probably not even the worst team ever in Arlington. Not yet.
Talking about the futility of past teams reminds me of the futility of our current teams. The Stars can’t get out of the first round, the Mavs embarrased all of us with their historic flop, the Cowboys coach is Wade Phillips, and the Rangers are marketing Sammy Sosa. A great friend already here at Legacy, Paul Dennis (two first names! That’s a radio thing!) pointed me to Jeremiah 12:5 and related it to the false hopes of the sports fans who think our teams are just one player or one tweak away from winning a championship. “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?”
Finally, there are only 71 more days until football season. And my all-time #71 is the undisputed leader of the Fearsome Foursome of the Los Angeles Rams, Merlin Olsen. He played tackle on the left side with Deacon Jones for most of his 15 NFL seasons and went to a record 14 straight Pro Bowls. Olsen pioneered the art of stunting and looping from the tackle position to get to the QB. He was big, he was fast, he was agile, and he was super smart. And he dominated. And, amazingly, he never once played in a league championship or a Super Bowl. Of course, my girls only know Merlin Olsen as Jonathon Garvey on Little House on the Prarie. He was also Father Murphy and the long-time spokesman for FTD Florists.
And I know he wore #74 while he was with the Rams. But he wore #71 as a two-time All-America and Outland Trophy winner with the Fightin’ Aggies of Utah State. That’s not cheating. That’s making sure I get Olsen and Bob Lilly on the list.