This Culture Is Overrated

“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.

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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?”

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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. MerlinOlsenHe 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.LHOP

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.

Peace,

 Allan

10 Comments

  1. Liz Moore

    Ok, you can dis the Rangers, and maybe even the Mavs, but you know how much I love the STARS!! The STARS start in September, right after Cowboy season starts! I love fall sports! 🙂

    And you’re right about the culture in which we live. When people start listening to celebrities about their opinions on Everything and acting like what they say really matters, when actually it doesn’t mean more than a hill of beans, we are in big trouble!

  2. Jim Gardner

    Larry,

    Head’s up but what you’re saying today echoes the very ideas I’m reading in John MacArthur’s new book “The Truth War.” Give it a look on Amazon as it is a very welcomed balancing thesis to the Emergent church stuff that is built on cultural concession.

  3. Paul Dennis

    Thanks for the plug – actually I have three first names for I am John Paul Dennis. You have mixed me with another of your new friends on the Jeremiah passage. That was not me.

  4. Allan

    Oh, no! Paul, I thought it was you. You’ve given me so much great stuff over the past couple of weeks including the encouraging note from Proverbs and the Browning quote, I just remembered you incorrectly as the source of the Jeremiah – sports connection. Who was it? Whoever it was, he is already a dear sweet, if nameless right now, friend.

    Liz, you know it was me who first uttered the blasphemous statement that —in person, in the arena, close to the action—NHL playoff games are better than football. You know my love for the Stars, while far from as enthusiastic as yours, is great. That doesn’t change the facts. Turco’s weak in the clutch and Modano’s like Dirk. As long as he’s the best player on that team, they’ll never win a title.

  5. Allan

    I mean, ANOTHER title.

  6. Jeff Henson

    Boy do I agree with this. It seems too often we are being won by the world rather than the other way around. Rather than focusing on the experiences and emotions of our world, we should be focused on being transformed by the renewing of our minds through the study of God’s word. It is then that we are reminded that all are law breakers and sinners and desperately need a savior. We see that we have our needs fully met in Jesus. Upon realizing this, or being reminded of it, our natural response is praise and works. We have such great news that others need. Let’s share it!

  7. Allan

    I appreciate so much the responses I’ve received on this post, in person tonight at Bible classes and throughout the day in email and phone calls. Jeff, you’re right on. I’m afraid we’re focused so much on a worship experience that looks and sounds and feels like the same kind of thing we get at Six Flags or the movie theater or Chuck E. Cheese that the message gets watered down to the point that it doesn’t even exist. How does acting and sounding and looking exactly like the world offer the world anything it can’t already get at Wal-Mart?

  8. Crystal (Smith)

    Allan – I’m not responding to your article – just to the fact you are a preacher and at North Richland Hills! You were my favorite Bible Hour teacher, puppeteer and big brother to my pal Sharon when we were growing up at Pleasant Grove c of C! I am coming for the National Workshop for the Deaf and hope to get to hug some necks and meet all those gorgeous ladies in your family. Bet Beverly and John are so proud of you!!! Crystal DeWindt

  9. Allan

    Crystal, don’t you dare even consider not hunting me down when you get here! Can’t wait to see you!

  10. Liz Moore

    Yah, whatever!! At least THEY HAVE won a title! 🙂 you know I love ya! It just wouldn’t be right without a little sports argument going on 🙂

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