By Kelly Ladd Bishop
The Dialogues opened up on Thursday, October 16 with a great discussion on church and culture. The purpose of these dialogues is not necessarily to answer the questions asked, but to think together and learn from each other. We shared our own insights and experiences, while considering some thought provoking questions.
During our discussion we looked at trends in American culture, particularly that of cultural relativism, which embraces the idea that truth and ideals are given value based on their cultural context. In other words, cultural relativism allows people to define their own truth and morals. What is true for one person, doesn’t necessarily have to be true for another. We looked at some concrete examples, and considered a number of ways that various church movements have developed in response to this shift away from absolutes.
We also looked at some quotes from celebrities concerning religion, and discussed the view of the church by the “average” non-church going American. The recent events surrounding Phil Robertson of the show Duck Dynasty, served as a good illustration for some of the current tensions between certain segments of the church and the wider culture. Words commonly used to describe the church, like hateful, intolerant, and old fashioned, highlight the perception of the church and Christianity held by many Americans. We considered these, as well as a range of other reasons why people choose not to attend church.
The Barna Research Group provides the following information:
“Millennials who are opting out of church cite three factors with equal weight in their decision: 35% cite the church’s irrelevance, hypocrisy, and the moral failures of its leaders as reasons to check out of the church altogether.”
“Across age and denomination, the top two reasons people said they don’t attend church were the same:
I find God elsewhere 40%
Church isn’t relevant to me personally 35%”
(The above info is available at https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/661-americans-divided-on-the-importance-of-church#.VEFuCWeaOSo )
We struggled with the question of how Christians can be sensitive to the culture, engaged in the work of redemption, and genuinely passionate for the people around us, while still being faithful to the gospel of Jesus, and the wider scriptures. Within our culture, how can we balance our orthopraxy (beliefs on how to live), our ecclesiology (beliefs on how to “do” church), and our orthodoxy (beliefs about God, scripture, and theology)?
Our evening closed with a discussion of the following statement:
Many Christian churches are responding to the changes in cultural values by engaging in a culture war, but perhaps the war has already been lost.
We experienced a variety of reactions to this statement, and left with much to consider.
We had a great discussion, people shared wonderful ideas, questions, thoughts, struggles, and experiences, as we dug into these topics together. Thanks to everyone who participated!
Join us on Nov 13 for our next discussion: The Church of Tomorrow.
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