The development of spiritual discernment and courage comes only by a deep understanding of and commitment to the truth as it is in Christ. This goes far deeper than following a few moral commands. It involves seeing how to live as part of His Kingdom while on earth. As our culture moves further and further away from its Christian roots, the difference between the Body of Christ and culture will continue to widen. As members of His Church, we are called to live faithfully while speaking with clarity the Truth as it is in Christ with love.
The other day, I was revisiting a book written by one of my favorite authors, David Wells. Written in 2008 titled Courage to Be Protestant, Wells asks a series of penetrating questions: “What is the binding authority on the church? What determines how it thinks, what it wants, and how it is going to go about its business? Will it be the Scripture alone, Scripture understood as God’s binding address, or will it be culture?” (p 4).
Now some 12 years later the declining spiritual strength of evangelicalism in America exposes the answer—culture has had the greater influence. There has been an explosion of “how-to-be-relevant” conferences (sadly, often in the name of apologetics) while pastors increasingly look more like hipsters than men under God’s authority. Sermons talk about how to be “real” around the unsaved, but seldom give any serious biblical critique of culture or demonstrate how and where Truth is under attack.
In general, many evangelicals have leaned into the American culture to shape their vision, inform their preaching, and define their priorities. Of course, this is all defended in the name of by being relevant for the Gospel, when in fact it is dereliction of spiritual duty. The real tragedy is that the spiritual development of the saint has been ignored. The saints suffer for want of spiritual food, crippling them as witnesses for the Truth. It seems most like a Hebrews 5: 11-14 condition in contradiction to the Ephesians 4: 11-16 preferred condition.
Wells brings this unfortunate state of affairs to the fore by asking: “Furthermore what is to be gained if we are so intent in reaching out to the unchurched that we then unchurch the reached?” His point is not that the “unchurched” should not be reached, but it should never be at the expense of “unchurching of the reached”. Evangelism of relevancy has reimagined the Christian ministry both on the street and in the pulpit. Influencing culture has replaced edifying the Body of Christ. The result? The spiritual atrophy of the people of God, leaving them without biblical discernment and vulnerable to the lies of the culture.