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Pardon Me, Your Society’s Showing.

Have you listened (I mean really listened) to the lyrics of the Christian songs lately? Paid attention to your kid's Sunday School lessons? How about the divorce rate in the American church? In every era, society seeps into theology. Like a red sock in a white load of laundry, it tints everything.

Have you listened (I mean really listened) to the lyrics of the Christian songs lately? Paid attention to your kid's Sunday School lessons? How about the divorce rate in the American church? In every era, society seeps into theology. Like a red sock in a white load of laundry, it tints everything.

Unlike newly pink sheets, though, society's takeover of theology isn't harmless, and we have to be aware of it to guard against it.

Take the songs you've sung this week, for instance. Any one of them may not sound too bad on the surface. Jesus loves me. Jesus was thinking of me on the cross. I'm uniquely made. They begin compounding into a message: I'm fabulous. I'm the center of the universe and the point of it all. Jesus couldn't bear living without me for an eternity, so he had to come to earth to die. I'm the reason for the season. Yes, you may sing it in church. It may be written by your favorite Christian artist. But it's not in agreement with the Bible's view of God, man and the gospel. So where did it come from? The message that schools, media and self-esteem experts indoctrinated children with in the 80's and 90's. These kids grew up, never realizing that this message wasn't biblical, and now sing songs about the God they love in terms of the self-centered message they absorbed.

Lately I've become increasingly frustrated with Sunday School Curriculum. One popular version recently featured environmentalism for two months straight. Is taking care of the environment a bad thing? Absolutely not! In fact, the Bible has some important principles here: that the world is God's creation, that we're to have dominion over it, that we're stewards. However, there are several serious problems with what the curriculum did. First, because their schedule was longer than the passages directly relating to the environment, they had to contort the Bible to fit their cause and loosely interpret passages that had nothing to do with environmentalism. Secondly, they wasted precious time. Everywhere kids look–Schools, cartoons, kids' menus–they're getting a "save the planet" message. What they're not getting is the Bible, the gospel, Jesus. To spend two months–one sixth of all teaching time!–on this subject was poor stewardship. Finally, the underlying issue of both the previous points is this: they're not letting the Bible dictate the message.

The divorce rate in the American church is the same as the general population (some estimate even higher now). When church members are 21st century Americans first, then topped with a Christian frosting, society–not their faith–dictates their daily lives.

 We can't escape it, but we can fight the provencialism.

1. Get out of your context. Read theologians from other eras and Christian traditions. Listen to pastors from other parts of the world. Talk to people in your church who don't agree with you politically. Go on missions trips, not as the wise American bestowing great gifts, but as humble servants who have a lot to learn.

2. Study the Bible and let it change you. Somedays, it's all you can do to pick up your Bible and read a few verses or read a page someone else's Bible study. Make an effort, though, to study through a book of the Bible systematically instead of skipping around. Notice the context, the wording. Investigate where it was set and who is talked about. Rather than importing your assumptions, beliefs and opinions into the text, commit to finding out what the passage really says and being changed by it.

3. Be aware. The people reading this are products of the 21st century, most of whom are Christian and in or from the U.S. That reality shapes our worldview, our decisions, even our faith. We can't totally rid ourselves of it, and that's okay. During persecution, the church writes about persecution; during the Reformation, sermons dealt with reforming; the Puritans sound like puritans. The God-breathed Word speaks to every generation in every place in every situation. We will be unique, but we must be moored to the truth. Pay attention to the messages you're getting, and what inspired them.

 

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Laura Singleton

Laura Singleton’s passion is the transformation that happens when women get access to God’s Word and God’s Word gets access to women. She was twenty-five when her life was turned upside down by an encounter with Jesus Christ. With an insatiable thirst for scripture and theology, she soon headed to Dallas Theological Seminary to learn more about Jesus, and left with a Th.M. with an emphasis in Media Arts. She, along with two friends from DTS, travel the nation filming the independent documentary Looking for God in America. She loves speaking and teaching and is the author of Insight for Living Ministry’s Meeting God in Familiar Places and hundreds of ads, which pay the bills. Her big strong hubby Paul is a former combat medic, which is handy since Laura’s almost died twice already. She loves photography, travel and her two pugs.

One Comment

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    Stephen J. Drain

    Tell it like it is

    Laura,

    Let me confess something to you. I''m a guy… and as such I often think, "I ain't reading no stinkin' book written by Kay Arthur [or whoever]." I have this chauvinistic streak in me that wants to read what MEN have to say… but I've just started reading through some of the different blogs here in "Tapestry" (Don't tell any of my guy friends!) And it is wonderful to see what godly women out there have to say, have to add to the conversation, have to teach about the Bible.

    This article in particular is really, really good. And I agree wholehearteduly.

    You write, "During persecution, the church writes about persecution; during the Reformation, sermons dealt with reforming; the Puritans sound like puritans." and modern affluent spoiled consumer westerners sound like… well, you know. How many churches have fogotten missions and are busy building big buildings and adding bells and whistles? How many American churches offer the best of the arts and hardly ever have Communion? How many western churches are so into topical studies that they miss so much meaty stuff in the Bible?

    So your suggestions are right. My friend Al says he has learned so much from talking to missionaries, to seeing things through their eyes. God is at work all over the world and we here in America doubt the miraculous because we don't see it like they do. I also love to read the greats, recently Spurgeon and Moody. These guys preached like it was their last day, like it was the olast day for each member of the audience. They went deep, they covered all topics, they taught the church, AND they called people to Christ.

    Yes, in the American Churches, this society is showing. So true.

    Keep speaking the truth. God bless you!

    Steve

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