I’m a big advocate of taking the gospel to the culture, but with the realization that we should be in the world not of the world. In other words, at the same time, we also need to be distinct from the culture. It might be informative to note that in the book, Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism: Living in a Three Storied Universe, theologian Walter Brueggemann comments on the Old Testament nation of Israel’s accommodation:
In the disciplines of fasting and sackcloth, the Israelites “separated themselves from all foreigners” and confessed their sin (Nehemiah 9:1-2). This act in the drama needs to be understood carefully. Wrongly understood, according to Christian stereotypes of Jews, this separation sounds like arrogant legalism.
Such a view misses the point completely. Rather, this community in its amnesia had assimilated itself, domesticated its memory, and compromised its identity, so that it had nothing left of itself. Judaism had become such a detrimental embarrassment, that Jews had worked to overcome their Jewishness.
And now, in these dangerous liturgical acts, Jews are facing up to their oddity, to their strong commitment, to their distinctive obedience. The recovery of distinctiveness entails the acceptance of an odd identity. I report this point to you because I believe the church in the United States faces a crisis of accommodation and compromise that is near to final evaporation. Note well, the distinctiveness is not in doctrine or in morality, but in memory. For the text adds that all through this time of separation, “They stood up in their place and read from the book of the law.
Today, while everyone worries about doctrinal compromise, Brueggemann reminds us that the issue isn’t about what we believe as much as it’s about our identity. In this case, who we are Christians in a digital age. Remember the Unique Selling Proposition – what makes a product different from every other product in the marketplace. What makes the Church different and unique today?
Hopefully, it’s more than the snappy design of your church newsletter.