Friday, July 17, 2009

Unfashionable Christian Counterculture with Tullian Tchividjian

I have never suffered the temptation to sacrifice or compromise to be cool or fashionable, since as one of the worlds preeminent nerds being cool has always been permanently out of my reach. Yet I do remember envying the cool. Wishing I had a smile that would make girls melt, or having such charm that I was universally beloved. Yet as a socially awkward teenage book nerd cool was an impossibility.

Tullian Tchividjian sees a similar problem with much of the church in America. (However I appreciate that he’s not a church basher who delights in exposing the churches flaws, rather he loves the church and wishes to see her strong again) He sees the church trying to become like the world because they believe that if we become acceptable to the world then the world will hear our message. There are a number of problems with this kind of thinking, but first we need to hear Tullian’s counter:

Christians make a difference in the world by being different from this world; they don’t make a difference by being the same.”

His argument throughout the book is that if we blend in we lose all our power to change or influence this world. I think he makes a powerful case. And combine these insights with David Wells arguments in The Courage to be Protestant where he argues that to become acceptable to the world we have to give away the store (the Gospel itself) leaving us with nothing left to proclaim or to influence anyone with. To critique or influence the world we must stand outside of it as a kind of counterculture.

Basically seeking relevance makes us irrelevant. Seeking cool leaves us with nothing left to say. We must remember that we serve a CRUCIFIED savior. One whose cross is foolishness to the world. Tchividjian closes his book with a call for us to live for an audience of one, pointing out that the need for acceptance isn’t wrong, we just have to seek it in the right place, with our loving heavenly Father.

The church must not be like me, the book nerd looking at the cool people across the cafeteria with a twinge of envy; because it is simply an impossibility for us, the cross of Jesus is foolish and strange to a fallen world. Lets live and strive not to be fashionable, but rather to be faithful to our audience of One.


Joshua Owen said...

Jamie this is a good word. How does Tchividjian suggest that we become all things to all men so that by all means we might win some, and at the same time "come out of her my people lest you be contaminated with her sins and share in her judgment"? Or how do we live in the world, but not be of the world?
You are right that the church's goal should not be to be accepted by the world. But won't the church be contextualized in order to communicate with her neighbors?
I'm reading Mark Leiderbach and Alvin Reid, The Convergent Church, which deals with these questions by looking critically at the conventional church and the emergent church from a biblical standpoint.

Jamie Fugate said...

The core of his argmument about being in the world but not of the world revolves around direction and purpose. He uses a couple of analogies such as sex where prematital sex is clearly sinful whereas marital sex is a good creation of God. So when we come to the things and people of the world direction makes all the difference. Is our direction toward sin or redemptive purposes.

So coming out and being separate means that we come out from our former sinful directions, it may not mean any visible change in vocation, family,or location, but rather it is a change of direction for vocation, family, or location.

As far as contextualization it appears that we simply strive to make the Gospel clear and understandable but not make the Marketers (to use Well's lingo) mistake of trying to make the Gospel palatable. It is only by standing outside of culture that we can speak with influence not inside culture.

If I didn't make any sense thats not Tchividjian's fault, his book was marvelously clear.

Joshua Owen said...

I think those are helpful insights. How are you contextualizing for more effective communication of the gospel?

Jamie Fugate said...

Well as far as my region goes it appears to me that one the biggest misunderstandings of the Gospel is that it is simply a one time ticket to heaven that makes no demands on the recepient.

So to make the Gospel clearly understood in my community I am careful to make sure that the cost of discipleship is made clear and that the new birth should lead to change in us.

Joshua Owen said...

That's a helpful example of contextualization. I guess every context requires that we explain the cost of discipleship, but some, like yours, might require more of an emphasis in this area than others. Does your church do anything to communicate this other than through preaching? Are there any discipleship opportunities that challenge the people to give more of their resources, time and energy?

Jamie Fugate said...

There are other ways but the pulpit is primary, I believe that the pulpit should guide the church so I emphasize the demands of discipleship continually.

A conversation that you and I had remains decisive in this regard, we were discussing the translation of the word doulos and I was really impacted by the idea that forever free from enslavement to sin we are now joyously enslaved to Christ, that has really stuck with me and was powerfully reinforced through Murray Harris's book. So I beat this like a drum that disciplship is not optional.

So we as a church have just begun offering what we are calling Spiritual Growth Seminars. With the hope of equipping us as a body to live all of life as disciples of Christ to the glory of God.

Joshua Owen said...

I'd like to hear more about the Spiritual Life Seminars. Maybe you could blog about that?