Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
n the topic of church activities, Christian testimony, and our collective influence on the world, I wanted to point out that the message we send with our lifestyle is to a very large degree subject to the interpretation of the observer anyway.
Let's concede (for the sake of argument) that if some quixotically missional church advertises cigars and poker as the centerpiece of their men's ministry, that may very well be all it takes to convince some spiritually-naive, intellectually-stunted biker type that Christians really aren't just stuffy prudes whom he could never relate to. But it seems just as likely (much more likely, really) that relegating "men's ministry" to the smoke-filled room would offend many more than it would "reach." I'll go further: that approach is likely to derail some men for whom a man-sized dose of Jerry Bridges, J. C. Ryle, or the apostle Paul would be a thousand times more edifying than another stogie.
(Yes, I know: Spurgeon smoked. Not during church meetings, though.)
o I grew up in a modernist church where we had dances all the time. It was the default activity for our youth group. And if you think church dances are a novel idea, you've been wading in the shallow-evangelical end of the pool for too long. In fact, the most famous incident regarding a church dance I can think of occurred in 1949.
HT: to James White for what follows. I spent all day Tuesday with him. (That, of course, was before the current flap arose. We were no doubt conspiring to commandeer Technorati for the "TR blogosphere," or something like that.) In the course of our conversation, James reminded me of the following true story.
In 1948, Sayyid Qutb was part of an early wave of privileged middle-eastern Muslims who came to the west to study. He spent a couple of years at the State College of Education in Greeley, Colorado—taking classes toward a master's degree in education. Displaced from his own culture and relatively isolated in middle America, he viewed almost every aspect of American society with a jaded eye. He found American jazz melodramatic and distasteful, American sports crude and primitive, Americans themselves materialistic and shallow. But above all, he was utterly appalled by how self-centered, "distant," worldly, and utterly unspiritual American religion looked from inside a typical place of worship.
Where'd he get that impression? Well, it seems someone invited Qutb to a dance at a Methodist church in Greeley. Here's an excerpt from Qutb's own description of that evening, taken from his book The America I Have Seen:
Sounds pretty tame by comparison to the kind of things that are happening today, doesn't it? But to Sayyid Qutb in 1949, it was a shocking sign of superficiality and an impertinent lack of proper reverence. He saw it as proof that Christianity is not a faith to be taken seriously—because it isn't even taken seriously by "believers." That night was a major turning point in Qutb's thinking, and it was one of the main reasons he later gave for rejecting Western values and the Christian religion altogether.
Qutb went back to Egypt seething with outrage and contempt against the West's unbridled materialistic selfism, and he began to produce a body of writings that became the manifestos and chief handbooks for today's Islamofascism. Qutb was chief mentor to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who in turn mentored Osama bin Laden. One of bin Laden's closest friends reported that bin Laden read Qutb's works intently and considered him the most important influence in the rise of radical Islamism in the current generation. (See Dinesh D'Souza on Sayyid Qutb.)
Anyway, before someone accuses me of being sympathetic with Qutb's values, let me just say I'm advocating no such thing. I'm not suggesting his perspective of Americans or Christians in general was fair and accurate. It clearly wasn't, and Qutb belongs in a hall of shame alongside Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot as some of the twentieth century's most demented megalomaniacs.
Also, I'm not suggesting (as some of our more zealous fundamentalist brethren might want to) that the club atmosphere in that one Colorado church is directly to blame for the fall of the World Trade Center towers.
But the Greeley church dance episode certainly does illustrate that not all the world is charmed by worldly religion, and the apologetic value of "Disco Night in the Sanctuary" is by no means a given. In short, taking pains to demonstrate how hip and liberated we can be in our places of worship might not always be the finest "missional" strategy.
That's one reason I personally don't find such arguments persuasive. Those who want to turn the church into a dance hall really ought to try to find more legitimate biblical support for what they are advocating. And if they can't (which, BTW, they won't,) they should reexamine the strategy.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:31-32).
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:13-16).
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).
by Phil Johnson