01 March 2007

Salad Days

by Phil Johnson

know I said I was going to be scarce this week, but tonight I was catching up with this thread over at Frank's blog, and I read some of the ensuing conversation that spilled over here yesterday. I have two things to say to those who think fashion statements are more important than doctrinal statements, or that "relevance" is related primarily to matters of style, youthfulness, and external appearance:

First, what seems really hip today might just make you look like J. R. "Bob" Dobbs tomorrow. There were people on the fringes of evangelicalism pushing a superficial notion of "relevance" for several decades before the Emergers emerged with the idea, and the cooler those people seemed at their peak, the more ridiculous their style looks today. When a particular "style" is your main distinctive, you're guaranteed to be outmoded soon. More important, if "style" is your main contribution to the conversation, you're already irrelevant, whether you know it or not.

Second, I almost never do reposts, but here's a post from my original blog that seems apropos to the current discussion. It was a reply to an e-mail from a reader who was irritated with me:

To: "Savage Countenance"
From: "Phillip R. Johnson"
Subject: Re: Cr—t-r?!!

Dear "Savage Countenance,"

Many thanks for your message. You wrote:

> why would you question a brother
> who just wants to fit in with the
> people he's trying to reach?...you
> should quit trying so hard to be
> different and try harder to be
> genuine...i'm making this point
> b/c my eyebrow is pierced and i
> have a tatoo on the back of my
> neck...i wear combat boots...and
> i usually wear all black..i listen
> to Christian metal and industrial
> music—i've seen too many christians
> hide in a corner away from the world
> and wait for them to come to
> us...and it just doesn't work
> that way, you know?

OK, first of all let me say that the point I want to make here has very little to do with the question of whether body piercing and tattoos are always inherently sinful.

Don't misunderstand: I would indeed argue that if you pierce or tattoo yourself as an act of self-mutilation, narcissism, or rebellion, then the motivation for such "body modification" is clearly sinful and therefore something Christians ought to avoid.

But that's really beside the point at the moment. Because your whole argument is that you have tattooed yourself and put studs in your face in order to be more "genuine" and to have a better testimony for Christ.

And that's what I want to respond to: the notion that adopting the fads of a juvenile, egomaniacal, shallow, self-destructive, worldly culture "works" better as an evangelistic strategy than a lifestyle that gives more prominence to the principle of Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:9.

As you have described it above, body modification and combat boots are a significant and deliberate part—if not the very centerpiece—of your evangelistic strategy. You seem to imagine that if you try hard enough to fit into the punk culture, you might actually win people by convincing them that Jesus would fit nicely into their lifestyle, too.

But wouldn't you yourself actually agree that there is—somewhere—a limit to how far Christians can legitimately go in conforming to worldly culture? Surely you do not imagine that the apostle Paul's words about becoming all things to all men is a prescription for adopting every vulgar fashion of a philistine culture. Do you?

Can we agree, for example, that it wouldn't really be good or necessary to get a sex-change operation in order to reach the transgendered community? OK, you might dismiss that as something inherently sinful and wrong for that reason. Well, how about pulling a few teeth and adopting the trashy patois and tasteless lifestyle of Jerry Springer's guest list in order to have a more effective outreach to the underbelly of the cable-TV community? How serious are you about your strategy of accommodation and conformity?

And why is it mainly the lowbrow and fringe aspects of Western youth culture that this argument is invariably applied to? Why are so few Christian young persons keen to give up video games and take up chess in order to reach the geeks in the chess club? or give up heavy metal and learn the cello in order to have a ministry to the students who play in the orchestra?

There used to be a misguided youth on the Web who ran a website called "Backyard Wrestlers for Jesus." He was trying to tap into the backyard wresting culture as a mission field. So he set up a Web site showing kids how to build a backyard wrestling ring, how to do what The Rock and the Dudley Boys do without getting hurt, and how to talk smack without really talking dirty—so that kids who wrestle in their own backyards could improve their style. Along the way, he figured they would see that his Web site had something to do with Jesus, and they'd know Jesus is cool, and they'd like Jesus better because he's so cool.

I admire his desire to reach a troubled culture, but the methodology is all wrong and completely without any credible biblical warrant. I realize making Jesus seem cool is the dominant evangelistic strategy of this age, and everyone from Rick Warren to Brian McLaren is trying in whatever way they think best to make Christianity more hip and trendy.

But I still think it's a bad idea.

Incidentally, I grew up in the 1960s in a liberal church with a fairly sizable youth group where dances with live rock music were the bait used to draw us on a regular basis. So there's nothing particularly fresh or innovative about this philosophy. It didn't work in my generation, and it's not really working now. It's made the church more worldly; it hasn't made the world more spiritual.

In fact, I'd say that this strategy represents the wholesale abandonment of the church's responsibility to a sinful culture.

The most effective way to minister to any culture—and this goes for every culture, from highbrow society to white middle-class suburbia to the urban street gang—is to challenge and confront the culture instead of conforming to it. "Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean'" (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Yes, I know Jesus was a friend of sinners, and His enemies accused Him—wrongly—of participating in their excesses. The truth is that He became their friend without adopting their values. That's the example we should strive to follow, not the example of worldly culture itself.

Phil's signature

PS: Here's one more argument for the above:


Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."
-- Oscar Wilde

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agreed with the principles of your letter to Mr. Pierce-n-Tat. Since Paul wrote, "Be not conformed to this world," I have assumed that we could judge what was worldly.

Do you see a connection between post-modernism, the emergents, and judging worldliness? It seems that a corollary to "I-can't-know-what-the-Bible-means" is "I-can't-know-how-the-Bible-applies." God didn't say, "Thou shalt not smoke crack pipes."

In your letter, you seemed to tip-toe around the idea of "standards." It seems standards have become taboo in evangelicalism. I believe much of evangelicalism's problems have been in the lack of preaching and practice of personal separation. They have not only avoided personal separation, but they have ridiculed those who preached and practiced it. I see this as coming back to haunt evangelicalism. They were afraid, among other things, of being called legalists, and then they under-emphasized externals. They didn't want the stigmatization of being separatists, despite whatever God thought. The religious leaders of Jesus' day were also reductionists---the less is more approach. Is it possible that they turned the grace of God into lasciviousness? And then the intellectual crowd looks unfavorably on personal separation. "We've got to look like we know what we're talking about, even if the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them which were lost."

I see evangelicals now who are reacting to postmodernism and the emergents as attempting to start from a nearly dead stop to catch up to the problems they have in part caused with their lack of personal separation. It seems that the big elephant is already in the room. Shouldn't evangelicals just admit it? They blew it on personal separation and got too loose with their standards. Now its coming back to bite them.

This reminds me of when I have gotten lax in the discipline of my children. When it is time to get serious again, I have had to apologize for not taking responsibility as a father. I start by admitting I've been wrong. It doesn't work if we start preaching to them, when we haven't been consistent in practice ourselves.

Mike Galetta said...

In fact, when they see us trying to fit into their particular subculture with a "watered down, cleaned up" version of it, they will have no trouble seeing that we have nothing better to offer, than just another "alternative" lifestyle. Jesus came to sinners with the Truth. He did not try to reach them on their level, but loved them from His level, with a genuine Love and concern for their lost souls. He is the (narrow) Way. The Cross is an offense, and despising all you have previously loved to follow Him is not an easy path. But it IS the most radical way of living, the ULTIMATE in nonconformity, for it will always be the minority who have ears to hear and eyes to see. I admire the motive of those who try, by whatever means, to reach the lost but it really isn't necessary. If we humble ourselves, and speak the truth in love and have a genuine heart for the unlovely lost, God will use our meager efforts to reach those He has called and He will build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Robert Ivy said...

I certainly agree with your main point: that we can't simply be trying to make Jesus look "cool".

But at the same time, it does seem like maintaining a certain level of distinction actually creates a stumbling block to people coming into the Kingdom - at least to those to whom their subculture matters a great deal.

So what does it mean to be all things to all men?

centuri0n said...

Every time I mull this matter over, I always find myself asking the question, "Self: if Christians are so in-tune to culture, why is it that we are always the last ones to tune in to a cultural trend rather than being cultural trend-setters?"

Because the surest sign that something is dead in the culture is that some Christian someplace has glommed onto it for an evangelistic strategy.

centuri0n said...

btw, Phil, I just e-mailed Dan last night that I was worried you had fallen off the face of the earth. Hope things in prep for the Shepherd's Conference this year are going swell.

David said...

As my father said many many years ago

It is self mutilation for the sake of vanity

donsands said...

I know young people who have been born again, and who are asking themselves, now that they are Christ's, and they have all these tatoos, should they have them removed, or what.
Some tell them tatoos are cool! Some say those tatoos will remind you of your sin.
I say, Hey, how much did those tatoos cost you. Wow, that much. I know one guy who spent $2,500 on Tatoos, even some Jesus on the cross tatoos.
I say, "you know, I'm not really into tatoos, I just don't understand why anyone would do it. Why did you do it?"
And I get various responses.
I don't even know why I'm saying all this.

Here's a good verse I think that may fit this fine post.
"A righteous person is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray." Prov. 12:26
"Be not deceived: evil companionships corrupt good manners." 1 Cor. 15:33

I believe in making friends with unbelievers, but we need to be speking the truth in love, and then we'll see if this friendship is healthy, and is of the Lord.

SB said...

Good Post-I agree with it-thats why I dont have any tatts or piercings but I know it has hurt my ability to reach San Francisco as effectivitaely-it helped me fit in at Masters in the early 90's however(I remember being asked by some SCV neighbors if we were mormons beclause it was so clear that we had a very distinctive style of dress that differed from the culture-thank God the dress code is gone)

the sad thing is that 90 percent of this post is true and ten percent is purely preference

-a church culture known for dockers and khakis as casual and ties on sunday morning(nothing wrong with that btw-it just cant be defended biblically)definitely produces christians who are more disciplined and a christianity that is more no-nonsense-(Chris Freeland's church style is cool too)but it doesn smack of last remaining vestiges of second generation hyper-fundamentalism

sometimes I think a church of 7000-9000 sets its own culture it may be different than Church on the Way but it yall are so big that yall dont really care what the rest of the culture does cuz your 7000

my question is shouldnt yall be 14K
or 21K(Im a Calvinist I know that salvation is all of God-sometimes I just wonder if the means of grace are being under-utilized in reactionary disobedience forfeit some of your preferences/freedoms to possibly reach a larger segment of the culture) by now or have reproduced yourselves even more across the Valley? maybe the 7000-9000 gives the aura of we know what we were doing-when there's still 10 million(Los Angeles metro area) left to reach?

SB said...

please forgive me for my typo's

this should read:
but it does smack of the last remaining vestiges of second generation hyper-fundamentalism

fool4jesus said...

This reminds me of a "conversion" I had with an emergent about using profanity. He said that it's necessary to use profanity to reach the dock workers, inner city teachers, etc. for whom profanity is a part of everyday life.

My response then, and now also, is how sheltered and - dare I say it? - quaint and ignorant an answer that is. Although it's a great blessing if you are a person who grew up around church people all the time, you should not automatically assume that you understand how the "other half" feels.

Believe me, I was one of those "other half" people for many years, and if somebody had come to me, swearing/using drugs/visiting "adult dancing establishments"/etc and taking the opportunity from time to time to slip in "hey, Jesus will really help your life", I'd have put them off as a complete hypocrite.

It seems to me the same consideration applies here. If you were a Hell's Angel or punk before coming to Christ, by all means use the opportunities God is presenting to you to witness to your old crowd (but only if you are in close fellowship with other believers, lest you slip back into the old ways). But there are two warnings here:

1. Use the relationship, but don't mirror the lifestyle. I can tell you, if somebody had come back to me I knew for years and now was cleaned up, but still friendly and cleared cared about me instead of just saying "you're going to hell, dude," it would have made a huge impression on me.

2. If it's not your past, don't try to pretend it was for the sake of the relationships you HOPE to build. It ain't gonna happen. Use your own past and the experiences God HAS given you to reach who he wants you to reach. Following Phil, if you were a band or math team nerd, reach out to the other band or math team nerds.

Frank Martens said...

This must be the punch-line... "The truth is that He became their friend without adopting their values. That's the example we should strive to follow, not the example of worldly culture itself."

Because it's so true.

centuri0n said...


I want to understand clearly that you're asking Phil why his church -- the church he belongs to, and helps shepherd -- is only a couple of thousand people large in a city of 10 million?

I'd love to hear the answer if that's the question. I think it will be one of the classic moments at TeamPyro.

Rhology said...

--And why is it mainly the lowbrow and fringe aspects of Western youth culture that this argument is invariably applied to? Why are so few Christian young persons keen to give up video games and take up chess in order to reach the geeks in the chess club?

Phil, during the last month or so you've REALLY brought your A-game.


JSB said...

Irony is emergents say they are all about "authenticity." But if you adopt a fad to "reach" them, you are perforce being inauthentic. It's like when Al Gore hired Naomi Wolf to teach him how to be an "Alpha Male." That act itself was evidence of an intractable wimpishness. We must adopt, of course, a flexibiity in communication. We don't teach lessons to children the same way we teach adults. But we don't start acting like children as a lifestyle to "reach" the children.

HooverBranch said...

oh what a topic. This is a topic I have struggled with much. My view is to not conform to this world. About a month ago I went to a church retreat where Paul Sheldon (great guy) taught on God and his Attributes. And he spent awhile on the topic of Fearing God. I am not on this world to please men. I am here to serve the Lord. And I am commanded to proclaim his Word. But not by sprucing it up or making it more RELEVENT to this culture. The Lords Word is sufficient. The LORD is sufficient. We dont save people. We are just the tools the Lord uses to spread his Word.

Now the thing I really have struggled with is the Topic of not Conforming to "WORLDLY FADS" in presenting the Gospel and the way other Christians percieve you. I have actually been called a legalist before over this topic. Can you believe that? Because my view is that I dont need to add bells and whistles to the Gospel I was called a Legalist. I truly believe that, that word is Over Used and not understood. How is it being a Legalist (which is perverting the gospel) when I am trying to keep the Gospel Pure. It is not my gospel to "SPRUCE" up. Its the Lords and I must treat it with the Respect it deserves.

I dont know thats my little rant on this...

James(19yrs old)-Ohio

SB said...

Let me be clear-the question I'm asking is this:

Since there is a definite culture at GCOM(as there is at all churches)-wouldn't a pursuit of Functional Gospel Centrality mandate us to to de-emphasize a non-moral standard(suit and tie sunday morning for say jeans and a collar) so that the simplicity that is in Christ will be available toa wider socioeconomic group/ a more diverse continuum of cultures?

Does he see that this can hurt the spread of the gospel thereby making a church where people who are NOT pierced or tatted experience slight marginalization at Grace?

Say it another way--can the style of a church affects the health of a church this can affect the depth of a church-we think were being deep but really were being putting hindrances to the gospel

BTW I think the depth not just of teaching but of mission and fellowship and of radical risk taking in evangelism and prayer affects the breadth-healthy churches grow.

In general I think Grace is amazing I just think this style anti-culture thing is subtley over-emphasized to the distraction of Sola Christos

Chris Pixley said...


I was a meember of GCC from 1996-2002 and was heavily involved in ministry at many levels durign those years. I'm flummoxed by your description of the culture at GCC as it is far from my own observation of what I perceived to be an attitude of open-hearted acceptance of individuals from every walk of life. COuld it be that you've conflated your experience of the dress code days at TMC with what actually goes on at the church on any given Sunday?

centuri0n said...


I want Phil to speak for himself about GCOM issues.

On the broader issue of, as you say, "making a church where people who are NOT pierced or tatted experience slight marginalization at Grace", I think it is ludicrous to think that the only way to welcome people in a pierced subculture is to have a pastor (or assistant pastor) with piercings and tats -- it is expressly secular thinking, and the worst kind. It's the same kind of thinking which says that you can't treat a black person properly unless you are yourself black.

The key -- and the crucial part in my view -- to healthy church life is somehow getting over the fear of someone who is superficially different. That doesn't mean you ape them to tell them they are welcome -- I think that's its own kind of demeaning. It means somthing more like this:

[1] You don't assume that people are just going to wander into your church on sunday who aren't members. The idea that some scratched-up rock-culture person is going to "just wander in" to the church we have in AR is itself pretty funny -- because there aren't that many of them. But we also don't look like the spiritual version of a roach motel -- we're not baiting them with a phony CBGB's exterior or interior.

[2] In the fact that they won't wander in, there has to be a way to engage someone like that apart from having the greeters greet them in some kind of content-neutral way. You know: if some kid with dirty hair and a face full of metal walks into our church, someone probably invited him. He came because someone said, "Meet me here." So that person should meet them there, yes?

It's funny -- this kind of thing happens in our youth ministry all the time because that's where these victims of culture are most available. They haven't slipped themselves into a pop culture ghetto yet. And that's what happens at our youth ministry: the ones who invited this kid meet him (or her) there and make sure they are not just left hanging in this strange world of kids who came to hear this bald guy talk about the Bible.

[3] And in that, in the same way we ought to be preaching and teaching to people about the fact that Jesus didn't die to make you rich or middle-class, we ought to be teaching that Jesus didn't die so you can blow money on body art. Because the Gospel cuts both ways.

This isn't an issue of Jesus the Republican vs. Jesus the Deadhead vs. Jesus the Banger vs Jesus the Green. Jesus isn't any of those things -- and we are in sin when we say He is.

The issue is if we are going to get Gospel-renovated, will love God and keep His commands, and then see men as fellow sinners who need Grace and do something about it. The smoke screen that sinners don't feel comfortable in the presence of the Gospel is gibberish: of course they don't. The Gospel is not a comfy chair.

Jason Alligood said...

What does it mean to be authentic?

Everyone is affected by culture somehow. The whole idea of a suit and tie is has a cultural tie to what is considered conservative.

The whole idea that I believe Phil is trying to get across (I don't want to speak for him, I am just think I get what he is saying), is be who you are.

For me to pretend that suddenly I am going to be "Punk Rock" to reach punk rockers, I am immediately fake, I am immediately a gimmick. People can pick up on it. There are just some things we cannot be.

How do we reach prostitutes and strippers and crack addicts and meth users and poor people and tribesmen and Catholics and Mormons and lunch ladies and bus drivers and anyone? These are not subcultures. They are the situations people have chosen or in some cases are there by no fault of their own.

As soon as you "become" one subculture alone you exclude others.

I have been to Grace Church many times and I have never seen a sign that says, "Suit and Tie Required or No Admittance."

We have people in our church who come dressed in many different ways from shorts to traditional African garb.

The problem is that subcultures have become a way to make statements. Christians should rise above that and should be attractive not because of how they fit in with fashion or action, but because they are being conformed to the image of Christ. To do this does not require that we become, as my friend Eric Herb used to say quite rightly, nonconformists like everybody else. (I'll let that sink in a while.)

The "all things to all men" (1 Cor. 9)passage is about serving people. It's about giving up our freedoms to not offend the unbeliever, not adopting their freedoms (which is really slavery to them) in order to somehow "win" them to Christ.

The questions is are we willing to "put feet" on the Gospel by serving those who are not being served by the church.

Just from a practical perspective, what is going to have more of an impact? Someone who is dressed like and failing terribly at acting like a punk rocker, trying to convince them that Jesus is cool, or someone who is genuinely concerned for the spiritual well being of that Punk Rocker serving them regardless of what they look like.

My friend Mike Goad has Cerebral Palsy, you have to concentrate hard to understand what he is saying. But when you do listen long enough you can pick up that his concern is for the souls of people who need Christ. How is he going to be punk rock? How is he going to be anything other than Mike Goad the accountant who happens to have CP and is hard to understand? Yet Mike faithfully works in the Youth Ministry of church, with a compassion for people, that is unmatched and he does all of this without becoming "culturally adapted." BTW Mike's church is in the inner city, where he ministers to poor kids who are mainly a different race than he.

I'll end with Jesus words, "Go into all the world and make disciples..." and we all know the rest. We are to make followers of Jesus, not followers of culture.

SB said...

possibly Chris-

my experiences are more geared towards the college and the college ministry and my roomates in ministry-I did feel like the church had a subtle unspoken dress code

if you wore shorts on sunday would you be seen as less spiritual-could that effect a nonbelievers view of the church?

Lindon said...

Amen Amen to all the spiritual stuff. But, just to speak to the 'worldly' end for a moment:

These people are going to be 40 in an instant. And, I have seen such...the 40+...trying to look and be relevant to the culture. It is NOT a pretty sight.

nuff said.

SB said...

Jason Alligood said what I was trying to say except clearly-sorry I've been a little distracted this morning.

Frank- All I'm saying is let the only Rock of offense be Christ-let all cultures-whether conservative or punk bow.

HooverBranch said...

[jason wrote]"Go into all the world and make disciples..." and we all know the rest. We are to make followers of Jesus, not followers of culture.[end qoute]

Amen, that made me think. I dont know about this BE YOURSELF thing that you mentioned... because who we are is followers of Christ. Thats the ONLY thing that really matters. I think the thing we need to remember is that the Word of God is all we need. I think people put to much time and effort into thinking about how we can bring in new commers and welcome people. Look we need to be welcoming. But lets not put all our time and effort into changing ourselves to do it. We are suppose to be the "Light to the world." Alright what is that saying in Mathew 5 when it says "let your light shine before men." I will tell you what it is not saying. And that is to let your light be changed to look like men! We are suppose to be different. NOw that doesnt mean (suit and Tie) but it does mean to not conform to this world. To cling to what is good and abhor what is evil. To be ABOVE REPROACH.

When I see people trying to change theirselves or trying to make things more welcoming. I often see their presentation of the Word of God hindered. And that saddens me. We are not on a mission to collect the most (I led this person to Christ) trophies. Because the truth is WE DONT LEAD PEOPLE TO CHRIST. Christ is everything. We are just servents of him. He USES us to spread his Word. THAT IS IT. We do this out of obedience. We are should not be doing this thinking that WE are going to save people. That would take the Glory away from God. And ALL the Glory should go to God in Salvation. Because everything about salvation is God. Not US!

My point, although its probably hard to get out of this... is that we need to be Christians. Not suit and tie bussinessmen, not Punk Rockers, not emo, not anything else. Just be Followers of Christ. And let every other concern come after that.


SB said...

Amen James:
... is that we need to be Christians. Not suit and tie bussinessmen, not Punk Rockers, not emo, not anything else. Just be Followers of Christ. And let every other concern come after that.

Sharon said...

And why is it mainly the lowbrow and fringe aspects of Western youth culture that this argument is invariably applied to? Why are so few Christian young persons keen to give up video games and take up chess in order to reach the geeks in the chess club? or give up heavy metal and learn the cello in order to have a ministry to the students who play in the orchestra?

EXXcellent, Phil! Mind if I add it to my "quotes to think about" doc?

centuri0n said...

Jason said:

These are not subcultures. They are the situations people have chosen or in some cases are there by no fault of their own.

Bingo. We might quibble in Systematic Theology class about your anthropological categories, but you have said it exactly right in blog-speak. You want a free t-shirt? e-mail me and you can have any short-sleeve you want.

HeWhoIsCalledTom said...

This reminds me of the beginings of teen challenge (read the cross and the switchblade). This country preacher moves to the middle of the inner city, he stuck out like a sore thumb. Any one would have said he was totally irrelevent. But through simple genuine love and the simple genuine gospel he started a minustry that is still changing lives today.

Mike-e said...

Thanks Phil and Cent. Both blogs were a HUGE encouragment to me and its been something that I haven't quite been able to express in such clear words as both of you have. What i've learned from both of you can be summed up in two words: BE YOURSELF. Let God use you. Don't change who you are.

I know Cent. touched on this, but i'd like to see more written on this from a larger context, such as the church, than on an individual context (like the biker guy in cent's blog).

centuri0n said...


The admonition "be yourself" is about half-right, but it requires something which is hard to get and just as hard to maintain: legitimate self-awareness.

There's no lecture there -- for the sake of avoiding demonstrating that I have a low level of self-awareness. You have to be honest about yourself to yourself, and that is based on himility in the face of God.

Start there. May God bless you with the rest.

DJP said...


I like it. Humility is all about you. Himility is all about Him.

That Frank. Even when he's wrong, he's right!

Stephen Newell said...

That's Mr. Turk to you.

Sewing said...

There is a lot of excellent stuff here. Fool4jesus' perspective resonates: if there is going to be subcultural outreach, it should be by people who authentically were part of that subculture but who have since been transformed by Christ. They are much more likely to be accepted by their former peers by someone not familiar with the subculture who is trying to come across as "hip." And in being a living witness to the transformative power of Jesus, they will bring people to God.

Now, the real reason I'm commenting is this: Is that album cover for real!? Wow, Father Mike's collared-hipster visage just blew my mind. The Beatific Beatnik. I can just see him reading aloud Jesus' benedictions from the Sermon on the Mount from a 1st-edition Jerusalem Bible, pipe in hand....

centuri0n said...


Newell is bucking for sidekick. Ignore him.

centuri0n said...


There's something to what you're saying, but how does that first guy get saved?

As my pastor said, the Gospel is the solution to culture.

SolaMeanie said...

If I could shout "AMEN" from the top of Mt. San Jacinto at the moment, I would. Excellent post, Phil!

As an aside, I am concerned about the polar opposite reactions the photos in this post engender with me. A hearty guffaw at the pipe-smoking, singing priest or the urge to, ahem, at the photo of the stud muffin (pun totally in cheek along with the other metal)

Sewing said...

Centurion, yes, at some point, someone in the group is going to have to discern God's call and be saved by interacting with people outside the group. Once one person is saved, however (and cleaned up), that person may be the most effective witness of all in evangelizing to and saving others in the group.

Pure-White said...

A friend of mine has a small cell group for youth. We were talking, and he had mentioned that three young girls were inquiring with him about whether it was right to "missionary date" He inquired as to what they meant and one of them explained that it was primarily about them going out with unsaved guys for the purpose of bringing the guys to Christ?

Is this the level we will go to in order to show the world we're "real people"? Needless to say that my friend straightened the girls out, but it speaks to what you are refering to.

If we are called to be the salt and the light, who should be the example for who? Are we to model others just so we can in turn switch back to something completely different , expecting them to do the same?

Seems to me it would just be easier to be what we know and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest through us.

Great post.

centuri0n said...


read this post at my blog.

Kristie said...
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Sewing said...
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Sewing said...

Centuri0n, amen to your post! Durn it, that's exactly what I wanted to say, but failed miserably at doing. Authenticity is what's all about. A hardcore ex-con who's found Jesus is going win souls for Christ. So too might someone who's never spent a day in jail but is at least honest about who he is and is compassionate but uncompromising with those he is trying to save.

The hip young guy from the suburbs with the tat may be full of good intentions, but from the point of view of someone deeply unsaved, he'll just be a squeaky-clean Christian desparately trying to pass on appearances, and his testimony will fall on deaf ears.

Stephen Newell said...

centuri0n: Newell is bucking for sidekick. Ignore him.

I'm not Reformed enough yet nor do I post strongly enough yet to be a sidekick. *sniffs sadly*

Perhaps after becoming legitimately self-aware and himble...

SB said...
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HooverBranch said...

Newell: I think we all can use some Himbling.

p.s. is this a real word or did it just get made up in these Comments? Because I like it.

SB said...
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Phil Johnson said...


Your remarks are both off-topic and out of line. If you have a beef with an institution I'm not even formally affiliated with, take it up directly with the administration there. The comments-threads at MY blog are not the proper place for you to air grievances against policies no one but you has even thought to mention here.

Notice: This post was not about any institution's dress code. I didn't advocate dress codes; in fact, I criticized a philosophy which claims that outward appearance is the secret to being "missional." If you want to speak to that point, fine. Otherwise, take it elsewhere.

SB said...
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Phil Johnson said...


Final warning: one more gratuitous slap—ever—against people I respect but who have nothing to do with this blog or the thread at hand, and I will ban you permanently from commenting.

SB said...

ok lets start again:

is outward appearance one of the secrets to being respected or thought of as mature spirituall?

SB said...

After seeking the Lord on the matter

I repent. I think I agree that you don't have a dog in that fight. Also I love TMC sincerely and still owe the govt thousands of dollars for the investment i put in there.

I agree what I wrote was not edifying and had mixed motives of trying to win an arguement rather than purely to serve.

In general I dont have the biblical authority probably to be debating these issues since I myself have neglected areas of my own garden for the sake of this discussion.

my main concern that i felt these posts over the last year on dress and fads point to the eleepant in the room that the ministry you run has been itself impacted by the times and the culture.

Do you see any truth to that fact?

And that preferences in dress or style of ministry can be non moral and based on preference and that these syles can be lifted up as a sign of maturity or respect to the detriment of other values and cultures.

Another words do you agree that the conservative subculture is equally as in need of redemption than say another subculture ?

I hope you will accept my apology and forgive me for offending you and speaking ill of people you love.

centuri0n said...

I just wanted to point out that the eyebrow doesn;t twitch on Phil's avatar.

Pity, that.

Phil Johnson said...

For you, it'll twitch.

Mark B. Hanson said...

One thing that has struck me about the early church is how specifically they strove to be different from their culture in every visible way. For instance in the Didache (from the early second century): "When you fast, do not fast on Monday and Thursday like the hypocrites do. Instead, fast on Wednesday and Friday".

The modern church would say "Hmm, Monday and Thursday - we can do that. What is it they don't eat?"

Rose said...

And why is it mainly the lowbrow and fringe aspects of Western youth culture that this argument is invariably applied to? Why are so few Christian young persons keen to give up video games and take up chess in order to reach the geeks in the chess club? or give up heavy metal and learn the cello in order to have a ministry to the students who play in the orchestra?

My husband and I passionately promote frugality and speak out against
greed in our culture and churchs. It's very interesting to me how often
Christians will justify indulgent lifestyles by telling us that they are
living in the way that they are in order to reach middle class indulgent
people. I think that most people choose the lifestyle or subculture that
they want to be a part of and then justify/explain it by claiming that the
reason that they are doing it for Christian ministry. As for the quote
above, I think that the answer to the quote above I think that the answer
to your question above is that people don't want to be chess nerds or
cello players. They want to be cool and comfortable. This is the same
reason why so few people go into full time missions. We pick the group we
feel comfortable in and then decide that they are the group that we ought
to be ministering to.

Sewing said...
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Sewing said...


Satan has so many ways of controlling the lives even of those who have not yet fully surrendered themselves to Jesus. I was born again a month ago and I turned away from my most obviously sinful behaviour, and yet as that layer of the onion has peeled away, God has shown me deeper, much more subtle leves of insidious sinfulness. The closer we are to salvation, the craftier Satan gets.

Greed is not my particular sin, but that—or even merely the desire to be comfortable and not completely throw off our pre-salvific shackles—is certainly one of his Satan's successful strategies when dealing with Christians.

Rick Potter said...

DJP said: "That Frank. Even when he's wrong, he's right!"

Well, it's because he has so much canon sense!

Steve Scott said...

And why is it mainly the lowbrow and fringe aspects of Western youth culture that this argument is invariably applied to? Why are so few Christian young persons keen to give up video games and take up chess in order to reach the geeks in the chess club? or give up heavy metal and learn the cello in order to have a ministry to the students who play in the orchestra?

Uhhhhm. Actually, this kind of thing happens all the time, it's just that it never raises eyebrows and nobody writes major stories about it. These people never have to defend themselves from criticism, so it's never controversial. The argument is applied to highbrow mainstream elements of youth culture, but it's just done silently. I've known many kids who have joined the band, Cub Scouts, 4H, sports teams, and all kinds of wholesome uppity clubs, etc, for just the same reason. It's odd that Jesus wasn't criticized for hanging out with the Pharisees.

Anonymous said...

Dear Savage Countenance;
C'mon, admit it, you do what you do with your piercings etc. not because you want to reach others but because you want to be worldly. Quit foolin' yourself!!

Julie said...

I came to the background that would make an emergent ministry salivate. I have a huge back tattoo and stories that would curl your toes. I have old photos of my shaved head and scanty dress and still possess a vocabulary that I have to consciously suppress. Not because I feel the need to fit in with my church. But because I want to conform to CHRIST. And for that reason, I don't show off my tattoo and wear body hugging fashions and show how cool I can be. I've been there. I've done that. By God's grace, I have been transformed. Why, oh why would I want to pretend I wasn't transformed in order to lure someone else to the Lord? To show that transformation isn't necessary? What a lie.

Incidentally, I didn't wander into a church. There are six other days in the week and I was given a Bible by a Christian who remained nameless to me on the street of downtown on one of those days.

Julie said...

the above should read: I came to the Lord from a background....