Does Gospel or Culture Influence Christians the Most?

What force exerts the greatest influence on your congregation and the Christians you know? Are they shaped more by the gospel of Jesus Christ or by the culture around them?

Of course, the “Sunday school answer” always is Jesus. Christians pattern our lives after the teaching and example of Jesus. But is that the true answer? To what degree are our thoughts and actions formed by Jesus? And to what degree are they dictated by customs, actions and philosophies that have nothing to do with Jesus?

Two answers

Two answers quickly come to mind—“some of both” and “yeah, but … .”

“Some of both” is an accurate response, isn’t it? We try to follow the Golden Rule, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, as well as all Jesus’ teachings about ministering to “the least of these.” But we acknowledge we’re influenced by modernity—from air conditioning, to musical instruments, to organizational charts, mission statements and goal-setting.

But the question is: What force exerts the greatest influence? It means only one answer will do. And it implies a deeper level of influence than the contemporary trappings of church facilities or management principles.

That’s where the “yeah, but …” answer comes into play. If we take the question seriously, and we start thinking about more than cosmetic influences, we’re tempted to respond, “Yeah, but we’re not influenced by culture as much as the church down the street.” And thus begins the finger-pointing.

Split arguments

Typically, at this point, the argument splits along—what else?—cultural divisions. Easy answers come to mind: “Yeah, but liberals are even more shaped by culture; just look at how they’ve responded to sexual issues.” “Yeah, but conservatives are even more shaped by culture; just look at how they’ve cozied up to the right-wing politicians.”

The “yeah, but …” response isn’t helpful, because it ignores the advice your parents gave you when you started learning to make excuses: Don’t worry about the other person. Pay attention to yourself. Decide for yourself to do the right thing.

In this case, that advice means taking a long, hard, honest look at yourself and your church in light of the gospels and culture. Then, give your loyalty to Jesus and the Gospels.

This decision can influence many areas of personal and congregational activity, but here are a few to get us thinking about it:

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SOURCE: Baptist Standard
Marv Knox