A Fine Line! Part 1

I have been a little wrapped up in some things lately and haven’t had a chance to blog.  Sorry for those of you who are sitting around waiting to receive awe inspiring insights from the CA crew.  I will try to be more diligent in the future.

It is a fine line that I have been wrestling with recently.  There is one side of an argument that says the church should mix it up with the culture.  In essence, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  At many levels I tend to be a subscriber to this philosophy.  If those you are trying to reach are in the bar, go to the bar with them.  If they are eating at Hooters for lunch, order the Honey BBQ wings.  Okay, maybe that last one was a step too far.

Then on the other side of the line is this other argument.  This argument too would fall back on Scripture to back up their point.  Scripture teaches that “bad company corrupts good morals.”  These people tend to be the separatists.  The church and Christians should have nothing to do with the “pagans.”  This is the side of the argument that gets really upset when the preachers car is outside the bar on a Saturday night even if he claims it’s a ministry opportunity.  There should be a clear and distinct divide between the world and Christians.

I was raised more in line with the latter philosophy.  As a 28 year old, I tend to understand and fall in line with the former.  My question, as I wrestle with this at times is, “Is there a middle ground that is really where Christians should be aiming?”  Is it only accurate to assume that Christians can only be one of the two?  Or is there something in the middle that can provide answers to both?  Something that can never be tarnished.  Some answer that no matter how you splice it, when done correctly is God honoring and always reaches the person we want to reach.  Is that answer out there?  Does it exist?  If so, what is it?

I have an answer in mind.  It is mentioned in many places in Scripture.  A few times in the gospels and a few times later in the epistles.  I want to see what you think it is and what your thoughts are.  No worries, I will eventually throw my answer into the mix.  I’m just hoping to develop a deeper dialogue over the question.  So, what do you think?


About Stan Rodda

Follower. Husband. Father. Shepherd. Apostle. Husker.

Posted on May 29, 2009, in Church, discipleship, Leadership, the basics, the culture, the nation, the world. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I think the “middle ground” is really just common sense. I don’t believe scripture teaches that “bad company corrupts good morals”. I DO believe that there is a certain measure of discretion and proper discernment involved but there is no absolute exclusionary mandate in scripture; if this were the case Jesus would never have been accused of eating with sinners and tax collectors, and he would have never reminded us that it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick or that we are to go into the world and make disciples. Anyone who says Christians should never associate with non-christians is a heretic. Much of that perspective would be a derivative of American sub-culture christianity which is a lot more of a pharisaical-type sect than the New Testament Church; focusing on gaining holiness by outward appearance not the condition of the heart. Avoiding non christians doesn’t make you any more holy than avoiding the sick will make you a doctor.
    I would caution that when in Rome we do not sin as the Romans do. We don’t sin to blend in or to be accepted, we don’t walk away from Christ to go into the world, we take HIm with us. We go to the people with our higher standards intact. I can hang out at the bar without sinning because there is nothing innately sinful about a jack and coke, some friends and a pool table… especially when those friends are also pastors and good Christian men! The strip club on the other hand is a different story. Most of the time the only folks who have a problem with the preacher sitting at the bar are the church folks.
    The Bible doesn’t command us to hide our selves away to keep the infection of sin on the other side of the stained glass.
    All that being said, Christians should go boldly into the places that are the most dark, but when they do the should make certain their light is shining bright enough that everyone can see what they are doing!

  2. billyjohnsonlive

    “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means some might be saved.”

    That’s what the greatest evangelist ever had as his evangelism creed. Sounds pretty good to me.

  3. You know I really put a lot of stock in the Gospel being ‘trans-cultural’. I got to thinking about the church and how it wants to become more ‘culturally relevant’ which usually means, it want’s to become something that the people out side the church are familiar with so that outsiders may be less intimidated or turnd-off or can “relate” to better.

    I feel like here in Taiwan, strictly culturally speaking I am, “in” the world, but not “of” the world. I am very much immersed, entangled, and in Taiwan, but I am not nor will I ever be Taiwanese (or of Taiwan). It is a Paradox. G.K. Chesterton talks about the paradox of Christianity, in pointing out that a paradox is NOT A COMPROMISE it is not to balance in the middle, it is to be both extremes at the same time. Like Jesus, who’s hands invited and carefully touched and blessed children, and who also formed a whip and chased the money changers out of the temple. How Jesus spoke love, grace, and forgiveness to prostitutes, tax-collectors and sinners, but spoke Hell and doom to the righteous leaders and teachers of the Law. Love and wrath, it is not a balance in the middle, never really being wrathful, and never really being loving. It is passionate love and passionate wrath. The Gospel is not the middle way (of the Buddha), it is both ends of the spectrum, I am a wretched sinner, I am a son of God. I am poor in spirt but the kingdom of heaven is mine.

    I remember hearing, when I was the preacher in a “nameless” Illinois town, that people would not go to the Chinese restaurant because they had their idol displayed. If I took that approach to evangelism here I would converse with no one, not be able to spend my money anywhere, or even love someone who is with out hope and with out God in the world.

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not western, it is not eastern, it is not modern it is not postmodern, it is a promise for you, for your children and for all who are far off, for everyone who the Lord our God has called to himself. It transcends culture. I come here, I am completely different, in so many respects, and really the only commonality between us is sin and our need for a savior. I’m learning Chinese, but that is not the first language of a Chinese person, love is the language we share, If I speak in the tongues of men.. but don’t love, I am noisy cymbal, that people wish would just be quiet and leave.
    For me, here, the differences are apparent and stark, but the differences are not a “barrier”…. we first find common ground, not by one or both of us changing our superficial differences, but in two things common to all people… sin and love.

  4. ryan:
    1 Cor. 15:33 – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

    To the original post:
    Being in the culture, understanding it and walking along side unbelievers is vital to being a christian. The problem is when you let it sink in and you begin to live it and eventually love it.

    I had a youth minister friend that cussed. He said it made him more real to his students, he worked with teenagers so he wanted to talk like them. That is not what Paul meant by “become all things to all people.” If your attempt to “mix” with the culture leads you to sin you are a failure in following Christ. Jesus lived in the culture and never gave in to it, rather condemned it. You don’t have to do drugs to reach druggies, you don’t have to sleep with a prostitute to minister in Vegas, you don’t have to cuss to minister to teens. The hard balance to find is the line of culturally relevant while being morally solid.

  5. Bad company corrupts weak character. You obviously didn’t read the rest of my comment.

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