Last Saturday Steve Manskar, the Director of Wesleyan Leadership, from the General Board of Discipleship led us in a day-long workshop on Covenant Discipleship. It was a great day in which I trust fruit will be produced from the seed that was planted.
At one point in his presentation Steve talked about the enculturation of the church, which he described as the belief that the church is just like the world, only better. For Steve, the enculturation of the church is a huge problem, and I agree. I have suggested on this blog on more than a few occasions that the church of Jesus Christ must be an alternative to the world and not just an improved version of it.
But that has exactly how the church has often presented itself-- as an improved world. And once the church is no longer an alternative to the culture, but simply an enhanced version of its surroundings, we have nothing of significance to offer the world. Our society does not need for the church to be an enhanced version of the world; there are already a plethora of options for augmenting our lives without the need for much change-- weight loss and exercise programs, self-help books, hobbies to lessen our stress, Dr. Phil and Oprah, the Democratic and Republican Parties, and almost limitless (it seems) opportunities to pursue an abstract non-scandalous spirituality that simply affirms who we already are. The culture does not need the church to provide one more avenue for a little self-improvement.
We Christians are not opposed to a little self-improvement, but we must be insistent that our Lord and Savior did not come to this earth to die on our behalf and rise from the grave on our behalf, just to make us a little nicer, a little more well-adjusted, in order that we might be better than the average American, Canadian, British, or German (pick your country) citizens.
My friend, Dave Black has written on his blog, "I know of only one way to live, and that is with the reckless abandon of one who knows he's on the winning side. I think the world is desperately in need of radical dissidents, those little voices that can point us to something greater than ourselves... People are drawn toward folks who do not have it all together yet who are defiantly moving forward. 'Believers' are a dime a dozen in our churches. But how rare are radical pursuers of God?"
If Jesus Christ has come to offer world something it can get nowhere else, then the church, the Body of Christ in this world, must bear witness to that unique and alternative possibility. We must live as radical and holy dissidents who understand that what God wants to do for the world is not just offer it a little touch up around the edges, but rather that God intends to renovate his creation. The Bible is not one more self-help book; it is, as John Wesley said, the book that offers the way to salvation.