Not long ago I interviewed a poet who suggested that he just couldn’t imagine early Church leaders sitting around trying to come up with clever ideas about how they might influence Roman culture. — Ken Myers
Author Ken Myers doesn’t believe “the culture” is the biggest challenge facing the Church today. Rather, it’s the culture in the church that’s the problem as many believers live not fully transformed by the Gospel.
Myers is the founder and host of Mars Hill Audio journal, a bimonthly audio magazine featuring interviews with some of today’s foremost Christian thought leaders in academics, politics, and the arts. The mission: “To assist Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.”
Myers, a former NPR reporter, is himself a thoughtful social critic who thinks deeply about the interplay between the church and the larger world. In this exclusive interview, The Christian Post asks Myers to share his views on the church today – its biggest challenges and its greatest opportunities.
CP: What is the biggest challenge facing the church today?
Myers: It’s not “the culture,” as we often hear, that poses the most significant challenge for the church today. It’s the culture of the church.
What I mean is, we have reduced the Gospel to an abstract message of salvation that can be believed without having any necessary consequences for how we live. In contrast, the redemption announced in the Bible is clearly understood as restoring human thriving in creation.
Redemption is not just a restoration of our status before God through the life and work of Jesus Christ, but a restoration of our relationship with God as well. And our relationship with God is expressed in how we live. Salvation is about God’s restoring our whole life, not just one invisible aspect of our being (our soul), but our life as lived out in the world in ways that are in keeping with how God made us. The goal of salvation is blessedness for us as human beings. In other words, we are saved so that our way of life can be fully in keeping with God’s ordering of reality.
CP: Practically speaking, how has the church been too influenced by the broader culture?
Myers: Here’s a small list:
- The way in which the dominant role of technology in our lives promotes the deep assumption that we can fix anything;
- The way in which proliferating mechanisms of convenience erodes the virtues of patience and longsuffering;
- The way in which the elimination of standards of public propriety and manners undermines assumptions about the legitimacy of authority and deference to the communal needs; and
- The way in which the high prestige accorded to entertainers creates the conviction that every valuable experience should be entertaining.
And this is just scratching the surface.
CP: What about the argument that church has to be “relevant” to the broader culture in order to draw seekers?
Myers: First, just to be clear about how we use the word, let’s substitute the phrase “way of life” for the word “culture.” How can the Church be relevant to the way of life of its neighbors? As Eugene Peterson has said, by showing a better way of life.
True seekers are looking for something different, radically different. If people are just looking for a religious band-aid or spiritual Prozac, they are not seeking the redemption promised in the Gospel, which calls them to die to self and live (really live) to Christ. If I were drowning, the most relevant reality I could long for would be someone who was a really good swimmer. If my house were on fire, I would want a man with a hose, not a lighter. If my life were plunged into darkness, light would be the most relevant thing imaginable.