Hang on a minute! Didn’t I just write about changing the other week? Yes, but there is more to add!
Last century, western culture moved away from institutions, including the church, and expressive individualism continued to grow. Therefore, some churches began to change their doctrine, practices and style and in order to keep relevant. Of course, some churches realised the dangers in this and aimed to hold fast to doctrine, while changing in other areas to connect to the culture, like Paul promotes. The same gospel, but in a different wrapper.
This did work to an extent, and many people were reached, but it had a negative effect. Once good doctrine is confirmed, people now judged churches on their wrapper. This then causes a big problem within the church. For variations in church styles and practices can end up reinforcing expressive individualism in the church – not so much for unbelievers as already believing Christians. So, now I tick the good doctrine box by default, but really look for the church with the style that fit my self-image. The church-shopper is born. This thinking is antithetical to making disciples of Christ who lay down their lives for the kingdom of Jesus.
What can we do? At least two things.
Firstly, change for connection, not consumerism. It’s worth remembering that Paul’s concerns was not for Christians, but for those who did not know Christ yet. We must ensure our efforts at change are truly for the benefit of the outsider, and not merely an expression of our own preferences and self-image. This involves insight and humility.
Secondly, commit deeply to one another. If we are to begin to overcome our society’s pervasive loneliness caused by the granularization of preferences cause by extreme expressive individualism, we need to spend time with one another and grow through the challenges we cause each other! Freedom to be vulnerable in front of others, acknowledging others’ preferences, praising the gifts and contribution of others, sharing joys and sorrows, being self-controlled on our frustrations – the list could go on.
We all want to promote and be a part of a deep and loving fellowship which changes lives, but will commit to and give up our preferences for it.
– Sam Pursell