Save Me From My Subculture

It happens to all of us: we find ourselves part of a group, and we start to look and sound a lot like the others in the group.

Young, Restless, and Reformed? Grab the ESV Study Bible. Read the latest Piper book. Listen to the Gettys. Download some Max McLean.

Middle of the road evangelical? I'm guessing you've got Hillsongs on your iPod. Your Max is Lucado, not McLean, and you own a book by Chuck Swindoll and/or Rick Warren.

If you are not part of these two groups, you may belong to a third. Except it's not a group or a movement. But love Newbigin. You read Scot McKnight. You enjoy when Tony Jones bugs the first group and confuses the second. You'd pick Wright over Piper any day. You still can't believe George W. Bush was president. You'd rather take pay cut than attend Willow's Leadership Summit. You buy fair trade coffee when you have the choice and you're a pacifist, except around really annoying fundamentalists.

I've come to realize that it's really hard not to become part of some kind of subculture. The problem is that many of the clichés become accurate. I've noticed lately that it takes someone else to point out my own tribe, because I sometimes don't even recognize the quirks of my particular group. I don't mind being idiosyncratic as much as I mind being oblivious.

It's why I am appreciating my friends who are not part of my subculture. I need to make a point of having lunch with them and enduring their gentle mocking when they see the quirks of my tribe, just as I'll gently mock them right back.

To my friends from other tribes - you know who you are - thank you.

It's also why I need to read widely so I don't get trapped in just one way of thinking. And it's why I continue to enjoy being part of a denomination that isn't comprised of people just like me.

I don't have to like everything about the other subcultures, but I sure need them to save me from my own.

Center the Ministry on Prayer


Jack Miller writes to a discouraged missionary in Uganda:

Make the whole ministry center on private and corporate prayer. Do not expect bigger victories in tough areas until corporate praying becomes the complete center of the ministry. The reason? It is in prayer together that we find the grace to give up control to the Father, rely exclusively on the Spirit, and see the demons subdued. It is here we get our life, vigor, zest, and authority for the battle. Lesslie Newbigin said in Honest Religion for Secular Man that "Christian missionaries have been one of the most secularizing forces in the world." Without constant adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, and confession together, we are going to teach people to rely on our traditions, plans, technologies, and methods rather than on grace. Such converts will simply be switching their idols from the witchcraft stuff to the tools of modernism. (The Heart of a Servant Leader, p. 158; italics his)

Saturday Links

The Consequences of Sexual Immorality - a list that's worth reading pretty regularly (via Justin Taylor)

The "Nevers" of the Gospel

A Defense of Mediocrity - You don't have to have a spectacular ministry.

Trevin Wax on Gospel Confrontation and Gospel Comfort

Confused about The New Perspective on Paul? Trevin Wax offers a primer and (with Ted Olsen) tells us why it matters. Kevin DeYoung reflects on N.T. Wright's latest book.

A great Father's Day piece by Ken Davis

The best post I've read this week: Sharing the Gospel in the Gay Village by John Bell

Our Greatest Need as Twenty-First Century Churches

From Tullian Tchividjian's excellent book Unfashionable:

I have good news for all of us who are becoming weary of this pressure from church leaders to fit in with the world: we don't have to. The relevance of the church doesn't depend on its ability to identify the latest cultural trends and imitate them, whatever they might be. "The ultimate factor in the church's engagement with society," [Os] Guinness says, "is the church's engagement with God," not the church's engagement with the latest intellectual or corporate fashion. Contrary to what we've been hearing, our greatest need as twenty-first-century churches is not that we're culturally out of touch; it's that we're theologically out of tune.

Bridging the Gap Part Two

A follow-up to yesterday's Bridging the Gap post:

Challies has a guest post by John Bell, a friend of mine who is planting a church in downtown Toronto, and who has an active evangelistic ministry in Toronto's gay village.

I do all this because I love the LGBT community. They are a community comprised of individual eternal souls. Sadly, they are culture that has almost no contact with biblical Christianity in any form. How many drag queens can count a born again Christian amongst their friends? Very few, to our shame.

...I pray for the day when transvestites can walk through our church doors and be greeted with genuinely warm smiles and Christian love. But before that day is likely to happen, they will need a Christian friend whom they have grown to trust; a person they know would never invite them to a place where they are going to be hurt or embarrassed publicly; a place where everyone is on level ground before the cross of Christ because all are sinners; a place where no one person's sin is made out to be more repugnant than another's; a place where all sinners can sit under the uncompromised preaching of holy Scripture and hear of the world's only Savior and salvation in his name alone.

Christianity Today published an article in 1997 on Ed Dobson that's still worth reading. Dobson has a very conservative pedigree and was an executive with the Moral Majority, and has taken some heat in recent days - this article may explain why. A section from the Christianity Today article:

Today, church families buy Christmas presents for everyone they can identify in the city who is HIV-positive. Calvary has also offered funds and the use of its chapel for any AIDS-related funeral.

In the beginning, a few parishioners worried that their respectable church might be "overrun" with gays. Dobson decided to hit the issue head-on. "If our church gets overrun with homosexuals, that will be terrific," he proclaimed one Sunday morning. "They can take their place in the pews right next to the liars, gossips, materialists, and the rest of us who entertain sin in our lives." People quickly got a new picture of outreach in the 1990s.

"We don't have a separate ministry per se to homosexuals," Dobson says. "We just make it obvious that they, including people with HIV, are welcome here."

Dobson said in a sermon, "When I die, if someone stands up and says, 'Ed Dobson loved homosexuals,' then I will have accomplished something with my life."