Don’t ask your goldfish how the water is. Goldie won’t have any idea what you’re talking about. The same could be said of us. We are swimming backstroke in our culture immersed in its swirling currents. At times it feels like we’re caught in the riptide. It requires careful discernment to spot the trends that are pulling us out to sea.
One scroll through social media or an hour in your local coffee shop can reveal what’s churning below the surface in our culture. There are three trends shaping our culture below the surface in this moment.
Declining numbers in our churches, an increasingly post-christian culture and senseless violence breed desperation and pull us toward extreme fear. Comments on our Facebook wall and protest signs remind us there are different views on every event. Politics have grown ever more divisive, beckoning us to guard our beloved territory swinging social issues around like weapons. We’ve abandoned conversation in the name of fear.
What’s the alternative to God’s people living in fear? We must recover calculated courage. Obsessive fear isn’t winsome. It’s also not healthy. It clouds our vision and cripples us. Fear is the modus operandi of our culture, but courage is a choice. This is the time for a courageous church, not a fearful church. Maybe I’m on the crazy train, but I see opportunities for the Church amidst this fear. I see massive potential for God’s people to be unleashed in unique ways.
We live in a “selfie culture” fixated on being famous, known, followed, successful and envied. My friend works as a guidance counselor for one of the fastest growing Christian universities in the country. The number one thing incoming freshman want to be: famous. Dear Lord, help us. Ultimately, this is a misplaced desire for influence, but this culture of self is spinning out of control.
What’s the alternative to self obsession? Generosity. The people of Jesus must dare to live lives bigger than ourselves and greater than our own impulses. We can offer ourselves and our gifts for the sake of the world. Our neighbors and coworkers are peering through cultural cracks seeking glimpses of people living for something bigger than themselves.
Longings for the good life
People are seeking “the good life” (You can read extensively about this in James K.A. Smith’s book You are what you love). Consumption has consumed us, but Millennials and the creative class are highlighting a different way of life that yields influence in robust ways through work, neighboring, craft, generosity and relationships.
What’s the opportunity here? Seek curiosity about the why behind this longing. When I share a steamy cup of coffee with my neighbors each Friday morning we are all feeling the grind, but we all want to thrive. I ask them, “What is the good life for you?” They talk of contribution, not consumption. Our hearts are fat, unhappy, frenetic and increasingly unfulfilled. People are longing to be part of something bigger than themselves. Jesus’ Church is perfectly positioned to do this.
Calling all geniuses
When we watch someone explode with talent on a stage, in a gallery or before a panel of judges we say, “They’re a genius!” But in Antiquity, Greeks and Romans would say, “You have a genius.” The sacred and the secular alike understood there was something greater beyond our creativity than our own striving. We are tapping the source, but we aren’t the source. We have a genius, but we are not the genius.
Our culture is celebrating creativity, and God’s people can lead the way. Perhaps we are in recovery, groping for our initial call to live in the image of God as we create, cultivate and capture imagination. Every week, we leave church gatherings and take to the streets, social spaces and workplaces pregnant with possibility. Our creativity can be a winsome apologetic of a creative God.
Every Sunday, the spiritual gifts leave the building with the potential to shape communities and point to the Creator. We all bear a unique spark, our own flavor of genius. C.S. Lewis could not find the spark among the religious leaders of his day, but he found it among the makers and tradesmen. I see this creative spark alive and well among God’s people.
Courage. Generosity. Curiosity. The early church survived with love flavored with these three. They are baked into the history of the church. Certainly we can thrive with these time-tested tools.
How might the world experience the Creator when they encounter the courageous, generous and curious people of Jesus?
Published November 15, 2017