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Blog // Thoughts
August 22, 2005

World-Embracing Evangelism, Rather Than World-Denying Churchism

I have adapted the following comments from a reply I gave to a discussion on the Christian Musicians Forum. The topic was on the use of secular songs in a Christian Worship context. I was concered that some replies were trying to draw a very sharp secular vs sacred divide and with it implying either […]

I have adapted the following comments from a reply I gave to a discussion on the Christian Musicians Forum. The topic was on the use of secular songs in a Christian Worship context. I was concered that some replies were trying to draw a very sharp secular vs sacred divide and with it implying either an ideologial agenda to any non-church music and possibiliy dubious spiritual motivations to any who chose to use such music in a Christian context. It is understandable to me that some may choose to narrowly define what they use in worship and church gathering simply because they want to endorse an unambiguous Christian outlook in those meetings.

However, I see it is counterproductive to try and divide the world up into places where God is and God is not and putting cultural artefacts into rigid secular or sacred boxes is often misleading. Those who want to deny the ‚Äúworld‚Äù in these ways are often seeking to keep the church pure, rather than keep the mission in tact. In contrast, I’m for world-embracing evangelism, rather than world-denying churchism.

When we talk about what happens in context of church worship, the important issue is not the presence of “secular” music, but it’s function; whether it is functioning as a quote, or there as an endorsed idea. If we look at the New Testament, Paul quoted Greek culture and Jesus quoted the extremes of Pharasiacal teaching. The only thing for us to do, in the light of these would be to not broadly quote or reference the culture around us.

Some of the worst distortions of the Christian message arise when culture is quoted or referenced only in a narrow and negative way. Quoting makes it hard to claim that everything outside the church is actively evil, or working systematically towards some anti-faith goal (like secularism). Sin is sin, for sure, but there is a lot of culture that runs pretty close to neutral, and a great deal of it that is truly beautiful and can inspire us to reflect upon or consider God.

That is not to say we should endorse everything we quote. Sin is sin and sin is global. However, by quoting our culture accurately (or honestly attempting to do so), we create a clearer picture of the world in which we are to have both feet and a better sense (in my view) of how to go about our mission in that world.

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