Shattered Lifestyles

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By now it is universally accepted that people – especially young adults are leaving the church in masses. One reason, it seems, is because Christians are perceived out of touch with reality..

How did we acquire this image of a sheltered Lifestyle?

Christianity is thought of as disconnected from any spiritual vitality; with a list of rules and a daily “to do” list; almost robotic-like. As a tribe in a jungle might insulate itself from outside threats, it uses words and phrases that others outside of the inner circle cannot possibly understand….all in an effort to guarantee its survival. The Church, then, is seen as not confronting social and political issues, intellectually, so as not to expose its vulnerabilities.

This runs contrary to a new generation that longs for experimentalism and unexpected experiences. One that yearns to break free from overprotectionism that it has grown up with for a decade. One that resists simplistic answers to life’s problems. But, at the same time, enjoys dialoguing with people that have different viewpoints and that widen their intellectual horizons. A new breed of young adults who are more violent, have experienced the breakdown of family structures, have higher access to pornography, approve of sex before marriage, are more frequent drug abusers, have a higher tolerance for profanity, have a higher degree of daily addictions, weight problems, debt and divorce, are more lonely and more susceptible to suicide.

A major reason we fail to engage the world is because of the entire Christian model or structure. We are closed off from the world – in healthy and reasonable ways, “to be holy” and “set apart” (1 Peter 1:15) – but that role often leaves us unable or unwilling to engage people who are looking for answers.  However, when all is said and done, we have a responsibility to interact with the world. We cannot be fearful of the unknown or be offended by that which we know are challenges of a new generation. We must be ready to help those who are desperate and develop hearts and minds that will be prepared to offer gracious answers to life’s daily problems. In a culture that is offensive, we must not be defensive; in a world that is hostile to Christians, we cannot respond in anger or cynical bitterness;  We must practice purity in the light of living in proximity to the world.; balancing and pursuing both goals will be the struggle – books you read, movies you watch, careers you choose, friendships you maintain, communication you cultivate and character you protect.

Some practical ways to accomplish this are 1) Demonstrate excellence in your life occupation, 2) have mentoring relationships, 3) define faith as a driving passion in one’s life, 4) have a healthy respect for different opinions and lifestyles, and 5) redeem rather than condemn. Offer meaningful ways to help, only when asked. It’s not easy to change the belief that we don’t care for others to one of complete submission to God’s plan of humility, but we must have a change of heart to accomplish it.

Question: What are some practical ways that we can demonstrate purity while living realistically within culture?  How should we approach a conversation that blatantly attacks what we believe to be as truth? What are specific examples that you struggle with?

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This is a tough topic.  It’s especially hard for Christians, who come out of confessional church background like the CRC.  Our doctrines are so well defined.  Our confessions (the catechism) are structured by the outline of “sin, salvation, and service.” And even though some of our older members mourn the fact that “sin” makes up the smallest section, sin is still a big deal in our churches.  Our members look over the fence and bemoan the fact that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. It’s so difficult for our members to really befriend those on the other side of the fence.  I imagine that most of the adult members of your church have only Christian close friends.  Maybe acquaintances from the other side of the fence, but friends, close friends that they really enjoy being with?  Probably not.  So when your circle of  friends are all within the church how can you help but not to be sheltered?  Our young people are much less sheltered, of course, unless they go to the Christian school system, which many do.  Just as the parents of our churches want to shelter their children, so they shelter themselves.  We are a sheltered community, and don’t even know how to get out from under our shelter.  Our churches try to formulate programs of evangelism or outreach by which church members approach people on the other side of the fence with a canned approach, even a canned approach of friendship with an ulterior motive.  Or we put up signs inviting those on the other side of the fence to come to our church.  We can’t bring ourselves to really come to those over there, but let’s invite them here into our sheltered community and maybe they will feel comfortable with us under our shelter. There is such a dichotomy (division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups) between the people inside our churches and those on the other side of the fence.  And our young people can’t help but to feel those differences or the hypocrisy inside our own camp so that more are being drawn to the other side of the fence.  As to an approach to a conversation that blatantly attacks our cherished beliefs?  Why not just listen.  Or try to understand their point of view without feeling that we have to correct the opposition.  

I guess I’ve said the same thing as you have in your article, just using different words.  Sorry.  I feel your pain.

Community Builder

Thanks Roger for the added insight. I presume that many more have the same feelings, but just do not know how to express it, or what to do about it. Many churches are waiting for someone to tell them how to get out of the Sheltered Lifestyle. Sometimes, our lives are so busy with meaningless things that we forget/fail to concentrate on what is important. Finding ways to reach out to the hurting is one of those responsibilities that we MUST solve if we want to evangelize, be authentic & transparent and escape our sheltered bubble.

In John 21 we read JESUS and Peter went for a walk, were JESUS  gave Peter a job to do, proclaim ME, the apostle John was following, Peter asked JESUS, "what about him" JESUS said never mind I am talking to you, you must follow ME. That also goes for you and me, so what can I say, it reminds me of the song, " Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me" . He has compassion on me, so my role is to proclaim, and have compassion, as CHRIST has compassion on me. You must follow ME , how about simple role modeling, serve the needy in our community, simply rub shoulders. In our case I see so much value in serve trips, Orphanage and drug & alcohol rehab,drag young and old along, have them witness missery in the world, and how it can be overcome by GOD,s grace. It is not my job to judge, only HE can , and HIS grace is Amazing.  Hans Visser

 

Community Builder

Hans: Well put.....

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