I live in a place of tension. My faith is very important to me: it is why I do what I do and it is what my life focuses on. This is not the tension in itself. The tension comes from where I come from.
I was not always a Christian; or, rather, I didn’t always take my faith seriously. I was baptized as a child and attended church until my parents told me that I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to. Naturally, I didn’t once they gave me the option. Now how I Christianity become central to how I life my life is a story in itself that won’t be told here. What is important is that it didn’t happen until the end of High School, and moreso into University.
I grew up in a secular culture. I grew up with some people who thought about themselves exclusively, I grew up with some people who strive for material things, I grew up with some people who drank far too much. I’ve held hair out of faces while people throw up after far too much to drink, and I’ve fought people who made me angry. I’ve seen a huge spectrum of what a “secular” life is and while there are things in it that I see as hugely misguided and damaging, I see a lot of good things within it too.
And this is where my tension comes from. I feel that I cannot abandon the secular. While I can guard myself from the dangers that lurk within it, I feel equally that I should embrace the good things in it as well. Simply because it isn’t what we would define as “Christian” doesn’t automatically make it bad.
One foot rooted in my faith, one foot in the secular. Most of the time it works pretty well; sometimes it can be a struggle.
I read a really interesting article yesterday that answered the question: Is it acceptable for the Church to reinterpret secular songs for use in worship?
I won’t sum it up or anything, it’s pretty short so if you’re curious what exactly says, just give it a quick read. One point the author brings up is one that I had never really thought about before, but it’s very obvious when pointed out.
Christians have a bad tendency to become an introverted community that only looks to each other for everything except missional work. We tend to try to “avoid” secular culture based on the dangers that it can pose. When we teach our faith and lessons to others, we stick to established theology. We tell stories about Jesus telling stories. Which is incredibly important.
I had never given too much thought to the stories Jesus told. Or rather, I always thought about the message and not the story itself. Jesus only occasionally quotes the Torah. His parables involve the culture that the communities lived in at the time: he talked about families, he talked about farming, he talked about fishing. His parables used the secular world that He was teaching in to deliver a message.
This is huge. Jesus himself was telling us that God isn’t just in established religious systems. God isn’t just in Christianity. God is everywhere, and I think that many Christians ignore a lot of what He’s doing by avoiding the secular. Jesus himself showed God’s work through the secular. Jesus made the secular sacred. This is not an uncommon transformation. I find it quite beautiful.
This leads me to where this all culminates for me. I think that a Church needs to be contemporary. The Church needs to continually evolve and adapt to maintain it’s ability to speak to the community and the culture of the day. If a Church can’t do this, then it will have huge difficulties in speaking to it’s community. Culture is as much a language as anything else, and the Church needs to be able to speak it.
This does not mean Churches should try to be trendy or abandon tradition. Tradition is hugely important, and when seeking to be contemporary and relevant to a quickly evolving culture, it is more important than ever to ensure that the leadership of a Church seeks to change in ways that honor and uphold a tradition thousands of years old.
Through prayerful effort and careful planning and communication with the community, a Church can be contemporary and relevant. It will be able to take the secular and make it sacred. It will be able to speak God’s truth to a whole new generation with startling clarity. It will connect members with the new Christianity and the Christianity that is far, far older than us. It will show people the unquestionable relevance of God in today’s world while allowing us to understand and be moved by the traditional sacrments. If, with God’s leadership, a Church can take parts of today’s secular culture and make it sacred, it will reveal the truth and fill people with passion for Jesus Christ.
I stand one foot on each side. I desire to take the secular and make it sacred. How much of that will I be able to do? Probably not much. Perhaps if I can better articulate and share my thoughts with others, I might be able to make a small difference somewhere.
I stand one foot on each side. Part of my life will be finding those connections between the secular and the sacred. Part of my life will be realizing and (hopefully) sharing how unbelievable relevant God is and how He speaks to us in many languages, from ones thousands of years old to ones yet to show up.
I stand one foot on each side.