On Friday I lamented the seemingly childish state of our culture and said I thought we were in need of a harangue like I got from a teacher once. I was commenting off Victor David Hanson’s column on warping vocabulary. One of the things that makes VDH so exceptional as a social commentator is the authority with which he speaks. As a classist and historian he can speak with a unique and authoritative voice because he has seen and studied so much. That does not happen much anymore. We seem so self-involved that we never take the time to learn enough to speak with that kind of authority.
Which raises an interesting question – Who has the authority to offer the kind of cultural harangue my Friday post concluded we are in desperate need of? The answer, of course, is The Church. But too often it seems that the church is not merely unwilling to exercise its authority, but unable to accumulate the authority to begin with.
Most Evangelical congregations, you know – the ones in strip malls and school auditoriums across the land, more resemble a youth group than a church. it seems like we have turned “contemporary” (meaning “youthful”) into a near-fetish in churches today. There is nothing for kids to aspire to because they have become that which the old folks aspire to. I know that statistics say most meaningful commitments to Christ occur in ones years as a youth, but we are supposed to move on from there. Yet so focused have we become on capturing the youth that we have forgotten how to be adults. In order to appeal to the immature, we have failed to reach maturity ourselves.
Consider how often in Christianity we are called to maturity. On Friday I discussed how childish we seem to be, but Paul pointed out to Timothy that actual youth can be overcome with learning and behavior:
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Our hope springs from the process of obtaining maturity. But far too often the church seems determined to make things as easy as possible. We design our services, our buildings and our personalities to make coming to church the easiest thing in the world. But if Paul is to be believed in so doing we rob those that do attend of the opportunity to gain maturity. Proverbs seems to hint that maybe we should be a little less focused on getting everyone to church and a bit more focused n those that are wiling to do the work:
He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
The fear of the Lord< is the beginning of wisdom
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Yet we seem so focused on meeting the world “on its own terms,” that we fail to establish ourselves as wise and righteous people. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews scolds his readers for their immaturity:
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
I cannot help but wonder if the state of our culture is a reflection of the state of the church – if we have not come to need “milk and not solid food.”
Today as I head to church I intend to examine myself with an eye towards finding my immaturities, laying them at God’s throne and overcoming them. But if that project is to have real and lasting effect, it is one we must all undertake. I hope you will join me.