“A World Without Windows”
Tchividjian notes that technological advances and scientific expansion have increasingly shut windows through which previous eras looked from life in this world to life beyond. Most cultures generally accepted a larger purpose beyond the immediate.
These windows close as we begin to rationalize life. We began to see everything as a matter of human classification, calculation and control. He quotes Os Guiness, “What counts in a rationalized world is efficiency, predictability, quantifiability, productivity, the substitution of technology for the human, and – from first to last – control over uncertainty.” We have lost the un-produced, un-managed life which “explains why so many people are restless and yearning, as I was, for meaning that transcends this world – for something and Someone different.” (Tchividjian, p12)
In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing society, people are increasingly looking for something timeless, consistent and deep. A recent study by LifeWay reported that unchurched Americans indicated they preferred more traditional looking church buildings. Perhaps this is true because people are “desperately looking, not just upward, but backward…when things seemed more constant and less shallow.” (Tchividjian, p13) In Thom Ranier’s book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched he states that more than 85% of unchurched people surveyed said a church’s theology and doctrine would be their primary consideration in choosing a church. Not music, not entertainment, but theology – truth. New generations are searching for truthfulness, not trendiness.” (Tchividjian, p13) They are understanding that modern capabilities cannot make us better and more satisfied people or make the world better.
Tchividjian states: “Younger generations don’t want trendy engagement from the church; in fact, they’re suspicious of it. Instead they want truthful engagement with historical and theological solidarity that enables meaningful interaction with transcendent reality. … Just when our culture is yearning for something different, many churches are developing creative ways to be the same.” As our culture is beginning to look for truth, many churches are departing from it, leaving a watered-down impotent gospel and losing their distinct identity and even unfasionable-ness.
We as churches don’t all have to fit in with the world. The relevance of the church depends on its engagement with God, not an ability to identify and mimic the latest cultural trends. “Our main problem is not that we’re culturally out of touch; it’s that we’re theologically out of tune. God has established his church as an alternative society, not to compete with or copy this world, but to offer a refreshing alternative to it. When we forget this, we inadvertently communicate to our culture that we have nothing unique to offer, nothing deeply spiritual or profoundly transforming.” (Tchividjian, p 15)
World magazine’s cover story, “NextGen Worship” received a response from a 34-year-old writer titled “Why I Walked Out of Church.” In an excerpt she sates, “What I’m saying is that I can’t stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness – or whatever I’m trying to say here – that the church seems to catch onto at the tail end, not even aware of how lame it is.” What Julie, and perhaps many others, long to see are courageous leaders who don’t care whether they fit in, who dare to be counter cultural, and, who will serve as a voice crying out in the wilderness. “Ironically, the more we Christians pursue worldly relevance, the more we’ll render ourselves irrelevant to the world around us.” (Tchividjian, p 17) The more relevant we become, the more irrelevant we also become.
Young, and old, people today are not as wary of institutions as they are wary of institutions that don’t do what they are supposed to do. So, what are we supposed to do? Remind culture that things here aren’t forever. Provide culture with that longed-for transcendent difference that only Christians can offer. Truth.
“When the size of God grips us more than the size of our churches and leadership conferences, and when we become obsessed with surrendering our lives to God’s sovereign presence, only then will we be redemptively different and serve as God’s cosmic change agents in a world yearning for change.” (Tchividjian, p 18)