Today in church, Dr. Soong Chan Rah from North Park Theological Seminary spoke. He spoke a bit about what our churches have to say to culture and what our culture has to say to the church.
For instance--look at church architecture. Many churches built in the last century had a high, arched sanctuary. Take a picture and turn it upside down. It looks like a boat. The intent was to remind people of Noah's Ark, leading to the concept that the world is evil and the church is the place to flee that evil influence. Many recent churches look more like malls or movie theaters. Bigger churches, especially, will have stores and coffee shops. Theater seats fill the sanctuary. The church invites people in saying that their experience here will be like going to the mall or being entertained by a movie. Many church buildings (unintentionally, I hope) send the message that their trying to escape the culture or that they're just like the culture.
Then he looked at cars. I know. A good message already, huh? He pointed out that non-American made cars have names that involve letters & numbers. Or peaceful, semi-meaningless names like Accord or Civic. But American cars have names like Voyager, Escape, Explorer, Ranger, Tracer and Mustang. All names imply motion and exploring the wild. The Dodge Sprinter is more like a box and the Porsche Boxster is more fittingly a sprinter. Our culture is about motion. Fifty percent of Americans have moved (whether across the street or to a new city) within the last five years. Our goal is to be like the Jeffersons: "Movin' on up."
Jesus' incarnation was a movement as well. Philippians 2 tells us that He was downwardly mobile. He descended in humility. Though we're in an era where many people are going through some devastating life changes right now, the economic downturn may be a good thing for the church. For too long, the church has tried to be upwardly mobile like our culture. We try to move fast. By speed tends to disconnect us from others. In our downtimes right now, we have great opportunities to reach out in the way we're supposed to. We're reminded that we're called to be servants instead of trying to be upwardly mobile.
I forget who Dr. Rah was quoting with this, but he pointed out that we tend to be a warm religious movement. By that he means that we have a set point of creeds (consider the "4 Spiritual Laws" or theological beliefs to check on a list of what we believe) to accept, and then we consider ourselves "in". Instead, we're called to be hot Christians (great phrase, eh?). We're to have a burning passion within us.
None of this is my original processing (thank you Soong-Chan Rah for these thoughts this morning), but I thought I'd share the recap of the sermon. I know I appreciated it.