This week I had the privilege of attending the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference with several of the men in our church. I’ve been able to attend quite a few of these over the last several years, and each time have walked away with a renewed commitment and desire to be more faithful and diligent in my personal life, as that is where all true reformation begins. This year’s theme was “The Heart of Culture,” dealing with the challenges that face our American culture and what we as Christians need to be doing and more specifically how the Church, as an institution, can lead in cultural reformation. As the official description indicates, the conference focused on “the transformation of the world through the transformation of the Church.”
The speakers succeeded in challenging all attendees along this train of thought, and the resulting conversations and discussions were fruitful and encouraging as well. Encouragement is always helpful, but especially so at a time when the broader American culture suffers so greatly from sensuality, immorality and idolatry. Don’t believe me? See for yourself: we care more about Lindsey Lohan’s escapades and Justin Bieber’s romantic interests than what our kids are learning at school. We spend our Sundays focusing on the National Football League’s playoff games rather than taking our families to church to worship and fellowship with the saints. We care more about the gun-control debate than we do the games our kids are playing. Or the number and names of the stars performing at the Inauguration rather than the ideology of the man being inaugurated.
I could continue, but the point should be obvious: our culture’s priorities are out of line. And it’s our fault. As Christians, we need to take responsibility for our sins and unfaithfulness, and be willing to admit our failures. That’s the beauty of the Gospel – it calls us to repentance, not to be perfect. After all, only God is perfect.
Pastor Douglas Wilson pointed out during one of his talks that “worship drives culture. Culture drives politics.” Consider this: the root of the word “culture” is cultus, a Latin word meaning “cult.” At its most basic form, cult means “worship,” or “a system of religious beliefs and ritual.” It is religion and worship that determines our culture – that drives us. This means that any “culture” is shaped by a belief in or worship of something or someone, regardless. As Bob Dylan put it, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed.”
Who or what is it that we serve? Do we serve ourselves, seeking our own desires and goals? Do we serve our children, making them the be-all and end-all of our lives? Do we serve mammon, always striving for more wealth and more “stuff”? Do we serve “the state,” looking to our government to solve all our problems and make us safe and secure?
Or do we serve our God and Creator? Do we serve the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we serve the true King, of whom Solomon wrote in Psalm 72:
“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.
9 Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him,
And His enemies will lick the dust.
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles
Will bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba
Will offer gifts.
11 Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him;
All nations shall serve Him.
12 For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
13 He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
14 He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.”
If we, as Christians, want to change our culture, we can only do so if we keep our focus on the King who can truly deliver the needy and spare the poor. The reason the federal government can’t save us is precisely because it has no power in and of itself! The reason we have not solved the problem of poverty or ended the sex trafficking industry is because we have tried to do so through means other than through the Church! The Church can change our culture because the Church’s “culture” is based upon the worship of a King with real power and authority.
There is no doubt that we face many battles before us in the “culture war,” but if we desire to be serious about cultural and political transformation and reformation, we need to evaluate what our own “culture” is comprised of. Who or what do we worship? Who or what do we believe in? If it is the King who died on the cross and then rose again three days later having defeated death, then we have a King who can defeat anything. The culture of the King-dom will be victorious.