Making a difference in the world by being different
Multnomah, 2009, 204 pp. ISBN 978-1-60142-085-5
Tchividjian is the founding pastor of New City Church outside Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and a grandson of Ruth and Billy Graham. He argues that seekers yearn for meaning that goes beyond this world and that gives Christians a great opportunity to provide a meaningful alternative. But we must be out of style with our culture, different from the world, and aligned with God's ways. The book is followed by a reading list and a study guide.
"Fashion is the law of multitudes, but it is nothing more than the common consent of fools." (Charles Spurgeon)
Some think Christians are too assimilated into the culture and some think we are too withdrawn. A third group suggests the church has been conformed to the world. "Trying to be relevant and to meet felt needs only turns the church into another consumer mall. Instead the church needs to recapture its calling to be an alternative society, a counterculture." (Tim Keller in the Foreword)
Tchividjian begins with a top ten. "You May Be Too Fashionable If…
8. It's been a long time since you disagreed with anything said by Oprah.
5. You've concluded that everything new is better than anything old or that everything old is better than anything new.
2. The church you've chosen is defined more by its reaction to 'boring traditional' churches than by its response to a needy world. (1-2)
Part I. The Call
1. A Cry for Difference
"…serious seekers today aren't looking for something appealing and trendy. They're looking for something deeper than what's currently in fashion." (9)
"The point I want to drive home in this book is that Christians make a difference in this world by being different from this world; they don't make a difference by being the same." (9)
"I want to show you what God-soaked, gospel-infused priorities look like in relationships, community, work, finances, and culture--and how those priorities can change the world." (10)
2. A World Without Windows
We are living in a world without windows. "The physical replaces the spiritual, the temporal replaces the eternal, and 'what is seen' replaces what is unseen (Hebrews 11:3)." (11) Our generation is crying out for something beyond this world. "They seem desperate to recover a world … that allows for mystery, miracle, and wonder - a world with windows to somewhere else." (14) "They want desperately to invest their lives in something worth dying for, not some here-today-gone-tomorrow fad." (15)
"The ultimate factor in the church's engagement with society is the church's engagement with God." (quoting Os Guiness) "Our main problem is not that we're culturally out of touch; it's that we're theologically out of tune." (15)
"Ironically, the more we Christians pursue worldly relevance, the more we'll render ourselves irrelevant to the world around us." "To be truly relevant, you have to say things that are unfashionably eternal, not trendy. It's the timeless things that are most relevant to most people…." (17)
"Only the Christian story fuses past, present, and future with meaning from above and beyond. That's what we have to offer and proclaim." (17)
3. Seduced by Cool
"Almost everything Jesus said about the nature of Christian discipleship is precisely the opposite of what our culture exalts." (20) "Christians by and large have responded to the surrounding culture by developing a look-alike culture." (23, quoting Ken Myers) Faithfulness requires us to be foreigners to the world and its trendy diversions.
We are to love the world's people while fighting against its sinful direction. "Worldliness…is…the sinful misdirection of God's good creation. It means adopting the ways, habits, thought patterns, practices, spirit, and tastes of this world in spite of how far they take us from God's will and design." "Worldliness is what makes the world's ways seem normal and God's ways seem strange." (26) Worldliness seeps in largely unnoticed, like the tide. It is a man-centered way of thinking, judging importance by material results. A worldly person is a practical atheist, making daily decisions as if God doesn't exist. (27)
We must develop a cultural radar so we can recognize and resist the unconscious patterns of worldliness. The patterns of the world have grown all too familiar and we have forgotten our identity as exiles.
Part 2. The Commission
4. An Unfashionable Standard
"God and his Word have been relegated to the fringe of what's important and defining in our society, a process identified by the term secularization. A secularized society is one that had determined to make what God says socially irrelevant…. It restricts the relevance of God to the private sphere." (36) "In effect, many of us followers of Christ have become just as secular as the world around us. … So even though we may embrace the Bible's integrity, we have a hard time embracing its sufficiency." (36) "Therapeutic techniques, marketing strategies, and the beat of the entertainment world often have far more influence over how we live and think…than does the Word of God." "We absorb the values and worldview of our current culture…." (37)
"When the relevance of God's Word reigns supreme among God's set-apart people, we influence the wider culture by expressing his revealed truth with both our lives and our lips." (42)
5. The Purpose-Driven Death
"Choosing to live against the world for the world can be downright deadly."
"When faced with the world's intense pressure, we'll give in and go along unless we … have a compelling vision…, the same vision that compelled Jesus. We need to be aware, as he was, of what God is working to achieve, the direction God is taking." (44)
"Redemption is God's arrangement to reverse the curse of sin and to renew all things--to restore creation, not destroy it. God is on a mission to reclaim and replenish his corrupted territory, redirecting it back to himself and thereby 'making all things new' (Revelation 21:5)." (49) "Simply put, the gospel is the good news that everything in Christ will be made new." "The dimensions of Christ's finished work are both individual and cosmic." (49)
"When it comes to this world's future, God will follow the same pattern he engineered in Noah's day, when he washed away everything that was perverse and wicked but did not obliterate everything." (53) "God promises nothing short of total cosmic renewal." (55)
6. Redeemed to Renew
"We're to be doing what God originally called us to do, namely, develop the world around us to the glory of God." (56) The cultural mandate to Adam still applies. Salvation of individuals is not the church's only mission. Christians are called to do what Jesus is doing and Jesus intends to bring about the restoration of all things. God's ultimate goal is to make earth like heaven. This transformation does not begin when Christ returns: we are to be involved in it now. God's ultimate purpose is to use Christians to bring heaven into this world. He wants Christians to join him in renewing people, places, and things, including cultures. "Our mission involves both evangelism and cultural renewal." "We're to care about the renewal of both people and the environment." (62) Whether things will get better or worse before Christ returns we don't know. [I found a lot to ponder in this chapter and I'm not sure if I am in agreement with all of it. Dlm]
7. Presence of the Future
"The inauguration of God's kingdom through Jesus began the great reversal--repealing the curse of sin and death, ensuring that God had begun the process of renewing all things." (73)
"The kingdom's consummation will take place when Jesus comes back and the process of reversing the curse of sin and recreating all things is completed (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-58)." "The new heavens and the new earth will be set up, their glory on full display, free of imperfections." (75) "In that future consummation stage, the kingdom will transform people outwardly as well as inwardly, giving them new bodies in the likeness of the resurrected Christ." (75) "I so look forward to that day, returning to God's remade world to see what he's done to all my favorite places." (77) [I'm reading him to say heaven is a renewed earth. Is this so? I have always thought that our eternal life with God will be in some other "place" or "state," that is beyond our imagination. Dlm]
8. Where in the World Are Christians?
How do we love the world in a transformative way? "The place for the ship is in the sea; but God help the ship if the sea gets into it." (81, quoting D. L. Moody) The separation is to be spiritual, not spatial. "Making a difference for Christ means bringing every area of our lives under his lordship." (86) "We're to be morally and spiritually distinct without being culturally segregated." (87)
We must really listen and really learn. Contextualization means giving people God's answers to the questions they are really asking in ways they can understand. "To overcontextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of their culture, but to undercontextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of the culture you come from. So there's no avoiding it." (89, quoting Tim Keller)
"God hasn't called his people to be popular." "We should seek to be culturally resistant. We're making contact with the world while colliding with its ways. We're culturally engaged without being culturally absorbed." (91) "We must not fear being different." (92)
9. Unfashionably United
"Christians are called to be unfashionable by being mission-minded, not tribal-minded like everyone else." (96) "The highest aim of mission-minded people is not self-protection but self-sacrifice." (97) "The church is to bring together people who would remain separated in any other sector of society." (99) "The church should be breaking down barriers, not erecting them." (99)
10. Making the Difference Together
Part 3. The Community
11. A Truthful Community
"Trust is built on truth. You can't have community without trust, and you can't have trust without truth." (117) "Trust will disappear in a culture that does away with truth." (118)
"If you seek to serve people more than to gain power, you will not only serve people, but you will gain influence." (119)
12. An Angry Community
"God-centered anger is when you get angry because God has been dishonored…." (121) We should be people who "hate the things God hates for the reasons God hates them." (122)
God is a God of justification and justice. He cares deeply about the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow (Isaiah 1:17). God is angry when justice is not sought, the oppressed not rescued and the orphan not defended.
We should be angry too, but "godly, grieving anger is far different from the kind of anger commonly associated with Christians." (125) The world sees our anger but do they sense our grief? "Until you first feel the grief and the anger over your own imperfections, you dare not show your grief and anger over the imperfections of others." (126)
13. Putting Off Stealing (about generosity)
Advertising tries to persuade you to take a short view of life, to spend all your time and money on yourself now instead of investing long term in and for others. The world's ethic is marked by taking, not giving. By sharing with anyone in need, we can be a lifesaver in our culture. More income should lead first to more giving, not more living. By giving freely, we show that people matter more than possessions. Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.
14. Redemptive Words
Speak redemptively. How do we treat others with your words? Our words won't be right until our hearts are right. Encouragement is powerful. It means verbally affirming someone's strength, giftedness or accomplishment - along with the realization that God is the source behind it. "The secret to true encouragement is learning to see God's reflection in others…." (136) Encouragement can be a powerful form of evangelism. "Ultimately our value is tied not to what we do but to whose we are, namely God's." (138)
15. No Longer Clammed Up
The Church is to put on kindness.
16. Love, Not Lust
Part 4. The Charge
17. Last Call
The greatest threat to faith is not outside. It's worldliness, a sleepiness of the soul. Jesus didn't seek the crowds: he looked for disciples and explained the cost. Disciples must never get over their culture shock in this world. Our real problem as Christians is that we're really no different from the world around us. "I want the church to be filled with people like Polycarp. Polycarp was a God-drenched man; I want to be a God-drenched man." (167)
"Christians must be people of double listening--listening both to the questions of the world and to the answers of the Word." (172)