How not to get caught up in the crowd, part 2

Community Church Blog

How do we live openly and generously in the world when our allegiance is to a kingdom that is not of this world? This is the dilemma that we always face as true followers of Jesus, and I suspect that it is going to get more challenging for Western Christians in the years to come. We are going to feel more like exiles.

In Part 1, we pointed out the danger of just being pulled along with the current cultural crowds. These crowds have become much bigger now because of the internet – you can find a particular virtual crowd with its particular agenda, jump into its echo chamber and get dragged along, thinking the same way as your crowd and fighting those crowds which pull in the opposite direction. That chaotic battle seems to be what is happening in the current cultural climate.  

But Christians are called to make a difference in the world by being different from the world. The church is to live in this world as a sign to another world – the kingdom of God. We can only do this by living differently not by being pulled into the world’s crowds. That is why we must have our roots down as well as our walls down. There are, of course, many things that we can enjoy and affirm in this world. The problem is when our lives are shaped by the ways of the world rather than the way of Jesus. As C S Lewis once explained, ‘there is nothing wrong with the boat being in the water, it is when the water gets into the boat that we need to worry.’

So what should we do? Navigating this tension between being in the world but not of it is complicated, but here are four points to help us.

  1. Know what you believe

This may not be what we have always believed. And it doesn’t come from just looking up an index of ‘what I am supposed to believe as a Christian.’ This is not how we should treat the Bible. Instead, we get immersed in the gospel story of God’s mission to renew our broken world, as it is recorded in Scripture and is centred on Jesus, and we let it shape our whole way of thinking. What we believe comes from this great story – it is a process and happens best within a church community. A great resource to help us with this is The Bible Project (see below)

2. Know why you believe

Knowing what we believe is vital but knowing why we believe what we believe is equally important too. We should be able to give a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). Just asserting that ‘the Bible says…’ will not cut it in our contemporary culture. We have to do the hard and honest headwork, the tough thinking, that is needed for this. A resource that can help us with this is the Unbelievable podcast (see below) where Christians have respectful conversations with each other and with atheists about their beliefs.

3. Know how to believe

I have changed some of the things that I once believed during my Christian life; in other things, I have been strengthened in my convictions. But what I hope has most changed is how I believe things. I am no longer dogmatic and rigid in the way I believe. I want to be able to genuinely consider other points of view. But neither do I just go along with any recent fad and fashion of the crowds. With my roots down in the core truths of the gospel, I then try to think of different points of view about various beliefs openly but critically. I suggest that this is the best way to believe. A good book that helped me with this was Benefit of the Doubt by Greg Boyd.

4. Know who you believe

The three points above require us to do some hard headwork. But there is some serious heartwork to do also. The apostle Paul said ‘I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12). There are important truths to believe but ultimately our belief is in a who, a person. Our trust is in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). What Paul has entrusted to him is his soul. If we try to gain the approval of the world, fit in with our particular choice of crowd, we may well lose our soul (Mark 8:36). But if we entrust it to him, he will guard it until all truth is revealed on the day when he comes again. Let us, therefore, live lives of prayer and discipleship, lives devoted to Jesus and centred around him.

Find out more about the Bible Project.

Find out more about the Unbelievable? podcast or its YouTube channel see here.

You can hear the talk this post is based on here.

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