Does the western church today reflect the culture, or change the culture? Are we a mirror reflecting the world around us, or are we a mirror that reflects the image of Christ to our world? In Matthew 5, in vss. 13 and 14 Jesus describes His followers in two very interesting ways. He says, “You are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world.” Sermons in great number have been preached on these two statements, and whole ministries named for these descriptions. I am not going to attempt to add to that pile, other than to say I am struck at the moment by the reality that salt changes the taste of something, and light dispels darkness.
I was engaged by a gentleman yesterday who was lamenting the fact that the church seemed to have become more of a reflection of the culture than a transformer of the culture. That statement all on its own is something I can shout a hearty “Amen” to. I remember someone comparing it to the difference in being a thermometer and a thermostat. That preacher said, “The church is to be a thermostat that affects the temperature of the world around it, not a thermometer simply reporting it.”
As I listened more carefully I soon realized this individual talking to me about the situation was really criticizing the contemporary church movement suggesting the objective was to entertain more than impact people’s lives. I admit that is always a danger. But is it any more or less a danger than the same reality in a traditional service?
Do we not have to ask the question, “Are we remaining traditional to please and satisfy the preferences of folks who grew up with things that way?”
I believe that when we reduce style choices to that level we reduce the impact of the reality that the church does indeed often reflect culture more than seeking to remedy culture. David Platt’s recent book CounterCulture addresses this in so many specific ways and is worthy you reading.
I also recently sat through a conference of preachers preaching to preachers. As I sat through one of the messages I heard statements that reflected a variety of short pithy axioms that I had heard over the years receive hundreds of “amens”. When the message was finished I was struck with a the thought, “What was the point of this message.” Unfortunately, I think it was entertainment of preachers who longed for the “good ol’ days.”
It is not my intent to be critical of either the individual sharing his concerns, or this preacher at the conference. I simply want to raise the question, “What does it ultimately mean to be salt and light without reference to personal preferences?” Are we affecting the darkness of the world around us? Are we adding a flavor that attracts people to God? Would you today think about your life? Are you the light of the world? Are you the salt of the earth?