Enjoying the Journey

Pop culture has received a great deal of attention in recent years.  Television and the Internet gave it momentum and the proliferation of social media has only increased its influence.  Pop culture is the attitudes and ideas of “popular culture” expressed through music and current trends.  It is, in many respects, the enemy of God and God’s truth.  Popular culture is not new – it is Satan’s way of binding generations by convincing them to accept new norms that are far below God’s intent.

Yet while we preach against the effects of pop culture, most believers and churches have been swept up into a wave of “pop Christianity.”  The lines are drawn in different places, but the principle is the same: get in step with what is popular.

Popular preachers, music, church building methods, and books now dictate what “Christianity” is supposed to be.  There are several problems with this.

1.  Christ alone is the standard for Christians. 

The very name Christian should remind us that we are followers of the Lord Jesus and not man.  True disciples of the Christ live with the desire “that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

Popular Christianity makes man the standard instead of Jesus.  Even well intentioned church workers can get caught up in the use of methods that are popularly accepted without considering whether they are acceptable to God.

Pop is all about people.  Christianity is all about Christ.

2.  Christians are not supposed to be popular. 

This does not mean that our goal is to be despised; it is simply an acknowledgement that it is unavoidable.  The name Christian was first given to the believers in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26).  It was a term of derision!  Those who are in step with Christ have always been out of step with this world’s ideas.

Pop Christianity has found a way to exist with pop culture, to function without suffering and ridicule.  This is not the way of our Master.

3.  That which is popular is rarely right. 

Historically, it has been the remnant, not the masses, which have preserved heritage and protected truth.

Beware of following “the majority report.”  Ask the children of Israel.  It brought them into agreement with other reasonable people, but it kept them out of the spiritual blessings God had for them in Canaan.

Ask Paul.  In his voyage to Rome, against all spiritual counsel, “the more part advised” the captain to launch out into troubled waters (Acts 27:12).  Be careful about choosing your counselors.  While it is true that “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14), it is very important who the multitude is!  The majority is not always right.

Pop Christianity is not the same as Biblical Christianity.  Pop Christianity, like pop culture, turns all eyes on men.  Biblical Christianity turns all eyes on Jesus.

Biblical Christianity never boasts of being “cutting edge” or “culturally relevant.”  Its sole purpose is to point people to God and it is marked by a refreshingly simple adherence to New Testament principles.

I wonder what Paul would think of popular Christianity today.  Shipwrecked three times.  Five times beaten with whips, three times with rods.  Stoned and left for dead.   In peril because of the truth of the gospel.  “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Should it be our goal to be unpopular?  No.  Our goal is God.  The sincere believer’s desire is to be thoroughly Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ.  This will in itself make us unpopular with this world system, but it will make us pleasing to Christ.  Isn’t that what being a Christian is all about?

Christ spoke to the heart of the issue when He said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.  Remember the word that I said unto you. The servant is not greater than his lord.  If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:19-20).

If the world loves us something is terribly wrong.  Our great decision then: Culture or Christ?

2 Comments

  1. Darrell on September 17, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Christ was apparently quite popular with sinner. How do you explain that tension?

    • Scott Pauley on September 17, 2013 at 8:21 am

      Darrell,
      It is a great question and one that is answered by comparing the beginning of Christ’s ministry with the end of it. He was popular with a certain group of sinners merely because of the miracles that He performed. These casual “friends” were the ones who cried, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” one day, and “Crucify him” the next. There will always be those who join the crowd of spectators for a good show but have no real love for Christ.
      The other group of sinners that Christ was popular with were those who were attracted to His message and His spirit (“grace and truth”). These publicans, harlots, etc. were captured by the love of Christ and drawn to Him. In this, we are to be like Christ. The church is to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10). Those who catch a glimpse of the grace of God in us become more than just spectators.
      It is important to note that Christ never sought to be popular and His popularity was never based on His becoming like those He ministered to. Instead, He offered them something they didn’t have.
      The issue is: How do we define the meaning of the word “popular”? Christ and His message were “popular” with individual sinners, but not with the masses. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11).
      Thanks so much for reading the post. I hope this clears up any lack of clarity.

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