I’ve had Romans 12:2 on my mind and heart a lot the last few weeks. In the first eleven chapters Paul is basically laying out theological truth after truth for the Roman Christians. He begins chapter with a transition of sorts. He is about to share how to live this out and what it might look like. But he starts with this in 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It’s the second part that has had my attention lately. The idea of not being conformed to this world. Not being conformed to this age. In other words not being transformed away from Jesus but towards him. Not following the fads, directions, lifestyles, or flow of the culture. Really, we shouldn’t be following anyone but Jesus. And we should be leading. We can test what is happening around us and lead with what is good. We should be leading others towards Jesus, at least whoever might follow.
But that is not what I’ve seen over the last 10-15 years in the church here in the United States. And by the church I mean basically all of it including myself. In the last 10-15 years we are the ones being converted. To top it off we aren’t all being conformed to the world in the same direction. Oh no, that would be too easy to correct and would mean that we actually had some sort of unity. But make no mistake we are, as the body of Christ being conformed to this world. Just to get you started, check out these recent studies:
I could on and on. Here’s my favorite:
47% of millennial evangelicals think that evangelism is wrong. It’s hard to believe that is an actual sentence.
It’s not that hard to see that we are the ones being converted. This is happening for a lot of reasons. It’s happening because the church has continually been conforming to different parts of the culture. We’re constantly reacting and playing defense whenever the culture moves. We haven’t been out in front on anything in a long, long time. And again by the church I mean all of it. Churches, Christian leaders, Christian organizations, and the every day average Christian person.
We got comfortable. We stopped studying. We didn’t deal with our own sins. We often don’t evangelize even our own people and when we do we often aren’t good at it. We are even worse at evangelizing those outside the church. For most churches and Christians that’s not even a goal anymore. As bad as we are at evangelization we are even worse at discipleship. Because of this, and in response to the results of this, we are in constant defensive and accommodating mode. We’re either trying to revert to some past time that didn’t exist or throwing out half our orthodox beliefs thinking that it will win people to us, or some odd combination of both. We are focused on about everything else except sharing Jesus and making disciples.
I’m not writing this today as an indictment really. I got over being mad a long time ago. I’m not even really trying to call out church leaders although I certainly could. Instead I’m calling each of us, myself included, to take a good hard look at ourselves. Because frankly it starts there and it’s the only thing we have any control over.
Where are we (you and me) being conformed to the world? Where are we discarding the truth (and there is actual truth) for comfort. Where are we following movements, political ideology, governmental systems, false utopian promises, false sociological premises, false and frankly anti-Christian philosophies and last but not least our own sinful desires? Where are we following our feelings and desires instead of doing the hard work of submitting them to God?
We need a serious gut check. We need to stop. We need to stop following along and being conformed to the world. By the way, this isn’t about saving Christianity and it isn’t just about us. We should have the answers. But until we ourselves believe them we can’t offer them to a culture and society that more desperately than ever needs them.