Tonight we watched the Last Samurai at our flat. I’m not really a big Tom Cruise fan. I think he does awesome movies that’d be even better if someone else starred in them. One of the cool things about the Last Samurai is before the last battle, he is presented with a sword with a Japanese inscription on the blade “This sword belongs to the warrior in whom the old ways meet the new.” Can’t remember if that’s the exact wording of it, but you get the idea.
Every time I see the movie that line makes me smile, cause I think that’s what every warrior should be like. In our battle to see people come to know Jesus, where satan will try to pull them any other way he can, we need to know what’s important. I think often as the church we find ourselves going one way or the other.
There are churches where the new ways are honed. They have inspiring songs and loud music. They have good coffee. But the old ways are gone. No one talks to anyone they don’t already know, and bringing people to events is considered to be far more important than evangelising by actually trying to be a part of, and show an interest in other peoples’ lives.
And from what I hear, there are churches where the old ways are valued, but new ways are rejected. It sounds like the stuff of story books, but apparently they still exist. Churches with good biblical hymns, bible-filled sermons and strong community, but with a disdain for anything resembling popular culture.
Where are the warriors in whom the old ways meet the new? Where are the congregations that have music that is culturally relevant and yet lyrically biblical and educational even? Where are the churches that have good coffee, but where people might actually say more than just “hi” to someone they don’t know? Where are the congregations who are filled with passion for their friends and colleagues who don’t know Jesus and aren’t prepared to wait for some event to be created (which their friends may or may not attend) to tell them about Jesus? Short of that, where are the congregations who really actually genuinely care at all about people who don’t know Jesus? Where are the Christians who’s hearts are really broken for the lost? Where are the churches who don’t need to use mild forms of prosperity gospel to coerce people into giving money? Why don’t the ministries of the church speak for themselves as a worthwhile financial investment?
Ok I’m starting to just get generally cynical now, but maybe you get my point. “Church” seems to be getting to the point where trying to be culturally appealing is becoming just as distracting as being stuck in the past. We need to be living on the edge. We need to acknowledge that the gospel is offensive to present culture, and that there are some things we need to be saying that will never be culturally appealing, no matter how we package them. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to be working in people’s hearts so that they will listen to and accept what we say, not just relying on our coffee and our music.
And how can the Holy Spirit work if we will not pray? “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I am far from fulfilling all the idealism I have outlined in this post. My heart is not always broken for those who don’t know Jesus. I don’t always rely on the Holy Spirit instead of being appealing, by any stretch of the imagination. But I can tell you that if it weren’t for the fact that I only finish work at 6 in the evenings, I would be at my church’s weekly prayer meetings at 6pm on Tuesdays, cause I KNOW that that is where evangelism starts. That’s where we petition for hearts to be changed, for a nation to be changed. An hour a week is a bare minimum in my book. As the church in Wellington, in New Zealand and in this world, we should be praying together much more often than that, and I think 24 hour prayer should be running on a more regular basis, not just occasionally when the odd church decides to do something that might make its members feel like they’re being radical. That’s my opinion anyway.
I think I’ve said enough for now. Yes I’m cynical, and yes I’m often hypocritical. But maybe if we all step back and think about what we’re doing, we can change some things for the better and see the gospel start to take a stronger hold than ever in the lives of people around us.