Countercultural

Look Deeper, See Clearer, Run Harder

5 Ways We Miss the Countercultural Life

Over nine years of blogging, my focus has shifted. “Countercultural” used to represent a rebellion against worldly culture. But now, I feel, the challenge for myself and for other Christians is not only to live a life different than the world but to live countercultural from the popular American church.

Countercultural Life

Photo Credit: Karl Fredrickson

I’m not talking about “prosperity gospel” churches or ones that preach error but instead about modern American churches attended by evangelicals. Here are some (not exhaustive) ways I’ve seen a “rebellious” sort of longing in my heart for more than the American church:

We are isolated, and we don’t welcome others with honesty or vulnerability because of fear of the unknown. This is true both inside and outside the church. This keeps us from loving others through our words and actions.

We have a weak view of faith, prayer, eternity, and being led by the Spirit, resulting in a lifestyle requiring little to no divine participation or sacrifice.

Our view of obedience is on a “as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me” basis, meaning no basis of obedience at all. We’ll obey God as long as He obeys us.

We’re uncommitted to the global (and often persecuted) Church, and as a result our Christianity is often blind to the realities of the world that could change our narrow perspective and deepen our hunger for God.

We have a poor view of work and an inflated view of church roles, resulting in people who feel inferior because their job doesn’t identify as “ministry” and see only people in “ministry” as being effective for the kingdom of God.

We say we follow Jesus, but we have explained away so much of the life of Jesus that we’re left with a dim shadow of Christ. We do not love, give, pray, obey, or disciple like He did. In essence, American Christianity has left us “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Clearing Up a Few Things about “Countercultural”

You don’t write something like I just wrote and not have a few people disagree, and for that I’m thankful. I don’t claim to have a perfect perspective, and I know you don’t, either. So let’s help each other understand one another.

First, every time we hear a word of truth, we can either respond with guilt or conviction. Guilt pushes us down, but conviction pushes us forward.

Second, the Bible clearly says God’s Word is good for “teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). One of the functions of God’s Word is to reprove us of beliefs to which we either knowingly or unknowingly subscribe. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

Finally, I love the Church. The Church is the bride of Christ, and I am so excited of the day the Bridegroom appears and washes every trace of hypocrisy from His Bride. In the meantime, we are called to endure and to exhort each other daily (Hebrews 3:13).

God wants to know us, and I hope the desire of your heart is to know Him. This isn’t about legalism, guilt, or relevance. This is about me looking at Jesus and saying, “Lord, I fall so far short. The more I know You, the more I realize how far I am from You. Please lead me to know You, and by Your grace, allow me to lead others a little bit closer to You.”

  • Derrick Skoglund

    Great word brother. I love your perspective on “guilt & conviction.” I think too many people become paralyzed by guilt because they are worried what others will think of them. But naturally we are guilty when we don’t obey and rightly so when we consider that our guilt is because the Holy Spirt just opened our eyes to the truth of His Word. It should produce a righteous and motivating conviction. There is nothing we can do about our past but depend on the grace and forgiveness of the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua and in light of Him laying down His life for our sake it should strengthen and free us to live each next breath of life for Him. Will we be bound up on the bondage of fear or set free by the Gospel as it fuels our interactions each moment of every day.
    Amen to all 5 of your admonishing encouragements! One could blog about each one individually as wel. May your thoughtful perceptions stir each of us on toward greater and greater obedience. I would add a sixth but we talk about it over coffee sometime.

    • I would love to hear about the sixth, Derrick! My intention in posting these five is to unpack each of them in the future, maybe in multiple posts, to touch on how we can have a more biblical perspective on each. I definitely don’t want to point out areas of shortcoming without also talking through the exhortation to live rightly.

  • Chris Hanson

    It’s a relief to hear a candid word such as this one, as you boldly admit to seeing flaws and shortcomings in what we do in the church. It’s something we all admit to in our theology yet seem to deny in our daily lives: we can’t do everything perfectly to save ourselves. Not that we ever will “arrive,” but we are always growing and maturing as we faithfully follow our Lord Jesus. Struggle is part of the process of maturation, and I’m glad you are willing to use your words to exhort rather than condemn. There is hope as we continue to follow and struggle, and you highlight it well. Thank you for this encouraging wake-up call. I’d love to have a conversation with you as I have many things I’d like to share with you. I think we would agree on many topics we would like to share.

    • I would love to talk more, Chris. This list came together very quickly for me, but it was one that I built using the common threads through a lot of my past / future writings. Once we’ve seen a need, then we have to begin the long journey of sanctification. It’s not an easy road (which is maybe why so many people don’t like talking about these things), but we have to keep our eyes on the goal: knowing God.

  • McAfee Family

    I’m not sure if you already read “With” by Skye Jethani, but his book has been one of the most interesting I have read on understanding the misunderstandings of Christians and churches in how they relate to God. I highly recommend it for book studies or small groups–Mom

    • I haven’t yet, but I would like to! We read his other book for my Communications Senior Seminar class. I’ll have to read it!

  • And not sure its just the American Church. I can recognise several of those traits immediately over this side of the pond. What sparked you off in this direction Camden?

    • I think “Western” churches probably succumb to a lot of these weaknesses because of the cultural position of Christianity—we’re well off, we’re generally not persecuted but we are looked down on. These thoughts have been building through many avenues, including my own reflections. Two prominent sources have been the writings of Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” and a study I wrote through the Gospel of Luke. As I wrote a devotional trying to summarize each chapter of Luke, I was honestly overwhelmed as I looked at Jesus’ life and realized how far off my own life looked in comparison to His.

  • Oh my word I love your whole message. I don’t know if you have read my articles on the rebellution, but they are all about us being too comfortable as christians in our society. Our messages are really similar! If you want to check my blog it is toocomfortableblog.wordpress.com . But I seriously love your entire message. IT IS SO NEEDED. Thank you for speaking out :)

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