Public Square & Theology 101

Six Ways the Church Is Engaging in Culture Today

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How should Christians engage the big questions of our culture today?

I recently attended the Q Conference in Nashville. Q was founded to facilitate a discussion among Christians about what it means to restore culture, and the Q conference was an opportunity for over a thousand Christian leaders to discuss themes such as culture, future, church, and gospel.

Here are six trends I noticed while I was there. Today, the church is…

…More concerned about poverty than religious freedom.

Phrases like “common good,” “human flourishing,” and “the least of these” were the overriding themes of the conference.

Brian Fikkert spoke on redefining poverty. Instead of thinking about poverty as a lack of material goods, we should understand poverty as broken relationships. In order to flourish, he said, we need a restored relationship between God, self, others, and the rest of creation.

Andy Crouch’s talk on “Religious Freedom and the Common Good” was particularly interesting because he started as if he was planning to speak about poverty as well.

“What’s the best test of the common good?” he asked. “The flourishing of the vulnerable.” Then he transitioned to religious freedom by saying,

If you care about the flourishing of persons, you will care about the freedom of religion.

It was almost as if he led with the poverty to hook the audience on religious liberty. He went on to explain that religious freedom doesn’t have to be seen as just a conservative issue anymore, but an issue of the most vulnerable of the world, oppressed by religious intolerance.

…Experiencing a return to localism.

Not only is American culture reacting against globalism by embracing localism, but the church is experiencing this shift as well.

Speakers covered topics such as:

  • Returning to family farming.
  • The importance of valuing handmade US goods.
  • The flourishing of the local community.

Even local pastors in Nashville mentioned a resurgence of “being where you live” in a reaction against globalism and technology and the positive impact this movement is having on local church communities.

…Embracing a blurred line between sacred and secular.

Musical artists Carrie Underwood, David Crowder, and Chris Tomlin joined the Q crowd in Nashville to talk about the intersection of their faith and their work.

Though Crowder is himself a contemporary Christian music artist, he mentioned that the church is in a time where the line between sacred and secular is blurring. Commerce, art, and spirituality are all in the same place.

In a comedy sketch, comedian Tripp Crosby critiqued the sacred and secular divide. He used paper doll props to represent two characters, the snobby Christian on Facebook who likes to rant about the flawed theology in the film Noah and the non-Christian on Facebook who doesn’t understand why the snobby Christian only likes Christian movies with bad acting and lighting.

…Realizing that “hip” isn’t working.

Author Rachel Held Evans spoke about millennials in the church today. She said they’re tired of the culture wars and the church getting involved with politics. They don’t want to choose between science and religion. They care about social justice, gender equality, creation care, and racial injustice.

They don’t want a cool band or a coffee shop because they’re sick of the church trying to “sell” them Christianity. Millennials want a more authentic Christianity, not a hipper Christianity.

…Reconciling differences between Protestants and Catholics.

Unity was a hot topic throughout the week. Speakers presented the heartbreaking problem of division in the church and encouraged unity among Christianity’s 41,000 denominations, especially between Protestants and Catholics.

Though sixteen percent of Q attendees polled don’t view Catholics as Christians, the conference welcomed a Dominican friar and a nun to speak and initiated a conversation on points of agreement between Protestants and Catholics.

…Rediscovering the “big picture” purpose of salvation.

“What is salvation FOR?” Dr. Anthony Bradley, a professor at King’s College, asked the audience.

“It’s not just about me escaping this world, it’s also about the renewal and redemption of all things.”

Bradley said redemption is about all of creation because sin affects all of creation. That means Christians are meant to make something of the world here and now.

One way the church can work alongside God in the restoration of all things is to mobilize its congregants by teaching the dignity of all callings.

He left the crowd with a reminder that we may never see the renewal we want in our lifetime, but our grandkids might. God works now for later.

Do you notice these trends in the church currently? 

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