“If we don’t disciple then the culture sure will, and it’s doing a good job of it.”
Two of my pastors posted this video by Australian theologian/author Alan Hirsch on Facebook. In this video, Hirsch talks about discipleship and culture. Popular culture is a powerful element in our lives and unless we choose to intentionally disciple people in the name and nature of Christ the culture will do it for us. Also, unless we watch our own selves every day we can also be discipled by popular culture.
Eight years ago I wrote a Bible study series called “Heaven in Hell” about how we Christians should engage popular culture and why. While I did not broach the subject of discipleship, I did make some observations from studying John 17 that sealed some thoughts in my head. Jesus prays that the Father would not take His followers out of the world but instead unify and sanctify them in this world. Indeed, they have been sent into the world. Through this I discovered that instead of running away from popular culture, we have a God-given mandate to interact with culture in His name. Running away is being unfaithful to His intention for the Church. You can’t be a witness when you’re running for the hills! However, caution is needed so that we are not turned away from following God by the same culture we are trying to influence in His name. Our Lord also prays that we are kept from the evil one while in this world (17:15).
When we run away and let the world do the discipling, bad things happen. And they are happening. And they have been happening for centuries.
“The problem is, I think, that consumerism is the alternative religion of our day,” Hirsch says. “Without doubt, it is the secular religion of our day. There is no such religious force in the West as powerful as consumerism.”
Hirsch is only stating the obvious here but he does it so well. He says that the core of discipleship is becoming more and more like Jesus. This is what mature Christians are seeking for themselves and for those they disciple. But when mature Christians fail to counter the culture, disciples are lost. Believers are carried away by the world and instead of becoming committed followers of Jesus, they become consumers.
The author continues: “You cannot build a church on consumers. They’ll desert you at a moment’s notice. They have no commitments beyond their own needs.”
I’ve seen this over and over again played out in fluctuating church attendance. Some couples will be at three churches in a calendar year. At each one they say they want to get involved. At each one they find reason to leave.
We are a culture of consumers. The church cannot stand when Christians are consumers, too. Disciples can change the world. Not consumers.
I love this video.