In response to a recent post on Oprah and the kinds of spiritual role models our Christian culture has, Bob and Steve have posed some questions that are at the same time of terrific importance and terrifically difficult to deal with.
If our culture is in a negative level of spiritual interest and understanding, then what is the best tactic for moving it up into the positive? It can't be "talking above their heads," but it can't be capitulating to the ignorance either!
So my question after reading your post and Dr. Groothius': How do we change it? Whenever I criticize different teachers on TV or radio (Oprah, Joel Osteen, James Dobson) I am playing precious chips with my congregation. It seems they buy so much of this stuff hook, line, and sinker! How do we change that?
So the question stands: How do churches reach their people with a Christian worldview? The answer is clearly enormous, and all I want to do here is begin an engagement with a few thoughts that are hopefully just as practical as they are theoretical.
Worldview Teaching From The Pulpit
In my own sermonizing, I have found the worldview concept to be a helpful and fruitful tool. As I pour over a text and my notes, reflecting on how some specific biblical stories or concepts relate to a broader Christian worldview has enriched my own teaching (at least in my mind it has…). A pastor can never be in control of what people hear or absorb, but maybe we can be a little more deliberate about relating Christian worldview concepts to people. And of course, these concepts land most effectively when laypeople have a chance to engage them in their own lives.
For example, we recently went over Jeremiah 17:19-27 in which the prophet creates an image of crowded streets on the Sabbath and the rightful king’s inability to enter Jerusalem. As a result, the Sabbath concept we talked about was clearing our hearts and minds of the clutter of our pagan culture and freeing up our mental and spiritual attention for the rightful King.
A small step, admittedly, but most of them are.
Pastor as Thought Leader
This is a big-picture point, but an important one nonetheless. David Wells makes a devastating critique of the modern pastorate in his books No Place For Truth and God In The Wasteland in which he juxtaposes the community role of the pastor in early American and English Puritanism with that of the modern evangelical pastor. Suffice it to say the later does not stack up well. For good reasons and for not so good ones, the typical evangelical pastor is not seen as any kind of serious thought leader in their communities. As a result, people do not tend to think of the pastor or their pastor’s sermons and writings first when they do any kind of serious thinking about the world. They are much more likely to think of the talking heads on cable news or their favorite periodical.
The solution? Maybe we should expect pastors to be better educated, more well rounded, and more conversant with the important matters in life than many of them probably are. I suspect some pastors deserve the parochial image they have in the eyes of their congregation.
Just an initial set of thoughts to maybe get some juices flowing…