Are you a civilized Christian… or are you a barbarian?

Posted: 2012 01 13 by Paul S in Biblical manhood, Challenge, Discipleship, Hardcore Christian Men, Ministry

I’m reading The Barbarian Way by Erwin Raphael McManus. It’s not a long read, but it’s taking me a little bit of time as I fit it in with all of the reading I am doing while preparing a men’s discipleship group. If you’re not familiar with McManus, he’s a pastor of a church in LA. He’s on the forefront of this movement that includes others like Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler. These are men who are willing to puch the limits of “respectable” church and go for something more wild and edgy. Is that a good thing?

This isn’t a review of this book… that’ll come later. This is a question. In an effort to reach the culture, are we becoming of the culture? Or is the message what is important and the method of delivery unimportant?

While reading Paul’s writings, especially in 1 Corinthians 9, I am struck by how Paul discusses becoming like the people he is witnessing to. Read 1 Cor 9:20, “To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law)to gain those under the law.” A simple statement like this can tell us so much. Paul changed his method of delivery depending on his audience. Should we not do the same? Yes we should.

But does that mean we should leave behind tradition, or doctrine we have developed? Yes…and no. The first thing we must ask is this, does our way of following Christ stay true to his teaching? Are we evangelistic and missional? Do we live life to reach people and share Jesus with them? If the answer is “No” than we must change, if the answer is “yes” than we can stay the same as we are. The next thing we have to ask who are we trying to reach? If we are trying to reach the Generation Y and younger crowd, then we much change to attract them, but if we are reaching the Baby Boomers and Gen X, then we are probably okay as we are… or are we?

The problem I have seen in many “contemporary” churches is that they seem to feed the congregations that come to the trough, but they don’t call for an active missional lifestyle transformation. This is what the pastors I mentioned earlier are calling for. If your church is contemporary or traditional, and you are living life missionally, living in culture but not of culture, and making disciples of all nations, then you are following Christ’s teaching.

I would love to see something new. I admit that I like some tradition. There is power in a congregation reciting the Lord’s Prayer or the Nicene Creed. There is symbolic power in a cross hung behind the altar, and also in the altar itself. But there can also be a mindless recitation in these things. The tradition by itself is not the answer, the congregation needs to understand the reason for the tradition. I also truly enjoy modern praise and worship music. Songs by David Crowder, Mike’s Chair, or Third Day are awesome ways to get a congregation on it’s feet and singing out in joy to the Lord, but hymns were created to allow the congregation to learn theology even if they could not read scripture. There are some modern songwriters who are taking classic hymns and updating them with modern music, and this is amazing. I would love to see more of this. What if we took the classic symbols and traditions of the traditional church, the open doors of the contemporary church, and the style of the emerging church and combined them into one.

What if we created a new way of approaching this thing we call “Christian” life? I for one am working toward this. I am working toward becoming a follower of Christ that is barely under control, over whelmed by His spirit, and living every day fully for Him. To use McManus’ words, I am becoming a barbarian. I refuse to live under the “civilized” style of Christianity that has made many churches what many see as relics of a bygone era. I want to live in a vibrant and relevant Church which carries the word to all generations. Will you join me? Will you be a barbarian?

  1. Jim F. says:

    Paul – I love this book for many reasons and I have doing my best to be a barbarian since!

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