SECULARISM AND CHRISTIANISM II
© Carlos Padilla, August 2021
In the first part we saw how the secularism tries to live separated from Christianity, but how Christianity can live with the secular, and can do it without being affected, because as the Lord warns us in the Gospels “…in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33), because you are not of the world, also said, even though we live in the world. The first part showed us how secularism has mixed with the Christian ministry, but how also Christianity has benefited from technology and media to carry the Gospel to the world, as if a digital Areopagus, and a comparison between Church and Mission with Company and Work. But to the words of Jesus, the apostle Paul would continue adding that “…for here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come”. (Hebrews 13:14). They are all declarations of what we live while we wait for what is to come and that is summarized in the words of Yahshua: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and He is the King of that world that will substitute the present one. In the meantime, let us see how Christianity can permeate the secular world and make disciples for the Great Commission, for the glory of the King of kings and Lord of lords who is about to return.
GOSPEL AND DISCIPLESHIP VS PRODUCT AND SALES
The Gospel and the discipleship are the base of the mission of the Church, whether proclaiming the Good News or through it winning disciples and make of them mature Christians, these are the main tasks of the Christian from the point of view of his task, because the first one is to glorify and adore God in prayer and worship. In some debates about the matter of the company and the work, where the main tasks are the product that is produced to make it a selling success, whether a piece of furniture, a coffee, or a computer service, the world of business will do all its possible so that, the first and the second are directly related. The discipleship will succeed if the image of the church is healthy, if the ambient inside reflects the love of God, if it cares in a genuine way about the lives of those who come to the church, as Audrey Malphurs would express it, if the leaders and members are friendly and reflect that love, (1 P. 4:8) not only to those who come, but to the brethren when they go through the tribulations of life. In that sense discipleship counts with Christian counselling that must use psychology, as recommended and practiced by Lidia Martin, an evangelical psychologist. We can see the counterpart in the company that sells its products and then offers a solid warrantee and has taken care about the quality and that the client is satisfied and has been well attended, it will have earned a good reputation. Here, the church can learn from some quality policies used in serious companies that lead in the market, although these seek economic profit, and the Church, souls and the glory of God, our effort will be benefited because we will have contributed to making disciples for Christ.
Preaching, Service and Worship, Bible Studies and Seminary
The preaching that we mainly hear in many churches today has been impacted by secularism in the way of expressing the Gospel, making some sermons look more like motivational and prosperity focused, for making the audience feel well more than exposing the Biblical message. The expository sermon, the situation that we are living in each moment seen through the comparative examples in the Bible and a purpose of exhortation, but to edify and show the heart of God to the audience must be the motor of the preaching, whether in the church, in a public event, in TV, radio, internet or social media. Only a Christ centred preaching, Biblical, that glorifies God will prevail in the minds and the hearts. The service for someone who comes for the first time to the church and for some brethren that change church, is the first impression they receive from their senses, but in the long run, its forms will make the congregation will unite more and grow, or the contrary. From the medieval mass till today where the large stages take place in the church, the service and its form has been secularized in almost the totality of its exposition. Does that mean that the service is no longer holy? I do not think so, but we can see that in many churches the large stage full of musical instruments, cables, speakers and a large screen, instead of the pulpit, some Christian symbols that invite to contemplation, and I do not refer to images of course. What difference is there between the stage of an evangelical church and a conference in a hotel conference room? Non in a visual way and this is against the feeling of being in the house of God, but this is just a point of view. In homes there not much sense either, but there may be a holy atmosphere, that they dress in a simple way –not like some youth pastors– but fashions rule and in some places it can scare away those invited to come to church throwing away all the work for bringing them, something that discourage much. Both the aesthetic of the place, of its people, the language, the message and the treatment are key. The worship with music of quality is very important because it attracts much the people, the young in particular, but the lyrics must give glory to God and be easy to learn, another of the benefits borrowed by the secular world. And last, the church prepares the Christian with Biblical studies for his spiritual growth and knowledge of God (2 Tim 3:15) but for those that receive the call to lead, the recommended is the Theological Seminary, and today there is no excuse of distances due to the complete online programs.
Marketing, Targets, Formation, University, Career
Marketing is a secular word, but as secularism has had influence in the Church, from this point of view we can see it in models of promotion that many churches use to make the message of the Gospel known, and their churches too in society, that look more like a sports brand advert or of a famous refreshment. This publicity method has great advantages so that the non Christian citizen can be reminded that the church is there, but the type of message and the image used can play an important role contrary to the one we want to transmit. The company and its product can have success of fail in sales, but its impact in the minds of its clients is easier to fix than a bad publicity in a church that has not taken into account to carry out a market study of the area, what type of people will see it, in a road panel, in an advert in internet, radio, TV or social media, because if we do not consider the people, we reject the image of God in man, which implies that it belongs to God. This is basic under cultural anthropology (Grunlan & Mayers). Prayer, humility and knowledge, for we shall give account to Christ, of how and to whom we influence with His message.
The targets of a company must be clear for the managers as well as for those that work there, whether of production of commercial, and without clear targets and a correct definition of each job description, they are not easy to achieve. In that way the church knows its target or mission which is to glorify God and to fulfil the Great Commission, but it is important that the leadership of the church and its members can establish in a very clear their attributions, ministries, call and use of their gifts.
University formation and career go hand on hand in the company, not always provided but it, but it is appreciated in every job, or manager. Companies provide formation to update their team so they may produce better, although some do it only to explode their staff, the good ones do it because they improve their quality of life and not only their profit. The university provides for those who can study a career, of a superior level of preparation which is appreciated by the employers to occupy positions of managers and directors, a career that can provide better success. In the same way, in the church we have count on the formation on experience to give testimony, social help, preparation for counselling and discipleship and finally to pastor after years and Biblical and Theological studies in Biblical Seminaries.
GOOD WORKS VS NGO
“Only they would that we should remember the poor, the same that I was also eager to do”, these are the words that the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians 2:10 about what those considered as the pillars of the Church, Jacob, Cefas and John, asked Paul to do. Good works are a sign of the love of God in the Church, that following the compassion and mercy of Jesus Christ we put in practice, it is a sigh of identity in Christianity. On the other hand the secular world offers a social work through NGOs, many of them non religious, financed with government funds or the UN, they do not profess religion, they do not help for the love of God, but for love to man. The Church can learn from them, and they can learn from the Church. I would only say that the Church must continue to be independent with respect to finances so it does not have to be under the ethical and anti Christian umbrella that most of those donors dictate.
Care of Elders and Sick, Needed Brethren, Tenth and Offerings, Missions
To take care of our elders, “Honour your father and your mother”, this is the first Commandment with promise (Eph. 6:2), and it must be a priority, on the contrary that in postmodern secularism that promotes euthanasia, they seem to have forgotten when their parents were growing them, standing nights with no sleep, changing nappies, or the illnesses, and problems of their youth. To help take care of the sick, help the brethren in need, or any who suffers need and tell them about God, about Jesus Christ and His love, once we have proven that we care for them, for what does it profit if we do not give them the things which are needed for the body (James 2:16). So that the good works of the church remain independent and can provide the Christian love, we must give and administer well the tenths and offerings, and of course administer the funds in a transparent way with an accounting, project and administration like the best NGO or company using resources and technology. The missions in the case of the Church have as target the Great Commission in places where the Gospel is unknown nor Christian love, and where we can offer humanitarian help or in cases of natural deserters, taking water, food, help and administration, but also the Gospel with no limitation.
Social Work, Human Resources, Donations, Climate Change
The secular world also does good works, and companies usually have a department of social work, which as well as helping, or looking good, has tax benefits, a place where to ask for funds for the church as long as they do not impose certain postmodern policies nor secular or anti Christian. Social work provides them with a les business focused “soul” to the eyes of the world and makes them closer to the client, but some really follow the heart of Christian business people. Human resources have the target to care for the wellbeing of their staff, but in most cases they focus in what affects the quality of the work and the performance, although some, the more productive, have implemented that seeks to conciliate family life with working life, case of mothers with babies, etc. The donations made by companies have become in a part of the running costs, something to be taken into account to convince them that the project of our church is worthy of them. Climate Change has become, as well as in a great business, in a kind of religion, so many make a great effort to serve the cause, but those same ones do not care for needed people. The Christian already loved creation before climate change appeared, and promotes the preservation of the planet, but places Christ and people first, and creation after. Climate change is an opportunity for the church to make the world see that we are prior to this movement in our love for the earth and for animals, but first is the human soul (Ro. 8:22).
CHRISTINA LIFE AND ETHICS VS SECULAR LIFE AND ETHICS
Christian life has many similarities to secular life, but also many differences that no doubt secularism promotes and that we Christians cannot imitate, but others can and must be promoted. Ethics is the rule of what is correct –Nyenhuis y Eckman– in such a way that we can follow a behaviour that is called moral. Of this study of the true meaning of human life and purpose, we can know whether there is moral obligation or not and how to determine it, the duty, and who is good and identify an ethical life. God created us with conscience; therefore the Christian answers the universal questions in a moral way from the Bible. Secularism is influenced by the postmodern, relativist and subjective ethics and moral that does not know good and evil, or has problems to identify them, it produces a society with no values. Christian ethics and secularist moral are confronted in our days in matters like genetics and the use of biology, which although it provides great medical advances, it crashes against the use of DNA. Human cloning, in-vitro insemination, abortion and euthanasia. Here the respect to the human life is the key, and the limits to the discoveries must be filtered under Christian ethics which gives value to human life which God created (Col. 1:16).
Family, Community, Entertainment, Kingdom of God
Family, seen from Christianity is the base of society, from the model of a father and a mother and the children they have in their marriage. The importance of the family nucleus is relevant for the healthy development of the children, so they grow and mature with the love, the direction and the support of their parents, brothers and families. Today, the model is being attacked but gender policies trying to equate alternative models and promoting a secularist education to influence the children from early ages to a sexuality opposed to the nature of birth that God created.
Community is before us as a closer place where we can share the character of Christ, but also where we are confronted to the neighbours who are not of the faith in Christ, they are surprised that we don’t share their way of life (1 P. 4:4). But where we must also participate is in sports, in arts and films that promote Christian values, reading of books not only Christian, but also with values in health and historical culture. Watch and promote a Christian TV or with ethical values that are healthy, and make use of the radio, gatherings, chats, meetings, or camps and Biblical and historical as well as archaeological trips, all that not only allows us to enrich ourselves and entertain us, makes us knowledgeable of people, history and allows us to evangelize.
God is the greatest artist, He creates, and we must create for His glory. The problem comes when entertainment is used for the flesh without values, abuse of television and others, which takes man to become a consumer not a creator. We shall use the principal of the stewardship of time (Ga. 5:15), of control, of moral purity (Phil. 4:8), the edification, of the glory of God (1 Co. 10:13) and therefore make a good selection that pleases God. Postmodernism on the contrary has corrupted entertainment, but this exists from the times of the roman circus. With the brethren we shall comment and pray so that our children and new brethren, are influenced by a healthy entertainment but that separates them from the lost world, as for the youth, separate them from alcohol or drugs, from pornography, and guide them to participate in sport, classical music, or modern music, activities outside, of nature, mountain, beach, rivers, and all the activities that show a healthy life, holy, as we read in the letter of Paul to the Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things”. Another matter also related with entertainment is the financial matter, family economy and how we spend money. The Christian financial ministry from Howard Dayton, Compass, recommends to teach financial culture in the church so that families avoid falling into debt and can understand how financed credit cards work, those that bring so many headaches and usury charge, as well as the principal that not all is financeable, and there are things which are not a must have and can wait for accounts to be healthy, for secular world of today offers to finance it all ¡buy it now and pay latter! They do anything to sell, but the Christian must not live a life of impatient spending in the superfluous.
The Kingdom of God is without a doubt the model we must seek in our Christian life, the priority, because all the rest God will give us in addition (Mt. 6:33). And also it draws us a kind of relationship with God and with our neighbour based in God’s love, a life that seeks what is of others before our own, that enjoys beautiful things and the art that God has made in creation and in humanity, the peace, the music, nature, a well done job, the help to others, the care of the elders, and the provision, caring love and security or the little ones, educating them in the values of God, Whom to love.
Friends, Society, Culture, World
Secular life has a great impact through the influences of the friends, who can guide people to a toxic life, depressive, of abuse, without ethics nor Christian love, but also all the contrary, if we chose well to whom we open the door of friendship. Jesus would tell His disciples that there was no greater love than to lay down one’s life for the friends (Jn. 15:13). Society has always has influences and people of God and contrary to God, and it is for us to chose with whom we share our lives outside family, apart from work. The present postmodern secularist philosophy takes carries a mind and world vision that leads in nihilism, they do not seek truth or believe it cannot be found. Secularist culture of postmodern generation, is affected by fashions, being a culture of consumerism, that lives great part of its life in the virtual world, that could not live without Internet, used to digital money, social network, and if they are Christians of the last generation Z, they live the digital church. The music of the world is part of their culture. But music is something of great blessing for man, therefore Christianity is doing a great work of adaptation to culture without losing its essence, like it happened to the philosopher Tillich, doing a great effort in winning this generation through quality music and of the style that moves masses. A generation and a world of comfort, of work just for making money, of relationships without compromise, of the no family, of individualism, of me first, of an hedonism and body and health worship that can get to be idolatry. But that world depends of governments, laws, military defence, jobs, technology and infrastructure and logistics that the majority don’t even know they exist, and of those great tools, the Church can also benefit to carry out the Great Commission.
The conclusion about the influence of the secular world in the Christian ministry begins from the point of view with which I started my investigation, and it is the difference between the secular and secularism, this last one as a movement that intends to impose a world without God, without religion and that lives separated from the Word of God. However the secular well understood as that which is not religious, provides a necessary focus to those parts of life which a usually considered non sacred, but for the Christian they are part of his relationship with God and their religious expression, as there are the marriage and family life, work, relationships with the neighbour and all the life in general which for God is sacred, even though it develops in the secular world, because we are not of this world although we live in it temporarily. We are not of this world but we live in this world, the Lord Jesus teaches (Jn. 15:19). Clearly many Christian and members of churches have mixed the secular with secularism allowing being limited in the use of great and good tools to glorify God, but that bit by bit they are implementing in their ministries. In the other extreme we find churches that have degenerated in a liberal way of life leaving the Bible and Christian ethics to embrace the ways of living of the secular world, which is a great mistake. I think I can conclude that the great key to know where we stand in the way between the sacred and secularism, is always to see through Christian ethics, as well as through the filter of the Bible, to ask the Holy Spirit, and analyze which result is which we are searching for, and which is the purpose of our heart. We will check it, if we serve God, if we glorify His name with what we do, if we carry the Gospel to the people, and if we show a Christian character of help to others showing the love of God (1 Jn. 4:7-21).