At some point during the 1980s and ’90s, a desire birthed among politically conservative Christians to begin to stand for things that mattered to them culturally in more active ways than before.
What followed was a ground swell of support for what would become known as the “Moral Majority.” Their understanding was that those who held the beliefs they championed were actually the majority in the country. Some believed that through the right flavor of political activism, they would win the “culture war.”
Fast forward a few decades and, despite these efforts, evangelicals appear to be on the losing side for those who considered it a war.
That’s not a matter of preference or desire; it’s a matter of numbers. Simple math shows that most of the core issues on which the religious right was focused are trending the wrong direction from evangelical belief and practice.
It didn’t work.
When I said that a few years ago, it ended up being quoted in the Washington Post and was listed as a key quote of 2012. It seemed news then.
Now, that idea just seems like common sense and most people would agree. Actually, recent surveys show that the vast majority of pastors tend to agree. (I should add that I don’t use the term “culture war” except in references where others use it—I don’t think you can war against a people in culture and reach them at the same time.)
So the question is, what do we do now? How do we find our way out of a rather awkward cultural moment?
I believe Christians can and will generally focus on three approaches in the years to come.
First, I think there will be some who will be culture engagers. This is where I fit in, but I am aware enough to know I’m not the only one who thinks about engaging culture and that my way is not the only way to do so.
That being said, those who are culture engagers are those who believe we must understand the people around us in order to meaningfully engage them for the cause of Christ. We think about planting churches that are culturally appropriate for the setting, equipping our people with the tools they need for wise and appropriate cultural engagement, and how we can be biblically faithful and culturally engaged at the same time.
This issue still remains. And, as the culture is shifting, most churches (yes, most) are still living as if they lived in a different era, not engaging the people around them.
I teach and write about this topic often because it is so widely misunderstood. Christians need to engage culture for the cause of Christ, not run from it because people are worldly. Paul explained that he did not call us to “leave the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10) but rather to “become all things to all men” so as to engage them with the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22). (I’ve written extensively on engaging culture and contexutalization, so I won’t rehash that here, but you can find about 90 articles I’ve written at this link.)