The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

How Christians Can Escape the Rip-Tide of Modern Culture – Part I of III

Posted on: March 14, 2017


I started last week’s blog by saying that every moment of every day something in our soul is being fed and something is being starved. Because we live in a fallen world influenced greatly by the presence, power and corruption of modern media, the natural course of living life inevitably feeds the world’s values into our soul and starves the Spirit’s values. As a result, we must devise a way to meet this danger by power-feeding our souls large doses of the things of the Spirit, sufficient to offset the inevitable power of culture.

DiscipleshipIt is the great challenge of our time, and I develop this idea more fully in my book Brave New Discipleship (affiliate link). In it I mention that in 1948, George Orwell wrote a dystopian novel entitled 1984, in which he envisioned a very bad future for us based on the fact that everything we wanted was going to be withheld from us by a totalitarian government. Big Brother is watching you!

A few years earlier, Aldus Huxley had written a dystopian novel entitled Brave New World, in which he envisioned a very bad future for us based on the fact that everything we wanted would be given to us! Nothing we wanted would be withheld from us! And because we did not have the strength of character to rise to the higher things that were available, we all began to sink the lowest.

Of these two contrasting visions of the future, the brave new world is the one that is presenting the most immediate danger to Christians in America.   A quick review of cable television programming reveals a preoccupation with unrestrained and perverted violence and sex, a fascination with the demonic and paranormal, and voyeuristic explorations into deviant and bizarre lifestyles. Cable television is showing us the future, and it is not a pretty sight. Culturally, we are moving backwards, we are losing ground.

Because everything that affects culture also affects the Christians living in that culture, this retrogression is having its affect on the church in America. Therefore,

as we enter the brave new world of the 21st century, the church must envision a brave new discipleship strategy that is equal to the demands of our time if the church is not to be neutralized by a mind meld with modern culture.

There are three steps in escaping the riptide of modern culture. We will look at each step in this and the next two blog posts.

Step #1 in escaping the riptide of modern culture is realizing that modern culture has a powerful negative influence on an authentic Christian experience.

“Culture” in this context is a synonym for the world. Scripture teaches that the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (1 Corinthians 3:19), that we are not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15-17), that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19) and that friendship with the world is hostility with God (James 4:4). That powerfully summarizes the biblical perspective toward culture/the world.

While becoming spiritually mature has never been a quick or easy process, it is made even more difficult in our age by the culture we live in. And, while culture is more than electronic media, electronic media is the primary channel for spreading cultural values, and it has three defining characteristics.

First, electronic media is pervasive.  With smart phones, tablets, computers, smart watches, and televisions everywhere, our waking minds are awash in input from electronic media.

Second, electronic media is powerful. Have you ever tried to read a book and watch television at the same time? If so, you know that the TV won.

And, third, while all electronic media is not inherently bad (much good is done through electronic media) much of what comes through media is deeply perverted.

Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Reagan and who is now a best-selling author, news analyst, and commentator, writes in her book Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness:

We are the inheritors of a coarsened society. My generation cooperated happily in the coarsening, of course, in the sixties and seventies…and now we’re stuck with it. Parents today go to great lengths to protect their children from the environment that they helped create.

The old culture may have been a little naïve, but when I was a kid watching television, there were game shows, cartoons, some boring nature show, an old movie, Spanish lessons on educational TV, and a soap opera. That is better than today when the Ghetto Boys on channel 25 rap about killing women, and [violating their dead bodies].

Really, you have [to be morally bankrupt not] to know that this stuff is harmful, that it damages the young, the unsteady, the unfinished. You have to not care about anyone to sing these words and put this song on TV for money. You have to be a pig.

Hollywood knows it encourages and discourages points of view, habits, and social tendencies. And deep in their guilty little hearts, filmmakers know they encourage violence in men and boys and sexual acting out in everyone else. It’s what they do for a living.

After shocking and violating everyone on one level so that they get used to it, Hollywood has to come up with even more outrageous violence and sex to get some attention, to grab and get an audience. Imagine what that does to the soul. (summarized from pages 68-70)

So, this is the world in which we now live. It has been deeply corrupted from what it once was, and the corruption is largely initiated in the entertainment industry, and helped along by the worlds of public and higher education, and liberal politics.

In a dramatic instance of the impact of electronic media, I was presenting workshops at a discipleship conference in England a number of years ago. Delegates were there from all over the world. In one of my workshops, there was a delegation from central Africa, and after the session was over, we sat around talking about discipleship issues.

This delegation said that their mission was to try to reach the rural villages in central Africa with the Gospel before the village got electricity because before a village got electricity, their interest in spiritual things was very high. After a village got electricity, however, their interest in spiritual things dried up almost overnight… because electricity brought, not only light bulbs and refrigeration, but also television, movies, music, and the internet.

These things captured the minds of the villagers and made them almost impervious to the Gospel. Like trying to save people from a coming tsunami, this delegation was trying to save rural central Africans from the coming cultural tsunami of electrification.

That’s the power of media!

Therefore, the great challenge of discipleship in the 21st century is to devise ways to power feed our souls large doses of the things of the Spirit sufficient to offset the power of modern culture.

That’s the challenge. Next week, we’ll look at the opportunity!


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