In studying culture and its effects on believers and non-believers, Ken Myers said it is important to study why culture has formed the way it has and what implications this has on churches and ministers in forming disciples.
The two-part lecture series came about as part of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Carver Barnes lecture series. The series, which happens each spring, is sponsored by Southeastern’s L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, which “seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting and defending the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.”
In conjunction with this mission, Myers, who is the director and host of Mars Hill Audio and editor of its bimonthly program The Journal, spoke on the topic of the intersection of culture and the church and how it affects Christian discipleship on March 25-26.
“How did culture take shape? How did we move from Plymouth Rock to where we are now?” Myers asked. In studying the progression of culture, Myers said he has sought to determine what makes the gospel implausible to modern culture. “It is foolishness to modern Americans. What ideas are embedded in our cultural paths that render the gospel implausible to people today?”
Myers said that not only has the culture outside of the church affected the ability to reason through the gospel, but it has affected the culture within the church, as well.
“Among believers, a less aggressive form of distinguishing between faith and reason exists,” Myers said. “They live out their lives as practical atheists in accordance to secular experts. They believe the only role of the church is to provide encouragement, a spiritual energy drink, to go about the ‘real’ tasks of life.”
Myers said the church must reclaim a holistic view of discipleship and training, teaching its members, not to escape to the church, but to engage the culture of the world at large with sound belief.
“The work of the church should be, not only helping others to believe, but also that task of discipleship, training believers to go out into the world that God so loved that he sent his only Son into.”
Myers said he wants to promote a post-evangelistic experience, teaching believers to live as if their main task was to disciple one another and grow in faith, rather than only promoting sheer belief.
“As long as we are only focused on sheer belief, then we are neglecting the Great Commission and the work of the church,” Myers said. “The ministry of the gospel is not just about promoting belief. Mere knowledge of the truth is never complete apart from godliness.”
However, Myers said that godliness and worldliness ought not be measured by the same standards as the world would give.
“We’re not to define our duties as the world does,” he said. “Our reasonable service to God requires every thought and every action. There’s an antithesis between God’s ways and the world’s ways. The early church understood that antithesis.”
Quoting Eugene Peterson, Myers said, “It’s the task of the believer to show how to live full, enriching lives.”
This belief in God as Lord of all should lead the Christian church to treat the Great Commission as the mandate it is, Myers said, holding itself responsible for nurturing believers to be zealous for good works in all areas of their lives. Zeal for good works is the effect of, not the grounds for, faithfulness.
Using the biblical example of Titus, Myers said he was waging a two-front war in fighting the cultural ethos outside of the church which leads to awful behavior of the believers inside of the church.
The heresy that was present in Roman culture (similar to the heresies found in modern culture) was a threat to the early church, Myers said. But he pointed out that it was the false teachers who were promoting false doctrine who were a more severe threat.
“Victims of this heresy were also victims who had never cultivated a reasonable mind,” he said. “They moved from being mindless law breakers to mindless law keepers. Disciples need disciplines. Godly obedience will not take root where any kind of obedience has never been cultivated.”
In urging the church to disciple and train believers to live godly lives in accordance with the gospel, Myers said the church should exhort Christians to exhibit goodness and beauty that are in accord with truth and in keeping with the content of faith.
“Thus, as we think about cultural life, we must look holistically at it,” Myers said. “We need to be aware of what cultural systems are influencing the church members. If pastors are to learn from this, you must be aware of how cultural norms affect the church.”
Myers said that too often, the church fails to be counter-cultural and instead, looks eerily similar to the world’s culture.
“They attract those who only want a spiritual supplement to culture, instead of those who want to live counter-culturally, he noted. “As our culture becomes more and more post-Christian, believers must be careful to define culture on God’s terms. This requires more than good teaching. It requires leaders to train us for good thinking so we’ll be adornments to the truth.”
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.