truth and culture: focus outward

May 10, 2005

This is part of the Truth and Culture series. Previous posts: Intro.

A few weeks ago, as we were pulling out of the parking lot after the U2 concert, my wife commented on how much she was inspired by the concert. We began a dialogue that I have thought about many times since that night. What was it that was so inspiring, and why isn’t that something that we feel all the time as followers of Jesus?

The wonder of that night was that Bono called us to be a part of something beyond ourselves. He urged us all to recognize that we are part of something far greater than just who we are. He showed us needs taking place in the world much greater than the fact that I need new socks. It’s not that he talked about anything going on in the world that we weren’t already aware of. But, he called the entire audience as a giant community to connect and bring hope to all parts of this world. That’s inspring.

It seems to me that we often don’t inspire each other within the church in this way. We too often tend to look inward to ourselves, rather than outward at what needs to be taken care of beyond ourselves. Our prayer times often focus on individual needs that each of us have. It is common for us to have sermons and teaching series on the felt needs of people that we are trying to reach. The problem with this is that its not enough. All we are doing is filling the spiritual portion of this ever demanding consumer culture. If all I really care about is myself, and how I can grow and be a better person, I will become bored. Jesus did not call us to live a life focused on ourselves, but one that is focused outward.

Here’s a few examples of what I think this could look like:

  • This Sunday, we took JJ and Jared to visit Quest Church, which is a church we have been to a few times and really liked. They began the service with a prayer on the screen that all read together. It included praying for some of the needs of people around the world, including Iraq and Sudan. What a great way to keep us focused from the very beginning on the fact that this is about something much bigger than ourselves that we are merely just one little piece of.
  • In a few weeks, I’m preaching at a friend’s church while he is away. He is in a series on marriage, and my topic is how to make up. This is a felt needs sermon and series, but one that is still very valuable in our culture. I have been wrestling with how to speak to the felt needs, but at the same time, inspire people to live for something outside of themselves. For this message, I am going to attempt to tie the fact that marriage is often used as an illustration of the love of Jesus for his people. Everytime a couple humbles themselves, says I’m sorry, and works through their differences, they are a living testimony of the kind of love Jesus has for us. I pray this will help all of us (including myself) understand that our marriages are about more than just the two people in it and any children they have. Rather, our marriages are a sacred institution that reveal the very character of God to this world.

The core message of the truth of Jesus that we bring to this world is love God and love people. If we are simply speaking to the felt needs of people, but we are not connecting how those needs call us to these greater purposes, then we are not properly connecting truth and culture.

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