Being from the American South, I’m intimately acquainted with cultural Christianity — the kind of Christianity that makes people feel sure they are Christians because they’ve been going to church all their lives and they don’t drink much. Â One particularly interesting thing about the development of this type of ‘cultural Christianity’ is the development, along with it, of a number of ‘sayings’ and even ‘cherished proverbs’ that are most certainly God-breathed Scripture…ahem, not. Â Upon responding to one of these statements with a “whereabouts in the Bible is that?” you might get a “I don’t know, but it’s in there” or a “Well my grandma said it was in there” or even a “somewhere in the middle part.” Be ye warned, friend — and put not your faith in the colloquialisms of the people! Â They’ll nae hold their ground when times are tough!
Do note, there has also been a special development of a world-wide phenomena called Christianese. It probably finds its roots in the American South. This important and related topic deserves its own post on another day. In the meantime, I think we should take a moment to enjoy a few of these ‘cherised proverbs’ together.
Top Ten “Bible Quotes” Not Actually in the Bible:
10. Cleanliness is next to godliness!
9. Seriously. Black people and white people aren’t supposed to get married. [I don’t know if you’ve heard this one, but I heard it all the time growing up.]
8. This too shall pass.
7. To thine own self be true.
6. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
5.Â Money is the root of all evil. [Misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10]
4. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
3.Â God’ll never give you more than you can handle!
2. Spare the rod, spoil the child. [This is a misquotation of Proverbs 13:24]
1. (A Personal Favourite)Â The Lord helps them who helps themselves.
The Sermon in a Nutshell: If you want to stand on the promises of God, make sure you know what they are!
I have come across this way way too often lately to overlook it and not give it some thought. A church somewhere puts on a conference, or a worship service, and somehow, the video of that service gets on youtube. Oh no. The people are worshiping by spinning their socks or shoes in the air to a Christianese remake of a secular song, or they’re dancing to some random song about victory with these out-of-date 80s moves, or heaven forbid, the name of their band is “Sonseed” and they’re kicking “Jesus is a friend of mine” like it’s the hippest tune to hit the airwaves since kumbaya. And then…the real ‘Christianity’ starts coming out.
Christians, one after another — including myself — start passing the link to the video on to each other, and commenting on the site: “Check out these idiots.” or “Seriously, this is the worst worship service I’ve ever seen.” or “I am soÂ embarrassedÂ to even be a Christian right now.” And these posts turn into arguments even — back and forth one kid saying “I go to a Christian school and my teacher says this is the worst worship service ever and we watched it in class.” Meanwhile another is saying “Go, you guys! Â That was really cool. Praise God!” Â Odds are if you have been on the internet anytime in the last two years, you’ve seen some of these videos, commented on them, passed them along, or at least laughed at them.
But seriously. Is that what this Christian thing is about? Â Why are we, as Christians, so frustrated when we come across videos like this? Why do we make fun of them, and feel it’s important to let the ‘world’ know that we don’t approve and that real Christians are way cooler than that? The question I’m getting to: WHY do we feel the need to be cool enough for the pagans? (And forgive this terminology — we can discuss it in another post.) Is anyone flocking to your church because the people dress cool and the worship is well-stylized and it’s, like, the happening place to be seen? If so, then they’re flocking for the wrong reasons.
It seems to me that this generation will be more impressed by seeing people so passionate about their faith that they don’t care what anyone thinks. And if that means (even though this isn’t really my personal favourite) grabbing a contemporary song and turning it into a song about Jesus, and worshiping to it, jumping up and down with your socks in the air, then by all means. If that means doing a totally random 70s-80s style dance in front of this weird backdrop with the weirdest choreographed solo ever, then so be it. Â The point is — these people are doing their best with the talents they’ve got to bring honour and glory to God. Who are we to decide what might or might not be pleasing to Him?
If they’re preaching that Jesus is not the Son of God and that He didn’t die for the sins of the world — okay, here’s where we do our best to step in and say “Wait, wait, that’s not what Christians believe!” But if they’re doing the funky chicken to a faith-filled rendition of a Destiny’s Child song, maybe we should just let it be. The more ‘together’ the body of Christ is, in saying, hey, we worship this One, Amazing God, the better.
This spills over into some other areas as well — being critical of certain pastors and their preaching “The tallest trees catch the most wind” — and someone, obviously a Christian, takes the time to post a preacher’s sermon on youtube, and put verses over top of it that demonstrate how it disagrees with Scripture. Â Where does this stuff come from?
Here are my thoughts, if you’re interested.
1. John 13 — Jesus said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I don’t think I need to explain that.
2. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 12: 24 – 30) — Yes, the enemy is constantly sowing “weeds among the wheat” but we are not instructed to try to go out and pull up weeds right now. Jesus (the farmer) said we shouldn’t go out and try to pull up the weeds, because in doing so, we might accidentally pull up the wheat at the same time. Instead, both the weeds and wheat will grow up together, and at the harvest — at the judgement — the reapers will separate out the weeds from the wheat. Understand this — God will judge the thoughts and deeds of each of us, because while we can only look at outer appearances, He can look at the heart. Let God separate the weed from the wheat — we should go about the business of studying the Scriptures so that we can be faithful to do what He has told us to do, for example, go back to number 1.
3. Paul’s Example (Philippians 1:15-18) People were preaching Christ for selfish reasons in Paul’s day, and perhaps they are doing the same thing today. Some were preaching in hopes of adding affliction to Paul, others out of love, knowing that Paul was truly a disciple. His response: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”
The Sermon in a Nutshell: I am absolutely preaching to myself here. I am quick to criticize a brother or sister with whom I disagree, a sermon that I’m uncertain of, or, especially, some goofy Christians worshiping in a way that doesn’t seem cool. But my conviction is that if we say we are Christians, we need to love each other. We get enough persecution from the world without adding to it by beating each other up. Yes, we will often disagree, but let’s rejoice in the common ground — Christ is being preached and glorified — and that’s the business we’re here to be about.