"The Church's missionary challenge in the West today is complicated by the fact that most western populations have been exposed to some distorted or diluted expression of Christianity that inoculates people against the real thing."
George G. Hunter III, How to Reach Secular People, 1992
Hunter's provokative quote highlights a recurring theme I am finding in my recent and current study about culture, mission and Trinitarian theology. It seems that in the Church's attempt to evangelise the lost, instead of attracting people, we find ourselves increasingly alienating people from the Church. If Bill Hybel's conviction that the "local church is the hope of the world" is true (which I believe it to be), then something has gone seriously wrong in the delivery of the message!
I find myself getting frustrated and even angry at times when I see the gospel get hidden within a form of 'churchianity' that presents a "distorted or diluted expression of Christianity." Theologian Clarke Pinnock goes as far as suggesting that atheists are “not rejecting the God of the Bible – they haven’t even heard of him!” I think there is a confronting truth that the Church needs to explore if we are going strip away our religious cultural baggage that inhibits our ability to effectively communicate a life transforming message in a culturally appropriate way.
The missionary challenge is to preserve the integrity of the gospel message so that the people we are reaching have an encounter with the biblical God through Jesus Christ, not a pop-version of God who is formed in our own image. Hunter warns against a "hash" form of Christianity that is a concoction of "patriotism, moralism, cultural values like materialism and the quest for the perfect 'high', with some wisdom from celebrities, mixed with selected bible verses."
Maybe we need to rediscover Jesus in our churches so that He may be revealed through our lives in a way that invites people to ask, "we want to hear you again on this subject" (Acts 17:32).