Christians need to speak the language of the culture in which they live. But is incorporating the secular diluting the message of Christ? There are many schools of thought on this issue. Here's my take.
I was in my office at Eagle TV having a meeting with a few ministry staff. We were talking about ideas for our ministry programs, trying to make decisions about what we wanted to produce for the next year.
One of the staff raised his hand and asked to speak. He said something that I have heard many times before from people in other ministries. “If we want to be successful,” he said, “then we need to produce programs that focus more on things that people are interested in apart from Christianity. Let’s attract an audience by emphasizing other things in life then when people see that our programs about these things are good they will want to know more about Jesus. But don’t talk about Jesus so much.”
I considered his words carefully. I was living in a culture different from my own. I knew that I needed to be sensitive to the ways that Mongolians think and express themselves. I didn’t want to rush to judgment about his suggestion. However, at the same time I realized that I had heard this line many times before.
In fact, I remember a time in radio in the U.S. when some Christian radio programmers were talking about abandoning Christian music exclusively and instead focusing on what was called “message music.” That is, secular songs that aren’t immoral or sinful. They wanted to mix these with Christian music in an attempt to attract a greater audience to tell them about Jesus. There was only one problem with this idea.
It didn’t work.
Some stations tried that approach. For the most part it fell on deaf ears. It sent mixed messages to the listeners. This is not to say that there aren’t any good secular songs out there. Rather, what the listener perceived about the radio station was confused and thus they simply moved on to other stations that played secular music only since they didn’t really want to listen to the Christian music in the first place.
As I listened to the suggestion from one of our staff I knew that something similar was being proposed. In essence he was saying that we should reduce our talk about Jesus and the Bible during our ministry programming. He thought that people would be attracted to Jesus by being attracted to other things. Though I wanted to be cautious, I instantly knew that this was a mistake because I remembered something from scripture.
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).
Jesus did not commission us to attract people to him by attracting people to other things and not talk about him. We are specifically commissioned to tell people about Jesus, not the world.
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19).
Remember what the Apostle Paul said about his missionary activity. “We preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23).
Paul made our commission clear. “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).
My friends, you and I have been sent to preach so that the whole world may hear, so that the whole world may believe and call upon him. Nowhere in scripture are we encouraged or commanded to attract people to things apart from Jesus and then not talk about Jesus or talk about him less. Less is not more. Never succumb to the idea that you can tell people about Jesus by reducing what you tell them about Jesus.
When I fell in love with my wife I wanted my parents to meet her. When we decide to marry I wanted everyone to witness our marriage. When I had children I wanted my friends and family to see them that I might show them off. Because I love my wife and children I want others to know them and be impressed with them.
So too, if we love Jesus we will naturally want others to know him. We will want to show him off. Imagine a father saying, “I have three kids I love dearly, but really, you need to meet my neighbor’s kids. My neighbors kids are a bit like my kids. Aren’t my neighbor’s kids great!” What a foolish thing to do.
If we love Jesus how can we possibly want to reduce what we say about him? If we don’t care about others knowing Jesus, or we want to refer to him less, then we have a love problem in our relationship with God. Remember the scope of love for God that we are suppose to exhibit with our lives:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5-8).
Do you see the scope of loving expression we are to have for Jesus? Read that passage again. Our expression of love for God is to encompass every area of our lives. Such expressions are to be obvious to everyone around us. This is the way to help others know Jesus. This is not less. If he is the center of our most supreme affections then we will not be able to help ourselves when it comes to letting others know about Jesus.
Less is not more, my friends. Less is less. We are not called to less.