Dan's post got me to wondering:

Is the Church supposed to be counter-cultural
or a part of the Establishment?

I would be interested in your thoughts on the subject. I am still pondering but it seems that the Church began as a somewhat rebellious expression of faith that rocked the religious and political world of its day. Many of Jesus' sayings could be construed as ones that were

I think that I have been, at least in the past, a proponent of working within the system to effect change - in hindsight I am not sure that is the best avenue. What do you think the church could or should be doing in our present day culture?

Do you think that it is best to try to work within the system or something different? Luther started from within and wound up on the outside.. it seems to be a common pattern. Does anyone know of someone really making significant change from the inside?


  1. Bob,

    I think it's way to easy to criticize the church for being hypocritical, too much part of the establishment, stale or whatever and just leave. Personally, where I am, is I feel I have to try to work within the system to change it. I'm reminded of the phrase "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.".

    Not to say there aren't times when I'm not just tempted to chuck it all behind me. And, I'm not sure that is not in my future. But, not until I've done everything I know I can do to try to make it better first.


  2. Hi Bob,

    I agree with John the pilot about William Wilberforce being one who worked within the system to change it. I am not only talking about the abolition of the slave trade here. That is what is well known about him. Besides working to free the slaves through parliament, Wilberforce also preach, teach and write tirelessly about moral reforms or what we now call an ethical Christian life.

    Another name comes to mind is Watchman Nee. He worked tirelessly to reform the Chinese church and for his effort, was kicked out of the mainline. But if not for people like him who formed the indigenous church, the Chinese church will not have survived the Communists.

    Personally, I believe the church to be counter-cultural. Unfortunately, if you are counter cultural, you will either be kicked out of the system or the system will find ways to absorb you.

  3. It depends on where you are called. John Ashcroft is a hero of mine. Living a life of integrity in public service makes a big difference especially since that is the minority of leaders today. I feel like I want to say that for the next decade or two this arena will be more and more important for christians to become engaged in but it can only be done by the power of the Spirit and God's leading on certain individuals. I work in gov't and would like to stay there. Presently stirred up a hornets nest involving sexism and it isn't easy.Would like to bail but am trying to stay.
    According to NYTimes I see Islam is growing faster than Catholicism.I am not a conspiracy theorist but I am not sure I lke the implication of protecting extremist beliefs within the US.

  4. My perspective is a bit different than your anon - probably because you are behind the scenes of govt.

    I also liked John Ashcroft very much but thought that he was a part of the establishment and even though he was "in power" he was very limited in the impact he had becuase he allowed himself to be marginalized as an extreme "right-winger" - too bad because he is a great man.

    I guess that is the dance of life.. holdng firm to your convictions in a way that doesn't alienate people.. in a way that keeps relational doors open - politically speaking, Reagan was a master at it.

  5. Interesting post. I have to admit that I really had a hard time deciding. The problem (for me) is that both terms, i.e. "the establishment" and "counter-culture" are both secular concepts. I don't think the Church is supposed to be part of either. The Church is supposed to present a glimpse of a world redeemed by Christ. Both the Establishment and the Counter-Culture are different sides of the same coin. Our new life in Christ is new currency altogether.

  6. Thanks for the comment Ety. I wonder if Jesus would have considered the Sanhedrin as part of the religious establishment of His day?

    I like this..

    "I don't think the Church is supposed to be part of either."

    ..unfortunately a long time go the Church changed from an adhoc group of people that met in homes and in small groups to what it is today.

    So I guess.. maybe the issue is how can the church best live out the great commandment and the great commission in our present-day culture?

  7. I have no doubt that the 'ecclesia' is meant to be counter cultural and is not part of the establishment.

    I have just been listening to Bob's sermon, "Strength in Weakness". I find it sad that fear is such a common feeling amongst Christians.

    After living through the 'transformation' of the Worldwide Church of God in 1995 I've had to reconsider just about everything I ever believed. It must have been in 1998 that I was suddenly aware of a freedom and liberation from the bondage of legalism.

    One of the major influences was an article entitled, "The Rise and Fall of Christendom" by Stuart Murray who is a member of the Anabaptist Network. His definition of "Christendom" can be found at
    It's an interesting starting point for discussion.

    I have just finished reading "The End of Religion" by Bruxy Cavey that has the subtitle of "Encountering the Subversive Spirituality of Jesus". I found it particularly interesting because Bruxy is the teaching pastor of a church in Canada.

  8. Thanks for stopping by Pete! I resonate with that freedom from legalism. I think that.. for me anyway.. the perceived need for answers and a black/white, right/wrong approach to the scriptures fueled a lot of my legalism. Life is really in the gray!


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