Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Changing the Heart and Mind, Intro.

Earlier this week I posted a thought I had while riding in the car about how changing laws only changes what people can “get in trouble” for as opposed to actually changing their behavior. The context of this thought – as I commented later – was my frustration with both the left and right’s idea that if we can only get certain laws changed, then we can get rid of hatred or preserve our cultural heredity. It is the hearts and minds, I argued, of people that need to be changed if we are going to see any marked difference in our society. Ex-Pat wanted to know how this change in heart and mind could occur, so here’s the beginning of an attempt at answering that question.

I will argue from the perspective that the sort of heart and mind change I’m talking about can only occur though the redemptive power of God found in Christ Jesus. If you’re not into that idea, then this will be, at best, interesting and, at worst, a complete waist of your time. I’ll let you decide. Also, I come from the idea that the Church – and not government – is God’s primary, if not sole, tool for the proclamation of His Kingdom and reign.

If the biblical records are accurate – and I believe them to be – then the first century church was vibrant and powerful. We are told that the gospel was preached and large groups of people were added to the disciples’ numbers. This is clearly different from what we see today. Surely there are several factors that attribute to the reduced rate in the growth of Christianity since that day, but I would like to look at two prevalent factors, with the first being a change in focus from discipleship to conversion and an overarching theme of what Dallas Willard calls, “Systems of Sin Management” found both in the religious right and left. A third possible reason that I’ll explore when I understand it better is the concept that the Church – at least in North America and much of Europe – has lost its cultural relevance in the face of modern and post-modern thought. In other words, we’re not speaking to our culture at large in a “language they can use.” But that’s for another time, perhaps.

By the way, I refuse to accept the notion that the Church isn’t reaching the “lost” because the times are “dark.” That, to me, is a copout of the first rate.