SOCIAL CHRISTIANITY

I’m a social Christian. That means I choose not to ignore culture around me, but instead participate in it. I think it is essential for me to be aware of the culture in which I live or as Jesus said, “To be in the world, but not of the world.” I often get asked these questions…

  • Can I go see movies that the world sees?
  • Can I listen to Top 40 and Rock music instead of Christian music?
  • Can I watch television that has nothing to do with Jesus?

Great questions and I must say a resounding “Yes” to all of the above.

Now, before you fire off an angry email to me, I’m not promoting watching filthy movies or listening to ungodly music. I would never promote just watching any movie out there. Instead, I use the good judgement, wisdom and the brain that God gave me to know the difference between good and evil. In fact, I really don’t watch many rated R movies. I can count on one hand the amount of R-rated movies I’ve seen in the past 10 years. And before you say, “Not me!” did you see the Passion of the Christ? Yep, me too, rated R. Before I see nearly any movie, I check it out to see what’s in it.

The fact that I see secular movies, watch secular television programs and listen to secular music doesn’t mean I’m not disturbed by many of the things of this world. There are songs that greatly disturb me, but how can I teach my children or talk to others about them if I don’t know they exist. The same can be said about movies or television shows. What scares me more than educating myself culturally is being so oblivious to the world that I’m out of touch with my children, my peers and the unsaved world.

HERE IS MY POINT: I don’t want to confuse you, but this post really isn’t about what you can and can’t do in society, but about the “why.” Why is it important that I know something about culture? Because, how will I ever win the world if I know nothing about the world? How will I ever be able to relate to the non-Christian, if I know nothing of the non-Christian’s world. Paul said, “To the Jew, I became a Jew to win the Jew. To the gentile I became like the gentiles to win the gentile.” If I know nothing about the unchurched, how can I win the unchurched? If I separate myself from culture, how can I find any common ground when I try and reach the world?

Why is it important that I know something about culture? Because,
how will I ever win the world if I know nothing about the world?

If I was out of touch with culture, I can promise you, the kids from the community that hang out at my house watching football or playing baseball wouldn’t be here. Instead my family can find common ground and connect with them in sports and in culture. That’s why it’s important that I learn to speak the language of culture. I need to speak the language of sports, Seinfeld, Survivor, American Idol, fantasy football, cars, music, movies, gadgets, electronics, etc. I need to know about the songs that are a part of my kids culture, the movies that are popular in our society and the television shows that the world find interesting. Why should I take an interest in culture? To find out where others are and connect with them. God never intended the church or Christians to lock themselves up and hide from the world.

Besides, people of the world don’t know church lingo and church talk, so I have to communicate with them about things they understand. If I walk up to a man in the grocery store and ask him if he’s been washed in the blood, redeemed or sanctified, I’m going to freak him out. Instead I can communicate with him on cultural things, build common ground, and then share my love for Jesus with him.

A month ago, as I stood talking to a man who doesn’t attend church anywhere, my cellular phone went off. The ringtone on my phone was AC/DC’s Back in Black. The look on his face was priceless as he said, “A preacher with an AC/DC ringtone?” I told him I love classic rock and actually had dozens of classic rock ringtones. He couldn’t believe it. He then whipped out his phone and let me hear his classic rock ringtones. We talked for another 10 minutes about music and then out of the blue he asked, “What time does your church start on Sunday?” Was it my nicely pressed shirt that impressed him? I don’t think so. We found some common ground in culture.

I’m a social Christian. I watch secular television shows and my iPod is full of secular music. I choose not to ignore or hide from culture. I choose to be in the world, just not of the world.

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
42 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Odgie says:

    Good post. I don’t see any other choice for us other than being engaged in our culture. I have had so many great conversations that started over a song, TV show, book, or movie that somehow turned into a discussion about faith. Even bad culture (such as “The Davinci Code”) can provide a point of entry.

  2. TREY MORGAN says:

    Odgie – One of the best “teaching” conversations I had, with one of my sons recently, was over the “I kissed a girl” song.

    He may be only 12, but he’d already heard the song many times. It gave me the chance to teach and explain, which is better that pretending that he’d never heard it.

  3. nick gill says:

    Do I even have to watch SpongeBob? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE say no!

    Sorry! I know you meant this post to be serious, and I believe it healthily addresses a serious problem among all different kinds of Christians.

    A more mission-based understanding of our daily lives would be a solid foundation to teach this kind of lesson anywhere.

    Keep up the great work!
    Nick

  4. Joshua Tucker says:

    Amen bro. It’s all about our hearts. It’s so difficult to keep a balance between holiness and “connecting culturally” like Paul obviously advocated.

    I guess I’ve known too many Christians using the excuse of “relevance” to watch disgusting movies and live with the same standards of the world. It reminds me of the Casting Crowns lyric, “What this world needs is for us to stop hiding behind our relevance, blending in so well that people can’t see the difference, and it’s the difference that sets the world free.” Yet, while being different, I still think we need to be down-to-earth genuine people that are easy to relate to.

    We need to somehow figure out how to connect culturally through “neutral” things, without giving up God’s holy standard. If we’ll be missional about our interests and hobbies, we can bring many people into the family of Jesus.

    Keep up the great posts brother. :)

  5. TREY MORGAN says:

    Confession to Nick … I actually like SpongeBob. I’m sure you’ll think less of me now. :)

  6. Amanda KP says:

    love it!! so true!!! you are awesome–and your God is even more awesome!!! because of you many more will seek your God!!!!!! thanks for all you do!!

  7. mqmaynard says:

    Well said Joshua! Seeing others through the eyes of Christ is the only way to see people & be pleasing to our Father. We won't be able to reach people by how much we know but by how much they know that we care for them. Getting truly involved in their lives, my means of finding common ground that will not compromise His satndards. Jesus gave us many great examples. I loved that He refused to follow in the ways of the white washed tombs of day but instead embraced & loved sinners deeply. The sinful woman's story shows us just how far our Lord & Savior will go to reach the sinner & yet remain utterly faithful to His Father. Love the sinner & hate the sin!! Great topic Trey, continue to challenge & inspire us. God continue to richly bless you!

  8. blogprophet says:

    well done…we all struggle with the balance but you are correct..

  9. Amy says:

    Great post Trey!! As always! I am so glad our family has your family!!

    One summer, a few years back, Jason and I started a tradition of picking a song on vacation and cranking up the radio and signing it LOUD ever time it came on. We call it our “vavation” song. Well, one year, don’t ask me how, but that song was Shakira, Hips Don’t Lie. We were at the beach, driving with the windows down, singing that song at the top of our lungs…ALL of us. It was tons of fun!! Until we got home and the vacation was over and my kids knew EVERY SINGLE WORD TO THAT SONG!! It made my skin crawl!! Somehow it sounded so much worse to hear your 3 year old sing “oh, baby, when you talk like that…” in your living room than on the beach!! Please don’t think less of me!!LOL!!

    Don’t ask me why the long comment. Your post just brought back this memory for me.

    Have a great week!

  10. westcoastwitness.com says:

    Good post – I agreed with you (and take heat for it at times).

  11. That Girl says:

    So… I can be a Tony Stewart fan and still go to Heaven? :)

    I like being around people who are in the world but not of it. I feel like I’m more accessible that way.

  12. Larissa says:

    GREAT post…I am learning this, and I’m learning that it’s okay. Growing up in traditional c of c, I was told to stay away from so much. I am now learning how I can relate so much more to others, because I’m “normal” yet still a Christian.

    I think that’s why the world is so turned off by Christians who walk the straight and narrow…yet find them being hypocritical to what they teach.

    Being relatable is a huge quality to have.

  13. doug young says:

    Trey….Excellent thoughts, but do you not believe in the Old Paths?

    For a long time, I worked under the impression that part of my work was to reform culture to the old ways…the KJV, the evangelism methods of the past, and even singing just the old time hymns. Anything written after 1950 was viewed as suspect.

    I am glad I began to see through that. I got to thinking about how the “old paths”, which I am for in a sense, has been abused. What a shame! Given the way our fellowship has used it, you can’t help but think it was used the same way in the first century.

    In a sermon not long ago, I threw out the question, “I wonder how many first century Jews rejected the gospel of Christ on the premise that Jeremiah told us to abide in the old paths?” I would venture to say many of them viewed the new covenant stuff as suspect because it was different. It just wasn’t the old paths!

    A number of people came up to me and said, “You know, I’ve never thought of it that way but I bet you’re right.”

    Cultures come and go. The gospel is unchanging, but it can be presented in any given culture. It can’t, though, if we live in vacuums independent of the real world!

  14. TREY MORGAN says:

    Joshua – I loved the last paragraph of your comment. You nailed it.

    mqmaynard – I always love your comments.

    blog-man – Go Cowboys.

    Amy – that’ll get you in trouble. I’ve been there and done that and learned the hard lesson.

    That Girl – I’m still up-in-the-air on the Tony thing.

    Larissa – I’m still learning too.

    Doug – I love the old paths, as long as they’re the old paths of 2000 years ago and not the old paths of “back when I was a kid.”

    Can you imagine the first time someone sang Amazing Grace in church and I’m sure someone said, “I don’t like those new-fangled songs.”

  15. Haley says:

    This was a great post Trey; I was just having a conversation with a friend about the “I kissed a girl” song last night which lead to something similar in that the conclusion was just because I might watch movies/tv or listen to secular music doesn’t mean I agree with everything that is done or said; or that I live my life like that.

  16. Stoogelover says:

    Well said!

  17. allie nelson says:

    thanks trey! very enlightening….loved it!

  18. blogprophet says:

    just a thought, I would like to play Satan’s Attorney….

    what about when it is just Christians hanging out, no chance for evangelism…
    would we usually prefer to talk about Lost, Fantasy Football, etc. or about Jesus, the Bible, and Faith??

  19. Steve V. says:

    Joshua you hit it right on. We do need to conect through “neutral” things.

    Although I love AC/DC’s Back In Black and a lot of their songs, I don’t want to be like the three year old and go around singing them everywhere. And even though Paul might have been able to fit in with ZZ Top with his hair and beard (I have those flanel board lessons to thank for this image) I just can’t see him partaking in too much of the “Slip Inside my Sleeping Bag” activities.

    Trey, I understand where you are headed and the opertunities cultural awareness provides. But I guess I’m still tied to the notion that I should be a conter culture of sorts. I still act and talk cool to fit in, but all my Metalica and AC/DC on my mp3 has been replaced with Chip Ingram and Trey Morgan sermons.

    You might consider a Consumer Advisary Notice for this post. I don’t think all users can handle all the implications you make. Take this computer for example, in the hands of my comp. tech. guy it works great but after just a few days with me it crashes. Not all input can be handled the same by everybody.

    Love what your doing.
    God Bless!

  20. Joshua Tucker says:

    Thanks mqmaynard, Trey, and Steve.

    This subject reminds me of when I was in Russia and we were trying to reach out to some guys we met. They came over, but all they wanted to talk about was women and partying. What were we supposed to do? Somehow we needed to find something else to talk about until they were ready for more spiritual things.

    On the other hand I also played basketball, but got way too into it. I didn’t want to talk to some of the guys afterward because I was annoyed with their fouling or whatever else. Basketball had become an idol to me, because the game was more important than connecting with those men as friends so I could share Jesus.

    I think the more important question than what CAN and CANNOT be our hobbies is… why do we have them at all?

    Do we serve them or do they serve us? Are we using our interests and hobbies to make friends so we can eventually share Jesus with them? Or is it solely about our own physical pleasure?

  21. TREY MORGAN says:

    Mr. Prophet, I ain’t biting, at least not too much. Wish I had time to talk more about it. I honestly think it all depends on the relationship. As for the comment about the “Devil’s Attorney,” using both words is a little redundant don’t you think?  (I hope my friend P Murphy reads that).

    Steve – I think Paul would have been a Van Halen fan. Roth not Hagar. :) I do think you are right. You and Josh make good points, some people may struggle with this. But I know Paul said in 1 Timothy 6, that the things God has given me in this world are for my enjoyment. I know I can enjoy basketball, sports, or music, but (as you guys put it) not to the point that it’s my top priority in life.

    Trey Morgan sermons have replaced ACDC? Wow, I am speechless. Yes, without speech. :) And yes my iPod is full of secular music, but it’s also packed with plenty of sermons by men who challenge me and build me up. I need that on a regular basis.

    I love comments, it’s what make the posts powerful.

  22. DJG says:

    I so agree…we can’t reach people when we are unreachable…

    as for “That Girl” you might squeak by on the Tony Stewart thing, but that combined with Auburn fan and marrying a razorback….not much hope!!

  23. mqmaynard says:

    Joshua, you are right, it all about motive, motive, motive.
    His,
    Maria

  24. Terry says:

    Trey,
    This is one of your best posts ever!

  25. wjcsydney says:

    Great post, Trey. I know I cannot help steer my daughter through the minefield of 21st century teen city life (And Sydney is a pretty hedonistic atheist place) unless I know about it.

  26. a cowgirl at heart says:

    AWESOME post! This is probably one of my favorites since I became an avid treymorgan.net blog fan! :) I JUST had this conversation with my M-I-L not 3 months ago. We were talking about some of our friends and I was trying to make the point you just did, but didn’t do it nearly as well! She was concerned about their beliefs. Anyway, another great post! What a blessing you are to this community!

  27. freetolive says:

    Trey, once again I am left in awe. Great post!!! So true.

    BTW I hit the treadmill everymorning to the tune of Back in Black. Shook me all night long. and I even throw in some Nazareth for good measure.

    Rock on!

  28. Baptist Man says:

    You know I love you brother, but I have to disagree on this one.

    “Knowing about” the world and “participating in” the world are two very different things. It’s also a very dangerous line to cross.

    I know what is in the songs, movies and TV shows without listening or watching. I know what unsaved people think and talk about…I used to be one!

    Here’s a very important truth: You can’t make a difference unless you are different.

    If I have all the same habits and hobbies as a lost person, I can certainly relate to them…but I can’t influence them. Unsaved people are smart. If they don’t see a difference in you, they will logically come to the conclusion that they don’t need what you have. If what you have in Christ has made little or no change in your life, what good is it?

    The Bible says, “Do all to the glory of God.” Frankly, that rules out a lot.

    Sorry to pontificate…just had to get my 92 cents in!

  29. Jeanne says:

    Trey,

    I taught high school English (at a private school)several years ago and one of my favorite methods of teaching Bible was to take the useable secular movies of the time and teach my students to look for the spiritual applications that could be found if we only bothered to look. To this day, I still have former students coming up to me (I teach in the elementary now) asking me if I’ll watch a movie they’ve seen and share with them what I get out of it. It’s amazing to open our eyes to the messages from God that can be found in the secular world! Great post!!

    PS – I’m Van’s wife.

  30. Me says:

    I think the answer is in Jesus’ words, “I can be in the world, but not of the world.”

  31. Wes says:

    Obviously, we must not remove ourselves from the world. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world,…for then you would have to go out of the world.” We must interact with the world and even be aware of the sinful activities of those in the world to some degree.
    That being said, this is not justification for us involving and exposing ourselves to sinful things. We still must “flee immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) It is not enough for us to simply say that we didn’t do it. Romans 1:32 says that not only those who practice sin are worthy of death but also those who “give hearty approval.” We can agrue about what is giving approval, but when we pay $10 to see a movie, download song to our Ipod, or listen to a song over and over we certainly are not saying we have a problem with the content.
    We should also note that when Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:20-22 that “To the Jews I became as a Jew…I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” he is not saying that he participated in sinful activities to reach lost souls. Sin is never a proper or effective evangelistic program! That passage fits into the overall context of chapters 8, 9, and 10. Paul is speaking about his liberty, and the fact that many times he will do things that he does not have to do in order to win and relate to a lost soul.
    Let us notdeceive ourselves into thinking that we can expose ourselves to dirty movies or sexually charged lyrics without it affecting our hearts. (1 Cor. 15:33) Billions of dollars are spend every year by hollywood because they know that the things you see and hear affect our behavior and our hearts. And isn’t keeping out heart pure what it is all about? (Matthew 5-7)
    I loved what Joshua Tucker said in his post, “We need to somehow figure out how to connect culturally through “neutral” things, without giving up God’s holy standard. If we’ll be missional about our interests and hobbies, we can bring many people into the family of Jesus.”

    Thanks for your blog. Sorry about the long post.

  32. TREY MORGAN says:

    Wes – No problems on the long comment. Thanks for sharing. Well said.

  33. Steve V. says:

    Trey – don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought – Lynard Skynard’s 30 year anniversary album is still on the mp3. I couldn’t bring myself to hit delete.

    Love ya brother.
    God Bless!

  34. TREY MORGAN says:

    Steve – lol.

  35. Robert Lukenbill says:

    Baptist Man,

    I thought you brought up some really good points but perhaps you and I define different a little…uh differently. When I think of being different I think of Jesus who came not to conform with the ways of religious traditions of man, but rather he was different holding to the truth. Jesus most certainly was intertwined with those in the world as he socialized with the sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. He never went into a tavern and drank whisky or beer, but he certainly mingled with those who were questionable and judged by the pharisees and saducees of his day. Perhaps we should take a page from his book today and not forgot about the common man and only hang out with our religious hierarchy.

    Just a thought….great post Trey!

  36. Wes Hazel says:

    We might want to remember that Jesus was never “hanging out” with sinners. When he had dinner with sinners it was always for the purpose of teaching them. If we are going to have dinner with sinners, we had better make sure we are making a house call.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I must disagree, Wes, if I read my bible correctly, Jesus was always “hanging out” with sinners.

    The people Jesus spent time with were the “sinners”, the prostitutes, the fishermen, the adulterer, the divorcee and the tax collectors (Luke 19:10, Matthew 9:12). Even the ones he chose as apostles were questionable. Jesus hung out with the wrong type of people so much that he was even accused of being a drunkard and a glutton.

    I’d say that pretty much shows he hung out with sinners.

  38. Monalea says:

    Jesus was our perfect example of being in the world and not of the world. I just can’t see Him watching most of the TV programs and movies that are out there today. Nor do I imagine He thinks much of most of the music that is popular today.

    There are few if ANY tv shows and movies that do not have coarse jesting or even a hint of filthiness, etc… We are to be found spotless. You can’t wallow around in garbage without smelling like garbage

    Ephesians 5:3-4 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

    Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

    Baptist Man…..I see your point clearly. I think if you have been on the wrong side and found your way to the truth, things are a lot more clear.

  39. Wes Hazel says:

    Jesus was always with sinners. Jesus was always teaching sinners. Jesus was never “hanging out” with sinners. He was calling people to a better way of life and relationship with God. In the two scriptures mentioned above. Jesus motivated Zaccheus to repent of his greed (Luke 19) and was calling Matthew and his tax collector friends to follow Him and His teachings (Matthew 9). When Jesus was with the Samaritan woman he was teaching her about living water, worship, and confronting the sin in her life. (John 4) When Jesus defended the adulterous women (John 8)He told her to stop sinning.
    When we fail to see a distinction between being with sinners for the purpose of hanging out and being with sinners for the purpose of teaching and is when we will be influenced by them instead of us influencing them (1 Cor. 15:33). We must always remember that our mission is the same as the mission of Jesus, to seek and SAVE the lost.
    I’m not saying that you begin every conversation with a sermon, but we need to working toward that lesson. I have seen to many good people who have befriended the world under the guise of evangelism, but they never got around to actually talking about Jesus and His Church for fear that the truth would run that person off. That is not how Jesus operated.
    I think that this is one of the hardest areas of life for a christian to maintain his/her balance.

  40. Frank Bellizzi says:

    Trey,

    I appreciate so much this post on Christianity and Culture. Your emphasis and main point are right on target: Without participating in the profanities of this world, for the Lord’s sake we must be connected to the world. In but not of: like Jesus.

    Some of my recent reading, however, has challenged my own notions of what it means to not be “of the world.” I’m thinking especially about a book by Ken Myers, “All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes.” Myers talks about how Christian response to culture should look at not only the content of popular culture, but also its form. He distinguishes between popular culture and traditional/high culture and points out many differences, again not in content, but in form. For example,

    1. Popular culture tends to focus on what is new; traditional culture focuses on what is timeless.

    2. Popular culture discourages reflection, while in traditional culture, reflection is part of what’s expected and encouraged.

    3. Pop requires no training. It is instantly accesible. Traditional culture requires training, encourages thoughtfulness and patience.

    These are not differences so much in content. They are differences in form and essence. And it makes me wonder if the shallowness that we see in the church today isn’t a result of Christian accomodations to culture, sometimes in content, but almost entirely in form.

    These, I think, are the larger questions swirling around us.

  41. Katherine says:

    I love this post!! I have been thinking a lot on this subject lately. Although I have become very picky in what movies I watch-I have in recent years discovered how much satan can work through different mediums and how strong his presence can be-and if I feel the hint of evil in it-there is no way I will be a part of it. We do need to be in the world, and not of it-but not to the point where people cannot tell the difference (I know you were not implying that).

    However, I do STRONGLY agree that in our very post-Christian, post-modern society-we HAVE to be relevant in order to reach people. The most important thing that stood out to me in my youth ministry classes with Fraze and ever since was that we must be real and relevant, and that it is all about relationships. Like the old saying, “They don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care”. So true.

    But, I also realize that we are to be setting a good example and “set apart” from the world…so it is quite a balancing act. We should not hide from the world or what is in it-because we will never be effective if we do not meet people right where they are.

    With an ever changing world, and an ever changing culture-we do have to be relevant or we will cease to be effective. The good news is the Gospel never changes, and Jesus love and the hope He offers is still as wonderful, true, and free as it ever was.

    Sometimes, we just have to be a little more creative in how to reach people to get those conversations going!

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  42. Mary says:

    I couldn't agree more with this post. Awesome. Thanks for posting!

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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