From Pastor Jim – April 18, 2019

“He is risen and He is here!”

It was wonderful to tour Israel. It was a spiritual pilgrimage. It was also a joy to get to know our Israeli tour guide. One of the things he shared with me is that there were two kinds of Jews: Cultural Jews and Religious Jews. This was back in the 1990’s. An article I recently read, written by a Florida pastor, says in essence the same thing is happening here in the United States. In his words, we now have “Cultural Christians” while others have a clearly defined faith that has grown out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

From my vantage point “Cultural Christianity” has been around for quite awhile. The way it showed up when I was of elementary school age in the 50’s, was that to do well in business one became a member of the church, and a really successful businessman was also a Sunday School teacher. The other way cultural Christianity showed up is if the question was asked: Are you a Christian? The response would be something like, “Well of course. I am an American.”

Cultural Christianity according to this article, is more prevalent today because of an indifference towards things of faith, and a shift away from Christianity to being “spiritual”. Categories that are mentioned are things like, God & Country Christians, Generational Catholics, and “Nominal Believers”. (That one sounds to me like an oxymoron.)

There is also a group referred to as “the guy next door.” These are people that simply believe that they are basically good people. What Christ did for them has no relevance. Belief is in themselves, not in a Savior who they call LORD. This group is interesting in that they cannot be referred to as atheists or even agnostics. I am called upon to do funerals for persons who are not actively involved in a faith community, but in their past they had been a “member” somewhere. I have observed that these people believe themselves to be “good” people. (Interesting that Jesus would say… Do not refer to me as good, only the Father in heaven is good.) The pastor writing this article admits that these people are hard to reach because they don’t always see a need for the Jesus that they claim to believe in.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about “cheap grace”. “Cheap grace” fuels Cultural Christianity wherein people think that they’re Christians because they prayed when they were five or that they were involved in church activities a long time ago. In the article Pastor Inserra says: “I think we need to make sure that we are not declaring a struggling believer to be a Cultural Christian. They just might need to be growing or they might just need some repentance in their life. True Cultural Christians are people who do not believe the Gospel. They’re generic theists — their answer to why they are a Christian is that they’re basically not Muslim, Jewish, or agnostic or atheist”.

For some, it truly is simply a lack of ability to articulate the Gospel and define their faith by Jesus Christ. This is where small groups and bible study can help people to grow as a disciple and realize that their faith is defined by their belief in Jesus Christ. Lent is a great time to reflect upon our beliefs.

Do you have a generic theistic belief with a good moral compass, or are you a true believer who is struggling? I get the struggle people have with “the institutional church”, but the fact remains true believers are a part of the body of Christ, which is “the church”. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. Truth is, we need each other. “The arm cannot say of the hand, I have no need of you.” Perhaps it is time we get back to referring to ourselves as “followers of The Way”. We are and must be people of the Lord. Christian = In Christ!

He is risen indeed! And He IS here!
Pastor Jim

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