1. Appreciate the forward steps but don’t fall for the trends
It’s easy to see what’s happening outside the church and be critical. Usually for one of two reasons: 1) they’re not doing it the way we would, or 2) we’re worried that if we approve of anything they do, it will lead to wholesale acceptance of everything they do. That ol’ slippery slope.
But when forward motion is being made (like the pushback against the casting couch, and a growing interest in spiritual things) we need to affirm it. This is similar to what the Apostle Paul did in Athens when he used their interest in “an unknown god” to tell them about Christ (Acts 17:3).
Instead of leading to acceptance of wrong ideas and actions, expressing an appreciation for even the smallest forward steps can build a bridge of communication and respect that might open up an opportunity to share Christ with them.
2. Reaffirm our principles, but don’t demand them of others
Of all the trends I mentioned, the resurgence of generic spirituality is the one that sets my teeth on edge the most.
Being spiritual is not enough. And being vaguely spiritual is about as bad as it gets, biblically speaking.
So, while we can appreciate the open door it can offer, we can’t give in to it. As believers, we need to know what we believe and why. If we compromise our core values we’ll have nothing to offer a world that’s as compromised as it’s ever been.
But that doesn’t mean we can insist on those values for others. Nowhere in the Bible are we urged to require nonbelievers to act like believers.
But there is something very assuring about seeing believers take a stand, even to those who don’t share that stand. Telling people “no matter what you do, I’ll be here when you’re ready,” is very reassuring. And the integrity behind it may be our most appealing characteristic in the coming decades.
3. Strive to learn, more than to win
There are two ways to respond when faced with an opposing viewpoint.
Try to win, or try to learn.
Most of us react with some combination of the two, but we’re always better off when we try to learn first.
- Winning is fun. Learning is hard.
- Winning is short-term. Learning is long-term.