5 Stars Out Of 5
Practical Approache to Real Cultural Engagement
March 21, 2011
Pastor Tim VL
Being unfashionable doesn't seem like an attractive aspiration within our culture. The stacks of gossip and glamour magazines that line grocery store check-out lines encourage us to be fashionable. The local mall and the clothing stores that over-crowed its corridors encourage us to be unfashionable. Home shows, home improvement stores, and home improvement magazines encourage us to be fashionable. Business seminars and sales training conferences encourage us to be fashionable. Social networking site upon social networking site encourage us to be fashionable. So, Tullian Tchividjian's book "Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Bing Different" stands out.
Tchividjian begins with his own personal story of being a prodigal son. All the fashionable things of this world left Tullian empty, burned out, and washed up. He describes his return to the church as a "cry for something different" (title of chapter 1). This personal experience sets up the primary principle of the book: because the fashions of the world only leave us empty and wanting more, the church can best make a difference by being different - by being unfashionable. I liked how Tchividjian starts out with his personal testimony because it gives the book a level of credibility that an academic research piece wouldn't.
In chapter 2 Tullian likens our western cultural vantage point or world-view to living in a room without windows. He suggest that scientific-like over classification, the illusion of technological control, and a sea of endless change has contributed to a narrow, small, and confined view of the world (reductionalism for the sake of survival is you will). In a world of seemingly endless change, for simplicity sake, we tend to interpret our culture by using stereotypical labels and utilize technological gadgets to gain a sense of control. All the while, we loose our awe-filled sense of the transcendent - we live in a room without windows and assume that we've seen it all. Then, in chapter 2 Tullian makes the case that when the church is seduced into being cool within the surrounding culture, the church becomes indistinguishable for the narrow myopic culture it is trying to love, bless, and serve.
From this launching point, in chapters 4 - 10, Tchividjian elaborates on what makes the church different from the culture in which it is embedded. In these seven chapters, he describes six characteristics that make the church different so that it can make a difference:
1). The Cross of Christ defines us; as such, we are to die to self and live in Christ.
2). We have been redeemed by God to be a force of renewal in the world.
3). We live in the present with the sure and certain hope in the promise of eternal life.
4). God is on a mission to seek and save his lost sheep and we are a part of that mission.
5). God is building his church out of a mish-mash of unfashionable misfits and ragamuffins; this miraculous unity is to glorify God.
6). As the Body of Christ we are to actively make a difference in the world around us - Christ's body is not ineffective.
For me, the payoff of this read came in chapters 11 - 16. In these chapters Tchividjian lays out a practical road-map for how to develop a church, ministry, or group that makes a difference by being different. He develops six practical points based Ephesians 4:25â€”ff:
1). The church is to be a truthful community, which means that we need to be honest about who we are as sinners saved by grace (simul iustus et peccator, at the same time justified and yet sinner). Such honesty will go a long way toward cultivating a winsome humility that will surely stand out in our selfish culture.
2). The church is to be a community that is moved by righteous anger. On this point I whish Tchividjian had made another word choice. Instead of titling chapter 12 "An Angry Community" I would have liked to have seen a title like "A Provoked Community" or "A Provocative Community" (even though anger is the word used in Ephesians 4:26). Gabe Lyons takes this tack in his recent book "The Next Christians": Lyons argues that the things which rightly anger or offend aught to provoke the church to action (I will post a review of "The Next Christians" in the coming month).
3). The church is to be a generous community that puts off stealing. By stealing Tchividjian doesn't simply mean stealing in the strictly legal sense - although he surely does not exclude stealing in this sense. By stealing he means to include any form of undue or inordinate taking that precludes or hinders generosity.
4). The church is to utilize and employ redemptive, healing, life-giving speech. Our words are to be a reflection of the Word.
5). The church is to be noted for hospitality. We are to exude a God-instilled kindness among ourselves as Christians. And, we are to welcome others into our midst so that they can witness that God-instilled kindness first-hand.
6). Finally, the church is to be a place where love trumps lust. We are to be driven by love that seeks the ultimate good of others, as opposed to being driven by the whims of our physical appetites.
What sets this book apart from the glut of Christian books that analyze culture is the practical nature of the book. Tchividjian draws his practical applications directly from Scripture (Ephesians 4). On top of that, his practical applications are corporate. He doesn't just exhort individuals to make a difference by being different; he instructs Christian communities on how to make a difference by being different. To that end, the discussion guide for small groups is a wonderful bonus - this book offers more than theory. If you are worried that this book's subject matter may be too difficult or intimidating; fear not! The writing style is clear, easy, direct, and to the point, and, the book itself is short. Buy this book and read it with a group, then enjoy working out how you-all can implement what you have learned.