Commentary by Richard Hill
First, my apologies to everyone named Aaron. This is not about you. You just happen to share a name with Aaron, the brother of Moses.
Some time ago I received the following list of questions. Apparently, from the context of the message, the specific answers were intended to change with every cultural shift.
Here are the questions:
- What are the concerns of this generation?
- How does the Christian faith address those concerns intelligibly?
- How can we display the gospel’s unique message most effectively?
- What do we need to challenge and try to change in our culture?
- What is there about us (Christians) that needs to change so we can be God’s instrument to bless our culture?
While these questions seem harmless enough too often the underlying motive is to revamp our practices from biblically established patterns to non-biblical -— for example, in worship, it’s out with preaching and in with drama presentations. Why? We are told the scriptures do not present us with pattern, only principles.
Please allow me to answer the above questions, however, as one who believes in pattern. I will attempt to respond to these questions in a way that fits every generation.
1. What are the concerns of this generation? Shallow.
2. How does the Christian faith address those concerns intelligibly? Point the world to something beyond their shallow concerns.
3. How can we display the gospel’s unique message most effectively? Don’t dilute it.
4. What do we need to challenge and try to change in our culture? Basically everything!
5. What is there about us (Christians) that needs to change so we can be God’s instrument to bless our culture? Stop being like our culture.
No doubt these questions can be used appropriately as long as we realize the facts in the answers above. Unfortunately, many do not.
Some Christians spend so much time trying to fulfill this generation’s shallow wants they neglect to give them what they need. In a distorted effort to reach more people they water down the gospel to make it more palatable. They move the world’s entertainment industry right into the worship to make it more appealing. To reach even more they relax the rules of Christian living to make the world feel more comfortable to be around them.
Old Testament leaders, Moses and Aaron, encountered a generation of people with grievances very similar to our own. These were mostly self-centered concerns coming from self-absorbed people unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions.
Let’s consider a couple of examples.
After being freed from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites complained the selection on the buffet in the desert was too limited. Of course they didn’t blame themselves for not following God’s leaders into the Promised Land. They blamed their leaders and God for leading them away from Egypt and all the delicious varieties of food. This is what they said they wanted, but was it what they needed? Did they really just need more variety on the menu?
They dismissed Moses as a leader who had just vanished into thin air so they had Aaron make a golden calf for their worship. Aaron delivered what they wanted, but it only brought them to a new low. God, trying to get the attention of a perverse generation, inflicted severe punishment on this wandering nation.
As we look back on this scene, who was the good leader — the one who gave them what they wanted or the one who gave them what they needed?
Aaron tried to make God “more accessible” to the people — to incorporate into worship things they could see and relate to, things that were fun — none of this invisible God stuff. On the other hand, Moses sternly rebuked Aaron and the people in regard to their evil deeds. Apparently, Moses wasn’t as enlightened as some of our leaders are today.
The church today still has its “Aarons.” I’m referring to those who have an overriding and blinding desire to get as many people as possible to accept God, but to accomplish this they feel the need to make God more palatable. Like Aaron of old they attempt to make him more accessible by present-day graven images such as imposing, oversized wooden crosses where they gather to pray or huge banners of an imagined image of Jesus.
People are excited! This is what the people want! But is it what they need?
What do they really need? They need the real Jesus preached, not a portrayal of a modern-day Jesus actor-impostor.
They need to personally experience real worship, not watch something billed “A Worship Experience Extravaganza.”
They need to see a stark difference between Christians and their non-Christian neighbors, not Christians so in tune with the culture that there is no significant difference.
Let’s stop trying to change God and His Word into something more palatable. Instead, let’s be changed by God’s Word. Only then, by God’s transforming work in us, can we meet the real needs of our culture.